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Pittsburgh-Area Glass Cutter Handcrafts Special Inauguration Gifts For Joe Biden And Kamala Harris

MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa. (KDKA) -- A Pittsburgh-area glass cutter handcrafted special inauguration gifts for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Peter O'Rourke hand carves special inauguration gifts for every Inauguration Day. It's a gift from the American people to the president and vice president. O'Rourke just shipped out the finished glass vases for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

It's a far cry from Galway, Ireland, but O'Rourke has carved out a life with his family in Mount Pleasant. The master glass cutter has been working since the 1970s, cutting crystal by hand for the leaders of the free world.

"We normally start around July or August," said O'Rourke. "But in this particular one, we were a bit delayed getting started."

O'Rourke moved his family to America in 1981 to work for Lenox. He previously earned the title of master glass cutter at Galway Crystal, following a seven-year apprenticeship. O'Rourke told KDKA that Lenox closed the Mount Pleasant factory in the early 2000s, but he still runs a shop in a factory's former cafeteria.

O'Rourke told KDKA's Meghan Schiller he works with Fawn Ostriak on the designs and then starts carving the latest inauguration gifts several months before Election Day.

"That's the nice thing about it, he said. "You never know who's going to get it. Politics don't come into the actual cutting of the piece."

O'Rourke employs a handful of people at his shop and previously crafted crystal bowls that were presented to Presidents Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump. He told KDKA that Lenox is now asking for more intricate vases.

"She's getting the Capitol," O'Rourke said about the vase for Harris. "So that makes it a little bit interesting that we got to do the first lady vice president."

O'Rourke can't believe it all began with a jellybean jar for President Ronald Reagan.

"He liked his jellybeans, and we were producing a jellybean jar at the time. So we modified it to do for President Reagan and he gave that out as gifts and then it became very popular," O'Rourke said.

Soon enough, O'Rourke's freelance job for Lenox had withstood the decades and changing political landscape.

"When it comes to it, you just can't turn down the opportunity," he said. "It is a privilege to do."

He now has a chance to bring Mount Pleasant and the art of glass cutting into focus.

"It's nice that we're keeping it alive. A smaller version, but we have such a strong tradition that it's nice to get the privilege to do it one more time," said O'Rourke.

O'Rourke said the gifts are usually presented to the president and vice president at the Inauguration Day luncheon, but he does not know how it will go this year due to the pandemic. He also said it is the one gift that presidents can take with them when they leave office.

O'Rourke said the pieces usually wind up in their presidential libraries.

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