Waterford’s Jim O’Leary Remembered As ‘Passionate’ Designer

Tabletop Industry veteran, Jim O’Leary, design director at Waterford, has passed, HomeWorld Business® has learned. O’Leary, who had been with company for more than 50 years, most recently was the company’s international ambassador.  

O’Leary began his career as a Waterford apprentice cutter at 15 and qualified as a master cutter by the age of 24. His eye for patterns was recognized and O’Leary was named design director in 1989. He remained committed to the brand upon the formation of Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton (WWRD) in 2009 and traveled the globe as teh company’s international brand ambassador. O’Leary was a driving force for both design and quality for Waterford, according to his obituary.

Pierre de Villemejane, CEO of WWRD said, “Jim was an example for all of us. An example of dedication, excellence and passion in his work. An example of joy, kindness and compassion in his life with his family, friends and colleagues. And over the last few months as he was fighting his illness, an example of courage and humility. Jim lived Waterford Crystal and his eyes sparkled just like his designs.”

O’Leary had a long history with Waterford and a deep respect for traditional design, the obituary continued; however, O’Leary was also passionate about evolving with the modern world and the need to remain fresh and contemporary. Described by his colleagues as enchanting and gentlemanly, he approached design as a “whole way of life.” 

In his tenure with Waterford, O’Leary designed the Araglin collection, which has been in Waterford’s assortment now for more than three decades. The Araglin is second only to Lismore as one of Waterford Crystal’s most well-known and successful patterns.

Other significant Waterford designs from O’Leary include Carina and Castlemaine patterns; The Romance of Ireland collection; and the Star of Peace, which were the first Waterford Crystal panels to be placed on the famous Millennium Ball in Times Square in 1999. He came to the wider attention of the US public as a Waterford ambassador of the Times Square Millennium Ball which was first used to mark the countdown on New Year’s Eve 1999 in New York. 

O’Leary died in June 2013 from cancer at the age of 69. He is survived by his wife, Monica; daughter, Edel, and son, Ian.

For memorial contributions, the family has designated the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Boston.