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Q&A: Jim O'Leary, Waterford Crystal's design director



On Dec. 31, millions count down the final 10 seconds of the year while watching the Waterford Crystal New Year's Eve ball light up and descend in Times Square. This year, the ball will have 288 newly installed crystals representing the theme for 2012, "Let There Be Friendship." It's the fifth design from Waterford's "World of Celebrations" series, which began with 2007-08's "Let There Be Light." amNewYork spoke with Jim O'Leary, Waterford's design director, to learn more.

How will this year's New Year's Eve ball differ from years past? Each year, the magnificent Waterford Crystal triangles that adorn the ball are updated. This year's theme is "Let There Be Friendship." ... The motif features a beautifully cut crystal pattern that represents friends holding hands around the world.

What's been so friendly about 2011? Since 2000, the iconic Waterford Times Square ball has counted down to the New Year with friends all over the world. ... One of the greatest of the sentiments we share is friendship. The wish is that for this New Year's celebration, friends all over the world will celebrate the power of friendship.

Why change the design to accommodate different themes? The series honors the many ways that the world celebrates the New Year with symbols and sentiments of universal understanding.

How long does it take to conceptualize new ideas for the New Year's Eve ball and then execute the plan? Are you working year-round on these projects? We work all year long on the crystals for the following year and will begin with next year's crystals in January 2012. We then begin the task of representing that sentiment in cut crystal panels. The Waterford Crystal triangles are each about 3/8 of an inch thick, 4.75 to 5.75 inches in length, and weigh 6.8 ounces. The triangles are custom-designed and built to exacting standards to withstand the extraordinary stresses resulting from high wind, precipitation and temperature fluctuation - all from 470 feet in the sky above Times Square.


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