The name Peàn Doubulyu might evoke exotic European origins at first glance, but if you sound it out, you’ll notice it’s a creative take on the letters P&W, the last initials of Liz Pannell and Jim Watkins, who have built a thriving, colorful hand-blown glassware empire right here in Providence.
The couple met during a college glassblowing workshop and went on to study at RISD under Dale Chihuly, who encouraged his students to rent off-campus studios. It was around 1980, and space was cheap; they rented a 5,000-square-foot studio for $250 at the Foundry, surrounded by woodworkers, ceramicists, painters and fellow glassblowers, only two blocks from the Smith Hill apartment they inhabited at the time.
“We could have gone to New York or Boston, but it was just really easy here,” says Liz. “There’s always something cultural happening here, and you could tell at that time that the city was turning around.”
Peàn Doubulyu started as a partnership in 1981, and the birth of their first son (and ensuing expenses) prompted Liz and Jim to grow their glassworking into a successful business, although Liz also paints and Jim sculpt. They figured things out as they went, growing into thriving wholesale lines sold in boutiques and high-end department stores nationwide and employing three assistants. They have worked out of an Oregon Street studio since 1990.
The whimsy of Peàn Doubulyu’s name is echoed in its work: lines encompass vibrantly colored everyday tableware to elegant large bowls, vases, candlesticks and more. Standard designs are still one-of-a-kind thanks to handcrafting. Style-meets-function is the company’s M.O., and their pieces boast surprising durability.
“I think the reason we continue to do these brightly colored pieces, and why people respond to them, is that you open your cupboard and it brings a little brightness and joy,” Jim says.
Peàn Doubulyu hosts open studios yearly on Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend of June, but “people are welcome to visit the studio any time if they want to come see the glassblowing,” says Jim.
22 Oregon Street