De Rupel, Boom - Biography

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De Rupel glassworks started production in 1925 in Boom, a small village between Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium. The increasing success of the Val-St-Lambert factory was encouraging, and orders for hand-blown and semi-automatic-made beer glasses were enough to keep the small factory busy. They were the producers of the distinctive and iconic Duvel beer-glass.

In 1935 the company hired Paul Heller(1914-1995) as chief designer, and briefed him to produce decorative glassware. Heller's family came from Bohemia, and Paul, like his father, was working for the VGN factory in Manage (later VNM), south of Brussels.
In 1936 they recruited more workers from Bohemia and began production of their well-known 'black' vases which were hand painted with floral (or architectural) motiefs.

Theo Struppe became technical director in 1938, but it was only after the end of the war that he had the opportunity to build the range and output of the factory into a substantial business. The factory produced glassware for retailers which was cheap and popular. Although small in number, the Boom team could produce glass to any design that a customer could show or draw, and often kept the moulds for the 'exclusive' use of the customer so that retailers could put their own label on a unique product.

The factory made it's day-to-day cash by producing pressed glass for torches, The factory produced opaline and vases and stemware, light-shades, vanity sets, rosebowls and pots pourri, and a series of popular brands in glassware including Artver, Artlux, Boom, Arlecchino, Bel'arte, Cristal'arte, Cristaloc, Alabasta, as well as Cascade (based on Verboeket's Carnival range for Maastricht). The work is sometimes painted or gilded or engraved.
Similar styles may be found in the ranges of other Belgian factories (e.g. VAB in Boussu, Doyen in Havré-Ville), and it is likely that the migration of glassworkers to and from Bohemia during the war years may have resulted in further 'sharing' of designs.

The Boom factory also produced 'blanks' of their shapes which were later hand-painted by the Laken factory where they applied gold bands and other effects. The problems in identification may result in the fact that there is little documentation available for the other, smaller Flemish factories, and further evidence is being eagerly sought.

In 1954 the Gantenbrink family, who owned de Rupel, placed it in the hands of Louis Wieme (1910-1970) who, as General Manager managed to develop new and profitable markets for lampshades and lighting. Designer F.A. van Ransbeeck joined in 1956 to lead the decorating department. In the following years the factory and equipment for handblown moulded-glass was upgraded and extended and workers were brought in from Spain to boost the workforce. When the company tried to return to production of pressed glass in the sixties they no longer had the skills nor plant to succeed.

Competition from new factories like Arques (FR) and Ivisc-Milaan (IT), the oil crisis and devaluation of the english currency caused tremendous problems in the late 60's, and the remaining Belgian factories (de Rupel/Boom, Doyen/Havré, Boussu, Verre Nouvelle Manage,) merged under the name Manuverbel. The rescue plans failed and the Manuverbel bubble was burst. Val-St-Lambert (near Citeaux) has been the only handblown producer since 1973.