Just 23 years old, Chas Prettejohn wasn’t in the market for a glass-making factory when he visited Ngwenya Glass in rural Eswatini on vacation with his parents in 1987. “We visited the defunct factory not to buy the business, but to buy some more [glass] elephants to add to our collection,” Prettejohn says. Ngwenya Glass animals were highly collectible — mostly due to the skills of the organization’s chief glassblower, Sibusiso Mhlanga. Mhlanga had first started glassblowing in 1979, when a Swedish aid organization launched the company and arranged for Mhlanga to spend nine months training at Kosta Boda Glassworks in Sweden, where he studied under world-renowned glass artist Jan Erik Ritzman. With his family, Prettejohn — who had been looking for a change of pace after seven years at sea as a marine engineer — made a bid for the company, which was accepted by the time they’d returned home to South Africa. Their first move was to secure Mhlanga’s participation: “In his own words, he did not have a lot of trust in a farmer, his wife, and his seagoing son, whose only knowledge of glass was that it was a good receptacle to hold a cold beer or a gin and tonic,” Prettejohn says. “When we had fixed up the furnace, he came to show us how to start it up, and he promised that he would come back for a month to train our new staff. Once he was on the factory floor, something must have changed, as that month has lasted 34 years.” Now, Mhlanga leads a team of glassblowers in creating a wide range of products, from the brand’s iconic animal figures to glassware and serveware to custom installations for architects and interior designers around the world.