Written by Sam Schunk
Crystal paperweights are much more than an object to anchor papers on a desk. Upon closer inspection, patterns, colors and images emerge, such as distinctive flowers, animal shapes or a kaleidoscopic swirl of energy. Light dances across the surface, making the colors beneath the surface of the glass appear even more vivid. Paperweights are a stunning art form, and one with an interesting history.
Historians have found it challenging to determine the precise year and exact origin of the first glass paperweight. The first documented appearance has been established to be at the Exhibition of Austrian Industry in Vienna in 1845. The antique variety, or those made in the “classic” years between 1845 and 1860, were primarily produced in France’s Baccarat, St. Louis, and Clichy factories, where between fifteen- and twenty-five-thousand weights were made at that time.
Other countries also manufactured the delightful ornaments, with outstanding examples being produced by Bacchus in Great Britain and America’s New England Glass Company. Modern paperweights are those created from about 1950 to the present.
Many artists have specialized in creating crystal weights and other related items. Charles Kaziun began making bottles, buttons, inkwells and paperweights in 1940 using lampwork, a popular technique among studio artists. Using this technique, natural objects like animals, butterflies, flowers or fruit are constructed by shaping and working pieces of colored glass with an acetylene torch or a gas burner, and then assembling them into attractive compositions, which are then incorporated into the dome.
Paul Ysart started making stunningly detailed weights in Scotland during the 1930s and inspired numerous artists such as John Deacons, Peter Holmes, William Manson and Peter McDougall. Small studios, consisting of a handful or dozens of workers who combined their efforts toward making their own unique “line” of products, began to appear in greater number during the mid-20th century, especially in America, with Correia Art Glass, Lotton, Lundberg Studios, Orient and Flume, and Parabelle Glass among the more notable examples.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, artisans brought unprecedented levels of mastery to their glassworks, creating pieces that rival those made during the classic period. Artists such as Paul Stankard produced globes with flowers that were so realistic, that people mistakenly believed he had encased real blooms within the glass. Far from being merely functional implements or arts-and-crafts novelties, the objet d’art crafted by these artists are displayed in prominent museums such as the Louvre, the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among others. These glass items have developed quite a following, with collectors over the years including literary figures such as Colette, Oscar Wilde and Truman Capote.
Take a closer look at paperweights, as the beauty hidden within the baubles will bring delight.
|< Prev||Next >|