Paperweights are the perfect subject for the true collector. Capable of holding anything from a portrait bust of Millard Fillmore to a delicately modelled rose, each of these objects is a unique microcosm- a miniature world awaiting discovery.
The Romans, Egyptians, and Venetians all fashioned decorative balls and vessels from colorful fragments of glass. Despite having these fairly ancient antecedents, what we now specifically call paperweights of the 'classic collecting period' were manufactured between the years of 1845-1855. During this period of rapid cultural realignment, techniques taken from the factory system were applied to this ancient art form. The more widespread use of lead glass, which was clear, heavy and lustrous, facilitated production as it was perfect for magnifying the colourful designs enclosed within. Demand for the weights was fueled by their growing popularity among the burgeoning middle class, for whom the intricate craftsmanship and relative affordability made the objects the perfect gift or desk accessory. In the midst of a fashion explosion for journal and letter writing, these precious objects were at home on a fully-equipped writing desk.
After nearly fifty years of dormancy, interest in collecting weights took off again in the mid-20th century, when collector's stumbled across a forgotten world laying ripe for re-discovery. An intricate guessing game, collectors have to learn the special techniques, colours, shapes, and designs unique to each factory, and how to differentiate between them as very few examples are marked.
Since the resurgence in their popularity, many new glass artists have come to the fore, creating highly technical works which draw in the savvy collector and casual admirer alike. Their rich, striking colours and enchanting fluid designs spur this thriving market. Drawn in by these seemingly innocent objects, increasing numbers of collectors are held by their enigmatic beauty.
A Remembrance of "Jo" and Harriet
When I think about Josephine "Jo " Turner and Harriet Smith, I always envision their delighted faces lighting up when surrounded by their beloved paperweights! Harriet and Jo were both very personable, very down to earth. To Jo and Harriet, weights were not objects to be accumulated, put on a shelf or in a corner; they were to be invited in to their homes, to become a part of their lives and treasured. They never tired of their collections; even into old age the beauty of their presence, and friendships created through them, delighted both women.
As I reminisce through their collections, I can reflect on all of the fine memories this work has created over the years. Collectors like Jo and Harriet supported the creativity of artists like myself through their encouragement and enthusiasm. Their commitment to the art has created a bright future for the field.
As I look at the incredible paperweights in this catalogue and recognize the pleasure they have brought, I know Jo and Harriet can be certain their weights will be invited into loving homes once again.
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