A First Timer's PCA Convention, Chicago, May 12-15, 1999
By Stanley B. Kruger
With Substantial Assistance from Andrew H. Dohan and Eileen M. England
If your impressions of this third largest U.S. city were formed by schoolhouse recitations of the Carl Sandburg poem, you now may be disabused of the rough “hog butcher” Chicago image. The stockyards are gone as are the giant railroad switching yards. The Congress Hotel, Al Capone’s old headquarters during the 1920’s, on the South Side, is now just a bare dirt lot. Replacing these memorable, early 20th century relics: a world-class skyline, featuring Sears Tower, America’s tallest building, superlative downtown shopping and dining opportunities, at least eight major museums downtown within view of Lake Michigan…but, excuse me, this is not meant to be a travelogue.
Convention was scheduled to begin at 7 PM on Wednesday, May 12 with the traditional Artists’ Fair and the Dealers’ Fair following at 9 PM. Because we had signed up for the city bus tour set for noon that day, Thelma and I arrived late on Tuesday, May 11, finding rain and a forecast of rain for the next two days. Accommodations at the Swissotel, 323 East Wacker Drive, in a part of the lakefront known as New East Side, overlooking Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, Family Golf Center, Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago River, and skyscrapers too numerous to mention, were excellent as was our vantage point on the 31st floor. (We loved watching the bridge on Lake Shore Drive over the Chicago River open to allow four or five sailboats, in single file, to pass through to the locks leading out to the lake.)
The bus tour, organized by Ellen Rostker of Illinois, started promptly at noon the next day, with the driver narrating and naming the nearby downtown sights, parks and buildings. A box lunch from the Corner Bakery, a local chain with similar outlets in Atlanta, Southern California, Dallas and Washington, D.C., was consumed with gusto within 30 minutes of starting off. We soon stopped at the James M. Thompson Center, a striking government building, named for a former governor, that closely resembled a rounded space ship. We bathroomed there and I took several pictures of the metal skeleton of the “space ship.” As the tour progressed, we covered the Loop, Grant Park, where the Art Institute is located, the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lake View and Wrigleyville, where Wrigley Field is found in a densely populated residential area, Old Town and River North, all on the North Side. On the South Side, we viewed the John J. Shedd Aquarium, Chinatown, Printers’ Row, the University of Chicago and the Adler Planetarium, on a spit of land that juts out into Lake Michigan. At the last mentioned, we stopped again, to take pictures of the Chicago skyline and many of the areas we’d covered. Traveling the South Side, at the University of Chicago, 12,000 students of whom 8,000 are graduate students, we were only twelve miles from the border with Indiana. The bus returned us to the Swissotel at 4:15 PM, in rain that had started an hour earlier.
For the evening’s activities, Larry Selman’s champagne reception celebrating his 30th year in glass, the Artists’ Fair and the Dealers’ Fair, I wore my blue and white DVPCA T-shirt, against spousal advice. I figured publicity for the chapter would be useful in this gathering of 343 paperweight enthusiasts. At the Artists’ Fair, the most outstanding exhibits, for me, were Randall Grubb’s 16” tall column with aquarium motif that required 10 days of annealing time, Dinah Hulet’s framed multi-view murrhini images, a la Andy Warhol, of faces, and a Rick Ayotte/Barry Sautner collaborative piece. Sometimes Hulet’s faces were repeated in regular shaped groupings; sometimes the faces were composed of individual features assembled in mosaic fashion. (Dinah would later present one of the Small Group sessions on Friday morning, May 14.)
From the 2nd through the 43rd floors, the Chicago Swissotel is a perfect triangle shape with one point aimed directly at Lake Michigan. For the Dealers’ Fair, we had to traverse both 3rd and 4th floors to view the offerings of about 23 dealers plus the PCA Boutique and Special Bacchus Exhibit, in 13 rooms named Appenzell, Interlaken, Vevey and for other Swiss landmarks or sites. Thelma and I made this tour of the Dealers’ Fair at least four times during Convention, each time finding something new to enthrall us, of the approximately 8000 pieces of glass art presented. Two new-to-Convention exhibitors were William Pitt and Caithness Glass. (Eventually, we ended up acquiring three paperweights, again busting the budget but enjoying the exercise immensely.)
The first General Session, at 9 AM on Thursday, May 13, began on a somber note when PCA President Jim Lefever announced that Bernie Merritt, long-time head of Michigan PCA, had died the previous day. After several housekeeping notes, Ben Drabeck, Chair of the Education Committee, came on to describe the major elements of Convention programming. One stuck in my head: when in the Art Institute to view the Rubloff Collection of Paperweights, Ben cautioned the assembly not to ignore the Institute’s other treasures, among which were a marvelous Winslow Homer watercolor and a superb example of a Sandwich oil lamp.
It was Gay Taylor’s task to describe the Rubloff Collection. Arthur Rubloff was a successful local real estate developer and businessman who applied the same determination to his art collections (plural) as to his business dealings, desiring only the best specimens in each. According to Gay, he examined weights by holding them very close to his one good eye. In 1978, he donated 1200 weights to the Art Institute, of which 784 are on display, arranged in categories. Gay showed about 70 slides of Rubloff Collection paperweights illustrating lampwork, millefiori, overlays and classic designs from the three best known 19th century French factories, Baccarat, Clichy and Saint Louis, as well as Bacchus, Bohemian, Val St. Lambert, Mt. Washington and NEGC examples. A few notes from her talk:
1) Only 30 American weights in the Rubloff Collection are on display.
2) There are three Saint Louis gilded lizards in the Collection, on a blue and white marbrie, on a blue and white jasper ground, on a red base.
3) Sixty-three cameo incrustations are on display.
4) In 1983, it was Arthur Rubloff who purchased at Sotheby’s auction Paul Jokelson’s Pantin silkworms on mulberry leaves, for $143,000, and donated it to the Art Institute to enhance his Collection there.
Ian Wardroper, Art Institute of Chicago Curator, brought greetings to Convention attendees next. He stated that the collection dates from the 1930’s and was started by a donation from Mrs. Potter Palmer, of Palmer House fame. Of course,
the titan of Chicago paperweight collectors was Arthur Rubloff, who had built Evergreen Plaza, one of the country’s first shopping malls. Rubloff did not limit himself to paperweights but also had extensive collections of bronze animal sculptures and oriental ivory figurines. He collected en masse and there are now 1472 mostly antique weights in the Collection, showing both quality and quantity. The Collection is now housed with the Decorative Arts Collections in the Institute’s Right Wing. Mr. Wardroper, like Ben Drabeck, urged the attendees not to ignore the Institute’s other great holdings from both 19th and 20th centuries, adding that the Institute was then between major exhibitions.
At 10:30 AM, Andy Dohan introduced George Kulles, who was to speak on the Special Bacchus Exhibit assembled for Convention. Andy noted that George had spent 31 years in education and 29 years in paperweights. He had written three books and was a charter member of the Chicago Chapter of PCA. George began by declaring that there are only 300-400 Bacchus weights in the entire world; at 100 pieces, the Special Exhibit represented 1/3 to one-fourth of all known examples. Until the end of the 17th century, clear glass objects had to be paper-thin; otherwise, the glass was muddy-colored and opaque. In 1673, an Englishman, James Ravenscroft, discovered that if you added lead oxide to the glass, even if it was thick, it would be clear. This discovery led to an explosion in glass manufacture; even the lesser classes could now afford clear glass objects and they would be more durable than before. In 1745, however, the English placed an excise tax on glass, causing many factories to fail. A century later, 1845, the excise tax was removed, leading to a resurgence in glass manufacture. The 1851 Crystal Palace exhibit hall in London, 1851 feet long and 450 feet wide, was completely sheathed in close to a million square feet of sheet glass.
Early Bacchus weights were not nearly as good as French pieces of the same period. In 1818, George Bacchus was a part owner of Union Glass. In 1833, this firm became George Bacchus but Bacchus died shortly after, in 1840. In 1858, the firm name was changed to George Bacchus and Sons. In 1860, the firm was bought out by another company. According to Mr. Kulles, Bacchus weights are all magnums. The average size is 3.5” but it is not very heavy glass. Baccarat and Saint Louis pieces are about 3 _ times the weight of an equal volume of water; Bacchus pieces, only three times the weight of an equal volume of water. They have a low crown compared to French weights and, typically, a _” basal rim. There are seven distinctive Bacchus canes:
1) the parson’s collar, a thin, white ring encircling the interior;
2) a ruffle cane, usually white in clear glass but sometimes in green glass;
3) the crimp, usually eight points;
4) the cog, showing bunches of teeth, usually 14, 16 or 18;
5) the five point star;
6) the Greek shield; and
7) a bundle of rods, 50, 29 and 30.
There are four silhouette canes in Bacchus weights: two kinds of oak leaves, with sharp or rounded ends; the little acorn, the rarest of Bacchus silhouettes; and the young Queen Victoria, a young girl’s profile. With this limited palette of canes and silhouettes, Bacchus weights follow twelve different designs, some of which are: close concentrics, about 60 % of the total; close millefiori, about 20%; sodden snow grounds, in which the canes are surrounded by white “doughnuts” and are different from Clichy sodden snow; carpet grounds; mushrooms; panel weights; and baskets. There are three encased double overlay weights in the Special Bacchus Exhibit. There is a bottle with a stopper that mirrors the bottle’s design. You will run across maverick or rogue canes in Bacchus pieces and it is unclear whether these were identifying canes or whether they were simply used to fill space in the design. A cameo weight attributed to Bacchus weighs less than 2 _ times an equivalent volume of water and is probably not Bacchus. Finally, Bacchus weights fluoresce bright green to bright yellow.
Much amusement was generated as George required the assembly to adopt distinctive physical positions while describing the seven distinctive Bacchus canes. But that’s George Kulles for you.
The first afternoon of Convention was given over to the Dealers’ Fair with a High Tea scheduled at the same time; the next two afternoons were programmed with interesting talks, an ID Clinic and PCA’s Business Meeting. So Thelma and I made a brief appearance at the First Timers’ Reception before taking the shuttle bus to the Art Institute. It is difficult to describe in words the impact of the Rubloff Collection, found in Room 69 on the Lower Level of the Institute. Faced with close to 800 classic French paperweights, a devotee could spend hours examining the eight wall-hung display cases. Gay Taylor had warned us that the weights were displayed high up the wall; in fact, the uppermost weights in each case were situated 7’ up from the floor. There were whole cases (about 100 pieces in each) of primarily French antiques. Imagine, 100 Clichys in one case; 135 Baccarat pieces in another, all in a small room in the Decorative Arts wing. I would have spent the afternoon there but for the admonitions of Ben Drabeck and Ian Wardroper (and the importunings of my better half).
After an hour or so, Thelma and I branched out, visiting nearby galleries of European Decorative Arts. We then found “The 20th Century Textile Artist,” a current exhibit focusing on artists who produced one-of-a-kind fabric creations as well as artists who collaborated with commercial firms designing yardage. All items in this exhibit were from the Institute’s permanent collection and all were acquired between 1990 and 1998. From there, we found our way up to the Second Floor, hunting for French Impressionists. We were thrilled, eventually, to gaze upon Georges Seurat’s La Grande Jatte, after noting a number of Fernand Leger pieces, a Van Gogh self portrait and other well-known 19th century works. From there we ventured briefly into the 20th century area, finding Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks. While seeking the Rest Rooms, back on the Lower Level, we encountered a marvelous display, The Thorne Miniature Rooms, named for their creator, Mrs. James Ward Thorne (1882-1966). This was a horseshoe shaped gallery of 68 miniature replicas of European and American decorative arts and architectural interiors, covering roughly 400 years from 1550 to 1940. Incredibly detailed and outfitted, these miniature rooms, at the scale of 1” to 1’, were planned and designed by Mrs. Thorne, married to the son of a founder of Montgomery Ward, and executed by skilled craftspeople she brought together in her expansive workrooms. Simply wonderful! Finally, we visited the second most important element of the Art Institute, the MUSEUM SHOP. We made it back to the Swissotel by 4:30 PM for a brief rest before dining out with Andy Dohan and the Englands at a locally recommended seafood restaurant, Shaw’s Crab House. That evening, from 7:45 to 9:30, we toured the Dealers’ Fair, PCA Boutique and Special Bacchus Exhibit once again before calling it a day.
Each morning of Convention began with a Continental Breakfast in the Foyer of the Grand Ballroom where all General Sessions took place. The morning of Friday, May 14, was given over to three Small Group Sessions in two time slots, 9:15-10:15 and 10:30-11:30: Dinah Hulet on Murrhini, Paul Dunlop on Clichy Colored Grounds and Gary McClanahan on Midwest Glass. Thelma and I elected to attend the Murrhini and Midwest Glass sessions; Eileen England kindly agreed to make notes of Paul Dunlop’s talk.
Andy Dohan, who had suggested Dinah Hulet’s appearance at Convention, introduced her by stating that there is a burgeoning art glass movement in murrhini canes that is outside the paperweight sphere. Much as the Bigaglia and Franchini picture canes made their way into paperweights, he predicted that there will be many more modern murrhini picture canes entering the paperweight world in the next ten years. Therefore, it was important for paperweight collectors to understand their history, their construction techniques and the accomplishments of a number of glass artists, including Dinah Hulet.
Dinah, of McKinleyville, CA, started by saying that she was surprised to be invited to speak at Convention because she doesn’t make paperweights. She showed slides depicting the origins of murrhini pictures in ancient Egypt and differentiated between mosaic glass, in which she works, and the glass mosaics of the ancients. (Describing her trip two years before to Venice, she found hilarious the method used to pull cane there. On slides, she showed a roughly dressed, cigarette smoking workman grabbing the pontil rod, holding it backwards and running 60-100 feet from the starting point. The further he ran, the thinner the cane.) Some slides were of pictures made by a square cane that had been sliced four times and assembled into a four times larger square. She showed how to tell whether these old murrhini were mold or hand formed. Another technique described was of a hand formed half-face picture cane that was sliced twice. One slice was flipped over and married to the first section, creating a full-faced image. She showed how the thin lines between the four-section and two-section picture canes were faintly visible in the finished image. According to Dinah, many of the ancient techniques are still not understood.
Eventually, some clever soul invented glass blowing, about 2000 years ago. From that time until the 1400’s, cane making lay dormant, while everyone blew air into hot glass. Then Domenico Bussolini, around 1700’s Italy, decided he would try to imitate the murrhini images found in archaeological digs of that period. His work later inspired Giovanni Franchini who made mosaic silhouettes of famous figures of the time, working at the torch. Dinah emphasized that Franchini silhouette canes were made as small pictures; they were never meant to be viewed six feet tall projected in a darkened room onto a movie screen. A lot of distortion is built into the picture cane so that when it is reduced to Franchini’s tiny proportions, it will look right. Franchini only worked in this manner for 10-15 years and only seven or eight of his portrait canes are known today. His techniques were lost with him and we do not know, really, how his portrait canes were made.
Next, Lino Moretti (sp?) made more cartoonish picture canes, the best known, in 1892, of Christopher Columbus, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. The next year, 1893, the company he worked for, Venezia-Murano Mosaic Company, opened a plant in Chicago as part of the Columbian Exposition; slices of his Christopher Columbus cane were given to invited guests at the opening of the Exposition. (Beverly Schindler, Co-President of the MD-DC-VA PCA Chapter, owns a slice of that cane and will be happy to show it to Convention attendees.) Dinah then showed slides of various aspects of her own work, even including picture canes made as recently as two weeks before Convention. One of her several techniques is to use chips of glass rather than thin glass rods to build her images; she showed one cane composed of 4000 pieces of glass. She works with an oxy-propane torch and has layers of colored glass all over her bench while she is working. This way, she is able to reach out and find just the color she wants at the moment. Her glass is imported from Italy. Slides showing her progress from 1991 to 1995 revealed a rapidly maturing ability to construct portrait canes, although she had trouble with “eyes” for a time. When she conquered “eyes,” the “nose” became the next obstacle. By 1995, she had learned to do all facial features well. That year, a glass artist to whom she is greatly indebted, Paul Stankard, called. He challenged her to take the work she was doing to the highest level of which she was capable. From that point on, her life changed greatly. She was led to a wonderful book by Giovanni Sarpellon that allowed her to understand Franchini’s glass methods much better. Apparently, Franchini molded individual facial features before “marrying” them into a composite image. She adopted this method herself. She showed slides of her own recent portrait canes as well as portraits made in mosaic fashion of individual facial features, or parts of features, evenly spaced on a black background.
To achieve the effect of a kaleidoscope, Dinah experimented with a triangular cane, sliced six times and “married” in a circular six-sided arrangement. She also created the illusion of depth in these “married” arrangements by flattening the tops of certain of the six slices so that their outer areas appear to undulate. Another experiment was a cube, 1” by 1 _” by 1 _”, built up from individual cane slices. These multi-slice arrangements permit her to do much more than can be accomplished working with a single cane. When set on a backing board of clear glass or black felt, they become miniature works of glass art. Repetition is another technique Dinah employs, using the same picture cane over and over again in various groupings. (This was one of the three new works that impressed me most during the Artists’ Fair on opening night.)
Many people had observed how painterly her work looked. This comment led her to take a painting class. The first assignment was to copy just a small detail from an Old Masters painting. From this exercise, Dinah learned that what she is doing is nothing like painting. What she is doing in glass is sculptural, so the painting class, which she did not complete, was quite revelatory. In another multi-slice arrangement, the portrait is the same but Dinah varied the background color. (She says she is intimidated by color.) Her most recent work, still in progress, is an arrangement of five portrait canes of early 20th century artists, Derain, Matisse and others. All in all, this was a most fascinating Small Group Session.
Paul Dunlop, well-known dealer from Statesville, NC, and the proprietor of Papier Presse, presented the second Session, on Clichy Colored Grounds. Paul is also a collector, for about 20 years now, and he punctuated his talk with slides from his own collection. He made the point that most Clichy color grounds are made with millefiori canes and only a very few have lampwork designs. There are three types of color backgrounds: transparent, which are so clear you can read print through the color; translucent, which let the light through but are not so clear that you could see print behind; and opaque, which are backed by white and so do not let the light through at all. Paul has documented 23 or 24 different colors used for grounds in Clichy weights. They include blues, reds, violets, aquas, greens, but at this time, no yellows. Of course, some colors appear more frequently than others. Opaque apple green is rare, purple is the rarest and opaque mint green may be unique. Finally, Paul has counted at least 52 different designs created with the millefiori canes
The third Small Group Session, Midwest Glass, was presented by California dealer/expert Gary McClanahan (and it was a hoot!) Gary has accumulated a personal paperweight collection approaching 2800 pieces and all slides were taken from his collection. Defining “Midwest,” Gary said that it began at the Ohio River and went west to the Mississippi River, was bounded on the south by the Ohio River and on the north by Canada. However, Gary would cheat on those boundaries and go across the Ohio River into West Virginia. That’s what the glassworkers themselves did. They went back and forth across the Ohio River all the time. Why does “Midwest” stop at the Mississippi? If you’ve ever been to St. Louis, you’ve seen that giant thing with a McDonald’s under it? (Laughter!) They call that the Gateway to the West so you can’t be in the Midwest anymore. Why can’t we go into Canada? Because the topic is Midwest American Glass, not Midwest Canadian Glass (which would take all of five minutes, anyway.)
It is very easy to tell who made pieces of Midwest glass because you can turn them over and they’re signed on the bottom. If they’re not signed, you don’t know who made them. (Almost every statement by Gary in this vein brought sustained laughter from the audience; he is a natural!) But sometimes things are not that simple. Gary knows of a Joe St. Clair rose weight signed on the bottom “Joe St. Clair.” Its crimp is Joe St. Clair’s, his exact crimp. It fluoresces like St. Clair glass and has the specific gravity of St. Clair glass. But the man holding the pontil rod at that time was Charles Gibson. He was making it for a friend. It’s a problem you will see over and over again when dealing with Midwest glass. Everybody worked for everybody and sometimes the glass objects weren’t labeled accurately.
Ice pick lilies are the most common decoration in Midwest glass; Greentown, IN was famous for chocolate-colored glass. When you collect Midwest paperweights, you don’t compete just with the paperweight world. You compete with glass collectors. There are Greentown glass collectors. There are Joe St. Clair collectors. They don’t care if it’s a glass slipper, cat, owl or paperweight. They will fight you for it at auction. They won’t fight you quite as high for Clichys (laughter!) but this is a huge collector market. As he spoke, Gary showed slides of work by Zach Boyd, Levay (Susan Anton, mostly souvenir items), Greentown glass by Mike Mitchell, Carol Craft (sp?) from Toledo, Ohio, Monty Dunleavy of Portland, IN and Prestige Glass. St. Clair Glass was in Elwood, IN and that is where Prestige is now. Continuing on with slides: Bart Zimmerman and Gene Baxley of Chicago. Gary observed that Midwest glassworkers are very good at placing bubbles in their work and at not placing bubbles where they don’t want them. They are also very good at encasing their work. Next: Charles Gibson. Some Midwest weights are quite large, 4, 5, 6” around.
There were four O. “Something” Hamons, such as O. C. Hamon, with many branches of Hamon glass in West Virginia. But the most confusing of all Midwest glassworker families was the St. Clair clan and their combinations and permutations. John St. Clair arrived in Elwood, IN in 1890 with his son, John, age 12, whose son’s name is also John but called Joe. Think about 1890. Classic paperweights are long gone, since 1865. Pantin did make a few weights around 1880, as did Millville. But Midwest workers are employees of glass factories; they aren’t working in paperweight shops. They are making lamp chimneys, drinking glasses and the like for Libbey and Owens and Anchor Hocking, big name glass companies. On their own, they make glass walking canes, glass whimseys, glass dueling pistols, mallets, etc. According to Mr. McClanahan, glassworkers in the Midwest don’t do lampwork or millefiori except for those who do. Generally speaking, Midwest glassworkers make other kinds of paperweights, without employing the techniques of lampwork, torchwork or millefiori. They make lilies. They make sulfides, but not the flat ceramic incrustations familiar to the French factories. They make three-dimensional sulfides and paint them all around and they don’t trap bubbles under the ears of their dogs. Their weights are very inexpensive, cute and fun to collect.
Back to the St. Clairs: John, known as “Old Joe,” his son John, known as “Pop” or “Old Joe,” (that’s right, two “Old Joes”) and the second “Old Joe’s” (who married in 1903) five sons, four of whom went into glass…John, Joe, Ed, and Bob. The fifth, Paul, went to work for General Motors. In 1938, all the St. Clairs were working for Macbeth-Evans Glass when it closed. Rhetorical question: Why was glass being made in West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana? Answer: cheap fuel, cheap natural gas. With cheap fuel and inexpensive labor, any businessman knows to build a factory. And that is what the St. Clairs did, adding to the clusters of glass factories in the Midwest. The family dispersed but Joe stayed in Elwood, Indiana and opened St. Clair Glass in 1941 after which all the St. Clairs returned and went to work for the son. So, “Old Joe” is now working for “Young Joe” and who is the boss??? There are at least three stories about who owned St. Clair Glass. Gary has spoken with Joe Rice, a nephew, and each story is different. Some family stories are just that, family stories, with no basis in fact. (Just like in your family.)
Old Joe #2, born 1878, married 1903, died in 1958. By 1971, products were signed St. Clair Glass, St. Clair, St. C or not signed at all. That’s a problem of St. Clair glass because some people buy other peoples’ glass, grind off the bottoms and claim to have a RARE St. Clair piece. In 1971, Joe St. Clair sold the factory. Bob went out and started his own factory, calling it House of Glass. So Joe went to work for Bob, part-time. Bob married Maude, who prevailed on Bob to change his mark from “Bob St. Clair” to “Maude and Bob St. Clair.” Remember, 1971, Joe sold the factory to a Chicago businessman; thereafter, no St. Clairs worked at St. Clair Glass even though the products were signed “St. Clair Glass.” A lot of people do that…Baccarat, Saint Louis, Perthshire. So signature does not mean that any particular person had a hand in the manufacture of the piece. Joe Rice’s factory, for example, produces 125 paperweights a day, all marked “Joe Rice” but he, himself, may not have handled the piece even though it is signed with his name. Another example of this, up in the Northwest, is Dale Chihuly.
To recap, up until 1971, a lot of guys named St. Clair worked at St. Clair Glass. After 1971, no St. Clairs worked there. Bob St. Clair owned House of Glass and Joe worked for him but St. Clair Glass is not “St. Clair” glass. In 1974, Joe formed St. Clairs Glass in Elwood, Indiana. Fortunately, Peacock and Prestige have not started yet, in Elwood. In 1970, another nephew, Tom St. Clair, set up shop, making and selling very pretty big tall lamps with ice pick lily decorations. Bob died in 1986. Another nephew, Joe Rice, bought Bob’s equipment at auction, in 1987, and reopened House of Glass and continues to make glass today. Sid Garrett did much of the cutting of St. Clair glass (or somebody named Jim, whose last name apparently no one knew.) The typical Joe St. Clair piece is representative of much Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Ohio glass and is very pretty, very colorful, very collectible and not very expensive. However, they are much more expensive in Indiana than in the rest of the world. When Joe St. Clair died, the price for his work went way up, to around $50 or $60 apiece. Now they are back down to $35. That’s not what they sell for in California, however; that is, on Bay, where you are dealing with people who don’t have access.
The St. Clairs also made teapot ring holders. If their work is signed St. Clair, that dates them before 1971. Ed St. Clair worked for Bob and he worked for Joe. Remember Paul? When he retired from General Motors, he came back to glasswork and signed his pieces “Paul St. Clair,” because that’s who he was. Joe St. Clair’s work had an indented (impressed) signature. Later on, the letters of his mark were raised, which is significant for dating the work. Probably the most popular of all St. Clair weights are the roses, footed and not, with various decorations, now at about $2000. Lesser examples are at $600-$900 and hard to find. Joe Rice crimp roses are extremely hard to find and very well made. Frog sulfides were made by all the St. Clairs, Joe’s on a crimp ground, Bob and Maude’s on a chip ground, the same kind of chips used to make ice pick lilies. One frog sulfide is signed “DAW” for Doris Wendt. A number of people painted the little ceramic critters for the St. Clairs but Doris is one we can positively identify. Mice sulfides were also common, at a range of $150-$175. The sulfides were painted with fine detail, all around, fully dimensional, providing an excellent view from all sides and angles.
(Unfortunately, although I can replay the “lyrics” of Gary’s talk, I cannot duplicate the “music.” He is a superb entertainer while imparting a wealth of information about his subject. DVPCA is very fortunate to have secured his services as Guest Speaker/Dealer at our 7th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on July 10 and 11, 1999)
From 12:30-2:00 PM, PCA provided an excellent buffet lunch in the Grand Ballroom of the Swissotel, where all General Sessions of the 3 _ day Convention were held. Thelma and I were lucky to find at our table Martin and Beverly Schindler of Virginia, Suzanne and Yves Roche from Switzerland and Margaret and 94 year old Paul Jokelson, from New York. My high school French was no match for the conversation between Paul and the Roches, who were, of course, multi-lingual.
At 2:45 PM, Gay LeCleire Taylor, Curator of the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Village, introduced Paul Stankard celebrating his 30th anniversary as a paperweight maker. She noted particularly that, in 1997, Paul had received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Rowan College of New Jersey and that he had been extremely generous toward PCA by donating a $12,500 Botanical for the Convention Raffle. Paul began by recalling that in 1973 he had attended the PCA Convention at the Drake Hotel in Chicago and there met Paul Jokelson for the first time. Now, 26 years later, he is back in Chicago to speak at a PCA Convention and to relive the paperweight experience of 30 years. He expressed thanks to Paul and Margaret Jokelson, to Barry and Gay Taylor, to Larry Selman and to all the paperweight dealers for encouraging and supporting him through all the years of his association with paperweights. It seemed incredible to him, on looking back, that so much time had passed since he began with weights. He remembered that Jack Feingold, then at the Antique Center of America and now the proprietor of Gem Antiques, first began carrying Stankard weights in 1973. In a series of slides, Paul described the body of his work. He graduated from Salem Community College and went into the South Jersey glass industry in 1963. While working in industry, he became aware of South Jersey weights, like the Millville rose. The more glass knowledge he absorbed and the more weights he observed, the more he wanted to make them on his own. As he learned more about South Jersey glass, he realized that he should research the antique French weights, the high point of paperweight development. In the 1970’s, his work was about nature, about flowers native to South Jersey, often expressed in bouquets. He endeavored to bring originality to the work, as he knew it at the time. He wracked his brain to invent new ways to put veining on a petal, on the bud, on the stamen. (He has a fetish for stamens, he said.) He wanted the work to be about “delicacy” and “detail,” two concepts that became central to his work. (In a personal aside, Paul noted that he and his wife, Pat, have five children and that he has worked at home for the last 28 years. The original studio is attached to the main house and the new studio is in a separate building next door.)
In 1972, he left his regular job and spent the next four years learning how to make paperweights. It was a difficult learning process because there was no literature on the subject. Also, practitioners were very secretive at the time, so the skills were not easy to acquire. Today, of course, there is a much more open attitude toward sharing these skills, prompting wonderful new work in many quarters. In 1980, Paul was blessed when Jim Donofrio, who had been sculpting in bronze and wood, came to work in Paul’s studio and for about eight years they enjoyed a mutually beneficial association. It was in the mid-1980’s, while Jim was still with him, that Paul began to question what he was really doing, to quest for the definition of “excellence” and to explore the history of decorative art, fine art and craft.
Paul’s slides showed his work from the 1970’s to the present, including the first botanical from 1979, then laminating black glass onto a botanical, the cloistered botanical and so forth. Mark Peyser invited him to lecture at the Penland School (North Carolina) and he became associated closely with Wheaton Village through Barry and Gay Taylor. The 1980’s were a wonderfully vital and rewarding time for him during which he met Harvey K. Littleton, Dale Chihuly and other practitioners of the studio glass movement. He incorporated what he learned from them into his own work. His reverence for Walt Whitman also found its way into the work through his poems and use of word canes. Over the last four or five years, his work has evolved beyond native flowers to express the mystery he feels in nature, the questions he has about that mystery, the feelings he has about mysterious nature and his homage when confronting nature. He summed up by declaring that "it has been a fascinating journey.”
Prior to the 4 PM presentation by Andrew Dohan and Ben Drabeck on the 150th Anniversary of Cristalleries de Saint Louis, Ben handed out a FACT SHEET on the factory which is here reproduced:
LOCATION: Moselle, Lorraine (Eastern Part of France)
ORIGIN: 15th Century Glassworks
1. Wood, formerly the only combustible material used.
2. Sand, essential ingredient in glass.
3. Potash, extracted from the ashes of ferns.
1586—The Munzthal Glassworks mentioned for the first time; company is direct ancestor of Saint Louis
1766—Duchy of Lorraine became part of France
1767---Louis XV bestowed the name “Verrerie Royale de Saint Louis” on the resumption of the Munzthal Glassworks. (Letters patent date Feb. 17 and March 4, 1767.) Company named after Saint Louis, King of France 1214-1270.
Glassworkers were granted certain privileges by royal decree (because of their strenuous and difficult work):
1. A tract of 8000 acres of forest.
2. Exemption from compulsory labor.
3. Right for their herd to graze on the common.
4. Exemption from taxes on wine, cider, spirits and beer.
1782---then director M. de Beaufort perfected crystal formula “identical to English crystal.” (Finding noted by the Royal
Academy of Science.)
1791-1795---Directed by Dartigues, who later and successively bought (and used there processes perfected at Saint Louis):
1. Voneche Glassworks, which became Val St. Lambert (1825)
2. Saint Anne Glassworks—which became Baccarat (1819)
1840-1845---production of Opaline, round paperweights
1989---company taken over by Hermes
1. 1830-1835—Pre-classic period—sulphides: “cameo encrustations” often with a political purpose.
2. 1845-1860---Classic period (1845 first known date for a Saint Louis weight.
3. 1951-1952---Resumption of paperweight making; earliest date 1952; trial runs of millefiori and lampwork.
4. 1953---First modern edition of sulphides commemorates coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Ten other subjects.
5. 1970---Annual limited edition production begins
SOME INTERESTING FACTS:
1. Glassworkers owned their own tools: shears, pincers, compass and paddles.
2. Glassworkers did not have the right to dig because they had to protect their hands.
3. It was decreed in 1785 that glassworkers could not leave their jobs without two years notice.
4. They could not travel more than a mile without official permission.
5. Same names of glassworkers (cutters, engravers) persist through the years.
After their introduction By PCA Treasurer as “The Ben and Andy Show,” Ben and Andy showed about 150 slides, by two’s, comparing and contrasting antique and contemporary Saint Louis weights of the same or similar designs, antiques on the left, contemporary on the right. Sometimes they threw a curve, showing two antique or two contemporary weights side by side and challenging the audience to guess which were which. This was an engaging and edifying exercise to which this article cannot do justice. Andy pointed out on a map of France the locations of the three major French factories. He expressed his conviction that Saint Louis was making weights well before 1845, which is the first earliest date found in classic era Saint Louis works. The factory could not, according to Andy, have burst full-blown onto the paperweight stage with the quality of workmanship embodied in the dated 1845 weights without considerable experience and experimentation prior to that date. In Fact, there is some reporting in the literature about opaline weights produced by the factory in the early 1800’s, previous to 1840. Throughout the Saint Louis classic era, we see daring combinations of color, such as one using pink and green in close proximity to each other. Sometimes these bold color combinations work; sometimes they don’t. Until 5 PM, Ben and Andy showed and narrated slides of antique and contemporary Saint Louis weights, providing a great deal of useful and insightful information. For such a scholarly presentation, this Session on the second full day of Convention was quite a lot of fun.
Dinner on Friday evening was, again, on one’s own, but with a special wrinkle. When checking in on Tuesday night, we had been given a colorful 4” round hardboard coaster representing a concentric millefiori weight on one side; on the other side, there was an invitation from Sotheby’s Chicago to a reception and preview of the 6/16/99 auction of the F. Regnault and Francis C.D. Fairchild paperweight collection. Also, through the good offices of Dr. Julius Tarshis, President of New York/New Jersey PCA, we had the name of the best steakhouse in town, Gene and Georgetti’s. I am a great believer in maps and had determined that Sotheby’s Chicago, at 215 West Ohio Street, was within easy walking distance of the restaurant at 500 North Franklin. So, while Boyd and Andy elected to walk to Sotheby’s, overshooting it by at least four blocks, I accompanied Thelma, Eileen, Gay Taylor and Barry Schultheiss, by civilized taxi, to the paperweight auction preview. We enjoyed champagne, mixed drinks and butlered hors d’oeuvres for about an hour, courtesy of Lauren K. Tarshis, Sotheby’s paperweight specialist, before our group of five headed for Gene and Georgetti’s, two blocks away. There, as advertised, the steaks and prime ribs were huge, extremely flavorful and done exactly to order. Another gustatory homerun!
That evening, for about an hour from 9-10 PM, we made another tour of the Dealer’ Fair. Previously, I had placed a couple silent bids on items in the PCA Boutique and was disappointed to be outbid by members I knew to have deep pockets. I suppose that, realistically, I had not actually expected to win, anyway. By 10:30 or so, Thelma and I were ready for bed; this was our fourth night in Chicago and the pace was beginning to show.
The weather had improved steadily over the course of the week and Saturday, May 15, the last day of Convention, turned out a perfectly beautiful Spring day, not that we got outside at any time to enjoy it. The General Session began at 9 AM with an introduction by Kenneth Wright, Ontario, Canada PCA Chapter President, of Brian A. Musselwhite, Curator of Western Decorative Arts at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, speaking on the paperweight collection at that institution. Two years before, at the La Jolla Convention, Ken had suggested this topic because very few PCA members had ever seen the ROM’s paperweights. Ken stated that it was his Chapter’s 20th anniversary, having been founded in 1979 by a lady named Helen Carruthers, who is still active in the group. In the last few years membership declined to a low of 18 but is now back up to 40 and includes several aggressive newer members, as the dealers at Convention may have noticed. He claimed that although Canadian glassworkers are very good, they don’t seem very excited about weights; Canadian collectors have to buy weights for their collections in the States.
To introduce Mr. Musselwhite in a special way, Ken’s chapter had prepared a videotape about Toronto, the ROM and the decorative arts and paperweight collections there, for showing at Convention. It was a short, high energy tape (narrated by Ken Wright himself) and ended on a closeup of Brian A. Musselwhite, who mounted the speaker’s platform as the lights came up. Brian noted first that the ROM allows visitors to view its stored paperweights. There are 500 in the collection but only 90 on permanent display. There are not many rare weights but there are many good ones. Many donors contributed to the ROM’s weight collection but three stand out: 1) Alice B. Hall, who collected classic era weights in the 1950’ and 1960’s and actually started the ROM’s collection; 2) Alfred Brocklebank (sp?), who, not to compete with Mrs. Hall, developed a 20th century grouping of mostly American weights; and 3) Tom King, a researcher in Canadian glass history. King collected in a very unusual way. He wrote to glass companies all over the world, stated that he was a glass collector and simply asked for a piece from their production. Believe it or not, most of the glass companies sent him something! (Are you asking yourself why you didn’t think of this?) That included paperweights, vases, all sorts of things. King did not remove any labels from these objects and kept copies of all correspondence, his letters to the companies and their responses to him, resulting in great documentation for this part of the ROM’s collection.
Of the 500 ROM weights, 30 are Clichy, 25, Baccarat, 35, Saint Louis, a large number are modern Baccarat and Saint Louis, 20, English, 80, Canadian and American, 20, Continental/Scandinavian, 26, Chinese, 21, Ysart, 30, Ayotte, 7, Banford, 9, Kaziun, and 27 are Paul Joseph Stankard. Often at the ROM, paperweights are integrated into room settings, to show their relationship to the furniture, ceramics, fabrics and other furnishings of their period. Mr. Musselwhite briefly reviewed the history of cane making before showing a 3” tall 17th century Venetian vessel with twists and 18th century drinking glasses with twists up the stem. Many people collect the latter objects to show the different stem configurations. Following these weight-related objects, he showed about 60 slides of weights from the ROM’s collection. He noted that Mr. Brocklebank left the Museum $150,000 for paperweights, of which the ROM spends only the interest, allowing for continual additions to the collection. He is responsible for all areas of Western decorative arts and so he prays for a telltale sign within the weight to aid in his identification, like the rose in the Clichy weight then on screen. (I do the same thing and I am not responsible for all areas of Western decorative arts!)
Listing the names of all the weights shown on ROM slides by Mr. Musselwhite would be unavailing. Instead, I recommend a review of a good recent auction catalog, perhaps of the New York Historical Society collection (Sotheby’s New York, 1/18/95) and Homage to Nature, Ulysses Grant Dietz’s 1996 volume about Paul J. Stankard. Infinitely better, however, would be a vacation trip this summer to Toronto. Be sure to call Brian in advance to schedule a viewing of the paperweights in storage at the Royal Ontario Museum.
At 10:25 AM, ten minutes behind a schedule that was adhered to religiously up to that point, George Kulles introduced retired English businessman Robert C. Hall, on the program to speak on Scottish/English Paperweights. According to George, Mr. Hall had pursued 19th century glass for 25 years, after being inspired by a statement in Hollister’s Encyclopedia calling upon English collectors to research the confusing problems relating to early English glass weights. Eventually, this research led to the 1998 publication of Mr. Hall’s first book, Old English Paperweights. His second book, Scottish Paperweights, due to be published shortly, was the actual subject of his lecture.
Mr. Hall said he had been greatly impressed with the presentations at Convention. The day before, he had attended Paul Stankard’s talk and the one by Gary McClanahan. After hearing about the St. Clair clan and Midwest glass, his difficulties with Scottish and English weights seemed trivial by comparison. His first book was very demanding of time and difficult to compose but has led to an influx of new data, necessitating a revision in the next two years or so. His second book was much easier to write because he had great help from the Scottish factories, Perthshire and Caithness, and from Roy Brown and Terry Johnson, who both have very large collections of paperweights. Mr. Hall admitted that attribution of English weights was problematical. Paul Ysart, for example, didn’t sign any of his weights for the English market, only the ones for Paul Jokelson, who was his exclusive agent in the U. S. market at the time. English weights from the 1920’s through the 1940’s are rarely signed. His books include price guides to the weights pictured, in dollars. Scottish Paperweights will cover the subject from about 1835 to the present day. After he agreed to talk about Scottish weights at Convention, he found himself without reference materials because everything was at the printer’s. So he sat down with an advance copy in loose-leaf form and photographed about a hundred pages of the book; thus, his lecture would be a preview of his new book.
The earliest weights of which Mr. Hall is aware were made by John Ford who came from the North of England. He never used any millefiori canes but only ever made sulfides which were placed _” below the surface of the glass dome. Most collectors already know much of the Scottish paperweight history. Salvatore Ysart, from Spain, worked all over, even possibly in the Saint Louis factory, coming to the Moncrieff Glass Factory in Derby (sp?) about 1915. All four of his sons went to work in glass as they became of age. Paul was the eldest son who early on experimented with sulfides but then created butterflies out of millefiori slices. As Mr. Hall continued, he revealed chapters in Scottish Paperweights on Strathearn, Selkirk Glass, featuring Peter Holmes, Paul Ysart at Caithness, John Deacons, Alistair MacIntosh, William Manson, an apprentice to Paul Ysart, the Harlan years of Paul Ysart, Fakes and other areas of Scottish glass. He noted that Frank Andrews and Roy Brown had written the book on Ysart glass and referred the assembly to it. As I will now refer the persistent reader of this Convention recapitulation to Robert C. Hall’s imminent publication, Scottish Paperweights. If it is anywhere near as good as Old English Paperweights, it will be a necessary addition to the complete paperweight reference library.
At 11:30 AM, for about an hour, Thelma and I made our last tour of the Dealer’ Fair. To my delight, at the PCA Boutique I was offered, at my underbidder price, a second copy of the Saint Louis sulfide I had lost to a higher bidder. My joy was not unalloyed, however, due to the gross (8.75%) state sales tax. . At 12:30 PM, in the Edelweiss Room on the 43rd floor, with a panoramic view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan, we were treated by PCA to an excellent buffet lunch for Chapter Presidents. After comments by PCA Vice President Al Bates, we Presidents stood, one at a time, of course, to introduce ourselves, describe our local groups and offer constructive suggestions about our Chapters’ activities. This was a worthwhile exercise and easily could have run longer than the 2:00 PM called for by the program.
At 2:30 PM, we were back in the Grand Ballroom for the Fourth, and last, General Session (which many missed in favor, no doubt, of Chicago’s sights and sounds.) This was an ID Clinic moderated by Rachel Dohanian, Archivist for the New England Chapter and manager of the St. Louis and Springfield, MA Conventions in 1993 and 1995, respectively. The panel consisted of Roy Brown, Chairman of the Cambridge, England Paperweight Circle, Jerry Gard, a collector since 1973, a member of Northern California PCA and an ID Panel member for the fourth time, and Gary McClanahan, Dealer Advisor to the PCA Board and an expert on Perthshire and American weights. If anyone is interested in the attributions they assigned to the 33 weights offered for identification, you can email me for the list. They did put on a good show!
At 4:05 PM, PCA’s formal Business Meeting began, following Robert’s Rules of Order, and culminated 40 minutes later in the election of Alvin R. Bates of Texas as President, Marcia Jankowsky of Oklahoma as Director of Region II and Dr Ed Sheldon of California as Director of Region III. Thus, the formal Convention, 1999 program ended exactly on schedule, at 4:45 PM, May 15, with the fervent hope that we would all meet again for Convention, 2001 in Corning, New York. Of course, the evening’s social events were still to come.
During the Cocktail Hour from 6-7 PM, I was busy taking, and posing for, pictures of Convention attendees I could identify, for the Chapter Memories Photo Album. In this task, I was ably assisted by DVPCA’s Candid Photographer, Diane Atkerson, who has produced a beautiful shot of (to use her words) “three swinging couples out on the town,” the Krugers, the Englands and the Browns. The seating arrangement at Banquet, 7-9:30 PM, placed Thelma and me between Virginia and Howard Johnson from Kansas and Lisa Mirsky and Scott Karlin from Georgia. (Question: Why are there so few paperweight collectors, relatively speaking, in the Deep South?) The food at Banquet was fine, the company was congenial, the raffle and door prizes seemed to run on forever without benefiting yours truly. The new President provided a copy of his complete slate of officers, including PCA’s new mailing address, The Paperweight Collectors Association, Inc., P.O.Box 40, Barker, TX 77413-0040, and closed out the proceedings on schedule. Later that evening, following his invitation to DVC and MD-DC-VA Chapter members, we dropped in at Jim Lefever’s Presidential Suite on the 41st floor, for just a short while. At 11:30, we bade Jim a fond “good night.” He had done a great job of stepping into the breach and had pulled off a whale of a Convention. If he ever wants to run for PCA President (and I don’t know why anyone would want the responsibility), he’s got my vote.
Sunday, May 16. Convention is over but there are still things to do before heading for home. Well before Convention, we had received invitations to two receptions, for brunch at the Portia Gallery, showing Barry Sautner and other well-known weight artists, and for champagne brunch at the Marx-Saunders Gallery, showing Paul Stankard, both from 9-12 noon. As our flight was not until 3:15 PM, we had plenty of time to visit both before catching the 1:15 shuttle back to Midway. At the Portia Gallery, we had a lively discourse with Roy Brown, who identified several English weights there for us. At Marx-Saunders, Paul was delightedly showing off his works, including a magnificent new $40,000 Assemblage, to our English guests, Roy Brown and Robert Hall. Weather-wise, this was the warmest day yet and I elected to walk back to the hotel with Thelma in reluctant tow. There, we found Andy waiting for the 12:15 shuttle, although he was on our same flight. We chatted in the sun until his transportation arrived.
Our shuttle brought us to Midway at 2 PM, where we handed over three pieces to the Skycap and were directed to Gate C3. Thelma had packed our three acquisitions in her carry-on bag and was stopped for inspection. The chunky female Security guard unwrapped the weights and “oohed” and “aahed” over them. At Gate C3, we were told of a Gate change to B12. Back we went to the Concourse, all the way down to B Terminal, then through Security. Again Thelma was stopped and her carry-on, searched. This time the female Security guard thought the magnum Ken Rosenfeld “Vegetable Garden II” must be at least $50. Thelma politely declined the offer. We found Andy resting comfortably at B12. Shortly thereafter, Gay Taylor showed up. We were all on Flight 595, a B727 non-stop to Philadelphia International, during which the snack consisted of a beverage, a small pack of peanuts and two flat cookies. I suppose that is one way to keep fares low; the tickets were obtained on-line from CheapTickets, after all. We ended with dinner at 8 at the new deli near home. I am fully recovered now and looking forward to 2001!