PCA Convention 2001
Including a Tour of Three Southern Tier New York Museums
by Stanley B. Kruger
If you expect the following account of the biennial Paperweight Collectors Association Convention, this year in Corning, NY, to be a scholarly review of the events of May 15-20, 2001, you will be disappointed. Instead, this article will chronicle Convention 2001 as Toby and I lived it, with all the attendant pain (at being unable to acquire everything we liked), travel arrangements (“get on the bus…get off the bus”), side trips (including one little gem of a museum in Elmira, NY) and inevitable exhaustion. If this sounds like your cup of tea, brave reader, continue on at your own risk!
Convention 2001 was scheduled to begin at 7 PM on Wednesday, May 16, with the traditional Artists Fair in the second floor ballroom of the Painted Post, NY Holiday Inn (HI). The Dealers Fair was set to follow at 9 PM, in various ground floor rooms and the ballroom of the Corning Radisson (CR) at the east end of historic Market Street about three miles away. There is no way my darling could travel 300 miles by car on Wednesday and still attend both Fairs that evening. So, we began our travel to Corning at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, May 15, with yours truly driving her white Toyota Camry wagon. For the first hour, we conducted local errands but managed, finally, to get on the road at 10:30, taking the Schuylkill Expressway through Philadelphia, the PA Turnpike west to Harrisburg, I83/22/322 around the east side of the state capital to US 15 North, all the way to Painted Post, NY, where I had booked our room at the HI. Along the way, we stopped for a picnic lunch at a Turnpike rest area and two hours later at the Rolling Mills Antique Mall in Lewisburg, PA but found no good paperweights there (or anything else that fit our collecting interests). We arrived in Painted Post eight hours after we had first started out, at 5:30 PM, and found the Holiday Inn a quite attractive two story structure with outstandingly pleasant staff. Our accommodations were more than adequate; I had requested a king-bedded non-smoking ground floor room with refrigerator and everything was as requested, with the added benefit that our room (#150) was only two in from the entrance to the parking lot. Thus, our vehicle was never more than about 20 feet from our room. After unloading and unpacking, we drove into Corning. The first landmark we came upon was Wegman’s Supermarket at the far west end of Market Street. Wegman’s in Corning, NY is a TRUE Super Market, two or three times the size of your average Acme or Super G and a veritable shopping extravaganza. Its Market Café is by far the largest restaurant in Corning, featuring a Caesar salad station, a Chinese buffet, hot and cold meat stations, cold salad bar, Italian specialties, almost anything on any menu anywhere. We had our first meal in Corning there that evening and regretted not getting back to Wegman’s during the balance of our trip. We also bought snacks, fruit, nuts and beverages for the room refrigerator. Afterwards, we drove around downtown Corning, getting our bearings and noting route numbers and street names, and returned to the HI by 9 PM. We were in for the night.
The Corning Museum of Glass provided very substantial ancillary activities both before and after Convention at its Hands-On Glass Studio, behind the Museum at 261 Baker Street, and at The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass, a new facility just across from the Museum Auditorium and the Gift Shop. If one wished, one could lampwork a glass bead, sandblast a glass object, make a glass flower or fuse cold glass at The Studio or create an Xmas ornament, a paperweight, two Xmas ornaments or both a paperweight and one Xmas ornament at the Hands-On Glass Studio at classes offered all day on May 15 and 16 and till 2 PM on May 20. None of these classes were PCA-sponsored but were available for a very nominal fee. My wife had made a lovely swirl weight at Paperweight Weekend 2000, so we did not take advantage of these classes. Instead, for the second time this year (the first, last January, was the Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, FL, holding the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world), Toby found a little gem of a museum in Elmira, NY, 20 miles east of Corning, to visit on Wednesday morning. The Arnot Art Museum, 235 Lake Street in downtown Elmira, is housed in the 1833 neo-classical mansion of John Arnot, Sr., whose son, Matthias H. Arnot, in 1910, bequeathed to the Museum his collection of 17th to 19th century European paintings. These are on permanent display in the 18’ high, wood paneled hall to the right of the entrance of the original building, hanging just as Matthias would have hung them. Many are genre paintings featuring Orientalism, a style and subject matter quite popular in the latter half of the 19th century, after China and Japan were opened to the West. The remainder of the two story addition to the mansion housed three major exhibits: Mark Twain Movie Posters from the Collection of Nick Karanovich (Mark Twain married a native of Elmira, lived and is buried there), Visionary Landscapes: The Glassworks of Josh Simpson (serendipitous!) and Re-Presentational Contemporary Art, the Museum’s annual exhibit of realistic-style paintings and sculpture. The Josh Simpson show had just opened on May 11; Josh and his wife were expected to attend a reception for the exhibit on Sunday, May 20, 2-4 PM, the day we would be driving home from Convention. We happily spent 1_ hours in the Arnot and its Gift Shop, dropping a bundle for catalogs, videotapes and postcards and regretted that we could not return on Sunday to meet Josh and his astronaut wife.
Back in Corning we headed for Market Street, to visit the shops and glass studios lining both sides of its five-block length. First, to see what we were missing, we dropped into the Radisson and picked up our Convention program packets from Al and Marion Bates. The Corning Radisson presented a more plush appearance than our hostelry, with its sunken lobby conversation pit, TV sets at the lobby bar and a handsome restaurant and lounge, all in the open lobby area. But, later, we had occasion to visit one of the sleeping rooms there and found it no better appointed (and considerably more expensive) than our Holiday Inn accommodations. What the Radisson had that the Holiday Inn did not was immediate access to the Dealers Fair and to Market Street and the claim of being within walking distance of the Corning Museum of Glass, across the bridge over the Chemung River. I wonder if anyone tested this claim during Convention. We certainly did not.
For the next two hours, we explored the shops on Market Street. In the very first, a group antique shop with two locations, Market Street Antiques and Collectibles at 94 and 98 E. Market, I purchased an antique magnum weight that later found its way into the ID Clinic on the program Saturday morning. (More about this in due course.) We walked Market Street in sunny, 70 degree weather, typical of most of Convention week, and Toby was able to make a hair dressing appointment for 1:30 PM on Saturday so she would be set for the concluding Cocktail Hour and Banquet. We didn’t buy anything else on our walk but did locate Whitehouse Books, known for its huge inventory of books, both old and new, on glass and paperweights, for future reference. By now, it was 4 PM and we had not eaten since breakfast at the Holiday Inn. We had been warned about certain of the Market Street restaurants, which shall remain nameless, but found Boomers Bistro, 58 Market Street, practically empty, and ordered an early light dinner there. It was good. We returned to the Holiday Inn at about 5:20 PM to freshen up and change for the Opening Reception and Fairs starting at 7 PM.
The Artists Fair, crowded into one corner of the second floor Ballroom at the Holiday Inn, included most of the paperweight makers with whom we are all familiar and some surprises, too. Chris Buzzini did not attend, although scheduled, because, as he emailed on May 10, he had no product to show. New artists included Karen and Richard Federici with their marbles and murrini-decorated weights and Lewis C. Wilson, a large full-bearded fellow from Albuquerque, NM, operating as Crystal Myths, Inc. Toby was particularly fascinated by the series of sculptural weights by Milon Townsend featuring a single frog or dragon sitting atop a large glass stone, about 6” tall overall, ranging in price from $600 to $900 (which I was able to talk her out of) and Jim Donofrio’s newest magnums of a white, or black and white, rabbit sitting in a green garden patch surrounded by edible-looking vegetables, $1200 (which I was NOT).
Because there was no hotel large enough in Corning to house all 325 Convention attendees, PCA had reserved rooms at special rates at the Corning Radisson (130 rooms), the Painted Post Holiday Inn (50 rooms) and the Best Western Tavern on the Green (BW), also in Painted Post (50 rooms). Although distances between these three hotels and the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) were no more than three miles, parking in downtown Corning and at the CMOG was either difficult or very limited. To effect the transport of Conventioneers in an efficient manner, PCA had chartered a bus service to circulate between the three hotels and the CMOG all day long until the close of each day’s activities. Thus, the exodus from Wednesday night’s Artists Fair began at 8:45 PM via these buses heading for the Corning Radisson for those attending the Dealers Fair or merely returning to rooms there. The 19 dealers and the PCA, Inc. Boutique were set up in the Finger Lakes Ballroom at one end of the ground floor and in six rooms (Carder, Cohocton, Rockwell, Tioga, Chemung and Board) at the other end. Toby and I made this tour of the Dealers Fair on Wednesday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon, each time finding something new to enthrall (and frustrate) us out of the approximately 6000 pieces of glass, books and glass related objects. She especially swooned over the Trabucco goblet in the PCA exhibit of contemporary weight-related objects. However, her firm intention of acquiring the Donofrio rabbit prevented us from purchasing any other weights at Convention. We did learn of an obscure early American weight maker, Arlie F. Carpenter, at the McClanahan display. Gary was offering a number of Carpenter’s snakes and rough skinned cobras, acquired from the artist’s estate after his death, at age 90, in 1998, and giving away a full color two page write up about the artist.
All program activities, aside from the Fairs and the glass making classes, were held at the Corning Museum of Glass, mostly in the Auditorium. The first General Session, following the requisite school bus ride, began at 9 AM on Thursday, May 17 with a Welcome by Al Bates, PCA President, to the 21st Convention of the organization. Al emphasized the outstanding exhibit of paperweight-related objects curated by Dena K. Tarshis opening that day and noted that all Conventioneers received with their Registration packets a copy of Dena’s book, Objects of Fantasy: Glass Inclusions of the Nineteenth Century, accompanying the exhibit. (We learned privately from Dr. Julius Tarshis that his wife had labored seven years on this project. Toby and I can attest that both the exhibit and the accompanying $100 book are dazzling achievements!) Al noted that 2001 was the 50th anniversary of the CMOG and the 150th anniversary of the founding of Corning Glass. He stated that despite recent extensive modifications to the Museum and the attendant reduction in display of paperweights, the entire CMOG paperweight collection would be on view during Convention. After a number of housekeeping announcements and recognition of the paperweight artists and dealers and PCA Board members, without whom PCA could not function, Al noted that a memorial to Neil Drysdale, head of Perthshire Paperweights, who passed away on April 10 of a heart attack at age 45, could be found in the PCA Boutique at the Corning Radisson. At this point, Marti Selman read an email message from Neil’s former wife, Miriam, thanking the many PCA members who had expressed condolences to the family (Miriam and Neil’s sons, Louis and Mark).
Another round of housekeeping announcements from Al included mention of the Josh Simpson exhibit at the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, NY, the PCA-sponsored Reception from 4:30-5:30 PM for the exhibit curated by Ms. Tarshis in the upstairs hall, the invitation from CMOG for Conventioneers to attend 2300 Degrees, a special open house featuring live lampwork by “The Master” Paul Stankard from 5:30 to 7:30 PM and that 2001 Bulletins would be distributed after dinner on Friday, May 18. Next came welcoming remarks from Kathy Moyer, PCA Vice President, Dr. Jutta Annette Page, Curator of European Glass at CMOG and Marie McKee, President of the CMOG Board of Trustees. Ms. McKee noted that the CMOG, founded in 1951, was only two years older than the PCA, that almost 1000 paperweights and related objects were on display, that Paul Stankard would be the featured artist at 2300 Degrees (the temperature at which glory holes are kept) later that day during a new third Thursday of the month series of events open to the public, and that the CMOG was actively collecting weights and weight-related objects to enhance its already good collection.
The next welcoming address, given by Rob Cassetti, Director of Marketing and Guest Services, reviewed some of the history of the Museum. Rob’s history began in 1934 with the casting of the 200-inch disk intended for installation at Mount Palomar Observatory in California. The Museum itself resulted from the vision of Arthur Houghton, Jr. He took over management of the ailing Steuben division about that time, not yet 30 years of age, and caused consternation within the Board of Trustees when he closed off all distribution channels, destroyed most of the inventory and opened a chic 5th Avenue, NY store, which moves proved highly successful. In the next six years a second Steuben store opened and the company celebrated by participating in The Glass Center at the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow (a former dump site). The Glass Center included a hot glass working foundry and exhibits from all the major glass manufacturers, including Corning. Arthur Houghton was inspired by this World’s Fair to propose the establishment of a glass museum in Corning, NY, with the 200-inch disk and other artifacts as a nucleus, but World War II intervened. During WW II, he opened an antique room on the second floor of the 5th Avenue store where he sold old English glass and items from his own private collection. When the CMOG finally opened in 1951 (on the site of the original Corning dump), its windows were the largest glass pane windows in any structure in the world, the exhibits were spare and very minimalist in style, the auditorium was actually built as a gymnasium, which could be used as a community center, and you could walk across a glass bridge to the Steuben factory part of the building. The Museum was built for a capacity of 50,000 but 100,000 came in each of the first two months, July and August, after it opened and there was NO air conditioning! Almost immediately, then, plans were underway for its expansion. A number of modifications and alterations have taken place over the past fifty years, including the current construction seen outside the Auditorium, and the Corning Museum of Glass is now the most widely visited museum in New York State outside of New York City.
Steve Gibbs, Interpretative Programming Manager, next described on of the Museum’s current innovations, a state-of-the-art, mobile, open air hot glass working studio, which has never been done on the scale CMOG is constructing. This studio will take a 300-pound pot furnace full of molten glass, with two glory holes, to any distant location where electricity, natural gas and propane are available. This would be possible even during the cold winter months since some shelter would be provided by the studio itself. Steve also promoted the 2300 Degrees program set for 5:30 PM-7:30 PM called “Glass Making with Music”. A chamber quarter, The Festival Strings, would play classical music to accompany Paul Stankard’s live flameworking on stage. Very close up camera work would show Paul and his creations on giant screens hung from the ceiling. These screens would not obstruct the audience’s view of the quartet or of Paul, who would narrate his workmanship as he performed it. Steve ended by inviting all to view the mobile studio under construction on the grounds of the Museum and to attend 2300 Degrees later in the day.
Mrs. Jane Shadel Spillman, Deputy Director of Collections, presented the first major slide presentation of the morning, A Brief History of Glass: Masterpieces of the Corning Collection. “Imagine,” she said, “4000 years of glass in 40 minutes. That’s 100 years a minute!” (She actually spoke for an hour, which passed very quickly.) According to Mrs. Spillman, there are now almost 40,000 glass objects in the collection. Glass working started in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq and northern Syria) before 2000 BC. As she spoke, Mrs. Spillman showed a number of slides from the collection: a flask c. 1450-1350 BC, a 3” tall Egyptian vase from about the same era and a tiny (1-1 _” tall) head of Amenhotep. Glass working apparently fell out of favor for a time and was revived in Assyria, illustrated by a cast hollow vessel, c. 700 BC and a glass imitation of rock crystal from Persia. The ancients prized rock crystal much more than glass. Next came a cast piece of cane slices, 4” high, made in two pieces and fused together, another cane slice of a half face, c. 1st Century BC, a stacked bowl of colored glass rods and a cameo piece with a layer of white (or light) glass over a dark blue base, c. 1st Century AD. The next item shown, a two handled jug, was important, although not particularly handsome, because it signaled the invention of glass blowing. Whereas all glass before was cast, blowing was a much faster process and made glass objects more available to more levels of society. This technology has continued up to the current day. More slides ensued: from Roman times, a cut beaker, an engraved jug, a cage cup (the only one in this country), a portrait in gold foil sandwiched between two pieces of glass, an elaborately carved tumbler and a 9th Century cut bottle.
Now, Mrs. Spillman ventured into European glass, starting with a Venetian mantelpiece with portrait cameo, Bernini glass from 1583, a 17th Century dragon goblet and lampwork pictures of people such as the goddess of the hunt, Diana. Although Venetians dominated the industry from about the 14th Century onward, glass was being made in other areas, too. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, German glass entered the scene. German glass was much heavier than Venetian glass. Also, the Germans invented copper wheel engraving, which allowed much more detail in the work, and also produced a lot of enameled glass. As Mrs. Spillman continued her brief history, she illustrated the progress in glass working over the last 300 years or so with examples of significant pieces in the Museum’s collection, concluding with the 20th Century contributions by Tiffany, Galle, the German Wiener Werkstadt, Steuben, Richard Marcus, the Finnish Bertil Valien and Chihuly (among others). She closed her rapid review of the history of glass with the hope that all Conventioneers would take the opportunity to view the Museum’s galleries and she wished all a pleasant stay in Corning.
After a 10-minute break, the second major presentation of the morning, by Dena K. Tarshis, illuminated the special PCA-sponsored exhibit of which she was the Curator, “Objects of Fantasy: Glass Inclusions of the 19th Century.” This stunning exhibit of rare, even unique, paperweight-related objects was drawn from eight private collections and four museums, including the CMOG, and will be on display through October 22, 2001. As she spoke, and showed slides of the approximately 100 objects in the exhibit, it appeared that about 30%, such as candelabras, tumblers, table centerpieces and plaques, etc. contained cameo incrustations (sulphides) of an unusual nature. As author of the accompanying book/catalog of the exhibit, Ms. Tarshis divided the volume into six chapters: I Mosaic to Millefiori, II Egyptian Trail Decoration to Rubans Torsades, III Reticello to Filigrano, IV Romeo Cameo to Verre Double, V “At the Lamp” to Chalumeau, and VI Greek Gold Glass to Cameo and Gold-Foil Incrustation, plus an Essay: Including the Incrustations of Mrs. Applewaite-Abbott. As noted earlier, both the book and the exhibit are dazzling achievements of scholarly research. Incredibly, one of the objects in the exhibit was found just two years ago by Dr. Julius and Dena Tarshis during the 1999 PCA Convention in Chicago, in a dusty antique shop, hidden behind some other artifacts. It is a tabletop pivoting mirror, attributed to Baccarat, c. 1819, set on a circular wooden foot with bronze mounts, and with a thick glass pedestal containing an allegorical sulphide figure (Pages 124-126 of the catalog). Many of the exhibit pieces were of remarkable complexity and extraordinary beauty. Toby’s favorite was a heavy Clichy covered inkwell, glass and silver, c. 1849-1850 (pages 80-81) showing creative use of white and sky blue overlays and heavily faceted, in pentagonal shape. Another rare piece was a sewing casket, c. 1830 (Pages 126-127), the top surface of which was a painted porcelain sulphide combined with enameled gold foil decoration. And inside lay a tray lined with needleworked silk and fitted with all (!) eight sewing implements, of 18-karat gold; these rarely survive in such intact condition. Underneath the tray was a Swiss music box that played two different tunes. Mrs. Tarshis gave a breathtaking slide presentation and I certainly hope these three object descriptions will whet your appetite for her exhibit, which was alone worth the price of admission to Convention 2001!
At 12:20 PM, we all climbed onto the buses for transport to the Best Western (for 1st timers, glass artists and PCA Board Members) and the Holiday Inn (the rest of us) for the luncheon included in Convention registration. Although an elevator was available at the HI, remarkable 96 year old Paul Jokelson climbed the stairs to the second floor ballroom where lunch would be served. He and Margaret, the Robinsons, Bonita and Gary Geiger and Toby and I made up a table and laughed it up, taking pictures and enjoying the company. We were all back at the Auditorium by 2:05 PM for a presentation on the Corning paperweight collection by Dr. Page. “Finally,” she said, “the first paperweights you’ve seen today!” which remark drew a huge and lively response from the audience. Dr. Page’s slides started with two weights from the 1850’s, a Clichy believed exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, dated “1851” and a Baccarat millefiori with signature/date cane of “4/21/58” commemorating the visit of Marechal Canrobert to the Baccarat factory. Next, Dr. Page mentioned the 1978 Corning exhibition “Flowers which Clothe the Meadows” that came to be known as “The Great Paperweight Show.” It was jointly organized by Paul Hollister and Dwight P. Lanmon, then Deputy Director of Collections. The timing of this exhibition was remarkable as it came during a critical stage of the Museum’s history. It was the first CMOG exhibition after the devastating flood caused by Hurricane Andrew in the summer of 1972 and was housed in temporary quarters. Amory Houghton (1899-1981), Ambassador to France from 1957-1961, and in 1978 Chairman Emeritus of Corning Glass Works, provided the impetus for the construction of a new CMOG following this exhibition and later donated his collection of 500 paperweights collected over almost a half century of knowledgeable involvement in the glass industry to the new Museum. Slides of a Clichy garland, a Baccarat pompon, a Saint Louis basket and a Clichy sulphide of Marie Antoinette, among others, followed. A number of weights were acquired from the collection of Arthur Kramer, a department store executive from Dallas, who had collected since the 1930’s. These were all from the classic period. Dr. Page continued with slides from the Museum’s collection, almost entirely drawn from the three famous French factories, c. 1845-1860. In 1952, the collection of Mrs. Applewhaite-Abbott was auctioned off in London, bringing great public notice to this collecting area. It remains a watershed event in the history of weight collecting. She kept exact records of her weights and paid an average of five pounds per piece. The most she ever paid was 175 pounds. Dr. Page now showed images of two vases marked “Clichy” several times and a tazza, for which Mrs. A-A had paid 86 pounds. Other slides showed TWO Pantin salamanders, a Pantin rose, two double overlay Saint Louis pieces, and more, all from the Applewhaite-Abbott collection. In 1957, the collection of Maurice Lindon was auctioned at Sotheby’s and in 1959 Allen Sharp of Providence, RI donated 100 weights to CMOG. Dr. Page opined that “The Great Paperweight Show” may have prompted Arthur Rubloff to donate his 1200 weight collection to the Art Institute of Chicago because he did so in the same year, 1978. Around 1980, the Baccarat factory donated the mold of its rooster cane to CMOG. In 1983, Mrs. Clara Pack donated 200 weights to CMOG and in 1984 the Jokelsons donated 176 sulphide pieces. Another important auction, not just of paperweights, that of the Estelle Doheny collection, was held by Christie’s on-site in California in February, 1988. Mrs. Doheny herself died in 1993 at age 100. In the area of contemporary weights, Dr, Page showed a Stankard Indian Pipe and a Kaziun Morning Glory. In 1993, Dwight P. Lanmon left the Museum to become Director of Winterthur, in Wilmington, DE; there have been many paperweight acquisitions since. Dr. Page invited all to view ALL the Museum’s paperweight collection, as well as all the other glass galleries, during Convention. The weights would be found in the main exhibit area as Paperweights of the World, in the secondary area entitled American Paperweights and the remainder in the display cases in the South Executive Offices Lobby.
From 2:45-3:15 PM, Dr. David Whitehouse, Executive Director of CMOG, presented a slide preview of “The Glass of the Sultans” exhibit premiering in the Museum’s new Special Exhibits Gallery on May 24, one week hence. The exhibit spotlights Islamic glass brought together by Dr. Whitehouse and Stefano Carboni of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and will run through September 3, 2001 at the CMOG, after which it will go on display at the Met. And until now, there had never been a full-scale exhibit of the glass made in the Islamic countries. “’Sultan’”, Dr. Whitehouse began, “is an Islamic word meaning ‘ruler’”. There are sultans living today, for example, the Sultan of Brunei in Southeast Asia. The Muslim religion spread very rapidly in the 600’s out of the Arabian peninsula and within 100 years or so, there were Muslim rulers installed in a vast tract of land starting in Morocco and southern Spain and extending as far as the Indian Ocean and beyond. The first slide showed a tall beaker decorated with a range of real and imagined birds. Since Islamic glass is greatly under-researched, it is difficult to date many of these splendid objects; the inscriptions on them do not provide the exact information needed for dating and origin. The highest quality of these gilded and enameled objects were made principally in the 13th and 14th centuries in Egypt and Syria. Starting around the 13th century, objects such as lamps, beakers, canteens and the like were decorated with very elaborate scenes with many figures. Not all Islamic glass is rare nor should it be viewed as treasure, such as objects in everyday use, i.e., a water glass. One piece in the exhibit was donated by a cathedral; others are on loan from the ruling families in Qatar and Kuwait. As Dr. Whitehouse continued with slides of the “Sultans” items, we had the impression that we had stolen into the hidden treasure cave of Ali Baba and been confronted by a scene at once gilded, enameled and dazzling.
After a 15-minute break, eight of the artists attending Convention briefly described the paperweight-related objects they had crafted for the special contemporary exhibit in the PCA Boutique, while the objects were being shown on the overhead screen. First was Drew Ebelhare. Next, Ken Rosenfeld described his silver box, into the lid of which was set a lampwork piece cut down to plaque size. Ken was trying to get away from the traditional paperweight shape and experimented with a modified lampwork piece as a decorative element. Daniel Salazar’s contribution was a large hand cooler, ruby overlaid over opal glass. The Trabuccos brought a glass chalice composed of a thin stem with small bowl above and a round flattened paperweight between stem and foot. (This was the piece Toby favored in the exhibit of Contemporary Paperweight-Related Objects.) Karen and Richard Federici collaborated on a cane painted vessel with stopper. Richard had also collaborated with Bob Banford and created a cane-decorated vase incorporating Bob’s dahlia weight, which was a first but may forecast a future trend in Bob’s work. Lewis Wilson of Albuquerque, NM said he had been working glass for 23 years and was pleased to be part of Convention for the first time. His contribution was the figure of an Indian dancer. Bob Banford noted that Rick Ayotte, too, had a piece in this exhibit and he encouraged everyone to visit the exhibit in the PCA Boutique room at the Corning Radisson before 4 PM on Saturday, when it would be taken down.
We were released from the formal program at about 3:50 PM, 40 minutes ahead of schedule, and spent the time before the 4:30 PM Reception for the “Objects of Fantasy” exhibit wandering the Museum’s enormous Gift Shop. Please know that my wife and I are inveterate museum goers, clocking two or three a month, so when we say that CMOG has the largest Gift Shop of any museum in our experience, that’s saying something. During this time, we chatted with Dan and Theresa McNamara, dealer/members of DVPCA from Winthrop, MA (Teri Antiques), Gay LeCleire Taylor, Curator of the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Village, Bob Hall, Editor of the Cambridge Paperweight Circle Newsletter and author of Old English Paperweights and Scottish Paperweights, Dena K. Tarshis (a marvelous public speaker in addition to her many other accomplishments), and others. At 4:30 PM we headed upstairs for the PCA-sponsored Reception for Dena’s magnificent “Objects of Fantasy” exhibit. Words cannot do justice; one must view this exhibit in situ or at the very least obtain a copy of the book.
At 5:30 PM, we headed back downstairs to the Auditorium which had been transformed into a cabaret setting, standing room only remaining, for 2300 Degrees, the monthly program open to the public and this day featuring Paul Stankard at the hot torch and The Festival Strings at the classical music bench. Let’s face it…Paul is a charmer, a consummate artist and a great salesman. He kept up a running commentary while lampworking his tiny elements, stood sometimes to recite his poetry, interrupted himself to ask the quartet for a particular composer (Brahms, Bach), ensured that his work was open to view by bringing certain pieces close to the camera and complimented the musicians effusively. Everyone left 2300 Degrees feeling good (and perhaps wanting a Stankard weight for their own, now at $4500 a pop, minimum). When the program ended at 7:30 PM, we had to make a decision. We had been to two consecutive receptions and there was no need for a formal dinner. The day before had been a long one so Toby and I opted to return to the Holiday Inn at 8 PM (by chartered bus, of course) and call it a day. Thus, the first full day of Convention ended early and without regret.
Breakfast at the Holiday Inn was almost free ($4 off for each of us) and was served from 6-10 each weekday morning. We made it to breakfast on Friday, May 18, at 9:20 AM and had a full hot meal, total cost $1.87 plus a $2 tip. This day on the official Convention program was “On Your Own” with demonstrations at The Studio at CMOG on a timed schedule based on the initial of your last name. Our group of K-Sa was scheduled for 1:30-3PM at The Studio, for which session the dreaded school bus would pick us up at the Holiday Inn at 1 PM. Decision time. Should we head for the Corning Museum or the Rockwell Museum of Western Art near Market Street? We had been in CMOG all day the day before but had seen only the Auditorium, Gift Shop, Coffee Bar and the “Objects of Fantasy” exhibit. We would be back at the Museum after the hot glass demonstrations later that day and for much of Saturday. On the other hand, the Rockwell had been closed for the previous nine months, undergoing a $7.2 million renovation and was reopening that very day at 9 AM. We had already visited the Rockwell Museum store on Market Street Wednesday afternoon; but Toby is drawn to Western Art (she is a long-time subscriber to the magazine Southwestern Art) and the opportunity to be one of the first to visit the renovated Rockwell was too good to pass up. So we drove downtown and parked in the lot across Cedar Street from the Rockwell. It is housed in an 1893 building at the corner of Cedar and Denison (Route 352), a half block off historic Market Street. The building was Corning’s first City Hall and later a fire station. It is built of local limestone and was badly damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1972. In 1974, the building was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Its diverse collections previously included Carder/Steuben glass, antique toys and Western art. A year ago, the trustees unanimously approved a radically different future for the 25 year old Rockwell Museum, in effect, losing the toys and glass and concentrating on Western art. It is now one of only two museums east of the Mississippi with comprehensive collections of Western art.
We entered the Rockwell at 10:30 AM and were greeted, beyond the Admissions Desk, by a wonderful large N.C. Wyeth (think Chadds Ford, PA) oil of a man and a woman sitting up front in a Conestoga wagon, obviously “Heading West.” Nearby was a small grouping of Carder/Steuben glass, the remains of the much larger original glass collection. Also on the ground floor was the renovated Gift Shop sporting the look of an old trading post. We took the elevator to the third floor to find a much-enhanced collection of Western art, supplemented by the acquisition of a significant Western and Native American collection. The galleries were painted in deep, rich tones of Hunter green, dark blue and tomato red, in contrast to most museums’ bland walls.
The art itself was, in many instances, large and striking, including a monumental oil of “The Buffalo Hunt,” Ogden Minton Pleissner’s oil “Lost Lake, Wyoming” c. 1940, Charles Schreyvogel’s bronze “The Last Drop” c. 1903 (a cowboy kneeling to water his horse from his own hat), to name only a very few. Intermixed with the Western art that had been in the Museum since its founding were the works of contemporary native artists such as Kay WalkingStick, Rick Barto and Bob Haozous, the son of the late native sculptor Allen Houser. Descending to the second floor via the renovated mahogany and cherry wood stairway, we entered the Remington-Russell Room, devoted to the art of Charles Russell and Frederick G. Remington, two well-known Western artists. From the center of the ceiling in this square room hung a magnificent antler chandelier, worthy of the best hunting lodge Donald Trump could afford. Also on this level in another gallery was Andy Warhol’s “Cowboys and Indians” composed of a number of large serigraphs (Custer, Crazy Horse, the face on the buffalo nickel, etc.) apparently promoting the Indian side of the equation. Also on this floor were the new children’s art education room and an outdoor terrace overlooking the Corning hills. Returning to the ground floor, Toby could not find the exact item she was looking for in the Museum Trading Post so at noon we headed back to the Market Street Museum Store where she did. And I was finally able to explore Whitehouse Books, where I found what I craved, a hardbound copy of Hollister and Lanmon’s Paperweights: “Flowers which clothe the meadows.” At 12:30, we returned to the Holiday Inn to freshen up and await the charter bus ride.
The Studio is a long building across a gated parking lot from the Museum Auditorium composed of a rabbit warren of rooms into which crews were still lugging glassworking equipment. Our demonstrators were Debbie Tarsitano and Karen Federici in one room working at torches across a wide metal table from the mostly standing audience and William Gudenrath forming, by himself, a dragon goblet at a glory hole in the adjacent room. Debbie confided that the pieces she was making would become door prizes at the closing banquet on Saturday night. I found it a little difficult to stare at Debbie and Karen at their torches so, after a while, I gravitated to the next room where Bill was performing what looked like a glass blowing/working ballet. This was the first time I had seen a gaffer using a rubber tube attached to the end of his blowpipe while working the glass. This simple implement eliminated the need for a helper to blow into the pipe while the gaffer worked in the chair. Thus, a two-man operation turned into a solo performance. And what a performance it was. One expert later opined that Bill Gudenrath was the best glassblower working today. And he measures his work by eye only. He claimed that he could reproduce exactly any piece he had made in the past two decades and from the smooth manner in which he worked, without an ounce of unnecessary effort or a moment of time wasted, I was willing to accept his claim on faith. He completed one whole dragon goblet in 20-30 minutes and parts of another during this demonstration. Later, in the Museum Gift Shop, we saw that they were priced between $260 and $300, obviously for looking at, not for drinking from.
At 3 PM, we rested up at the Coffee Bar outside the Museum Gift Shop and linked up with Allan Port, of Massachusetts, who has his own website devoted to glass paperweights, paperweight-related objects and books. I consider him an expert. After our thirty-minute snack time/rest period, Allan led Toby and me and Dr. Leon Green, of Mexico, to the three areas where paperweights were on display. I confess that I probably would not have found all three areas on my own, especially the South Executive Offices Lobby. For the next 90 minutes, until the 5 PM closing of the Museum, we gazed at these glass treasures longingly. Another confession: these 90 minutes were the only time we spent in the Museum proper, but we HAD heard a great deal about glass for these two days. Between 5 and 5:30, we were back at the Museum Gift Shop. I gravitated to the inventory of paperweight books offered, to see if there were any I needed. No, but I was able to recommend Reilly’s Paperweights to a young beginning collector as the best book I know of for those just starting out on their paperweight-collecting odyssey. From 5:30 to 6 PM, outside the Auditorium, we waited for dinner and spoke amiably with Beverly Schindler, DVPCA member and Co-President of the MD/DC/VA chapter, Helena B. O’Brien, President of the Florida chapter, and others who happened along. Dinner was served at 6 PM in the Auditorium, now crowded with tables. For your information, food service at the Museum was excellent, practically gourmet, and we had no complaints on that score. Even the lunch on Thursday was good although some questioned the lack of a dessert at that meal. After dinner was over, Kathy Moyer, PCA VP, presented a talk on the ten most significant individuals in the last 100 years of paperweight collecting, introduced by the swelling overture to “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” the music used in opening the film “2001.” The ten are listed here in order without further comment. If you wish more detail, please see pages 27-33 of the 2001 Bulletin: 1) Florence Applewhaite-Abbott; 2) Evangeline Bergstrom; 3) Timothy H. Clarke; 4) Paul Hollister; 5: Paul Jokelson; 6) Charles Kaziun; 7) Arthur Rubloff; 8) Lawrence H. Selman; 9) Paul Stankard; 10) Paul Ysart. Dinner was over at 8 PM and we all squeezed into the chartered buses heading for the Corning Radisson. Toby was on a mission. Jim Donofrio had told her that Leo Kaplan would have his rabbit weights sometime on Friday afternoon, so she made straight for the Kaplan display. There she learned that Kaplan had sold these magnums to Larry Selman. On to the Selman rooms (one for weights and one for Paperweight Press). Then the trouble began. Larry had THREE Donofrio rabbit weights, two with black and white heads and one all white with a streak of pink down his side. How to choose? After much deliberation, the white rabbit changed hands. Now that the pressure was off, we could relax and really tour the Dealers Fair, which we did until it closed at 10:30 PM. Another bus ride brought us back to the Holiday Inn by 11:10 and we were in for the night, unfortunately facing a very early, 5:30 AM wake-up call.
During each PCA Convention, regional chapter presidents are called to breakfast with PCA officers and Board
Members. (No one told me that when they elected me in October, 1996!) The purpose is one of cross-fertilization, an opportunity to meet and greet each other and perhaps learn of exciting new programs that had been successful at other chapters. This explains the 5:30 AM wake-up call on Saturday, May 19, the concluding day of Convention. Toby and I were invited to breakfast with the other presidents at the Corning Radisson; one school bus with the too-short seats would pick us up at the Holiday Inn at 7:15 AM, then pick up at the Best Western, and deliver all of us presidents and spouses to the Corning Radisson by 7:30. It was a jolly trip, but Toby and I were the only people on the bus, except for the driver, of course. It was interesting to hear how other chapters planned their sessions and how regional differences impacted on our overall mission, to learn about, view and enjoy paperweights and paperweight collecting. Our breakfast ran so long that the main program in the CMOG Auditorium was delayed 15 minutes until our arrival there, by the ubiquitous chartered school bus.
At 9:30, then, the day’s main speaker, Sibylle Jargstorf, the author of at least one well-researched book on paperweights, was introduced to speak on the topic, “The Missing Link, Part II.” Her main theme, presented during an hour-long slide show, was that in the second third of the nineteenth century the maker of millefiori canes was not necessarily, or hardly ever, the maker of the paperweight. She cited the example of Domenico Bussolin, who in the 1830’s made wonderful canes but never any paperweights. Another example was Franchini, who made canes, not paperweights, which canes were used in weights of unknown Muranese origin up until the 1880’s. Sibylle emphasized that she was not advancing her theory as a solution but in order to promote further research into this under-examined area of discussion. She does not mind being contradicted; what she dislikes is seeing so-called common knowledge being repeated again and again. Ms. Jargstorf showed many slides, among others, of canes from a Moltzoff (sp?) dynasty vase (Russian origin) which were similar, and even identical, to canes found in Baccarat and Saint Louis products, including paperweights. She opined that at least 50% of the canes used in Baccarat weights originated with the Moltzoff (sp?) family. To strengthen her theory that cane maker were not often weight makers, Sibylle showed a Bohemian weight containing canes made by the Italian, Bussolin. She also referred to Mrs. Sinclair’s research into the European origin of much “Mary Gregory” glass (blue overlaid with white that had been sculpted into sentimental figures). Mrs. Sinclair determined that many large companies acquired this and other glass types from distant factories having lower labor costs than their own. Further Sibylle showed sample cards of Bussolin canes that were sent into many parts of northern and western Europe. Ms. Jargstorf concluded that we can no longer ignore the possibility that canes traveled from distant makers to the French and Bohemian factories, and elsewhere, during the classic period. Cane makers were one group, weight makers, another group, and the trading in canes was a common matter then.
During the Question and Answer period following, George Kulles, author of Identifying Antique Paperweights Millefiori, Identifying Antique Paperweights Lampwork and The Curse of the Imperial Paperweights, in rather vehement terms, contradicted this theory; Robert Hall, author of Old English Paperweights and Scottish Paperweights and the Editor of the extraordinary quarterly Newsletter of the Cambridge Paperweight Circle, supported the theory; and Dena K. Tarshis, curator, lecturer and author of numerous volumes including Objects of Fantasy: Glass Inclusions of the 19th Century, offered her position on the subject. Others, as well, spoke both for and against, producing a very lively session that ended at 10:35 AM.
Immediately, because we were now 35 minutes behind schedule, Al Bates began the PCA Business meeting. He announced the completion of a new set of By-Laws and a new Procedures Manual for the PCA Board. He reviewed the Board’s recent accomplishments: 1) Achievement of 501C3 Tax Exempt status; 2) The PCA website (www.paperweight.org); 3) Completion of a membership survey; 4) Establishment of a Visitor Network, currently with 65 registrants; and 5) Contributions to the Paul Stankard Scholarship Fund at CMOG, Sandwich Glass Museum and the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Village. Jerry Gard described the Visitor Network in more detail and Barry Schultheiss described the new email/alias program, which provides a lifetime email address through PCA for $5/year. VP Kathy Moyer announced that the next Convention would be in San Antonio, TX in 2003 and in Wisconsin in 2005. Dr. Julius Tarshis, President of the New York/New Jersey PCA Chapter, announced that his chapter would distribute, free of charge, a special Convention memento to each individual attendee or couple, a poster bearing the PCA logo created for the special “Objects of Fantasy” exhibit. Dr. Ed Sheldon, PCA Region 3 Director, publicly thanked the other members of his By-Laws Revision Committee, Gary McClanahan, Jane Gilbert and Bob Banford, and including Mabel McClanahan as Parliamentarian. John Hawley, Editor of the PCA Bulletin, called for articles suitable for publication in the 2002 edition. Colin Mahoney, Editor of the PCA Newsletter, discussed his need for articles in the months ahead and suggested that many could be about people, rather than about weights. PCA Past President Jim Lefever, as Head of the Nominations Committee composed of himself, George Kulles and Joe Hutt, stated that the slate of officers was the same as the current Board, with Pat Vandersall taking over as Region I Director and William Drew Gaskill added to the Board as an At-Large member. Finally, Al announced that the Banquet would be open seating (no place cards!) and reminded everyone to complete the Convention evaluation forms found in each Registration Packet. A 15-minute break was called then.
From 11:30-12:15, the traditional ID Clinic, with Gary McClanahan, Jerry Gard, Dr. Sibylle Jargstorf and Robert Hall forming the panel of experts, provided a most enjoyable end to the formal program at Convention. Thirty pieces, including the weight I had discovered on our Market Street walk Wednesday afternoon, were entered and numbered. Mine was #23, a magnum (3 15/16” wide, 2 _” tall) with reddish-brown and cobalt blue chips set into a white milkglass base of uneven depth, the base ground and polished and showing considerable wear all across its flat bottom. The one striking feature was the open center of the base, through which one could see to the bottom of the upper milkglass layer. I feverishly awaited its disposition. It has been said by several experts of our acquaintance, “When in doubt, Bohemian is a pretty good guess.” Fully one third of the weights were so attributed, thus, right up Dr. Jargstorf’s alley. Four or five were English and two were Scottish, so Bob Hall got in his licks. When my weight came up, the American expert, Jerry Gard, easily recognized it as a Steuben/Corning product, the opening in the base coming about when the weight was cut off the punty rod. It could have been made at any time between, say, 1890 and 1940. What were the chances of that, finding a Steuben/Corning paperweight in Corning, NY? Quite good, apparently. The last item, which even I could ID, was a thick-walled vase with floral decoration imitating the style of Orient & Flume, showing a sawed off, frosted bottom. Obviously, Chinese modern. And on that note, the session ended.
We shuffled into the buses heading for the Corning Radisson. We were on our own until the start of the Cocktail hour outside the CMOG Auditorium at 6 PM. After lunch at the CR restaurant (breakfast had been Continental rather than full), Toby headed off to her hair appointment and more Market Street shopping (window, I hoped) after agreeing to return to the CR at 3, while I toured the Dealers Fair, which would close at 4 PM, for the last time. At the PCA Boutique, I bought the 2001 Bulletin and at Paperweight Press, a copy of Selman’s 1992 All About Paperweights (to replace one I had previously sold). At the Sweetbriar Gallery display (Anne Metcalfe), I noticed acrylic paperweight stands of an unusual design and Anne sold me six right out from under the weights on display. At Jack Feingold’s Gem Antiques, there was a Boston & Sandwich poinsettia on blue and white jasper ground, 2 _” diameter, perfectly centered, for $1250, that attracted me greatly, but to no avail. At least it went to a good home; Patty Mowatt bought it (at a substantial discount). The time passed quickly and pleasurably. I heard from a number of dealers that they had had a good show and were pleased with business done. Toby and I are always happy to hear that. After she rejoined me at the CR, at about 4 PM, we looked for a bus back to the Holiday Inn.
Promptly at 6, we arrived at the CMOG for the cash bar, refreshed and in all our finery. It had been an enjoyable five days but we were already thinking about obligations awaiting us back home. At dinner, we made a table with Bonita and Gary Geiger, of Beaver, PA, Stephanie Donahoe, Silver Spring, MD, Elliott and Rosalyn Heith of Flushing, NY and Phil Sherman and Susan Kaplan Jacobson (of the firm of Leo Kaplan, Inc.), New York, an all-East Coast group. Dinner and dessert were excellent, as was the company. We found we had a great deal in common with the Heiths, aside from paperweights. When the banquet speaker was introduced, we were shocked that we recognized him, although we had never seen him before. He was Thomas S. Buechner, Founding Director of the CMOG from 1951-1960, Vice President of Steuben Glass, President of the CMOG, and President of the Corning Glass Works Foundation during 1970-1987 and since 1987 a full-time artist, both in oil painting and in glass works, with memberships on many prestigious Boards too numerous to mention. So, you ask, if we had never met him, how did we recognize him? The answer to that mystery is simple but greatly coincidental. When we were at the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira on Wednesday morning, exploring the Gift Shop, Toby admired the oil painting of an elderly white bearded fellow on the cover of a slim catalog. The work was really good; the catalog was of an exhibition shown at the Museum in late 1995. There was another catalog, showing the same artist’s work in an exhibit ten years earlier, in 1985. We bought both catalogs because we liked the work, even though we had never heard of the artist. It was Thomas S. Buechner; the oil painting on the catalog cover was a self-portrait! Buechner had started out to become an artist and painter but at the age of 25 became Director of the new CMOG in 1951. From there, he became Director of the Brooklyn Museum in 1960, returned to Corning in 1971 and retired in 1987 to begin painting full-time. In between these pursuits were many residencies in glass, many publications and many solo exhibitions. And what an inspiring address he gave, this man devoted so wholeheartedly to the promotion of the arts in our society.
At each table setting was a mini-Perthshire concentric as a favor from the PCA for each attendee. When the distribution of door prizes began, lo and behold, Toby won a John Deacons tea rose set on a close wheel of latticinio tubes and surrounded by one circle of red and green canes, surely a $200 weight. When we counted up, Convention registration had cost us a total of $550, but we received two books of the “Objects of Fantasy” exhibit, worth $100 apiece, two mini-Perthshires, $15 apiece, and the John Deacons, $200, a total return of $430. As I always say when heading for the casinos at Atlantic City, “I hope I break even…I need the money.” At Convention, we almost did break even.
Sunday morning breakfast brought another pleasant interlude, for Mark Smith, the egg shape and crimp rose expert (among other specialties), sat with us for the better part of an hour, talking paperweights. Until then, I knew Mark only from the Internet---we are honorary deputies in Jerry Gard’s Paperweight Police--- and his articles in the PCA Bulletin and it was really fine, finally, to put a face to the name.
As usual, we traveled home by a route different from the one we took going to Corning, leaving around 11:30 Sunday morning, and arriving home at 6 PM. Now the long wait for Convention 2003 begins. Isn’t it lucky we have Wheaton's Paperweight Weekend less than a year off (May 16-18, 2002), to keep us going?