The Glass Paperweight Foundation hosted the paperweight collector's dream weekend of the year at the "Celebrate the Paperweight 2014" weekend event.
First off, the Chicago weather was unbelievable! Without a doubt, the best weekend weather Chicago has experienced all year. Many collectors and artists arrived early throughout the week in order to get a jump on the very best paperweights from the L.H. Selman gallery and to take advantage of all that Chicago has to offer.
Oh no! On Friday, we learned there were problems with air traffic control and literally hundreds of flights were cancelled into Chicago. We were so sad that several collectors along with Rick and Clara Ayotte were not able to make the event. With fingers crossed for re-routed flights arriving in time, we passed out name badges, welcome kits and made our way over to the Art Institute for the first event of the weekend.
As always, the museum looked great. The Arthur Rubloff paperweight collection continues to vibrantly sparkle in its newly expanded home that we inaugurated just two years ago. At noon we were welcomed by a lovely private luncheon in the museum’s Millennium Park Room that was set up just for our group. We enjoyed a interesting presentation about the passion collectors bring to art and how a number of generous benefactors have helped the museum build its world-class collection. Of course, Arthur Rubloff’s paperweight collection was referenced as a prime example of how this generous collector’s passion has lived on to benefit future generations through the 800+ paperweights showcased in the museum’s Arthur Rubloff Paperweight gallery.
After lunch most of us spent the afternoon touring other parts of the museum including the new Magritte exhibit and of course the wonderful impressionist paintings for which the museum is so well known.
For those who stopped by the Second Floor Art Gallery outside the L.H. Selman gallery during the day, we were treated to a very special antique paperweight exhibit that was made possible by a generous loan from the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass. The exhibit featured a number of significant pieces from the Gary and Marge McClanahan Collection and the William and Alice Truszkowski Collection in addition to selected weights from the Bergstrom Mahler Museum. Now, these were not just any old paperweights! We are talking fabulous Clichy fantasy flower weights, a fabulously showy Pietro Bigaglia weight, Bacchus, New England Glass plus a number of other seriously wonderful antique and contemporary paperweights. This was a real opportunity to see some spectacular glass!
Friday early evening roughly 70 members of the Glass Paperweight Foundation joined artists for the Foundation’s celebration cocktail party hosted by Alexis Magarò from L.H. Selman Ltd. The views were spectacular and it was fun to catch up with so many friends.
Then around 7:30 everyone drifted away in groups with the artists to restaurants that had been reserved around town. Some were jazz bars, some had blues and some just had good food. It was a chance for everyone to explore Chicago and get to know an admired artist at the same time. As always when you turn a big crowd loose in a big city, there were some adventures!
On Saturday morning it was time for the big Paperweight Artists Fair. Thankfully, L.H. Selman Ltd. hosted the event, which made it possible for artists from around the world to attend. What a tremendous display of beautiful, luscious glass paperweights! Several of the artists made presentations including some who brought very professionally prepared new videos of their work. Artists at the fair included:
Melissa Ayotte – always a delight. Such beautiful art with several spectacular new designs. Melissa shared with us a presentation about the inspiration she is following based upon her new interest in incorporating seeds and seedpods into her work. I also think she should get extra credit for sticking it out through all the air traffic mess, arriving at near midnight and then somehow being her usual delightful self the next morning at the artist fair.
Rick and Clara Ayotte – after an entire day at Logan Airport, Rick and Clara were ultimately defeated by the air traffic control debacle and had to return home. Misery for them and a real disappointment for all of us. We had so much looked forward to having them with us for Gordon Park’s outstanding Rick Ayotte display at the Gala Dinner event on Saturday evening.
Jim Brown – sadly Jim had to cancel just before the event. We look forward to seeing him in the near future.
Wes Clark – blush, yes – even I had a little table featuring children’s books about paperweights. Paperweight Press just released a new book called “The Paperweight Keeper, His Most Dangerous Adventure…” which tells the story of the old Keeper getting magically trapped inside a paperweight that he explores and eventually escapes. It features many paperweight artists, PCA and some fun references to famous collectors throughout the adventure. Thankfully a number of collectors bought several copies throughout the day!
John and Craig Deacons – we were so sorry but at the last minute both were unable to make the event. A real loss since we had heard there might be kilts at the Gala Dinner.
Drew Ebelhare and Sue Fox – such wonderful, intricate designs plus a terrific video showcasing their art and lifestyle. As always, they arrived “dressed to the nines” for the Gala Dinner. Drew sported a top hat and tails with Sue elegantly dressed in a beautiful evening gown.
David Graeber – David’s new designs showcased a true tour-de-force along the cutting edge of what is possible in glass paperweights right now. Dave’s presentation was thoughtful and informative. And… as always, his fabulous work sold out immediately which of course was no surprise.
Mike and Sue Hunter – vibrant designs showcasing remarkable skill was evident in every piece they brought to the fair. Collectors appreciated their coming all the way from Scotland to be with us. They are such a delightful artistic team and a joy to have at every event. Mike’s presentation gave us insights into the inspiration he gets from their walks with their two dogs through the Scottish countryside.
Jim Lewis and his wife, Brianna, are such a nice young couple and an emerging talent in glass paperweights. The grandson of Gary and Doris Scrutton, Jim is passionately carrying on the Parabelle Glass tradition of intricate artistic designs. Jim's presentation was interesting and we all look forward to seeing the results from his new furnace.
Damon MacNaught – Damon drove to Chicago from Tennessee, which proved to be a brilliant move given all the flight problems many of the attendees had. As always, he brought a large selection of finely detailed close packed designs showcasing his tremendous skill. His presentation was also one of the favorites from the day.
Ed and Jim Poore – such gentlemen. Ed is of course known the world around for his gifted polishing skills. I think I recall his mentioning he guesses he has worked on perhaps 8,000+ weights during his lifetime. Ed is truly gifted artist and we are excited to see Jim now following in his footsteps.
Cathy Richardson – Cathy brought both Colin and her own wonderful paperweights to the fair. As everyone knows, she continues to achieve new levels of artistic flair and her presentation provided interesting insights into her new process for etching her beautiful work.
Ken Rosenfeld – always a crowd pleaser. Ken’s art has been a favorite of collectors for many years and he once again brought many wonderful paperweights including a selection of orbs, which were of great interest at the Fair.
Alison Ruzsa – delightful art and a delightful artist. Alison made a great presentation about her work which collectors really appreciated since she creates her paperweights from such a unique artistic approach. A batch of bad glass caused her to lose many of the pieces she had prepared for the show so we all appreciated the last minute effort she put into re-creating so many great designs in time to share them at the Fair.
Danny Salazar – Danny brought a terrific selection of his work and as always his California style was a real crowd pleaser. Such a genuinely nice man, Danny shared a wonderful presentation about his art. As everyone knows, it is always a pleasure to have Danny at the Fair.
Clinton and Katie Smith – a dynamic duo is what always comes to mind when I think of this creative team. Clinton’s paperweight designs took another significant step forward this last year. Their video describing Clinton’s approach, inspiration, and his art was upbeat, exciting and fun. Katie as always generously gave of her time and talent as she photographed continually throughout the weekend. In fact, she deserves credit for almost all the photos of the event.
Gordon Smith – Gordon is always the gentleman with his quiet, thoughtful demeanor. As usual, he brought a wonderful selection of artistic designs showcasing his incredible skill. His work continues to be sought after by collectors far and wide so as always it was a real pleasure to have him at the Fair.
Paul Stankard – sadly as the date drew near, Paul’s health did not allow him to make the event. We wish him a rapid recovery and look forward to seeing him again soon.
Cristallerie de Saint-Louis, represented by Sean Lear – Sean is a new name for all of us but of course, he represents one of the oldest names in glass paperweight history. Sean brought a great selection of St. Louis contemporary paperweights and surprised the audience by announcing that L.H. Selman Ltd. is now St. Louis’ exclusive dealer for North America! This is of course great news for paperweight collectors and also great news for St. Louis.
Saturday evening featured the Gala Dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center under the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world. Thanks to Gordon Park, there was also a wonderful collection of Rick Ayotte paperweights on display that was deeply appreciated by everyone at the dinner. The selection included a retrospective of twenty of Rick’s famous designs, many of which have been prominently featured in books about his life and work.
The dinner was spectacular. The wine flowed, the hors d'oeuvres were scrumptious and the main course followed by a flour-less chocolate cake were both big hits. It was very fun to share stories from the weekend and reconnect with old friends throughout the evening.
Then, on Sunday morning, a busload of collectors along with artist, Danny Salazar, left to tour the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, Wisconsin. Sadly I wasn’t able to go but I have heard from several people that this was also a highlight of the “paperweight collectors’ dream weekend.” Our sincere thanks to Jan Mirenda Smith for organizing everything so flawlessly.
As I think back over the weekend, the real stars were the artists. They are so gracious with their time and talent. They continue to push the art of what is possible and they enable collectors around the world to build the collections of their dreams that will over time become significant legacies for future generations.
A few comments from the artists follow…
Great event, and a great time!! Awesome time!! Gordon Smith
What a wonderful event, seamless and smooth… I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend… a wonderfully well-organized event… Sean Lear, Cristallerie de Saint-Louis
I really think everyone had a wonderful time. From the Magritte to the Tiffany Dome and everything in between; it was one moment after another filled with beauty. Alison Ruzsa
It was a great weekend, David Graeber
… had a wonderful time. Drew Ebelhar
Thanks so much for such a lovely weekend! It's so encouraging to have such an eager and helpful group of people to work with. We look forward to sharing good times and great glass in the future. Melissa Ayotte