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OKAY – LIKE WE AGREED TO, LAST TIME—I AM, THIS TIME AROUND, WAXING POETIC ABOUT LOT 1 AND THEN I’LL JUST TEASE YOU ABOUT THE REST BECAUSE YOU ALL HAVE LIVES OUTSIDE OF PAPERWEIGHT COLLECTING. (ALTHOUGH WE WOULD ALL AGREE THAT, THAT OUTSIDE TIME ISN’T NEARLY AS IMPORTANT.)
THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY WRAPPED IN A BEACH TOWEL !
Picture this; late 1960s Atlanta. The Milwaukee Braves have arrived to put the city on the Major League Baseball map. The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company (with an eponymously named product originally dubbed “a brain tonic and intellectual beverage”) has conquered the market, thanks to following troops throughout the world during the Second World War. Plans are afoot to vastly expand the airport on the way to making the city, “the Aviation Center of the South.” In other words, Atlanta has just finally recovered from General Sherman’s criminally sloppy visit. But if you think all that is exciting, keep listening. It gets better.
It is 1968-69 and paperweight dealer Larry Engle works his booth at the DS Clark Antique Show, as is his custom. Larry took part in the professional circuit of antique shows for 52 years before retiring not long ago. He lives in central Florida, but displays his wares in Atlanta three times a year as part of that circuit.
A curious woman has been visiting Larry’s table and examining his weights, over the last year and a half. She would occasionally point to certain artworks and say that she owned similar pieces, but she would never buy anything. Larry doesn’t know what to make of her and finally says, “Well, if I can’t sell you anything, surely you must have something that you would sell to me?” She pauses and says maybe he would like to see a rare Mount Washington. Flash forward one day. She reappears and brings something large, wrapped very casually in a beach towel, to his table. She is with a man this time and he tries to convince her to keep the wrapped object. Engle gets the sense they’re married and that the man either is or was a soldier. She says she was living in France during the Second World War, and that is where she came to possess the paperweights she owns. Engle had been expecting little when he saw a beach towel, and he is shocked to see the extremely rare Mount Washington fruit bouquet with flowers magnum. It is breathtaking—a nineteenth century, dynamically dimensional creation of fruits, flowers and leaves—robustly sculpted, and filled with passionate color and fearless fecundity. This glass sculpture emanates beauty, strength and energy.
Larry picks his jaw back up from the floor and they strike a deal. The woman insists that he makes out the check simply to “CASH.” He never sees her again.
Of course, you already know that weight is our Lot #1.
And now it is up to you, the perspicacious and successful bidder, to write the next chapter in the history of this mysterious landmark artwork that somehow made its way east over the Pond and back again, with the greatest conflagration in history as a backdrop. Top THAT during your curatorship of this weight! We won’t even get into the legendary conclusion of this weight’s journey, during the Paperweight Collectors Association Convention at the Corning Museum, where two gargantuan collectors vied for the treasure to a photo-finish.
What did you all say? You have a few more minutes? Okay, if you insist…. So, it turns out that Larry Engle never intended to sell this weight. At least he made no attempt to do so for the next two decades following his purchase. His wife Pat saw things a little differently, and there were numerous discussions with her about selling the treasure. To Larry, this landmark paperweight was magical, almost a family member, and thankfully he couldn’t see our look of horror over the phone as he impishly related having once tossed the weight a full 10 feet to Melissa, his young teenage daughter, chiding her not to drop it. He did admit afterward that they were in the backyard on grass and soil, and yes – she caught it.
Flash forward to 1987. Larry prepares for the big PCA show, which is being held that year at the venerable Corning Museum. Larry Engle thought he’d left the Mount Washington securely in the family bank deposit box. He had shown photographs of the weight around to some of his antique clients for information and the pleasure of shared appreciation. So, when collectors Emanuel (Manny) Lacher and Julius Tarshis came to the booth asking if Larry had finally brought it this time, he said no. And as he said no, Pat said “Oh no, actually, it’s right here!”
Yes, horrified readers, Pat had retrieved the Mount Washington from the bank and sequestered it with the Corning-bound inventory. Outnumbered 100 to 1 by Pat and daughter Melissa – Larry Engle finally gives in. It is now for sale.
Larry names a price, an amount that is intended to allow him to keep the magnificent paperweight. The two heavyweight collectors (get it?) retired to their corners and brooded, sometimes revisiting Larry’s booth. Larry Selman had his booth directly across the aisle and told Larry Engle he would never sell the weight at that price. Larry smiled and replied, “I don’t care, I’m happy keeping it!”
The afternoon wore on. Then finally, Manny Lacher, was walking away from Larry’s booth to again confer with his wife about meeting the retail price, when he saw his collecting nemesis, Julius Tarshis, coming up the aisle toward Engle’s booth. Larry says Manny Lacher stopped suddenly, pivoted and sped quickly back to complete the sale at full retail minus a modest, last minute discount. We think Larry wanted to avoid having a grown man crying in the aisle. What a good guy.
And as we said above – “And now it is up to you to write the next chapter…!”
Did I mention that the weight is sensuous and stunning? Please examine Marty’s excellent spin videos and read Penelope’s wonderful description of this American masterpiece in glass. And fix bayonets for the bidding! Also remember – there’s no crying in paperweights.
At the end of the interview, I asked Larry, “Looking back, you must feel good about having made the sale that day?”
“Well…yes” he conceded, “But I feel like I lost a friend!”
I said, “You mean the losing collector would no longer talk to you?”
“NO,” he stressed, sounding like I hadn’t been listening earlier.
“I Mean the WEIGHT!”
What a Wondrous Elixir is the Fine Art of Glass Paperweights…!
Well, We’re keeping our word and avoiding the white paper treatment for each and every lot item. But just call me to discuss anything that intrigues you. Okay, on to more bite-size reflections as promised…
This is a sublimely successful artwork with a small cluster of clematis blooms, so very carefully rendered that they look as though if you chipped them out of the glass and put them in water, they would keep growing! Seriously! The pistils and stamens are flawlessly executed. Ask for close-ups!
This is world-class artistic expression joined to world-class craftsmanship giving a TED Talk in fine glass sculpture. Don’t know TED? Call me.
HYPNAGOGIA IN GLASS?
This paperweight should be part and parcel of every therapeutic hypnotist’s bag of magic tricks. Gloriously idiosyncratic canes bob and weave around, leaving vapor trails in a seductively cloudy dream bath. Some of the lusciously colored canes are reaching the surface while others are still emerging from their oneiric slumber. (No, actually, I didn’t have to look that spelling up.) A basket of emerald staves girdles from beneath and serves as an incredibly elegant futon while you lay back and regress!
LOOKING DOWN UPON A CELESTIAL MAP OF GLASS!
Wow! For those of you who prefer the crisp and bright light of day to the languid dreamscape of the prior discussion, this weight is the brass ring, and a magnum to boot! Crisply executed (yes, I needed that word twice) and brilliantly colorful, these gorgeously executed canes appear as laser-cut holograms happily floating mid-air around the most regal Clichy rose in memory. What? It won’t fit on your display shelf? Move the television into the hallway and use the stand. This is healthier for your eyes, anyway.
This unusual but accomplished weight has a real devil-may-care, raw and fearless sensibility. Very early American. The design itself has a rough impressionism that nonetheless results in a satisfyingly executed basket with rows of emerald, geometric abstract shapes topped by swirling flowers that resemble bits of tasty cake pastry applied with a palette knife. A refreshing approach to a paperweight.
WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT CARY GRANT AND PATEK PHILIPPE?
That’s right, you’d say they’re out of our league. And you’d be right. But there is another classic representative of our high end culture, the complex and beautiful antique Baccarat close packed millefiori and Gridel silhouettes paperweight with a date cane. BUT, this paradigm of beauty and quality is actually well within our grasp—no, not our collective grasp—Your grasp! That’s right, relieved reader, YOU can afford this well-known classic artwork. Watch Marty’s spin videos. It’s lucky that you have two chances to attain one this time around.
LET’S HOPE SHE HAS A HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER!
That’s right, concerned citizens; brazen street crime is no longer confined to bad neighborhoods in big cities! It has made its way to the country lane where we witness here the daylight assault on a mother (or nanny) and her young children (or charges) by some rogue geese hellbent on doing serious damage to them all.
The woman steadfastly parries and thrusts with her bumbershoot. Let us hope it is well-made, unlike the single-use umbrellas that are all too common in these parts. And you should know that geese take no prisoners. I’ve been chased out of my way while walking along Lake Michigan here in Chicago. The assailants seem a less dangerous here, behind some hard fine glass. But we also can’t get inside to help her! An artwork and also a timely exposé. Remember Hitchcock’s “The Birds?”
DON’T YOU CRINGE WHEN THEY MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY?
I would say we are blessed with a veritable cornucopia of works by Paul Stankard in this auction, but the term is redundant when we speak of the king of naturalist verisimilitude. You’ll find that cornucopia of life in each of his works, including in the more sparely rendered tableaux. That’s because Paul puts life into every detail and even a depiction of the slightest flower and single leaf bear his dedicated attention. (What? Is Paul paying me on the side? No, but it’s not at all a bad idea!) Anyway, this mountain laurel is a seemingly lighthearted paean to nature, that displays Paul’s mastery but is also airy in construction. There’s a sense of ease to it. The gossamer delicacy of the elements, especially of the pistil and stamen in the laurels is hard to believe. But believe it!
THE WORD THAT MEANS THAT THERE ARE NO WORDS
Frankly, I’m tired to trying to describe Dave Graeber’s brilliant work and feeling like the words keep falling short. The word “ineffable” comes to mind; that’s something too intense or too great or too beautiful to be described by language.
It originally referred to the failure and danger of describing or defining God. Well, we already saw what happened to Prometheus defying the gods, and Dave is inexplicably humble—so we won’t use “ineffable,”let’s just say that there is not a more accomplished and alluring paperweight out there, than this partnership between Dave and Ed. In fact, this delicate but eye-catching treasure will make you want to move up your next big anniversary or maybe remarry your spouse just to have an excuse to acquire this! Well, a real paperweight collector doesn’t need a reason. So let’s see if you pick up the glove and go to your bid sheets! Gosh, I’m out of room without having really described this! It does look to me like it was created by a sorcerer using a needle that flowed colors upon command. Exquisite. You MUST ask for close-ups to believe the infinitesimal exactitude. At least the harmonious, sophisticated color palette is available for appreciation by the normal human eye!
AT LEAST THESE BIRDS WON’T WAKE YOU UP!
I just want to say here that this little tableau is so wonderfully wrought that I found myself trying to feed the bird and water the sunflower. This whole series sparkles with life. And while they don’t need to be fed, they do like it when you talk to them!
NO ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS.
Well, what is there to say here that Marty’s spectacular photographs don’t already display? Remember Prometheus, who defied the other gods and brought the secret of fire to mankind (among other things), a real faux pas on his part, for which he paid dearly. Well, from what god did Barry Sautner (and Doug Merritt) learn the dark magic arts of diatreta? Honestly, think of the very most difficult feat you’ve ever accomplished. Now, think of doing it backwards and inside out, with no margin for error. Understand? Maybe Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels, but if she and Fred had a misstep, they yelled “cut” and reshot the scene for the cameras. If Barry had a misstep, well, it’s all over. That takes passion, conviction and breathtaking ability. He lived, playing with fire, and that’s all on display here. And do read Penelope’s beautifully written description. This is a glass work for the ages, But you can be the one to pass it down!
RELAX OR PAY THE PRICE!
A small garden of love wrapped in a heart. The central flower has a charmingly casual laciness to the leaves. And Debbie’s hallmark color palette never fails to
entertain and comfort. All in all, with this on your bed stand to encounter first thing every day, you’ll be able to toss at least one of your blood pressure prescriptions. So get the weight and you’ll lighten up! I’m dead serious! Includes the happiest ladybugs you’ll ever find this side of a PIXAR release!
PARTY OF ‘ONE’ IS SOMETIMES A GOOD THING!
Take a hard look at this relatively unimposing weight, folks. I dare you to find an unconvincing molecule anywhere. This striking, literally breathing single dahlia is perfect and perfectly lifelike. I think Ken took a good look at this and thought, “I can’t top that, and stopped adding other elements, wisely choosing to give the design its own little glass throne. What? He works like that all the time? No wonder I dropped out of hot shop before I started – wise move on my part. Study this flower; you’ll find yourself forgetting to blink!
“YES, YOU CAN GO TO THE RESTROOM BUT YOU M A Y NOT!”
Raise your hand in silence if you recognize that quote! Well, she was harsh, but this joyful and brilliantly colored paperweight would have made even my 6th grade home room teacher, Sister James Martin crack a smile, and that was impossible. Thin and vicious as Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz, she had the dead eyes of Poe’s Raven, set unblinking, in perfect round-rim wire glasses, as she stood there and dared you to show any signs of life at your desk. We never saw her hands as they always stayed folded beneath her tunic, fondling a weapon of some sort. Did I mention her jaw was an anvil? Anyway, if anything could have made her smile, it would have been this artwork; Mayauel’s joyful daisies and berries cradled in an enticing cluster of grapes, blueberries and bellflowers. I would say I think Sister James Martin has probably passed away, (given that she was almost 200 years old then) but I’m not certain she was ever really alive. We never saw her actually breathe. However, this paperweight is alive, resplendent with color and life, a veritable song in glass. Hallelujah!
A HAPPY CONCLUSION
This exquisitely rendered weight with the butterflies and flowers nestled lightly on a pillow of “Dreamsicle,” is too delicious to describe, but much too much fun not to mention! Ciao for Now, friends!
Okay! Thank you for your time and good luck to all of you in the bidding and remember to please call and share all your questions and remarks. Hopefully they’ll all have at least something to do with paperweights. We now return you to your regular lives until the checkered paperweight flag calls you back!!