Baccarat, French, Garland on white "stardust" carpet ground, mid-19th century. Glass, 2 3/16 x 3 3/16 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Richards, 1969.75.51

Small Worlds

April 7, 2018 - May 29, 2019

Ann K. Walch-Chan Gallery

Small Worlds offers a glimpse into the history of glass paperweights. These small objects, first manufactured in the mid-19th century, combined functionality with beauty. Lasting only 25 years, the classical period of paperweight manufacture declined until the mid-20th century when revived interest spawned a new generation of artists. This exhibition highlights paperweights from the classical period through present day and includes numerous works by the patriarchs of the contemporary paperweight movement, Paul Stankard and Rick Ayotte.

Paul Stankard is recognized internationally as a living master in the art of the paper-weight. He worked in the scientific glass-blowing industry from 1963 to 1972, but a fascination with antique French paperweights prompted him to become a glass artist. He works on a minuscule scale, crafting tiny, anatomically correct flowers, bees, nuts, moss, and human bodies that are suspended in clear glass. 

After graduating high school in 1962, Rick Ayotte began a 10-year career as a scientific glassblower, working alongside Paul Stankard at the Macalaster Scientific Corporation in Delaware. Stankard, who had already begun his career as a paperweight artist, encouraged Ayotte’s talent. For Ayotte, “there was something pleasing and intimate about the spherical shape of paperweights that really appealed to me. It opened a lot of doors for me artistically.” His artwork primarily explores the flora and fauna of the natural world.

Now Available

Paperweights: Highlights from the Flint Institute of Arts Collection

(hardcover; 248 pages; $24.95)

This exhibition catalog features more than 140 weights from the Classic Period (1845–1860) of French manufacturers Baccarat, Clichy, and Saint-Louis, to works by contemporary artists Josh Simpson and Debbie Tarsitano, from the collections of Mrs. Viola E. Bray and Mrs. Genevieve Shaw. Kathryn Sharbaugh, FIA Director of Development, serves as guest curator to research and write about the history of paperweights, as well as highlight their various styles, techniques, and categories. This book is published in conjunction with the exhibition Small Worlds, which presents a survey of glass paperweights from the 19th century to the present. Support for the catalogue provided by the Bray Charitable Trust.

From the Exhibition

  • Rick Ayotte, American, b. 1944. Terror in the Treetops1999. Glass. 3 x 3 3/4 inches. Collection of Gordon Park.

  • Paul Stankard, American, b. 1943, Rose Bouquet with James Joyce in a Potato Orb, 2007. Glass, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. Private collection 

  • Clichy, French. Concentric millefiori, pink and white Clichy rose canes, in pink and white stave basket, 19th century. Glass. 1 11/16 x 2 7/16 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Richards, FIA 1969.75.48

  • Baccarat, French, founded 1764. Snake on Rocky Ground, ca. 1850. Glass. Diameter 2 7/8 inches. Museum purchase with funds from the Jill Ford Murray Irrevocable Trust in memory of her parents, Carlotta Espy Ford and George Ross Ford, Jr., and her grandparents, Grace Miller Ford and George Ross Ford, 2013.20

  • Debbie Tarsitano, American, b. 1955. Birthday Paperweight in Development, 1981. Glass. Diameter 3 1/8 inches. Gift of Genevieve and Richard Shaw, 2008.215