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 features paperweights spanning from the mid-19th century, the classic period of paperweight production, through present day. By comparing classical with contemporary weights, you will see how they have stayed true to tradition, as well as evolved stylistically over the last 150 years. Flowers are a design motif that has remained in the vernacular of paperweight artists still today. The language of flowers, known as floriography, became popular in France in the early 19th century and by mid-century was embraced by Victorian society. Flowers symbolically represent different meanings, such as a red rose for passion and a yellow rose for friendship. Although not all contemporary artists utilize the symbolism of floriography when creating their design, the use of the flower is still widely used.   

Most of the classic weights in the exhibition were collected by FIA patron, Viola Bray and gifted in 1969 by her family. Also on view are classic and contemporary weights collected by Genevieve Shaw given to the FIA by her husband, Richard, shortly after her death in 2007. The contemporary weights on loan are from two private collections including Tennessee collector Gordon Park, who generously lent a selection of aquatic works by Rick Ayotte to the exhibition. 


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