Small Worlds

April 7, 2018 - October 27, 2019

Ann K. Walch-Chan Gallery

Paperweights first appeared at the Vienna Industrial Exposition in 1845 and immediately became objects of desire. In 19th-century Europe, urban populations were increasing, creating an expanding market for goods and services, stimulated by new manufacturing processes developed during the first and second Industrial Revolutions. New and inexpensive methods to produce paper, the invention of steel pen nibs, and the establishment of a national postal system all contributed to the increased popularity of letter writing. Paperweights became fashionable, beautiful, and finely constructed objects that were also functional, making them an alluring item to collect. 

Today, contemporary glass artists still produce paperweights. This exhibition not only features a vast collection of historical European paperweights but also a large variety of contemporary paperweights from the FIA’s permanent collection and private collectors. 


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