Stylistic History ...
Around 1983, early in my glassblowing career, I began making paperweights. They were quite rudimentary as one would expect from a beginning glassblower. These pieces were made to be incorporated into sets of ware that I was making at the time, such as a perfume bottle, three different-sized vases, and a paperweight. It was not until about 1990 that I actually began to make paperweights as a serious pursuit, pieces that could actually stand on their own artistically.
It was about this time that I was introduced to the Paperweight Collectors Association of Texas and it became apparent to me that I needed to establish genera that I wanted to pursue. After looking at the paperweight market I decided that millefiori would be the best direction for me to follow. I had my work cut out for me. By 1991 I had produced some rudimentary concentrics, scrambles, and closepacks, but what really showed promise was the crown weight. The crown was my first step into the professional paperweight world. I worked diligently on them while trying to develop my skills in the other classic millefiori styles, but the crown was the first success. I received my first commission for a limited edition from the PCA TX in 1992. It was a crown weight with a silhouette cane in the shape of the state of Texas gracing the center of the weight.
I remembered advice that had been given to me by a college drawing instructor. He felt that the best way to learn how to draw was to choose an old master’s work and copy it stroke for stroke. I took his advice at the time and it seemed applicable to my situation now so I embarked on a years-long project of trying to copy the work of three of the classic French factories. By about 2001 I had gotten somewhat adept at copying the French factories. I was quite proud of my accomplishments. Hubris.
During a discussion with a prominent dealer he suggested that unless I stopped my emulation of the classic era French work that I basically would amount to nothing artistically and he felt it was time for me to move ahead and establish a style of my own. I must thank him for that not too gentle suggestion as it pushed me to a new level of creativity. By early 2002 I had the beginnings of my own and very distinctive style of millefiori.
My concept was still based on the classics but instead of directly copying the canes I wanted to emulate the antique lampwork flowers in my cane. It worked and has been wonderfully successful, and gave me a new avenue of expression that was fresh yet retained its roots in the classics. At first I made my “lampwork” canes and incorporated them in traditional millefiori designs. There were many more possibilities to be considered and I wanted to break out of the traditional format and use my “lampwork” canes to make weights that actually looked like lampwork designs but had no lampwork in them at all. This idea took me down a path I had never followed. It opened my mind to stylistic and technical challenges that I had never encountered before. The outcome of which was the Landscape weights.
I began these pieces with the Snow weights. The idea came to me as I was sitting on my front porch during an early spring snowstorm. I also enjoyed the humor in the fact that people who know little about the paperweights as they are today automatically assume that a paperweight needs to be shaken so that one can watch the snow settle to the bottom of the little plastic dome. The success of these pieces made me want to go further. I wanted to have weights that depicted other seasons of the year. I decided to melt the snow so to speak and examine what would be there in the spring or summer.
That idea proved more difficult than I had expected. I have always loved the pursuit of trout with a fly rod. I also began to pursue an interest in prospecting for gold. These two activities have given me an opportunity to do a lot of looking at water, fish, rocks, and all manner of the flora that abounds in creekside areas. I wanted to portray these microcosms in glass. The work went along quite well. The landscapes challenged me. I wanted water in my landscapes. I wanted one to be able to look down into my water and see the trout that I have love for, yet still restrict myself to the millefiori genera. The challenge was huge. From all of this came the Trout weights.
One afternoon I was very tired but still needed to set up paperweights for the next day. The Trout weights had been exhausting. The technical issues involved in their production were huge and I was looking for another way to have a water feature in my landscapes. I tried something different. I wanted a small trickle of a creek that one could not see down into running through my rocks. A new idea was born when I looked at that weight the next day. The thought occurred to me that if I took out visual elements that gave the eye a reference of scale my little trickle of a creek could become a view of a raging river running through a canyon as might be seen by a bird or maybe a passenger in an airplane. That was successful as well.
Concepts come and go for me and I longed to get back to my classical roots, so in 2007 I jumped back in with gusto and produced the Nostalgia Series which was a welcome stroll through the cane and style of my beloved St. Louis. I followed that with the Old English series which is an exploration of the George Bacchus factory and I am currently still involved with that direction.
I have no idea right now what path I will follow next.
I’m sure something will come to me.