Barely A Taste And The Afterglow of Convention 2007:
The 2007 PCA Convention
Rhode Island

by Dr. Ed Sheldon, MD, Former PCA Region III Director
Photography by Stanley B. Kruger

Given the circumstances of the interval following the Appleton '05 PCA Convention, advance planning for the next convention was delayed. The PCA Board thus confronted a host of tough issues that, distilled, meant: start over. What normally would have been a comfortable planning period was significantly squeezed down, but it still had to include finding a location with solid regional support, convention planning, and program development. When those problems were resolved, it was necessary to advance the convention dates to accommodate hotel availability. All of this created an atmosphere of uncertainty about the whole deal. But, voila, it worked. Accolades for the dedication and hard work by individuals deserves notice, too much space though for the imposed constraints herein. Suffice it to say, their legacy is a job well done!

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About twenty dozen — you do the math — enthusiastic PCA members found their way to "Poor little Rhode Island," so the song goes. Our collective attendance impact figures out to be about .025% of the states' total population. But on the final day of the convention, about 160 area citizens (more than half of the total number of registered attendees) accepted the invitation to visit the Dealers' Fair and got an enlightening dose of what a paperweight really is. So, we were seen and heard. Eighteen artists, sixteen dealers, representatives of sixteen worldwide collector organizations, and collectors from thirty states and eight foreign countries made it to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick, several stone throws from Providence. Even a small contingent of "Brits" revisited the Colonies, this time not appearing out of the woods in red coats with blazing musket rifles but instead a delightful, congenial, paperweight-loving group.

Chilly breezes and rain greeted early attendees but by midweek sunshine and clear skies prevailed. It most impacted but did not discourage those who arrived early with time to do the special convention 'extras' — visits to the Newport Mansions, and the RISD Museum (Rhode Island School of Design — pronounced 'Rizdee' by the locals). What a gem that is — considered one of the two best university museums in the United States. A modest number but impressive collection of paperweights was dusted off and displayed for us. And a special feature: one of our own PCA registered artists, Cathy Richardson, gave lampwork demonstrations in the glass shop at the school.

Wednesday evening's kick-off event, The Artist's Fair and Reception, provided artists the opportunity to uncover their newest and latest creations with rapt attention by and interaction with their admirers. An attractive refreshment buffet and bar facilitated social engagement and the renewal of old friendships among attendees.

Artist Fair
Wednesday Night at the Artist Fair

The opening Dealer's Fair followed the Artist's display in the hotel ballroom, with spacious walkways and congregating areas, as well as tables for socialization and rest. The usual thousands of glittering temptations drew shoppers like moths to the lamp, and many dealers were seen to be contented then and throughout the convention. One must assume that a fair amount of wampum was exchanged for take-home treasures, further evidenced by tote-bags and shopping bags exiting the Fair.

A welcome by PCA President Jim Lefever and introductions with instructions by Ben Drabeck and Ellen Rostker, Convention Planning Co-chairmen, officially opened the Convention sessions Thursday morning.

 Jim Lefever Welcomes Ben Drabeck
Changing of the Guard:
Outgoing President Jim Lefever Welcomes
Ben Drabeck as the New PCA President
at the Saturday Night Banquet

Charming us in the first session, Alan Symonds shared information about the weights in the RISD display and introduced the special exhibits to be seen in the Sandwich Museum later that day. More than a few chuckles greeted fascinating experiences he recounted while acquiring weights during international business travel that entailed gypsies and arm-wrestling with other heavy-weight collectors, e.g. Rubloff and Jokelson, for keenly sought-after weights. John Hawley, our Bulletin editor, followed Mr. Symonds with a more didactic but informative dissertation on "Nineteenth Century Massachusetts Glass Factories and the Paperweights They Made." We were, after all, in the environs of that subject and the dominant theme of the convention was the historical perspective of New England glass and paperweight contributions through history. Further reinforcing the theme with color, Alan Kaplan, in his authoritative, inimitable rapid-fire staccato style, illustrated with projected images a litany of "Great New England Weights I Have Known" - appetizer, entrée, and dessert, all at once with colorful and informative narrative embellishment.

At the Sandwich Glass Museum
NEPCA Paperweight Exhibit at
the Sandwich Glass Museum

Changing pace and style, Rick Ayotte took us into the New Hampshire woods and marshes, sharing his own inspiration and the products of that environmental influence. Introduced to his latest work, hot sculpting with challenging "soft" glass, we were smitten with the breakaway artistic expressions he has created.

Thursday afternoon the convention attendees moved in comfortable coaches to the Sandwich Glass Museum, some stopping at Pairpoint Glass, a historic anchor of New England glass output, for a brief visit, observing hot glass production in progress and shopping at the gift shop. On arrival in the Sandwich Glass Museum, a marvelous assemblage of historic New England glass, including of course paperweights, greeted us along with a very friendly museum staff. The New England PCA, our hosts and sponsors of this feature, welcomed us and presented wonderful hot and cold appetizers and liquid refreshments. Kirk Nelson, Executive Director of the New Bedford Museum of Glass, gave a fascinating lecture on Nicolas Lutz, noted glassworker at the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company. The special exhibits of contemporary New England artists' work as well as a collection of antique French weights - legitimized for temporary display and labeled "precursors" - rounded out the presentation: a delightful event feature. Thank you NEPCA!

Friday began with an elaborate breakfast buffet, a regular and popular daily convention benefit. The presentation by Gay Taylor of the Museum of American Glass followed - an insightful historical walk through the ages on the development of lampwork. It reminded us that compressed gas and oxygen torches are, historically, a relatively recent innovation: whale oil, lard, or other oily combustibles in simple wicked containers, the flame intensified with foot operated bellows, was the usual heat source. The marvelous transition of the artistry to the production we see today is dramatic.

Gay Taylor
Gay Taylor at the Podium

Josh Simpson, a relative stranger to PCA members, captured and captivated his audience with the story of his personal journey from college drop-out, camping in a primitive shop in the Vermont snow to his sophisticated studio of today. The presentation, perfectly labeled "Defying Gravity," focused on his production of the Corning Museum of Glass commissioned work, a 100 plus pound "Planet" paperweight to round out their paperweight collection to an even 1000. The logistics and management of the execution required customizing everything to do with the project: furnace/pot aperture, 50 pound blowpipe, blocking tools, jacks, to say nothing of the issues of manipulating and working the glass and inclusions. Success was earned but at a cost: 5 good ones in 16 attempts.

A well-organized and illustrated presentation by Art Elder nicely covered the subject of lampwork and flamework: comparisons in antique and contemporary paperweights. Box lunches on Friday gave attendees the opportunity to hear and interact informally with individual artists at "Lunch and Learn" sessions. This was a popular feature in the past and was endorsed again at this event with eight artists participating.

The Friday after lunch sessions started with Colin Mahoney delivering a genealogical review of artist Paul Ysart, his life and his forbears as well as a comprehensive, illustrated review of his production work. The presentation was liberally illustrated with photos, including many paperweights.

Colin Mahoney
Colin Mahoney Speaking on Paul Ysart

Breaking new ground, Jami Severstad of the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum accepted a challenge and researched the subject "Art in Paperweights." She transported us on an interesting journey through the classical periods of artistic expression, transitioning from ancient to contemporary art: the design elements in classical architecture, content and figures in fabric such as tapestries, and other practical expressions. It seemed to her that the same forces and esthetic that produced those elements, figures and designs would also logically influence and appear in glass. She produced photographic illustrations to persuade and validate her conclusions. Kathy Moyer followed with an interesting chronology of prices earned at paperweight auctions: the vagaries of prices, assorted factors possibly influencing prices and other assorted angles.

Saturday morning Roger Jacobsen literally brought Union Glass Weights to life by recruiting John Buonomo and Annette Fahey, grandson and youngest daughter of famous Union Glass Company paperweight maker Philip Buonomo, to participate in his presentation. Fascinating anecdotes were told: sneaking forbidden peaks under the attic door to watch his grandfather working glass with a foot-operated bellows enhanced Bunsen burner (where was OSHA?) and a portrayal of the remarkable fecundity of the family. The Buonomo family's interest in preserving their heritage is reinforced by their perception of our shared interest.

One of the most popular, recurring features of PCA conventions, the identification clinic, lived up to its appeal this year with some fresh faces participating. Jayne Gilbert, President of the Texas PCA moderated and in some cases, refereed. Patty Mowatt joined Alan Kaplan (he of Antique Road Show fame) and a true newcomer, Gary Underwood, to comprise the panel. It seems that Murano weights puzzle collectors more as they predominated among the unknowns. But interesting diverse opinions kept the panel and the listeners very much alert, humored, and forever learning.

Identification Clinic
Identification Clinic - Left to Right:
Jayne Gilbert, Alan Kaplan,
Patty Mowatt and Gary Underwood

The mandatory PCA business meeting completed the final day morning activities with official committee and officer reports to the members that included announcements of the new slate of elected officers, a listing of which was presented in last quarter's Newsletter.

The final afternoon and evening of Convention '07 began with a patriotic theme — Stanley Kruger, discussing and illustrating "American Flag Paperweights." Only the enthusiasm and vitality of Stan, a patriot himself, transcended the interesting content of his illustrated presentation. Ed Poore, a name and face well known to virtually all collectors, followed Stan, sharing the experiences and growth early in his career at Pairpoint, eventually opening his own business, by then a master cutter and superb restorer. His presentation with illustrations persuasively validated his words. Alan Thornton of England, the final presenter of the convention, spoke on "New Discoveries in Old English Paperweights." His material is nicely covered in the 2007 PCA Bulletin.

And then, shopping completed, didactic programs over, members got gussied up for the closing banquet. A social cocktail hour in the hotel Rotunda allowed for farewells with friends old and new followed by an attentively served and outstanding meal, measured against usual hotel banquet fare. Each table place setting had a gift souvenir commemorative John Deacons, dated paperweight with rose canes and an encircling torsade on assorted clear color grounds — a nice take-home remembrance for each registered guest.

A generous number of gift door prizes donated by our registered dealers made many happy faces. And four more pleased individuals took home raffle weights from the New England PCA fundraiser - Robert Petro, Kansas (Ayotte), Peggy Kirkegaard, Colorado (Kaziun), Gary DiGregorio, Massachusetts (Tarsitano), and Peggy Morrow, Illinois (Simpson).

Jim Lefever made acknowledgments with commendation for the service of selected individuals contributing to PCA activities and convention planning, and gave special thanks and parting gifts to outgoing Treasurer Barry Schultheiss and Newsletter Editor Colin Mahoney for their many years of service. His final official act was to present the symbol of authority, the glass gavel, to incoming President Ben Drabeck.

Regrets to those members who were unable to attend an excellent convention, but there will be another in only two years, so stand by.

President's Message

"Gratitude, nowise gushy nor garish, instead spins soul warmth from threads of thankfulness."


The PCA is, as you know, a volunteer organization. Many people, often unacknowledged, work hard with job satisfaction and joyous collegiality their principal reward. In any group, success depends not only on developing a happy spirit within the group but also on the cultivation of a pervasive "attitude of gratitude," a phrase one self-help group promotes as essential to a happy life. Therefore, I want to express my gratitude for the contributions our members have made to the organization generally and to the convention particularly:

  • First of all, praise to Jim Lefever, our recent past president, twice a vice president who had to step in and fill a vacancy at the top.

  • Thanks also to two members who each gave more than 12 years of service to the PCA: Barry Schultheiss as treasurer and Colin Mahoney as editor of the Newsletter.

  • Plaudits to Jayne Gilbert for interfacing PCA and the regional associations.

  • Big bouquets to everyone who did the hard work of producing the convention:

    • Ellen Rostker, convention co-chairperson, who was responsible for all arrangements at the hotel and outside as well. Excellent job!
    • John Hawley, editor of our Bulletin, who provided all of the images for the ID Clinic and was also a main session speaker.
    • William Pitt, dealers' representative, who worked mightily to insure the success of the Dealers' Fair.
    • Ed Sheldon, who created the publicity packet that won for us excellent coverage in press and television.
    • Patty Mowatt, who oversaw registration efforts, and coordinated work with NEPCA.
    • The New England Paperweight Collectors Association, both at the convention and at the Sandwich Museum of Glass - New President Clara Ayotte; Diane Warning, NEPCA convention liaison to the PCA, recording secretary for the PCA and new Secretary for the NEPCA; Emile Tetu, NEPCA treasurer, and his wife Sue; Donna Willey, NEPCA corresponding secretary, and her husband Bruce; Roger Jacobsen, and Andrea Natsios.

My wonderful Polish grandmother used to tell me that a good heart is made better by being thankful for blessings. In that spirit, we direct a heaping measure of gratitude to the above and to all the dedicated people whose hard work make the PCA a successful organization.

Bernard A. Drabeck
President, PCA