A CAREER CHANGE OF NECESSITY
Will Pitt, like many graduating seniors, figured on a lifetime of work with Ford Motor Company. His degree in Mechanical Engineering form Lawrence Technological University helped him move from the automotive industry to aerospace in California. When aerospace nosedived in the late 1980s, he moved to Massachusetts, hoping for another technical job. Didn’t happen. He needed a different career.
An Alternative to Mechanical Engineering
A friend of his who owned an antique store offered Will a temporary job while he looked for work. Will’s background in corporate settings helped grow his friend’s business. He encouraged his friend to attend shows, improve his advertising and use auctions as an outlet; the business thrived. When his business partner encouraged him to dive into a specialty, he chose paperweights.
“I always liked selling the glass, more than other items. Paperweights became a logical choice as I loved the technology behind the product as much as the beauty of the artistry.” He talked with the artists, read and studied many books about the history and technical aspects of the craft. He was hooked. He started his own business in 1994.
His self-employment created the opportunity to travel all over the world. When he visited Europe, he found his path into the countryside, forming relationships with artists and buyers. In 1996 he developed his website, which shows the artistry of old masters of paperweights and introduces the public to emerging artists from the U.S. and other destinations. World renown artists like Rick Ayotte, Ken Rosenfeld and Debbie Tarsitano are his friends and business associates. They are the artists. He sells their paperweights.
Attracting New Members
When I interviewed Will, we talked about the dwindling membership issues with paperweight collectors. We can find cheap paperweights, even at Walmart, but the antique paperweights can fetch as much or more than $50,000. The manufactured (made in quantities) can cost from under $10 to $100.
Well known paperweight artists can command anywhere from $200 to thousands of dollars. Some make glass jewelry and other art glass. Paperweight artists often break many works-in-process before completing one to sell. The lampwork, which entails tiny pieces of colored glass encased in the clear glass balls takes hours and hours of tedious work. Buying a paperweight is like buying an oil painting from a famous or emerging painter. The weight anyone purchases from a well-known artist will undoubtedly appreciate. Novice paperweight collectors must read the history and comprehend the value. They need to attend the meetings and watch for bargains when they are out for a Sunday drive for a stop at a flea market or antique store.
The next meeting of the Paperweight Collectors Association of Texas is in Fort Worth on 10/17, 10/18 & 10/19. The Texas group likes to dine together on Friday evening, enjoy the meeting on Saturday and extent the stay to Sunday for a visit to a member’s home to see his or her collection or to visit a tourist site in the area.
My addiction started with curiosity about a weight I inherited. I’ve developed the same passion for paperweights as Will Pitt, but I don’t sell them.
If you like glass, I urge you to attend the upcoming meeting. Will Pitt will be visiting dealer, bringing his lovely orbs to sell. Damon MacNaught, winner of the PCATX.org scholarship will be the speaker, telling about new methods he learned at the Corning School of Glass. Please visit PCATX.org for additional information.