Great Lakes Paperweights (GLP) has recently discovered more than half a dozen artistic collaborations between Johne Parsley and his fellow colleagues. This is an introduction to some of them. The weights include two Collaborative Contemporary Artists’ Weights, crafted at the Wheaton Village Paperweight Collectors Weekend in May 1990 and May 1992. We were led to this discovery by a raffle ticket found in Johne Parsley’s studio in Hamburg, Pennsylvania after his death. The 1992 paperweight is believed to have been raffled off at the closing session of the St. Louis Paperweights Collectors’ Association conference, on May 15, 1993.
One such collaboration has Johne Parsley’s pink dogwood blossom positioned just to the right of Bob Banford’s central blue-veined Dahlia, at about 2 o’clock, to graceful effect. The 6 x 1 faceting was by the respected glass cutter, Ed Poore. The photo here, originally taken by Bob Banford, appeared in the 1992 Annual Bulletin of the Paperweight Collectors’ Association, Inc. (page 47). Other artists who created florals in concert with Parsley include Ray Banford, Debbie Tarsitano, Randy Grubb, Victor Trabucco as well as Jon and David Trabucco.
Photo provided by James Lefever
and Jim Hawley of the DVPCA
The 1990 edition of the Paperweight Collectors’ Association, Inc. (p.49: below) has especially wonderful details showcasing another collaborative paperweight in a sketch drawn by Bob Banford (see illustration below). This sketch describes a single weight containing contributions by eleven talented glass artists. Here, Johne Parsley’s “JP” signature cane stands out beneath a pair of his blue forget-me-nots attached to striated leaves. It is positioned directly at 3 o’clock to Barry Sautner’s winged angel centerpiece. Other artists include Bob and Bobby Banford, Chris Buzzini, Randy Grubb, Victor Trabucco, as well as the Trabucco Brothers, Debbie Tarsitano and Ken Rosenfeld. This paperweight represents the second collective effort produced at Wheaton Village in May 1990; the first one having been in 1988. Setups for both collaborative paperweights shown here were set over a muslin ground made by Bob and/or Bobby Banford.
Photo provided by Eric Jump, Vice President, Paperweight Collectors’ Association 2023
Photo provided by James Lefever
GLP’s good friend James Lefever recently brought this next paperweight to our attention. Several weights of this design were made for a fundraiser hosted by Delaware Valley Paperweight Collectors Association (DVPCA) circa 1990.
We know that collectors love signature canes. Canes can assist in identifying the stages in an artist’s production through the differences in the way the artist signs his/her pieces over time. For instance, Johne Parsley had several distinct signature canes throughout his career, including “P” canes in dark green and cobalt blue as well as a “JP” cane and, of course, the “JP/PM” cane that appears on the collaborative Warden Pear Piedouche produced with Peter McDougall of Perthshire Paperweights, Limited, Crieff, Scotland. Can you find the “JP” signature cane in this photo? For more information concerning “JP” signature canes, please consult the comprehensive publication The Dictionary of Paperweight Signature Canes: Identification
and Dating by Andrew H. Dohan, p. 150-151.
During their years of study at New Jersey's Wheaton Village hot glass studio, Johne Parsley and artist Tony DiPalma created this bold, yet simple paperweight that includes Parsley’s early botanical bouquet of pink and blue five-petal flowers, with five leaves on stems that support two red berries. It is framed in clear crystal with a sand-blasted glass coating. The weight, to date, is unfinished. It is the intent of GLP to secure the services of a paperweight artist to etch a compatible design that encases the paperweight.
GLP also wishes to acknowledge glass artist Gordon Smith who worked closely with Johne during the 80s, Johne's his early years at Wheaton Village. There they collaborated on several weights that were sold from Wheaton's Arthur Gorham Paperweight Shop with proceeds going back into the hot glass shop. Unfortunately, no photos exist. However, we have located one paperweight that was purchased on 9/02/09 thought eBay from an individual from Tucson, Arizona. It was sold as "signed GES Art Glass Studios Paperweight Flower 1986" and signed
"JP-GES" 1986" (see photo) It is now in in the home of a Parsley paperweight collector in the Midwest among others by the artist.
Johne with his Beechcraft Bonanza
Johne Parsley / Gordon Smith signed collaborative paperweight 1986.
Frequently, Johne would fly his Beechcraft Bonanza from Pennsylvania to New Jersey where he would pick up Gordon and fly him back to the Parsley studio to work for the day. There, Gordon mentored Johne and taught him how to center lampwork setups on grounds, for example. They established a lasting friendship from those early days at Wheaton Village until the passing of Johne in 2006. Johne's torches were given to Gordon as well as his cherished gold airplane lapel pin.
There are several references to the Warden Pear or “Warden” in Medieval
England. In the thirteenth century, the pear was first recorded and cultivated at Warden Abbey, a Cistercian monastery, in the old village of Bedfordshire. However, history suggests the pear was possibly brought over to England by the Romans many years before. References to its popularity come from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale", Act IV.3. The bard preparing for the sheep shearing contest contemplates the spices he needs for baking: “I must have saffron to color the warden pies.” English soldiers carried the fruit into battle over the winter months because it was hard and slow to ripe. And in the 1800s, a set of botanical hand-colored engravings by the French botanist and illustrator Pierre Jean François Turpin titled Traité des arbres fruitiers (treatise on fruit trees) immortalized the Warden Pear in the worlds of art and science.
The JP/PM Perthshire Warden Pear Piedouche, issued in a limited edition of 40, sold out at the Saint Louis PCA convention in 1993. All it took was one strategically placed example displayed at the L. H. Selman Gallery booth for collectors to fall in love with this marvelous paperweight and to place advance orders. This collaborative piedouche generated enthusiasm worldwide.
The owner of Perthshire Paperweights Ltd., Neil Drysdale, was a savvy glass factory director with a keen eye. He had taken over operations of the glass factory after the death of his father, Stuart Drysdale, who founded the company in 1968. It is thought that Neil traveled to the United States in the early 90s and at some point, met Johne Parsley who, by the way, had a strain of good Scottish blood in his veins. The two bonded immediately. An invitation to visit Perthshire was soon forthcoming.
THE WARDEN PEAR PIEDOUCHE:
HOW SWEET IT IS!
We’ve saved the best for last!
Three Warden Pears adorn the Warden Abbey Coat of Arms.
Warden Pear hand-colored engraving, circa1800s, by Pierre Jean François Turpin, courtesy Shapero Gallery, London.
Stuart Drysdale founder of Perthshire Paperweights.
In no time at all, Johne and his wife Anne, flew to Crieff, Scotland and were introduced to the Perthshire clan; specifically, Peter McDougall, head of factory operations. By this time, Neil and Johne had outlined a proposal for Johne to teach lampwork to the factory employees. More importantly, it also included designing a collaborative Parsley/Perthshire creation with Peter. Neil’s vision combined with the knowledgeable insights of these two highly gifted artists led to an extraordinary outcome, the JP/PM Perthshire Piedouche.
As we know the art of paperweight-making requires the highest level of technical prowess to achieve success, the benefits of mutual understanding cannot be understated between collaborators. These epitomize the true spirit of the word “collaboration”. Not even the Atlantic Ocean would interfere with their dedication to the art form and equal fervor to create a “museum-quality knockout” in the art world.
In our 2019 interview, Peter praised the factory workers. "The Perthshire factory ran as a team and I had the greatest team behind me. All the staff at the factory had a very important role to play and it could hot have been so successful without them all," he stated. Johne could certainly not ask for anything better than to be working with this iconic European glass house, the first American glass artist to do so, and to also have the respect and ongoing support of Neil Drysdale with the camaraderie and friendship of Peter McDougall… the perfect collaborative triad!
Original drawing of the Perthshire Warden Pear Piedouche.
However, it was not all bliss. After Johne and Peter designed the piedouche, testing began as evidenced by several handfuls of small lampworked “study weights” of peaches and pears later found in Parsley’s studio. After the Warden Pear motif was perfected, Johne carefully packaged the setups and sent them overseas to Peter at Perthshire. Setup after setup broke in the shipping process. What to do?!
Enter Perthshire’s Duncan Smith. Johne had worked with Duncan during his previous trips to the glass factory. Our photo here shows Johne instructing Duncan on a technique for making striated leaves, a hallmark of Parsley paperweights and used to attach the pears in the Warden Pear piedouche. Johne successfully managed to ship individual delicate lampwork pear and blossom parts from Pennsylvania for Duncan to assemble in Crieff. Duncan solved the problem by finishing the setup Johne would have created onsight, and production began. Peter formulated the gathered crystal himself that encased the piedouche from silica sand, the main ingredient, from the Lochaline Sand Mine in Northern Scotland.
Final version of Perthshire Warden Pear Piedouche collaboration.
Peach and pear study paperweights found in the Parsley studio.
Johne demonstrates a technique for making striated leaves with Duncan Smith.
View the Warden Pear Piedouche at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, Wisconsin where twenty of Johne's paperweights reside. In 2023, a second piedouche was showcased at the Texas A&M University exhibition, A Personal Statement in Glass: The Art of the Paperweight. That same year, the Director of GLP acquired yet another Warden Pear Piedouche through the Soulis Winter Auction in Missouri. The paperweight had previously resided in the Schwab Collection in Ohio. It is destined to be displayed in another North American museum.
Peter McDougall assists Johne at Perthshire Paperweights.
Warden Pear Piedouche is on display at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass.
Detail work of the piedouche tri-colored torsades and latticinio basket.
Peter also created the twisted rods Johne used for the two tri-color white, pink and blue torsades. The tour de force was the creation of the latticinio basket itself. According to Peter, “The basket was made with forty strands of white canes all set in a mold, the process is very complicated, the whole thing was made like an hourglass and twisted and folded back on itself.” Once the glass was manipulated into a perfect base, it provided the resting place for Johne’s setup of pears, blossoms, and leaves on a muslin ground. A circle of ruby millefiori canes completed the design in one difficult assemblage. Finally, grinder Barry McDougall faceted the weights.
Johne and Peter partnered on these pieces using Johne’s blood-red roses with Peter’s blue, green or pink millefiori canes, which are encased in crystal and faceted.
Perthshire Paperweights collaboration with Johne Parsley trial colors for the Special Edition Pedestal. 2-3/4" diameter, 2-1/4" high
Before Johne departed Perthshire in the early 90s, he gave Peter eight glass red roses. Peter embraced the idea of utilizing the setups to create additional Parsley/Perthshire collaborative paperweights and piedouches. GLP has located one of each. They are similar in style to the Warden Pear Piedouche. Johne’s blood-red roses are encircled by Peter’s blue, green or pink millefiori canes, encased in crystal and faceted. One was purchased from Alan Thornton in the UK in 2021. Both pink and blue examples remain in the private collections of the Parsley family.
In the end, how do you measure success? Is it by the work you do or the company you keep, or both? How many artists would travel overseas from Scotland to the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, knock on the door unannounced and say, “Johne, get your coat on…we’re going to lunch!” As Peter reflected in his interview with GLP, “…what might have been?” He mused, thinking about what the future projects the two might have created had Johne’s health not deteriorated after the turn of the 21st century.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this informal excursion into yet another dimension to the story of the contributions of Johne Parsley to the art of fine glass paperweights, a world he loved throughout his life.
GLP wishes to thank Peter and Catherine McDougall for their time spent in 2019 interviews in Crieff, Scotland, to obtain this story. Our thanks also to Colin Mahoney who contributed images from The Complete Guide to Perthshire Paperweights. Additional thanks goes to Alan Thornton in the U.K. who contributed the image of the JP/PM collaborative rose & and blue millefiori paperweight, and an anonymous collector who contributed the image of the JP/PM rose and pink millefiori piedouche. The JP/PM Perthshire Warden Pear Piedouche drawing is from the studio of Johne Parsley and piedouche images from various collections including the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass, Neenah, Wisconsin. A special thank you to Shapero Gallery, London, for use of the Pierre Turpin Warden Pear engraving.