three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair

An interview with
Ian Cummings & Bernd Horst

Ian Cummings and Bernd Horst established their company, weights-n-things, in 2003. Both had been collecting paperweights actively for several years before setting up the company. They attend the various meetings of the Paperweight Collectors Circle and the Northern Paperweight Society and for the past 2 years have also exhibited at the Cambridge Glass Fair and since last year the National Glass Fair. They not only work together with the Scottish paperweight makers, but are registered dealers with the Paperweight Collectors Association of America, and have good connections to the leading American artists, having organised a number of special meetings with a couple of them at their “gallery” in Cologne. Their next major project will take them into the world of publishing - with a new book from author Peter von Brackel on classic Silesian/Bohemian paperweights, which Ian has translated and edited.

If you would like to speak to Ian and Bernd at the fair, or have a link to their website, please click here for further information.

Ian Cummings and Bernd Horst
Bernd Horst and Ian Cummings

When and how did you become interested in collecting?

Bernd: I have been fascinated by glass for as long as I can remember. I started collecting stemware when the Scandinavian-style was all the fashion in the early 70s. I was also interested in Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass, but at that time, needless to say (I was still at school) I couldn’t possibly afford it. I became interested in paperweights in the late 1990s. I had had a certain interest before but, funnily enough, you don’t come across them very often in Germany. It was only after I started going to England regularly that I got more involved.

Ian: My interest in glass was first aroused by the beautiful Art Nouveau vases which began to surface in the 1970s and, of course, Tiffany lamps, which were way out of my league!

Then I discovered a Selkirk abstract paperweight, beautifully lit in a revolving cabinet in a Garden Centre, of all places! It was affordable and I was hooked... and tried to find out as much as I could about paperweights, where they came from and who made them.

What sort of glass do you collect personally, if any?

Bernd: Now I only collect paperweights. Although I do still have an interest in stemware.

Ian: I still actively collect paperweights, although nowadays my tastes have moved on from the abstract weights that I collected when I first began. A lot of people say you can’t collect and be a dealer at the same time - a view I totally disagree with. I think it helps you better understand different collectors' different tastes.

Do you have collections of anything other than glass?

Bernd: I still hang onto my stamp collection, which I put together as a schoolboy.

Ian: At one time I was very friendly with an art restorer and for a period of about 15 years I collected late 19th/early 20th century paintings. Gradually, however, that market became too rarefied for me as prices started to go through the roof. But I still have a couple of very nice paintings that I wouldn’t want to sell.

Are there any particular styles, periods or designers that inspire you more than any other?

Bernd: I prefer millefiori to lampwork, although I have some superb modern lampwork designs in my collection. As far as antique weights are concerned, I admire some of the beautiful pieces made by St. Louis, with their subtle colour combinations (but they need to be perfectly set up), and mid-19th century Bacchus weights. In the modern section I’m a great fan of Paul Ysart’s work and the lampwork from a number of American artists.

Ian: One book that had a big influence on my taste in paperweights was Bob Hall’s “Old English Paperweights”, especially the section on Bacchus. By a strange coincidence, a short while later, some of the Bacchus weights illustrated in that book came on the market and I was able to buy a couple plus others from a number of famous collections which were disposed of. As for modern weights, I’m a big fan of American lampwork artists such as Chris Buzzini, Cathy Richardson, Rick & Melissa Ayotte and Dave Graeber and from New Zealand, Andrew Byers.

Which are the best and worst aspects of being a dealer and exhibitor?

Bernd: One of the nice things is when you’re offered a collection, or are viewing an auction, you sometimes come across some extremely rare and beautiful pieces. Even though you maybe can’t afford them - or don’t have a customer for them - at least you had the chance to hold them in your hands. Another nice thing is being able to find a paperweight that a collector has been looking for for years. To see the joy on his or her face when you hand it over to them somehow makes the effort seem worthwhile. One of worst aspects is that paperweights are heavy and although we’ve pretty much solved the problem of packing our paperweights, I still struggle with the sheer weight of all the cases that need to be stowed in the car and unloaded at the other end. If I’m travelling for longer periods, it becomes very tiring having to spend an hour or so every morning loading the car, only to have to spend another hour unloading it in the evening!

Ian: One of the best aspects is being able to meet some of the top artists who are working today. But there is also a lot of hard work involved in constantly finding new stock, making arrangements for trips, keeping a website updated (not as regularly as we would like, I have to add!) and generally building up a solid customer base.

What is the most special/interesting piece that you own or have exhibited?

Bernd: We just managed to buy an extremely rare Bohemian/Silesian scattered millefiori. It’s one of only five documented weights that have a particular date cane and, of the five, it’s the only one known which is set on a latticinio swirl rather than the usual muslin cushion.

Ian: One of the best paperweights that has passed through our hands was a magnificent large Clichy concentric with a row of 25 pink and green roses set in a most unusual basket of opaque white and translucent aquamarine staves.

What was the best piece of advice that you were given when you started collecting/dealing in glass?

Bernd: Go for quality instead of quantity... unfortunately, it was a piece of advice I didn’t follow to begin with!

Ian: I have to agree with Bernd... but like he says, we tended to ignore it in the first few years mainly because it was so hard to find good weights in Germany, and we rather overdid things when we saw paperweights at Collectors’ Fairs in England. Don’t forget, ebay and the Internet didn’t play such a big role then as they do now.

What advice would you give anyone just starting to collect glass?

Bernd: Apart from the advice in the last question, learn as much as you can from reading books and studying as many different types of paperweights as possible, so that you can begin to differentiate between, say, an antique St. Louis scrambled and a Baccarat macedoine for example. Paperweights are very tactile, so it’s important to hold them in your hands and experience the “feel” of them. For a true collector, it’s vital to be just as knowledgeable as a reputable dealer.

Ian: I find old catalogues are a good way to study the different types of weights, although it’s amazing how many mis-attributions you find in catalogues from the 1960s and 70s, even from the main auction houses. Ebay is even worse, everything is “possibly Baccarat or Clichy ??” even when it’s so obviously Murano or Chinese!! I say “obviously”, but that knowledge only comes from studying the different types of weights, from reading about the latest findings and new research, which is constantly making new knowledge available. The other thing is, don’t buy something with the idea that it may increase in value. A lot of things don’t... or may just not be “in fashion” when you decide you want to sell it. Buy what appeals to you, what you will enjoy looking at for a few years or even longer. If it does increase in value that’s an added bonus - the main thing is the pleasure you’ve had from owning it. All my paintings - and paperweights - have given me great pleasure and still do; I never thought of them as investments. I bought my first painting, for instance, 40 years ago and I can’t imagine ever wanting to sell it ! As a dealer, my advice would be to talk to - and listen to the opinion of - experienced and reputable dealers. Unfortunately there are too many out there who have jumped on the ebay bandwagon and are just out to make a quick buck!

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