PERTH SCOTLAND “Caithness Glass, color, and innovation are synonymous,” says Jim Day, vice president of Caithness Glass. Founded in 1961, Caithness Glass Limited’s initial product line featured colored glass giftware, including vases, bowls, and candleholders.
In 1968, Caithness Design Limited received “the Royal Warrant,” a prestigious honor that recognizes the firm as her Majesty’s glassmaker. The warrant, which appears on much of Caithness’ printed material, is actually the Coat of Arms of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Years later, England’s Queen Elizabeth II accepted Caithness glass artist Colin Terris as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his “outstanding contribution to the glass industry.”
Since 1969, Caithness Glass has gained increasing recognition as a leader in the art glass world with its creation of paperweights infused with bold colors and cutting-edge designs. Caithness glass artists take their color cue from the hues, which surround them – the purple of Scotland’s heather-clad moors, the vibrant blue of its lochs, and the smoky gray of burning peat. Unique designs, such as those crafted by Terris – the “Father of the Modern Paperweight” – have taken their place alongside the more traditional paperweights featuring millefiori, lampwork, and sulphide motifs.
When Terris joined Caithness, he established an engraving studio at its factory. There, he met Paul Ysart, an internationally recognized designer of traditional paperweights. Ysart hired and trained glassworkers during the day; after hours, he was given studio time to create his first love – paperweights.
Ysart and Terris met one weekend afternoon, while Ysart was working on a new paperweight design. Terris, fascinated by Ysart’s skills, learned to fashion breathtaking spheres and domes, implant various shapes and sizes of bubbles, and build within the glass a variety of interesting and intriguing configurations.
Caithness Glass premiered Terris’ novel style of paperweights (which came to be called the modern, or abstract paperweight) in 1969, with its release of his “The Planets Set I” The designs, fueled by Terris’ love of astronomy, were an instant success. Today, his fascination with space, science fiction, fantasy, and nature inspire most of Terris’ designs.
Artisans in the Caithness Design Studio have produced a magnificent range of paperweights in a myriad of colors, themes, and styles, as well as art glass giftware. Their talents are combined with those of a team of specialists, engravers, grinders, facet-cutters, and polishers.
2001 Designer Collections
The 2001 Designer Collection created by Colin Terris celebrates the company’s 40th anniversary – incorporating traditional celebratory themes, including champagne bubbles, balloons, and fireworks. Caithness introduces seven new Colin Terris paperweights: “Nostradamus,” “Crystal Chandelier,” “Mirror Image,” “Golden Galaxy,” “Winter Wonderland” “Jubilation,” and “Astral Celebration.” “Golden Galaxy,” Terris says, features “a golden star which sets the scene for party time in deep space. Champagne bubbles and sparkling fireworks light up the galaxy’s celebration.”
During Macintosh’s 13-year career with Caithness Glass, space has peen one of this talented artist’s recurring themes. “The universe has always fascinated me, fight from childhood,” Macintosh says.
“I think it’s a curiosity about the unknown.” Macintosh is renowned for his talents as an accomplished paperweight maker and a master glass blower, who boldly experiments with the famed Caithness range of glass colors.
MacIntosh’s new Space 2001 collection was inspired by the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001 – A Space Odyssey. It includes the pieces “Astronaut,” “Return to Earth,” “Red Shift,” “Ringed Planet,” “Lunar Enigma,” and “Lunar Quest.”
“Designing glass is a passion for me,” says Caithness Glass Artist Helen MacDonald. “Caithness may be 40 years old this year, but we have enough innovative ideas to keep us going for at least another 40 years.”
MacDonald began working at Caithness Glass when she was just 16 years old. Her design talents were recognized while she served as a trainee engraver. She designed her first Caithness paperweight, “Journey of the Wise Men,” in 1978. Collectors appreciate her floral designs and Biblical series.
For the -10th anniversary of Caithness Glass, she created two new paperweights: “Baptism” and “The Last Tango.”
Caithness Paperweight Collectors Society
Recognizing the highly collectible nature of Caithness Glass paperweights, the firm founded the Caithness Paperweight Collectors Society in 1976. In 2001, the collectors society celebrates its 25th anniversary and remains one of the oldest such institutions in the world. Members who join in 2001 will receive a complimentary paperweight called “Lacemaker,” an Alastair Maclntosh design. Two limited-edition paperweights, “Dignity” and “Rhythm,” have been exclusively designed for purchase by collectors society- members. Members also receive a twice-yearly; full-color magazine, “Reflections,” which keeps them informed of special events and newly launched paperweights and allows members to communicate with other Caithness collectors.
The American Market
Historically; Caithness’ emphasis in the American market has been on its impressive paperweight collection. Now the firm is introducing American collectors to pieces in its Prestige Art glass line. These elaborate studio designs include vases, bowls, perfume bottles, atomizers, planters, and candleholders. Individual collections within this line have exotic names and imagery, and include “Marble,” “Ebony,” “Shoreline,” “Images,” “Celtic Myths,” and “Thistledown.”
“Although we at Caithness look on our paperweight designs as the firm’s ‘crown jewels,’ we are proud of all our products,” says Day. “Collectors of Caithness Glass form a strong emotional bond with our creations because they display enduring beauty and fine quality. In the future, we anticipate the challenge of remaining on the cutting edge of art glass design. To accomplish that, we will create new and different internal designs in our paperweights, continue to work with color, shape, and form, and pursue new glass-cutting techniques for the outer surface of our paperweights.”
CAITHNESS GLASS … A Few Milestones
1961: Caithness Glass commences production, having been founded in “lick, in the county of Caithness in the far north of Scotland by a consortium headed by Lord Thurso. Working in colored glass, the company produces a range of decorative bowls vases, and functional gift items.
1969: Caithness Glass introduces, in a numbered limited edition of 500 sets, its milestone Planets quartet of modern glass paperweights, designed by Colin Terris to characterize the essence of the planets Mars, Mercury; Saturn, and Venus. The edition is received with acclaim and quickly sells out.
A second glasshouse is established at Oban, in Argyll on Scotland’s west coast, to make art glass known as Obanware.
1976: Recognizing the fact that many people were amassing collections of its paperweights, the company established its Caithness Collectors Society-.
1998: Planets set, issued in 1969 at 570, sells for $2,475 in Fall Mail Auction of L.H. Selman, Californian international paperweight dealer.
1999: Publication of the Charlton Standard Catalog of Caithness Glass Paperweights, 1st edition. This records I, in detail the almost 1,800 different Caithness paperweight designs created since 1969. The catalog will be updated periodically.
2001: 40th Anniversary of the first glassmaking in the Wick factory, and 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Collectors Society.