Skip to content
This highly detailed botanical glass orb by Paul Stankard, featuring flowers, blueberries, a honeybee, and insects, realized $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.

Paul Stankard elevates the humble glass paperweight to poetry

NEW YORK – Paul Stankard’s (b. 1943-) path into studio glass was unusual in that he originally trained to make laboratory glass. He worked as a scientific glassblower for nine years before embracing his artistic passions.

Inspired by the stylized French Clichy paperweights made from the 1840 to the 1860s, but wanting to distinguish himself, he began creating glass paperweights in the mid-1960s. He incorporated elaborately crafted glass canes replicating native flowers, which were immediately lauded for being botanically correct.

An undated Paul Stankard glass botanical orb paperweight, dubbed ‘Fertile’, went out at $4,250 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2023. Image courtesy of Mark Lawson Antiques, Inc. and LiveAuctioneers.
An undated Paul Stankard glass botanical orb paperweight, dubbed ‘Fertile’, went out at $4,250 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2023. Image courtesy of Mark Lawson Antiques, Inc. and LiveAuctioneers.

He grew up in Massachusetts and later moved to New Jersey, and wherever he lived, he enjoyed walking in the woods. What he saw on those walks ultimately informed his designs in glass.

“I was trying to interpret the botanical characteristics of native flowers, and when I started to experiment with the floral paperweights, I reconnected with my childhood interest in flowers,” Stankard told Auction Central News in a phone interview.

This 1999 Paul Stankard piece, titled ‘Assemblage A5,’ made $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2020. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.
This 1999 Paul Stankard piece, titled ‘Assemblage A5,’ made $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2020. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.

As time passed, his work evolved into cube-like glass assemblages that Stankard called his botanical series, which featured individual glass flowers that floated as if they were in mid-air. Such was his skill that very few bubbles or lines of separation could be seen between his glass flowers and the clear glass surrounding each.

By the early 2000s, Stankard was exclusively creating large and intricate glass orbs with botanical designs that provided a 360 degree-view with uniform magnification. These orbs were entire microcosms, showcasing glass flowers along with root systems, insects, and hidden elements such as words and humanoid forms.

This 1997 rectangular botanical glass paperweight by Paul Stankard, titled ‘Botanical and Earth Spirit Weight,’ holds the top price for the artist on the LiveAuctioneers platform. It sold for $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022. Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.
This 1997 rectangular botanical glass paperweight by Paul Stankard, titled ‘Botanical and Earth Spirit Weight,’ holds the top price for the artist on the LiveAuctioneers platform. It sold for $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022. Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.

A fine example of his late 1990s rectangular paperweights is Botanical and Earth Spirit Weight, a 1997 creation that set a LiveAuctioneers platform record for the artist when it sold for $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022 at Habatat Galleries. Not surprisingly, it was chosen for display in the Floating World exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2004.

Audiences often require a magnifier to read the tiny words and spot the hidden figures in a Stankard. The artist said that focusing on delicacy and details helped his designs become believable and realistic, generating demand for his work. He sometimes spends weeks on a single large-scale piece, and at the age of 81, he is still completing about one orb per week.

Lurking within Paul Stankard’s 2002 ‘Damselfly and Bouquet Paperweight’ are a cluster of root people as well as his signature. The piece brought $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.
Lurking within Paul Stankard’s 2002 ‘Damselfly and Bouquet Paperweight’ are a cluster of root people as well as his signature. The piece brought $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

While his larger cube assemblages are about eight inches tall, some are smaller. Earth Spirit and Insect Botanical Paperweight, dating to 2000, stands just under five inches tall and has a cobalt blue base. It earned $10,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021 at Habitat Galleries.

Unlike most of his pieces featuring only clear glass, Paul Stankard’s ‘Earth Spirit and Insect Botanical Paperweight’ has a cobalt blue base. Standing just under five inches tall, it surpassed its $6,500-$7,500 estimate to take $10,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021. Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.
Unlike most of his pieces, which feature only clear glass, Paul Stankard’s ‘Earth Spirit and Insect Botanical Paperweight’ has a cobalt blue base. Standing just under five inches tall, it surpassed its $6,500-$7,500 estimate to take $10,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021. Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.

“My creative journey has always been very personal and intimate in the way I processed the techniques,” Stankard said. “I used to wonder if people saw the progress of my work, and lo and behold, they have.”

In the auction market, Stankards perform robustly, and the more intricate a piece is, the more it will bring. “The market is definitely strong, based upon the elaborateness of each work,” said Aaron Schey, vice-president of Habatat Galleries in Royal Oak, Michigan of the appetite for Stankard pieces.

He added, “Paul Stankard is a living legend known for his originality. He considers himself a poet, and his creativity is expressed through his artwork. He is able to create glass bees that look 100% real, and he is able to recreate any flower or botanical on the planet in his own vision and style.”

Among the many talents Paul Stankard possesses is an ability to create highly realistic bees in his glass art. One appears in an orb that realized $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.
Among the many talents Paul Stankard possesses is an ability to create highly realistic bees in his glass art. One appears in an orb that realized $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.

Alexander Anapolsky, co-owner of Akiba Galleries in Dania Beach, Florida, notes that Stankard uses lampworking and millefiori techniques to create lifelike depictions of flowers and insects.

“His attention to details is what separates him from the rest,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in the demand for his paperweights. His pieces do not come up for auction often. They appeal not only to the high-end glass collectors, but also to new, young collectors. Given how colorful and intricate the work is, it fits into almost any home.”

The word ‘seeds’ appears upside down in the top left region of this highly detailed botanical glass orb by Paul Stankard, which realized $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.
The word ‘seeds’ appears upside down in the top left region of this highly detailed botanical glass orb by Paul Stankard, which realized $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Akiba Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.

Akiba Galleries has seen several of Stankard’s complex botanical glass orbs achieve strong sums, including one featuring flowers, blueberries, a honeybee, and insects, which realized $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice Stankard’s lampworked signature inside this piece, and words such as ‘seeds’, which is written on a glass branch.

An equally intricate orb is Damselfly and Bouquet Paperweight from 2002, featuring a pink morning glory, blueberries, orange and yellow flowers, and foliage. It made $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium at Heritage Auctions in September 2022.

Intricate designs such as Paul Stankard’s ‘Damselfly and Bouquet Paperweight’ from 2002 come in enough color variety to suit virtually any collector. It sold for $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.
Intricate designs such as Paul Stankard’s ‘Damselfly and Bouquet Paperweight’ from 2002 come in enough color variety to suit virtually any collector. It sold for $5,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

On occasion, Stankard has worked with other artists, such as fellow New Jersey glassmaker Barry R. Sautner (1952-2009). One lavishly decorated paperweight they co-created in 1987 featured exterior engraving by Sautner of a branching tree that begins in one corner and spreads out around the cube.

Inside, Stankard’s lush botanical interpretations are showcased in pink and white flowers amid purple berries, foliage, and roots, complete with a pair of root spirits. The piece, estimated at $4,000-$6,000, sold for $10,000 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021 at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates.

An engraved and lampworked glass paperweight jointly made by Paul Stankard and Barry Sautner in 1987 secured $10,000 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021. Image courtesy of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers.
An engraved and lampworked glass paperweight jointly made by Paul Stankard and Barry Sautner in 1987 secured $10,000 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021. Image courtesy of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers.

Collectors hang onto their Stankards and even request custom works, as did Annie and Michael Belkin, who once owned more than 300 of his pieces. They donated about 60 to the Akron Art Museum in Ohio in 2015, and consigned a handful of others to auction. Annie’s Flower Garden Paperweight, dating to 2017, brought $8,250 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022 at Habatat Galleries.

Paul Stankard made this yellow and purple-dominated orb on commission for longtime collectors Annie and Michael Belkin in 2017. ‘Annie’s Flower Garden Paperweight’ sold for $8,250 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022. Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries and LiveAuctioneers
Paul Stankard made this yellow and purple-dominated orb on commission for longtime collectors Annie and Michael Belkin in 2017. ‘Annie’s Flower Garden Paperweight’ sold for $8,250 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022. Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.

“Everybody has their own thoughts on what they like,” Schey said. “It’s the eye of the beholder, but you really can’t go wrong with any one of Paul’s works. People mostly look for the [glass] bees. They want to see the bees in the work itself, and that detail brings a whole other level to each individual piece.”

For decades, Stankard’s glassworks have transcended their original intended function to become art objects that continue to delight fans. Anapolsky said, “His paperweights and glass pieces are more than just exquisite works of art, they are windows into a world where botanical beauty meets masterful craftsmanship.”

Viewed head-on, this 1999 Paul Stankard glass assemblage showcases his talent for making glass blooms look as if they are floating in mid-air. Viewed at an angle, it seemingly transforms into a different artwork. Titled ‘Assemblage A5’, it made $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2020. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.
Viewed head-on, this 1999 Paul Stankard glass assemblage showcases his talent for making glass blooms look as if they are floating in mid-air. Viewed at an angle, it seemingly transforms into a different artwork. Titled ‘Assemblage A5’, it made $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2020. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.

He added, “Stankard’s intricate designs and innovative techniques have not only elevated the humble paperweight, but also redefined the boundaries of botanical art within the realm of studio glass. His legacy as a pioneer in the field continues to inspire generations of artists and collectors, leaving an unbelievable mark on the intersection of art, nature, and glass.”

Stankard is a favorite of both the museum and auction worlds, with his creations extensively represented in private and public collections. “I think of my work as inventing illusions, and it’s important for me to have the illusions appear credible,” he said.

“There’s a certain poetry to my work that people pick up on. It’s been a fascinating journey,” he said. “People ask me if I’m going to retire, and I say I hope not, not right now. I am very much in the game.”