The Making of...

The Making of Pink Fondant Paperweight

Lead Designer Helen MacDonald explains her inspiration for her paperweight design, Pink Fondant. This stunning design is limited to an edition of 50. Once you have read Helen's inspiration click here to see the making process for this weight.

"After the snowy Scottish winters I always look forward to the springtime when the landscape bursts into full colour". First there are the snowdrops and multi coloured beds of crocuses, followed by the glory of the golden daffodils, but as the season progresses the rich beauty of the rhododendron flowers are revealed.

These wonderful plants that bloom into a mass of brilliant colour were my mother's favourites, particularly the vibrant pink varieties. Living up in Caithness these flowers became quite a challenge to her as she planted a few bushes in a vane hope every year, just to see them wither with exposure or be eaten up by sheep or rabbits. Caithness is not the best place for rhododendron survival.

It is a beautiful sight when driving up the A9, passing through the lovely village of Golspie, to see prolific flowers surrounding the gateway of Dunrobin Castle. Unfortunately this is about as far north as I have ever seen rhododendrons thrive in any quantities.

So, by not being able to grow them in Caithness, why not try to re-create their vibrant beauty in glass? This way I can enjoy them in all seasons and all climates."

Illustrated here are some of the key stages in the making of Helen MacDonald's stunning paperweight design, Pink Fondant.

Shona Spittal starts the paperweight by taking two large gathers of clear glass from the furnace. Here she is blocking the glass into a manageable glass ball using a glassmaker's wooden block.






The tool used to create the Rhododendron flowers is called a crimp.





After Shona has picked up the powdered glass colours on to the front of the 'ball' and melted them in, the glass is pressed gently down on to the crimp, which pushes the colours up into the clear molten glass in the same shape as the crimp.





After the glass is lifted off the crimp the space that the crimp has left in the glass is then 'paletted' closed using a carbon paddle. This makes sure no air is trapped in the design, which would result in unwanted bubbles. The excess colour is then pulled down and cut away from the design.



Large shears are used to cut away the excess glass. The paperweight is then reheated in the glory hole and re-blocked to keep it smooth and round.




The flower paperweight is then passed on to a glasshouse helper to look after and keep hot. This allows Shona to start making the second half of the paperweight. This time she picks up small quantities of aquamarine and light green powdered glass on to a large double gather of clear glass. By heating and folding these colours she creates delicate swirls.


After being blocked and re-heated, green powdered glass is picked up on to the front of the ball and melted in.





A fish knife is then pushed into the colour six times to create leaves.




After any air has been 'paletted'out, the excess colour is then sheared away, pulling the ends of the leaves into the centre.




A clear 'drop on' of glass is then applied to the leaves and then 'blocked' in to create a smooth ball.




The glasshouse helper then returns with the flower paperweight and, with steady hands and a good eye, the two paperweights are carefully joined together. The flower paperweight is then knocked off the end of its iron, leaving it attached to the leaves.






By continuous re-heating and blocking the two pieces are merged into one. The rough point where the iron was knocked away is now sheared away to create a smooth ball.



The whole piece is then covered in a pale amethyst gather and shaped by hand using damp folded newspapers.




The piece is then cut-in near the iron. After a final flame polish in the glory hole the paperweight is now ready to be put in the kiln to anneal overnight.







The following morning the paperweight is taken out of the kiln and inspected for glass quality. The rough base where it was knocked off the iron is then ground flat on a diamond-impregnated disc. The paperweight goes through three further smoothing and polishing processes. It is then ready to be passed to Martin Murray, our master cutter, to begin his intricate work. All the cutting and polishing is done on a cutter's lathe by using different profiles of cutting wheels in different grades of smoothness.


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