The world’s largest glass paperweight — a luminous orb of kaleidoscopic landscapes and underwater worlds encapsulated in glass — was unveiled today at The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.
The Corning Museum commissioned the 107-lb. paperweight, entitled Megaplanet, as the thousandth paperweight to enter its collection. Its creator is Josh Simpson, an artist based in Massachusetts who has been widely acclaimed for his vessels and sculpture that are inspired by the environment and by space exploration. For this occasion, Simpson has realized a wonder-provoking object. The work is more than 13 inches in diameter and is comprised of more than 30 layers of glass.
Eighteen months of labor, including the slow cooling of the piece, and more than 35 years of study, practice, preparation, and inspiration, went into the creation of the solid glass Megaplanet. Like most of Simpson’s work, the 107-lb. Megaplanet was inspired both by the natural world and by glass itself. His Planets, which he makes in all sizes, typically involve the creation of detailed and multi-layered land- and seascapes and vistas of outer space that reflect the Earth’s vastness and complexity. The artist is in part inspired by his wife, Cady Coleman, a NASA astronaut and a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions.
Simpson has pushed the technical boundaries of glassmaking for this commission. A team of seven glassmakers assisted Simpson in gathering layers of molten glass at the end of an iron blowpipe and inserting tiny details of the planet sculpted delicately out of glass.
Because the 107-lb. Megaplanet is about 20 pounds heavier than any of his previous objects, Simpson had to commission special glassblowing tools, including custom-made blowpipes and oversized wood glass-shaping tools, to handle the intense heat and increased size and weight of the giant Megaplanet. Creating the object was so physically demanding that Simpson worked out regularly for six months beforehand to improve his strength and dexterity.
The paperweight will be part of the Museum’s permanent collection, on display to the public.