First PCA Convention, Here I Come!
by Gulsari Byrkit
Tomorrow I fly to Dearborn. I still can't believe in
one day I will be at my first PCA Convention. I go
through my checklist over and over again: Richard
Loesel paperweights for sale, check... booth decor,
check...presentation notes, check... 25 Whitefriars
Paperweights for Tony Graham exhibit, check... My
list is long.
Planes make me nervous but this time I forget all
about my fears. The excitement of the Convention is
something I have never felt before. I just want to be
I have been collecting paperweights for ten years
now. A little treasure (Baccarat George Washington
Sulphide 1954) I found in a Goodwill store started it
all. I was immediately hooked. Whitefriars followed
Muranos. Saint Louis paperweights followed millefiori
bottles. I added a little bit of this, and a little bit of that
with my expanding knowledge.
Paperweight collecting was a world I created for
myself filled with beautiful things. Paperweights,
pictures, books. It has become my passion over the
years. I can just go in my world and forget all the other
One day I found out about the PCA — "Hmm — there
is an association for people like me" I thought. Several
years passed until I made the first move of becoming
a member. I would get bulletins and I would think
"people are actually doing research and writing
articles about these things". I was still a quiet collector
in my own shell. I didn't know one single person.
When I talked about paperweights with my friends,
they thought I was speaking another language. It was
a hobby, a lonely hobby.
Then came social media: Facebook pages about
Paperweights. What a great idea!!! I created my own
2 pages: "Whitefriars Paperweights Collectors Group"
and "Millefiori & Lampwork Bottles and Inkwells" in
2017. That was one of the best things I have ever done.
I could post what I had or what I liked, indirectly
share my collection. The authors I would see in
PCA Bulletins would appear on my Facebook pages
one after the other. The sellers on EBay® would have
a face, collectors becoming my friends. Each day I
had a special reason to be on social media. I would
post pictures, spread the love of paperweights. The
response was great. This was fun. This was exciting.
I am not alone. I meet with different people everyday
Soon I will be in Dearborn meeting collectors like
me for the first time. I am nervous. Oh yes I am! I
have been chatting with a lot of people in the past two
years online but being there in person, finally being
at a Convention to meet them for the first time giving
me a rush of adrenalin. I can't find words. It is finally
Tuesday afternoon I am standing in front of the hotel.
I still cannot believe it. Two years ago coming to a
Convention was just a dream. Now here I am, I really
am here. Somebody please pinch me...
The hotel restaurant is filling up with familiar faces.
Our table is getting bigger and bigger. I am meeting
with my online friends one after the other. I feel
like I know them already. So happy to see my friend
Carl, finally meeting Pam and Rick — oh, look who
is here: Alan Thornton and Mike Hunter. Here is
my friend Tony from UK. Tony has been my first
paperweight friend. I have never met him. And here
are the PCA Board members — Ellen! My friend Ellen
I was chatting with the last 8 months. Diane who I
was communicating with for the exhibit. Cathy — I
am so happy to see Cathy. It is overwhelming in the
beginning but each minute I feel more comfortable.
I am here for the first time. Everything is new. For a
first timer I have a lot of jobs. I am here for my French
artist friend Richard Loesel who I proudly represent.
It is his big first time too. Two years ago when we
were talking about a PCA Convention, this was only a
dream for both of us. Today we are here. Unbelievable.
I am his translator, his salesperson and also helping
with his presentation.
It is funny that people know me and I know them.
Thanks Social Media. I am here as the collector, the
host of FB pages and Richard Loesel's translator. It
has been 14 years I haven't been someone other than
someone's mom or someone's wife. As one of my
old friends said before I left town: "get out of your
mommy clothes and go enjoy your alter ego". She is
right. Paperweights are giving me a new purpose.
Wednesday is the big day: Ford Museum, Artists' Fair,
Dealers Fair. My rusty French is still struggling...
Am I going to find the right words to translate? Take
a deep breath. Everyone is so nice. Everything will be
OK. More and more people showing up. I know them.
It is so great to meet them finally. Why didn't I come
to a Convention earlier?
I am having fun. These people are great. Such a cool
atmosphere. I see the artists I know. Nice to see you
again Damon MacNaught. Happy to meet you Mike
Hunter. It is so nice to share a table with you Ken
Rosenfeld. Hi Dave Graeber... First time I meet Chris
Sherwin, Clinton Smith, Drew Ebelhare and Sue Fox,
Jim Brown also Alison Ruzsa. I get a big hug from
Gordon Smith. Cathy Richardson and her son Colin
Richardson are my fellow Minnesotans. The Scottish
artists Craig Deacons and Gordon Taylor are here too.
All my collector friends are here. Instant friendships
forming. This is really a Paperweight Heaven. I get to
meet all the dealers I have bought from in the past. It
is so nice to put a face on everyone. It is a big sweet
Richard Loesel and Gulsari Byrkit
(click image to enlarge)
Thursday is the big presentation day. Richard is
talking about himself to American Collectors. I am
translating. I am so nervous. He is so nervous but
everything goes well. We have a great response and we
have more people visiting us at our table. American
collectors love his work. He is having a good time.
Each minute is filled with great conversations. I really
like to gather around a glass of wine at the end of the
day with the artists. I could never imagine I would
ever get that close to these talented people. Star struck
Friday is live demonstration day. This is one of the
best parts of the PCA Convention. All the artists
present work together. It is so captivating: constant
movement, constant creation. You don't know where
to look. They are doing what they love. We feel part of
Saturday. It is hard to believe this is our final day in
Dearborn. Identification Clinic is fun. The Dealers
Fair is open to the public. It is final hours for finding
deals. Artists, dealers are wrapping it up. Hardest
hours are during the Banquet Night. We know as all
good things, this is coming to an end. I don't want the
servers to bring dessert. Can you please slow down?
And here we are already saying goodbyes. How did
this happen? Where did the four days go? I am sad
to leave. This wasn't enough. But I am thinking all
the friends I have now. They are not just social media
Do you know how it feels to be here for the first time?
Think of your favorite children's book. For years you
just turn the pages, looking at pictures, those colorful
pages with all these personalities. You just turn pages
and dream, and dream. You feel like an outsider. One
day in May 2019, you open the first page. A book
character grabs you by the hand and pulls you in.
Suddenly you are part of their world. You are part of
the action. You are a book character. You are not in
your quiet shell anymore. You have BECOME part of
the book. You are one of them. You know what you
were missing out. You just wonder why you waited
Richard Loesel at dealer fair
(click image to enlarge)
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