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Featured Artist Archive
Paperweight Collectors Association Inc.

Featured Artist Archive > December, 2011


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Greg Hanson spent his young life in Michigan, later moving to Wisconsin where he pursued a varied career for nearly 40 years which included cartography, land use planning, regional transport planning, managing the transportation services for a shortline railroad, and eventually "retiring" as a traffic engineering systems technician specializing in traffic signal systems. Greg became fascinated with glass for its beauty and the magic of manipulating and watching hot glass. In 2004 glass became his primary vocation and after a short spell in California he moved to Portland, Oregon in 2007.

Greg works with a specialized torch and borosilicate glass tubes and rods, to create blown beads, ornaments, goblets, and perfumes as well as his solid form paperweights, cabochons, buttons, and marbles. He uses a technique that emulates the offhand glassblowing process - blowing and manipulating a "gather" of glass at the end of a glass tube or solid rod in a fashion similar to working a gather of glass at the end of a blowpipe. He developed this technique in the early 1980s at a time when lampworking information was virtually non-existent and colored borosilicate glass all but impossible to find, especially in the hinterlands of Wisconsin.

Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s Greg made flat buttons for use primarily as closures for beaded bracelets and necklaces as well as for clothing, knitwear, purses, etc. During those years he intermittently experimented with making paperweight type buttons using techniques he had developed for making marbles and cabochons. At button shows he began to collect paperweight buttons and learn about their history, searching for information on the early paperweight button makers especially Charles Kaziun, Jr. who started his paperweight making career making paperweight style buttons. The information about Kaziun led to further research on the golden age paperweights, 1840-1860, and Greg also built up a collection of the old Annual Bulletins of the Paperweight Collectors Association.

He has continued to develop his own methods and style and whilst the concept of a paperweight is easy to understand, he has found the actual making of millefiori, forming flower forms, learning proportions, understanding the magnification effect of the glass cap, etching, cutting and polishing, etc. is a very complicated process involving many steps from initial planning to final cold working. Greg has also made his own wooden shaping tools, wooden millefiori cups, and cutting setups to facilitate his paperweight making, all of which he found had their own learning curves.

Greg makes his paperweights with borosilicate glass which behaves very differently from soft glass. Borosilicate glass is much stiffer than soft glass, i.e., it does not flow like soft glass which creates another set of challenges. Also, the borosilicate color range is very limited compared to soft glass. Many of the colors are composed of metallic oxides that react to the flame environment (oxidation and reduction) and change with working time. And also, upon re-annealing, the oxide colors continue to change with each annealing cycle — with some pieces living in the kiln for months before he is satisfied with the development of the color. The oxide laden colors also affect the adjacent colors, producing another layer of complexity in determining which colors work well together and how to effectively utilize this characteristic.

Numerous people have suggested that Greg should turn to soft glass to make paperweights but he appreciates the remarkable qualities of borosilicate glass that give him the freedom to create in his own way.

Greg Hanson's work is displayed in galleries and museums in many States of the US and in Japan. His glass creations are in collections throughout the US, Scandinavia, Europe, South America, Japan and China. This picture shows a selection of styles and surface treatments of Greg's button paperweights.

More of his work can be seen on his website at and Greg can be contacted at

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