John Deacons Paperweights
and the Scottish Tradition

John Deacons paperweight Paperweight by John Deacons

Above: A Superb Millefiori Piedouche or Pedestal paperweight with silhouette canes and facet cutting, by John Deacons.

John Deacons stands in a long tradition of paperweight making in Scotland which was greatly influenced by Salvador Ysart and his four sons, the most famous of whom was Paul. The Ysarts were a family of Spanish immigrants who all worked for the Moncrieff Glassworks in the 1920s and 1930s. They made commercial glassware and the famous "Monart" series of art glass bowls, vases, and lamps. Salvador and Paul were the ones most interested in paperweights.

"Vasart" was a company set up by Salvador, Augustine and Vincent Ysart in the mid-1940s when they left Moncrieff. They made very similar glassware to "Monart" and they also made a popular line in millefiori paperweights.

Paul Ysart stayed with Moncrieff until 1962, when he was persuaded to join Caithness Glass as Training Officer. During his time at Moncrieff and also at Caithness, Paul was allowed to use the glass-making facilities to make his paperweights. After he retired at age 65 he set up his own factory at Harland, near Wick, just making paperweights. One of his last apprentices was Willie Manson who later founded Willie Manson Paperweights (1997-2003).

Meantime, the Vasart company was a successful family operation but when Salvador died in 1955 and Augustine in 1956, Vincent took in a partner and formed Vasart Glass Ltd (1956). In 1960 they employed Stuart Drysdale as manager and in 1963 they became involved with Teacher's Whisky, making souvenir ashtrays from flattened whisky bottles. But they were not able to reach the production levels that Teachers required, and in 1965 Teachers bought Vasart Glass Ltd and moved into a new purpose-built factory in nearby Crieff, changing the company name to Strathearn Glass.

Strathearn paperweight
Above: A typical Strathearn millefiori star-shaped paperweight.

Strathearn Glass was a good place to work, with new facilities and a large company employer. They could make eight times the production levels of Teacher's novelty ashtrays as had been acheived at Vasart Glass. They also continued with the art glass and paperweight production, with very similar designs. Some 12 years later, in 1980, the flattened whisky bottle ashtrays were not longer so popular and Teachers sold Strathearn Glass to Stuart Crystal. When the Strathearn Glassworks was sold by Teacher's, John Deacons bought all the Strathearn moulds (mostly vase moulds, no paperweight ones). Stuart's used the factory to make crystal blanks for cutting at their Stourbridge factory in England. They no longer made the Strathearn range of art glass nor paperweights.

star millefiori by John Deacons
Above: This star-shaped millefiori paperweight by John Deacons follows an Ysart and Strathearn tradition.

Going back to the early years at Strathearn Glass, John Deacons started his glass career there in the mid 1960s. In 1968 he was persuaded to leave Strathearn and join with Stuart Drysdale, Jack Allan, and Peter McDougall in a new glassworks which would only make high-quality paperweights. Perthshire Paperweights was the name of the company. Jack Allan, who had been Salvador Ysart's last apprentice at Vasart Glass, was the master glassmaker. And they did indeed make superb quality paperweights. John Deacons described his time at Perthshire Paperweights as "the best apprenticeship you can imagine". He was involved in every stage of setting up the factory as well as becoming their leading paperweight maker.

Perthshire paperweight
Above: Perthshire millefiori paperweight .

The paperweight shown above has a Perthshire signature cane in the base consisting of a P surrounded by the date 1996, together with a paper label. It was a Limited Edition weight with the code reference PP173.

Unfortunately Stuart Drysdale died in 1990 and his son Neil, who took over the business, died just over ten years later in 2001. Perthshire Paperweights closed down in early 2002.

However John Deacons had left long before the end, to form his own paperweight company, "J" Glass in 1978. John does not enjoy working in a factory environment, and "J" Glass was a much smaller operation than Perthshire Paperweights. The quality of "J" Glass paperweights was outstanding, and these paperweights are highly sought after by collectors today. The company was hit by a recession in 1983 and John closed down the factory operation. He set up a much smaller studio in 1984 where he continues today, assisted by his son Craig.

Millefiori paperweight by Deacons
Above: John Deacons millefiori paperweight with radial twists.

John Deacons continues the tradition of Ysart and Perthshire millefiori and lampwork paperweights. His studio is small and very cost-effective. He no longer makes "limited edition" paperweights, because he enjoys the freedom to make as many or as few as he wishes of a design, and then move on to something different. Apart from his traditional concentric millefiori designs, all his work is produced in small numbers.

fish on scrambled muslin background
Above: John Deacons paperweight fish on a lace or upset muslin background.

"Upset muslin" or "Lace" backgrounds, like the paperweight shown above and the two below, are a theme which goes back to the Ysarts in Scotland. The background is made from pieces of latticino canes jumbled together. John has made a superb series of these types of paperweight.

Butterflies on lace by John Deacons Flowers and butterflies on lace by John Deacons
Above: Butterflies, dragonflies and flowers on lace paperweight by John Deacons.

Another theme from John has been silhouette canes in paperweights. In this picture below you can see John's feet on either side of a special mould for making the silhouette cane of a rabbit. The piedouche (pedestal) paperweight at the top of this page has several silhouettes. There is a rabbit at the bottom center of the picture, also a cockerel, a ram, a deer, and a dog. In the center is John's signature cane, the Scottish thistle, and to the left of the deer is a JD cane.

John Deacons with rabbit mould
Above: John Deacons showing how a rabbit silhouette cane is made.

The paperweight shown below is a 32-stave crown weight used as an overlay with a blue internal cushion and flowers, leaves, buds and a buterfly inside. The top is facetted flat to form a viewing window, and it has a signature JD and date cane on the bottom. There is a huge amount of skill in making a paperweight such as this one.

Crown overlay weight by Deacons
Above: John Deacons 32-stave crown overlay paperweight with internal flowers, leaves and butterfly.

Here is another piedouche paperweight, this one with an upset muslin background and a design of lampworked flowers and leaves. The center of each flower is a tiny millefiori cane. You can also see the signature JD cane just below the bow on the flower stems in the picture below.

Piedouche paperweight with flowers, by Deacons
Above: Piedouche paperweight with flowers, by Deacons

John Deacons and his son Craig make many designs of millefiori paperweights and regularly introduce new designs. The paperweight bottle shown below follows a long tradition in Scotland. Note the Scottish Thistle signature cane in the center of the stopper.

Bottle by John Deacons Bottle by John Deacons
Above: Millefiori bottle paperweight by John Deacons.

The strong tradition of superb millefiori and lampwork paperweight making in Scotland which began with the Ysarts, has spawned several master glass artists with studios in Central Scotland. Apart from John Deacons and his son Craig, these include Willie Manson and his son from Perth, Peter Holmes and his son, Selkirk Glass, (both south of Edinburgh) and Peter McDougall in Crieff. Caithness Glass, which started making paperweights when Paul Ysart worked there in the 1960s, continues to make paperweights at their Perth factory.

Scottish paperweights are recognised and valued by collectors world-wide, a fitting tribute to the great artists who made them.

Below: John Deacons and his son Craig in their studio, May 2003.
John Deacons and his son Craig in their studio.

If you are looking for Deacons paperweights you can usually find a selection on offer on ebay. - click Deacons Glass.

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