In common with most of the other Scottish paperweight manufactories, the staff behind the John Deacons name circulated around a number of other paperweight making companies before settling at the business which ultimately made their names.
The founding father himself - John Deacons - began at Strathearn Glass in latter part of the 1960’s, and proved so adept during the early part of his career that he was one of those approached to move to Perthshire Paperweights when Stuart Drysdale struck out on his own, cherry-picking the best of those who had worked under him in Crieff.
Such is the constantly evolving nature of the trade that having contributed to Perthshire’s success, Deacons himself determined to make his own way, and started up his own business under the name of J-Glass a decade or so after having been ‘poached’.
Deacons was primarily a lover of ‘classical’ paperweights, especially those made in mid 19th century Bohemia, but in order to broaden the appeal of his company’s product range he sought out a lampwork specialist alongside whom he could work. This, it transpired, was to be Allan Scott, a former Perthshire alumnus who had been apprenticed alongside Deacons. The company could now meet the demand for butterfly and flower paperweights, the creation of which was Scott's forte.
Deacons and Halls were kept busy producing weights which, for the most part, were exported to the United States, including an opening to the west coast market orchestrated by no less than Larry Selman, one of the foremost names in the business. As was often the case, weights were produced in limited production runs to ensure that there was high demand the instant that a new design was released – though this was, of course, predicated on the fact that collectors new in advance that the items would be of an exceptionally high quality.
Unfortunately, the austerity of the early to mid 1980’s did Deacons no favours at all and as high-end demand fell away, insolvency loomed; perhaps a supply of more affordable, commodity weights would have kept the wolf from the door…
John Deacons was eventually able to restart production after a hiatus a couple of years or so, but on very much of a ‘cottage industry’ scale, with the quality of outturn remaining very high, but production costs being kept as low as possible to ensure that the paperweights remained within reach for clients. This extended to the facility to produce what were essentially ‘one off’ designs, produced – in true artisan style – in a converted cow barn !
What this does mean is that there is a very wide range of paperweights which carry the John Deacons name – everything from single flowers to intricate bouquets, classic millefiori to facetted double-overlays and from Christmas special editions to facsimiles of 19th century St Louis hand-coolers.
Paperweights which can be attributed to John Deacons may have one of three different "standard' signature canes - a single J cane, a JD cane or an StK cane - the latter standing for St Kilda, a Deacons brand name taken from a Hebridean island; there was also an on-line discussion some years ago which hinted at the use of a StA cane, for St Andrews (an alternate brand name for export items), and of JHD canes, so these are definitely ones to keep an eye out for if you are looking to acquire less common John Deacons paperweights !