You think "paperweight,"
you don't usually think fine art. "When I describe them to people, I say I make small-scale glass sculptures," says
Melissa. "because when you talk about paperweights, they think about some plastic thing with a fake butterfly in it.
Then they look at our work, and say 'How did you do that?'"
A Rick Ayotte original
doesn't usually fetch 14 grand, but his pieces can go for several thousand dollars. Melissa isn't quite in that bracket, but
you can pay a thousand or more for one of hers. And if you visited their studio, you'd understand why.
On one tabletop is a stunning array of miniature leaves, flower petals, and other replicas of nature. Rick is hunched
over a Bunsen burner, making tiny leaves one at a time. Some are less than a quarter inch from end to end, and all are accurate
reproductions. "It's an interesting thing," says Melissa, "to break down a flower and know it from inside
out, and try and uncover how this was actually created, and how can I do this in glass. The mystery of nature is never so
apparent." They also re-create insects, birds, and other small critters.
Ayotte paperweight contains dozens, or even hundreds, of handmade miniature pieces enveloped in a perfect globe of glass.
Rick isn't boasting when he says, "Most of the stuff we do is unique in the world."
The father-daughter partnership may not be as unique as their work, but it's certainly unusual. "99 percent
of the time I'd say it works very, very well," says Rick. "We work well together artistically, that's for sure.
She has a different outlook, and that can lead to nice avenues. I might try something I wouldn't normally try."
"Others would not have chosen to follow in the footsteps" of a famous parent, says Melissa. But she agrees
that it works well: "There's plenty of interaction. We have a fun time. There's always a small tension, as in any family
business." She says working together has made their relationship stronger and deeper. And it has allowed her to quickly
hone her skills; she freely acknowledges that working with a master is a huge advantage.
Rick may have a lot more experience, but he treats Melissa as a complete equal. He appreciates the talents that she
brings to the partnership: "She knows a lot more about art than I do, believe it or not. She's studied art, music, all
those things. I'm a nature guy who worked hard, but never had an art background."