Paul Arnhold is no stranger to glamorous environs. He and his husband, the fashion designer Wes Gordon, are regulars on the New York social circuit, where Paul is known for championing arts nonprofits. Outside the city, the couple regularly throws buzzed-about dinner parties at their idyllic retreat in Connecticut. One lesser-known fact about the investor and social butterfly, though, is his behind-the-scenes—and decidedly less glamorous, at least in application—pursuit of glassblowing. “Over the years, I have only parted with a few pieces, given to my closest friends and family,” he says (Martha Stewart among them). “I brought her a purple bowl for Christmas last year.”
Enter event planner extraordinaire Rebecca Gardner, whom Arnhold met through his friend Lauren Santo Domingo, a longtime client of Gardner’s. “Rebecca asked if she could sell my glass at her holiday pop-up, and I said yes,” Arnhold explains. A curated collection of his colorful vases and vessels debuted this week at Gardner’s Sugarplum shop at the St. Regis hotel in New York. A selection of pieces are also available at his friend Nell Diamond’s just-opened Hill House Home flagship on Bleecker Street.
While he's new to retail, Arnhold’s passion for glassblowing has been years in the making. He discovered the art form as an adolescent while attending Buck’s Rock summer camp in New Milford, Connecticut. “The pace of it was a good fit for my perfectionist personality,” he notes. “Working with materials over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, you don’t have time to analyze, edit, or second-guess. Without the luxury of time to hesitate, refine, or perfect, you have to adapt under pressure.” Between college, Columbia Business School, and the early years of his career, he took an eight-year hiatus from the craft, only rediscovering it when he met his husband. “For my birthday the first year that we started dating,” he explains, “Wes arranged for a glass artist in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to spend a few hours with me in his studio.” Arnhold has been quietly returning to the pre-Civil-War-era warehouse ever since.
So who or what most inspires his work? “My grandfather Henry Arnhold for his relentless passion and curiosity,” he says without skipping a beat. The elder Arnhold is something of an aesthete himself, boasting the largest private collection of Meissen porcelain in the world, some of which is on display at the Frick museum. In other words, he has a refined eye for decorative objects, making him one of the younger Arnhold’s biggest champions and toughest critics. “I recently presented him with a dark blue vase for his birthday,” the younger Arnhold continues. “He rejected it, saying, ‘This color feels sad. I want something happy.’ So without hesitation I took it back from him. The next day I dropped off six bright orange and yellow vases that he now displays next to a vitrine of his porcelain.”