Miniature Masterpieces

Small details make a big difference for Vermont-based CoolSnowGlobes.

By Margot Douaihy

Want to hold a city in your hands? Ever long to keep a season alive—dazzling autumn foliage, late summer gold, or the enchantment of winter dusk? This is the promise of CoolSnowGlobes, a company based in Windsor, Vermont, who is offering a fresh spin on a familiar miniature.

Liz Ross and David Westby, the married art-and-design talent behind CoolSnowGlobes, are on a mission to redefine the product category. By focusing on fine details, high-art features, and inventive storytelling, Ross, Westby, and their team of four hope to elevate the water sphere from airport kitsch into a treasured objet d'art. With their expanding distribution network and promising year-on-year growth, Ross and Westby are taking this small idea global.

Marvelous Night for a Snow Dance

Originally inspired by Vermont’s rapturous landscapes, the CoolSnowGlobes archive now consists of hundreds of models. Their inventory includes in-stock globes as well as bespoke projects developed for custom clients, including the Statue of Liberty, the White House, Harrods of London, Sundance, Burberry, Metropolitan Opera, and more.

Liz Ross explains how every sphere is unique but what unites them is their dynamism, the way the blizzard of glitter or snow swirls and suspends. The snow dance is even slower in a CoolSnowGlobes model due to a special design element, a guarded recipe.

“For us, the magic is in the moment. No tricks. No gimmicks,” Ross explained. “Our snow globes are exquisite gifts, but they are also individual experiences.” From the iridescence of Moonlight to the crisp thrill of Skiers to the lithe beauty of the Degas Dancer, all CoolSnowGlobes are invitations to put down the phone, slow down, and be present.

Designed by Vermont Artists

To create full immersion within the encased dioramas, even the smallest details matter, said David Westby. “The quality of the glass, the weight of the globe in the hand, and the iconic square black base," he said, are all carefully considered by the designers.

Indeed, the bold piano black base is the signature feature of CoolSnowGlobes. “We designed the base as a pedestal for the art inside our globes,” Ross enthused, “inspired by the way museums exhibit their art.” Frames—or bases—help viewers focus on the magic inside.

Another company hallmark is the expressive nature of the characters, whether they are people or animals. One look at the jaunty red king of the Cardinal Snow Globe—his beak open in song— will keep you transfixed. Individually hand-cast and hand-painted, CoolSnowGlobes are found in museum stores around the world, as detailed as the museum artwork itself. The shimmering Jatte

Snow Globe, for example, brings to life a beloved painting by the father of Pointillism, George Seurat.


Ross and Westby merge their passion for fine arts, design, and New England nature with their diverse product development experience to create globes that will appeal to an ever-evolving market: collectors, enthusiasts, gift-givers, and seekers of the whimsical.

Ross, a fine art painter and author of Windsor, a book on the Vermont city’s history, is especially keen on the power of a snow globe to evoke literary worlds.

“Each globe tells a story,” said Ross, “but the story never ends the same way twice.” In the Cat on Books globe, luminous beauty unfolds, evoking C. S. Lewis’s Narnia or the restless ghosts in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude.

The elevated snow globe concept emerged for Ross more than a decade ago when her carpal tunnel was so overwhelming she lost the use of her hands. “All I could do was sit and think,” she recalled. Thus, a oneiric snowscape born.

2D Meets 3D

From their Vermont studio, the CoolSnowGlobes team designs the collections as well as the custom models. The company ships more than 100,000 pieces worldwide annually, and the company continues to expand.

Employing the latest technological processes is critical to CoolSnowGlobes’s expansion, and it gives the company an artistic edge. After an initial concept is established, the 3D team gets to work, building intricate models for reproduction. Three-dimensional scanning provides the freedom to push beyond expected scenes and embrace more surprising designs, such as the kinetic Ice Skaters globe and Jon Jonik’s iconic cartoon wit in The New Yorker custom globes.

Forecast: Delight

What was once a paperweight has a new raison d'etre in our paperless, hyperconnected world. Each quiet turn of the Crystal Buddha orb will relax and refresh the viewer as glitter hovers and falls.

A meticulous toy for adults, elevated nostalgia item, or an imaginative note to self? It depends on who is holding the globe. What’s certain is that in all CoolSnowGlobes the weather forecast is the same: chillingly beautiful. Expect a glitter storm with a 100 percent chance of delight.

“We’re colluding with beauty,” said Westby.

Margot Douaihy is the author of Scranton Lace (Clemson University Press). She serves as the editor of the Northern New England Review published by Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. Find her on Twitter @MargotDouaihy.