Clara and Mr. Tiffany

I usually don’t pick a book by its cover – a way of selecting I reserve for which bottle of wine to try – but I was entranced by this one at the library the other day.

It’s about the creation of the famed Tiffany lamps and the role of the company’s all-woman department. While mostly fiction it’s based on actual events and main characters. I have found a new appreciation for Tiffany lamps because of this book. (I want to clarify that this Tiffany is the son of the famed little blue boxes Tiffany.) Before I thought the lamps fussy and not that original. But now knowing where the ideas came from and how they truly were a new and original idea, I’m hooked. I’m not saying I have to have one, but I had a chance at an authentic piece I would jump on it. It is a real departure from my usual aesthetic and I’m honestly surprised by that. This is why I’m sharing, because sometimes you have to be surprised and be outside of your “comfort level”. It’s OK to appreciate art for art’s sake.

I’ve found some images of original Tiffany lamps and I’m sure there are many more out there. Here are the ones I’m attracted too mostly because they are derived from some of my favorite flowers or because they have an interesting graphic quality.

I think my confusion about these lamp’s importance in art history is the mass-production of watered-down versions of the lamps seen too often over pool tables and kitschy English pubs. What’s lost in the mass reproduction of these lamps are the details and hand-created qualities. Here is detail of how the lamps once were, layers and layers of glass to create the right hue. I am in love with the 3 dimensional nature this image implies.

But what makes these lamps fascinating to me is the fact that Tiffany had the first and only women’s art glass department. It was still archaic in some regards; the women had to be single, if they married they had to resign immediately. (I think this was more because Tiffany wanted the women to be in love with him and his creative genius first and foremost.) The women had to fight hard for their place in history and it’s only been recently that they got the proper recognition as the creators of these lamps. I am tempted to read a biography of Louise Comfort Tiffany now but I’m afraid I’ll think most of it untrue as he took personal credit for the work his studio produced. And his studio was extremely versatile in the making of stained glass windows, mosaics, glass vases, enamels, etc. I can see I have a lot more research to do on the Tiffany Studios before I can put this topic to bed in my head!

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