Learn more about Louis Comfort Tiffany's technique...
03/26/2020 News and Film, 20th Century and Contemporary Design
As the technique for creating stained glass had gone largely unchanged since the medieval era, Tiffany's process for glass production using copper foil and leaded techniques was cutting edge for its time. The techniques he developed for cutting glass, and chemical formulas developed, allowed him to create a previously unreachable level of detail that brought about a rebirth of the medium.
The quality of the firm's work was immediately recognized worldwide and it became the gold standard. In 1893, Tiffany took the world by storm at the World Columbian Exposition, where his studio's work received a sweeping forty-four accolades. The studio's success was carried over to Europe, where at the beginning of the century, their work received the Grand Prix in Paris and St. Petersburg and gold medals in Dresden and Turin. Their work won great acclaim in the Americas, where they displayed glasswork from Philadelphia to Seattle, Canada to Mexico.
Even though Louis Comfort Tiffany's name is synonymous with the ornate style of America's Gilded Age, little was known about the day-to-day operations of his firm, as records were destroyed in the early 1930s. Luckily, a cache of letters written by Clara Driscoll, a worker at the Tiffany Studios firm, was brought to light in 2005. After the Lead Glaziers and Glass Cutters Union strike in 1892, Tiffany created the Women's Glass Cutting Department, an all-female department, led by Clara Driscoll. At its peak the department ranged from twenty-seven to thirty-five women, produced iconic lamps, mosaics, and stained glass windows.
From naturalistic and iconic lamp designs like the Dragonfly, Wisteria, and Daffodil, to The Story of the Cross window made for a Chicago chapel, to the Four Seasons window exhibited at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, the women of the Women's Glass Cutting Department continually displayed their skilled artistry. Driscoll oversaw the tedious and intensive process of selection, cutting, foiling, and assemblage of the thousands of pieces of glass it took to create each work.
Thanks to the letters from Clara Driscoll, much more is known about the highly skilled laborers and processes that went into actualizing Tiffany Studio's unparalleled designs. This trove of letters allows historians and design experts to fill in the gaps of the Studio's history and enrich the brilliance of its legacy, giving names, stories, and credits to those whose skilled handiwork has heretofore gone largely unrecognized.