Sunday, March 20, 2011

if only dreams came true

One of my more hopeful dreams in life is to own a Tiffany window. I love the color and the elegance of his stained glass. Unless I win the lottery, I fear this dream will not be fulfilled. Sigh.

One Sunday, listening to NPR on the way to church, I heard an interview about a novel about Mr. Tiffany. Amazingly, I remembered the title of the book and managed to request it when I got to work the following day. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland is the story of Clara Driscoll, the woman in charge of the women's department (yes, in New York in the 1890s--Mr. Tiffany thought women had a better eye for color and a more delicate touch with the many small pieces in any stained glass project) at Louis Comfort Tiffany's studio (not to be confused with Tiffany jewelry, the company owned by Tiffany Senior). Clara was the force behind the popular and amazingly beautiful Tiffany lamps (okay, if I can't have a window, a lamp would be a lovely replacement!).

While some of the story was a little over the top, the detailed descriptions of New York in the 1890s and early 1900s were amazing--the city was booming and growing and starting to be the highly energetic city it is now. The descriptions of the artistry and hard work involved in making stained glass were fascinating--Tiffany patented many forms of glass (rippled, striated, opalescent and more) and changed the face of the decorative arts in America. The city, the Tiffany company and all of the vast array of characters--the people living in Clara's boarding house, the girls of various ethnic and social backgrounds who were a part of the design department, Clara's artistic friends and more--are so charming and interesting--I finished the book last night and I already miss them!

I've spent some time researching Clara Driscoll on the internet, trying to find picture of the windows and lamps mentioned in the book. She was not given credit for her work--all designs were credited to Mr. Tiffany--but do look up dragonfly lamps and wisteria lamps and the underwater scene lamp and appreciate her talent. And read the book!

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