Stratoz and I took an excursion to see the Tiffany Lamps on display at the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA. The gallery was darkened, with the lamps glowing like fireflies. It reminded me that I had a book, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls. I finally read it, and was entranced with Clara’s account of her life as an artist in Tiffany’s workshop in his “Women’s Glass Cutting Section.” Many of the lamps are attributed to her and her department. Tiffany had an amazing vision of beauty, and the workshop was his creation, but at the same time, the actual designs for lamps and mosaiced desk sets came from Clara Driscoll’s imagination.
Clara had her own studio space and her letters are full of specific details of the process of making stained glass. It’s exciting to read an account of a woman, at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, in the midst of her creative life. If a woman married, then she had to leave her job at Tiffany and Clara married 3 times in the course of her tenure. Her first husband died shortly into the marriage, so she returned to her job, and her next husband disappeared, and again she returned but with her final marriage she left permanently. It’s hard for me to reconcile how much Clara seems to have enjoyed her work and how wonderful her designs were, and the automatic ceasing of her work because she was a married woman.
Tiffany claimed that women were more sensitive to colors in glass than men, and that’s why he created a Women’s Department. I would imagine being able to pay them less than men could’ve also been a lure, but he recognized the excellence of Clara’s designs. She had a dream of starting a weaving cooperative in her home town in Ohio, to help young girls earn money, and work together. She didn’t get a chance to bring this into reality, but her work with the Tiffany Girls left a lasting legacy, even if mostly unknown by name.
Over on Stratoz’s Blog: