Saturday, January 30

Clara Driscoll 1861-1944

Clara Driscoll, in white blouse standing far left, with the Tiffany Girls” on the roof of Tiffany Studios, from about 1904. 

Clara Driscoll (1861–1944) of Tallmadge, Ohio was director of the Tiffany Studios' Women's Glass Cutting Department (the "Tiffany Girls"), in New York City. They chose the colors and type of glass to be used in the studios' famous glass items. Before her arrival the lamps had a static and geometric look and feel. As the creative force behind the Tiffany lamp she was director, designer and craftsman of the more than thirty most spectacular Tiffany lamps produced by the company; among them the famous Wisteria, Dragonfly, Peony, and from all accounts her first—the Daffodil.
"Virtually nothing was known about this artistically gifted genius until quite recently. It had always been thought that Louis Comfort Tiffany was the man, the "brains," and the chief designer behind the greatest of the Tiffany leaded lamps.

 Clara in the Tiffany Workshop 1901 assisted by Joseph Briggs
Clara Driscoll was born Clara Pierce Wolcott on December 15, 1861. She lost her father at the age of 12. Unusual for that time, she, along with her equally bright and motivated three younger sisters, was encouraged to pursue a higher education. Clara showed a flair for art, and after attending design school in Cleveland and working for a local furniture maker, she moved to New York and enrolled at the then new Metropolitan Museum Art School. Her artistic potential was apparent and she was hired by the famed Tiffany Studios. She remained there, designing and directing the designs of lamps, mosaics, windows, and other decorative objects for more than 20 years–a marvelous legacy.
Driscoll's first husband, Frances Driscoll, died and she remained a widow until re-marrying in 1909, an event which ended her career at Tiffany, as married women were not allowed to work there.
All records for Tiffany Studios were lost after it closed in the early 1930s. It was only through the combined efforts of Martin Eidelberg (professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers University), as well as an independent scholar and former curator at the New-York Historical Society, and Margaret K. Hofer (curator of decorative arts, New-York Historical Society), that Clara Driscoll came to the attention of the world.
While doing research for a book on Tiffany at the Queens Historical Society, a curator found the historically valuable letters written by Driscoll to her mother and sisters during the time she was employed at Tiffany.The New York Times quoted the curator as saying: "They brought out two books and several boxes, all letters, and I think the first thing I read was about how she had designed a daffodil lamp. And I started squealing. At the top it said something like ‘Noon at Tiffany’s,’ so it was during her lunch hour. What do you do with something like that?”
Martin Eidelberg had seen the correspondence independently and after comparing notes their conclusion was beyond doubt. In fact, it was not Louis Comfort Tiffany nor his considerable staff of male designers who had designed and crafted the studio's most well-known and valuable lamps. It was Clara Driscoll and her relatively small group of ladies known as the "Tiffany Girls" who had mastered the craft and brought nature, specifically flowers, to glorious life in glass.
The New-York Historical Society's very fine exhibit "A New Light on Tiffany" (November 27, 2006) showcasing Driscoll's (and her "girl's") work was the result of the investigative efforts of Eidelberg, another curator and Hofer. The New York Times on February 25, 2007 reported: "As the exhibition was being installed, some of these little metal silhouettes used to make a gorgeous daffodil lamp shade were still jumbled in a box on a storage table. Meaningless on their own, when put in order they bring to life an exquisite object, just as the show itself, a puzzle now assembled, illuminates the talented women who had long stood in the shadow of a celebrated man."

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