Clara Driscoll: A Secret Genius At Tiffany Studios

Wisteria Lamp, designed by Clara Driscoll. The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, by Martin Eidelberg, et al. Vendome Press, New York, 2005.

Wisteria Lamp, designed by Clara Driscoll. The Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany, by Martin Eidelberg, et al. Vendome Press, New York, 2005.

A NEW WOMAN come to life! Clara Driscoll was the sort of gal who bicycled around Manhattan in a short skirt (above the ankles), actively followed politics and happened to design some of the most beautiful pieces of American decorative art for her boss Louis Tiffany like the lamp above. Her letters seem to suggest that she may have come up with the nature themed lamps altogether. Louis Tiffany is quoted as saying,  “A lamp may be as much an object of art as a painting or a piece of statuary. In fact, it should be,” but as Susan Vreeland notes, never mentions who first designed them.

The artist at work. Metropolitan Museum of Art

The artist at work.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

This doesn’t mean he didn’t appreciate Clara. Although at first he was adamantly opposed to hiring women, he had a small group of them who handled the intricate glass cutting of some of his projects. After Clara’s husband died she went back to work for him.

Once it became clear what a talent she was “he rewarded Clara by giving her ever greater responsibility, an expansive budget, considerable artistic freedom, invitations to his home studio, and in the summer of 1907, a deluxe three-month trip abroad to photograph and sketch in Brittany with Tiffany himself and several other artists from the firm. For as long as he was able, he defended her imaginative but costly designs against the more pragmatic assessments of his managerial staff and eventually a strike of the men’s department.”  Breaking Tiffany’s Glass Ceiling

Unknown artists on Tiffany roof.

Unknown artists on Tiffany roof.

“. . . this is rather difficult work, but when one has a fondness for a certain brand of industry, she does not pause when a difficulty must be overcome.… The work is a new departure for women, and I believe that they like it. For myself, I am exceedingly fond of it, much more so than of mere designing.”