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The Great Tiffany Lamp Secret - Clara Driscoll
Clara Driscoll 1861 - 1944
Clara Driscoll went on to become the driving force behind the designs so synonymous with the Tiffany Studio. As Manager of the Women’s Cutting Room Department it was Clara who thought up the delicate wisteria, peony and daffodil copper foiled lampshades. She drew the dragonflies, moths, peacocks and butterflies that went to produce the iconic images of Louis C. Tiffany’s famous works.
It wasn’t until recently that her story was told and for a century it was believed that Louis Tiffany was exclusively responsible for the company’s design work. Before the arrival of Driscoll the studio’s output consisted of plain, geometric and regular forms. When this talented, young woman joined the design team the lamps, tea screens and decorative objects took on a completely new style.
Clara Driscoll - Early Years
Born Clara Pierce Wolcott in 1861 Tallmadge, Ohio, she was one of four sisters, who when their father died were encouraged to continue into higher education. Clara’s love of art saw her attend classes in Cleveland and later when she moved to New York she enrolled in the Metropolitan Museum Art School. The school was a fertile breading ground for skilled craftspeople and when Tiffany spotted her talent she went on to work for 20 years for him creating some of the most memorable images of the Arte Nouveau period.
Tiffany had an interest in nature and was a keen amateur gardener but Driscoll being brought up on a farm gave first hand experience of the wonders of the countryside and her designs were a simple expression of her childhood years.
Tiffany Lamp Studio
Driscoll only left the company in 1909 when she re-married and was forced to leave, as the company barred married women from being employed. Despite continuing to paint on silks her career never really reached the heights it did during her time at Tiffany’s studio.
Clara was only ever mentioned once in company articles, when her name appeared in the New York Times in 1904, identifying her as the designer of the Dragonfly lamp, which won an award at the Paris International Exposition of 1900.
Curator, Nina Gray finally uncovered Driscolls story while researching the “Tiffany Girls” and reading her letters in the archives of the Kent State University. It was here that Gray discovered the truth behind many of the designs produced over the years at Tiffany’s and enabled Clara Driscoll’s true story to be told.