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The Great Tiffany Lamp Secret - Clara Driscoll

Updated on April 13, 2014

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.

Dragonfly
Dragonfly

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.

Dogwood Lamp
Dogwood Lamp
Peony Lamp
Peony Lamp

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.

Daffodil Lamp
Daffodil Lamp

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.

Dragonfly Lamp
Dragonfly Lamp

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.

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    • profile image

      Carol Brusegar 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the Hub! I too love Tiffany lamps and remember reading a bit about Ms. Driscoll but had forgotten. The story reveals some interesting historical perspective for sure!!

    • profile image

      thoughtfulgirl2 

      7 years ago

      Great post; as a female artist it must have been enormously difficult to be recognized in the early 1900's. I didn't know she was behind many of the great designs at Tiffany.

    • ProFreelance profile image

      ProFreelance 

      7 years ago

      Well, I suppose this is why Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" is so popular. It puts a face with the name, so to speak, with a little background flavor...pull all the details together, and the legend becomes real. And who doesn't like a story that gives credit for something amazing to someone who deserved it but never got it? Thanks for sharing!

    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR

      knell63 

      7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Thanks all, nice to see such interest in a sadly much overlooked and talented designer.

    • profile image

      gypsy willow 

      7 years ago

      I had no idea about her work either. Well done!

    • profile image

      Essam 

      7 years ago

      Very nice, Thanks

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 

      7 years ago from U.S.

      I love Tiffany lamps as well and I never knew the history behind the Tiffany lamp. Thanks for the interesting info!

    • profile image

      Tiffany 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting read, I have always been attracted to Tiffany Lamps and assumed Louis Tiffany had created all of the designs. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      I love Tiffany Lamps and am surprised they are not more popular. They give such a beautiful light. Thankyou for your wonderful hub about her life.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 

      7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      What an interesting story knell63 and what beautiful Tiffany lamps!

    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR

      knell63 

      7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Neither had I Suzie until I was reading about Tiffany lamps for a totally separate piece and came across her name. So sad that her talent wasn't recognized in her own lifetime. I'm glad you found it of interest.TY

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 

      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Nice - I never heard of her before - thanks.

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