Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Louis Comfort Tiffany is a man whose name has gone down in history for his beautiful, artistic Tiffany lamps and stained glass windows.  Clara Driscoll works for Mr. Tiffany as a designer at the head of his women's department beginning in 1892.  When Clara sees the infinite beauty in the stained glass windows she creates for the World's Fair in Chicago, she envisions a lamp shade of leaded glass with the natural world shining through. Clara becomes the creator and designer behind the elegant Tiffany lamps and is never publicly acknowledged.

Clara's first design is the butterfly lamp and it is exquisite.  She makes a wage of 35 dollars a week, is praised for her artistry and yet she is excluded from the union because she is a woman.  She works amid sexism, as Mr. Tiffany refuses to hire a woman who is married and so Clara and her girls must decide between being a working woman or a married woman.  The women's department at Tiffany's Studio continues to grow but the men in the window department think they are taking their livelihood and strike, trying to force the women out of their jobs. 

Vreeland has written a beautiful, heartfelt story that shines and sparkles like colored glass.  Her characters are multifaceted and unique, just like the Tiffany lamps that Clara creates.  I own a dragonfly Tiffany lamp and I don't think I will look at it in quite the same way.  Several times, I got up and studied my lamp and read near it, thinking about Clara and her girls working in the studio and fighting for their right to earn a wage.  An illustrated edition of Clara and Mr. Tiffany would be appreciated as the reader could gain much knowledge from viewing the actual creation of the lamps.

Vreeland has a gift for capturing the details of an era and the creativity of women whom history has hidden under the shadows of men.  Vreeland is a gifted storyteller who inspires and teaches her readers to love art and value women's history and our hard fought human rights.  The right to work, the right to vote, the right to create beautiful art and the right to be remembered in history.

"We have a motto for tomorrow, and it's the same motto as Susan B. Anthony's motto." "The true republic-men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.'" Pg. 319