Clara Driscoll – December 15, 1861 – November 6, 1944
Three distinct thoughts come to mind at the mention of the name Tiffany: An iconic jewel-bearing blue box, nature themed glass lamps and Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s film.
Charles Lewis Tiffany founded the company associated with the blue box, in 1837 as a stationary and upscale home goods emporium with a friend, John Young. Nearly twenty years later, he took the company over himself, renaming it “Tiffany & Company” with a sole focus on producing high-end jewelry.
Another twenty years later, just after the transformation of Tiffany & Company, in 1878, Charles’ son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, founded his own artistic endeavor in the opening of a studio producing nature- themed leaded glass lamps. Since its inception, the public has believed all the lamps, mosaics, and decorative arts to come from that studio to be the design (and also mostly the construction) of Mr. Louis C. Tiffany. It was an image the man worked hard to protect and further. A recent discovery, however, has introduced the world to Mrs. Clara Driscoll, whom we now recognize as the actual designer of most of Mr. Tiffany’s designs and the head of the “Tiffany Girls,” a group of 35 young female artists primarily responsible for the studio’s glass cutting and lamp construction.
Mrs. Driscoll went to work for Tiffany in 1888, after having attended both a design school in Cleveland, Ohio and working in a furniture deign studio before attending the Metropolitan Museum Art School in New York. Over the course of her twenty years with the studio, she was the primary designer for all the nature themed lamps, mosaics and decorative pieces produced there, including the Dragonfly lamp, which won her an award at the 1900 World’s Fair.
Had a box of round-robin style letters, written between her, her mother and her aunts, not been recently discovered and had a contemporary trio of art professionals not investigated the truths contained within them, the secret of her talent, intellect and life’s work might have remained uncovered.