Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

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Reason for Reading:
  • I saw this book when it was first released in a B&N and it’s been on my wishlist since.

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Summary from GoodReads:

It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows, which he hopes will honor his family business and earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division. Publicly unrecognized by Tiffany, Clara conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which he is long remembered.

Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman, which ultimately force her to protest against the company she has worked so hard to cultivate. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces to a strict policy: he does not hire married women, and any who do marry while under his employ must resign immediately. Eventually, like many women, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.

My Review:

My first experience with Tiffany Stained Glass was about seven years ago. My sister and I were going to garage sales around the Atlanta area and happened across an unopened box. Inside of the box was a beautiful, dome-shaped hanging lampshade… and the name on the box said it was Tiffany style.

Now, granted, it was not one of Clara’s famous designs, but it made me curious. You see, up until this point my experience with the Tiffany name was solely through a famous movie and the idea of a beautiful blue box with a white ribbon. Then we happened across this lamp.

Last summer I visited New York for the first time. I saw the tasteful, elegant facade of the famous Tiffany store, but still – the image of that lamp springs to my mind anytime I see the Tiffany name now. So it was only natural that I would be drawn to this book.

I will be honest, however. I did no research, and until I read this book I had no idea that the Tiffany behind the lamps was the son of “Tiffany & Co.” What I also had no idea of was the hard work of the unmarried women, and just how little recognition they received at the time.

Vreeland’s descriptions of Clara’s work, among others, was gorgeous. I could see the designs in my minds eye, I could imagine the images being described and felt them coming to life. My biggest complaint about this book is the lack of connection I felt to Clara.

I don’t know if that lack of connection came from the writing, or the fact that so much information is packed into this book. I feel as if I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, having to make a choice between falling for the story or falling for the details. I was lured by the lushness of the detail, so I think that it was inevitable that I was unable to connect to Clara.

In spite of that, I will recommend this book – because I have no doubt that others will find Clara and her story mesmerizing, and because this story is one that needed to be told. I will not feel silly for including in the picture of Audrey Hepburn and blue boxes, the gorgeous styling of Tiffany Stained Glass. It has a rich history and deserves to be remembered.

About the Author

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