Paul M. Hollister Collection, The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass
Transcribed by Bard Graduate Center
Title: Paul Hollister Interviews with Edris Eckhardt and Frances Higgins, April 28, 1984 (Rakow title: Frances and Michael Higgins, Eckhart, Heaton interview [sound recording] / with Paul Hollister, BIB ID: 168553).
Edris Eckhardt, Interviewee
Frances Higgins, Interviewee
Paul Hollister, Interviewer
Location: The Glass Gallery, Bethesda Maryland [based on internal evidence and details in Edris Eckhardt’s lecture.]
Colleen Terrell, Transcriber
Barb Elam, Editor
Natalie De Quarto, Summary
Duration: 34:36
Length: 29 pages

Note: This transcript is based upon an audiotaped recording that has been digitally converted. The recording is part of the Paul M. Hollister Collection at The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, and was transcribed at Bard Graduate Center, New York, New York, for the digital exhibition and archive Voices in Studio Glass History: Art and Craft, Maker and Place, and the Critical Writings and Photography of Paul Hollister. Usage requests for all or part of this transcript must be obtained from The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass. 

Paul Hollister often made audio recordings for research purposes in preparation for writing, including interviews with artists and curators, and lectures. The reader should bear in mind that transcriptions of these recordings reflect spoken, rather than written, prose. While every effort was made to be as accurate as possible, the sound quality of the recordings in the Paul Hollister Collection varies greatly. Transcripts have been edited for readability and occasionally condensed. They should serve as a best-effort guide to the original only and not be considered verbatim.

American artist Edris Eckhardt (1905–1998) is known internationally for her sculptural work in ceramics, glass, and bronze. She studied painting and sculpture at the Cleveland School of Art (CSA, later Cleveland Institute of Art) and worked at Cowan Pottery before returning to the CSA to teach ceramics—and later, enamel and glass—from 1933 to 1971. From 1935 to 1941, Eckhardt also was head of Cleveland’s sculpture division in the Works Progress Administration’s Public Works Arts Project. Eckhardt began working in glass in the 1950s. She rediscovered ancient Egyptian methods of enclosing gold foil between glass layers and developed many innovative new techniques, including a method for combing glass and bronze in cast sculpture.

American artist Frances Higgins, née Stewart, (1912–2004) graduated from the Georgia State College for Women and taught art at the University of Georgia before pursuing her MFA at the Chicago Institute of Design. There she met Michael Higgins, then head of the Institute’s Department of Visual Design. The two married in 1948 and founded the Higgins Studio, which specialized in enameling, slumping, and laminating sheet glass to produce decorative plates and other tableware. The Higginses sold their own design lines nationwide through department and specialty stores; they also designed for Dearborn Glass Company for six years, creating lines of iridescent and lustre glass.

Summary: In this interview at the Glass Gallery in Bethesda, Maryland, during the exhibition Four Studio Pioneers: Edris Eckhart, Maurice Heaton, Frances Higgins, Michael Higgins, Paul Hollister converses with Edris Eckhardt and, later, Frances Higgins as he walks through the gallery with each artist and discusses several examples of their work on view. Eckhardt explains the chemical methods and artistic techniques she developed over her career, and Higgins discusses the processes behind her designs with her working partner and husband, Michael Higgins, as well as the retailers who sold their work in the 1950s.

Mentioned: aluminum, Doug Anderson, Art Deco, bronze, carving, Dearborn Glass Company, fuming, Emile Gallé, Georg Jensen, glass formulas, gold leaf, Michael Higgins, investment casting, Kennedy family, lamination, lost wax process, molds, molten glass pens, oxidation, pâte-de-verre, patination, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Raymor, Richards Morgenthau, Nelson Rockefeller, slumping, stenciling, John Tenniel, Frank Lloyd Wright

Related asset: Paul Hollister, “USA Studio Glass before 1962/vor 1962: Maurice Heaton, Frances and Michael Higgins, Edris Eckhardt, Four Pioneers and True Originals/Vier Pioniere und Wegbereiter,” Neues Glas, no. 4 (October/December 1985): 232-240.

[Conversation is taking place during opening or event at the Gallery. Nonstop talk and conversation (often loud) in background throughout recording. Recording starts mid-sentence.]

Edris Eckhardt (EE): —the kind of work that I do, like those bronze and glass, because I’m a sculptor, primarily, and even my large sculptures in glass.

PH: I think—

EE: I’m only happy when I’m working with three-dimensional forms.

Paul Hollister (PH): I think Michael was talking about doing it into the bronze.

EE: Yeah. These sculptures of course.

PH: Yes. He gave you a good pitch, by the way.

EE: [laughs] He did?

PH: Yes.

EE: And let’s see this one—you can see through that. That’s a combination drawing in molten glass, fusion, and glassblowing. And this one is a vertical laminate.

PH: And what state is the bronze in at this point?

EE: Pardon?

PH: Is this all fired together, or is the bronze all done but the point—

EE: I make the glass first.

PH: Yeah.

EE: And then I do my wax model of what is going to be the bronze. The sculpture, the wax sculpture. I insert my glass, where the glass is going to be in the wax sculpture. Make the investment over the wax sculpture. Burn out the wax; pour in the bronze. And then you have to leave the bronze until it’s absolutely zero cold.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: In other words, you can’t crack it off right away, the way bronze casters do. And another thing, to make that work right, I had to remove all the water that’s in the glass formula, and I also had to have a glass that would have the same kind of contraction and expansion to heat as the bronze did. And I had to have a special bronze that I experimented with until I got one that could be poured at 2200 degrees and bring out sharp detail. And also bronze that wouldn’t shrink on cooling and crushed glass. So it was a question of making a bronze formula that would fit the situation.

PH: Is it a—

EE: And making a glass—

PH—formula with a lot of copper in it?

EE: Yes. And tin.

PH: Which is—

EE: Yeah.

PH: —more or less like glass in that respect.

EE: And it also has a lot of zinc oxide in it.

PH: Now what I don’t understand, just as an ignoramus is, when you say you make the glass first, you make the glass from the mold. You—

EE: Well, I make all my own glass. Let’s put it this way. I make all my own glass that I use. I make my glass from scratch from the raw elements.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: In other words, these colors wouldn’t fit together the way they do if I used somebody else’s glass, or any glass—

PH: Yeah, it’s all compatible.

EE: But my glass is compatible. But they’re not all the same formula—

PH: But you make it all; you make your own colors.

EE: Yes. I make my own colors. I make my own glass.

PH: How do you know it’s gonna be compatible? It’s just trial and error.

EE: No. Not anymore. Not after I’ve worked in it since 1953.

PH: But I mean it was, wasn’t it?

EE: In the beginning. Yes. Well, I make one batch of glass and then color it, from the color—or colorless glass. And calculate that out, and then I run shrinkage and firing tests even then, to see that it’s right.

PH: What do you mean, color it?

EE: Well, put the coloring oxides in—

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: —so that you’ve got blue and you’ve got green and you’ve got red. You’ve got pink.

PH: You mean afterwards. Fume it—

EE: Yeah.

PH: —fuming it.

EE: For instance, those are made with—

PH: In other words—

EE: —gold—

PH: —that green and that blue are not in the glass. They’re—well, the blue is, isn’t it?

EE: Yeah. They’re all through the glass.

PH: Yeah.

EE: That’s a blue piece of glass—

PH: Yeah.

EE: —and a green piece of glass, and her head is a white piece of glass. And you see, when I make the investment over this little wax sculpture—I make the sculptures in wax first—when I make the investment over the wax, and I melt out the wax, then I take a tweezers and put my different colored glass cullet—I don’t work like the French do with that pouring in like sand or gravel or enamels. I use solid chunks of cullet all the way from about the size of my little fingernail to about my [inaudible]—

PH: Yeah.

EE: —that I put in with the tweezers, like the—

PH: You melt those in, you drop them in—

EE: No, I don’t melt ’em in separately. I drop ’em in, the yellow in the beehive, and the white in where the knight is and the horse is, the blue where the girl is, the yellow in for her hair, the green in for the grass, and I carefully put it in with the tweezers in the right spot in the investment. And then when it fuses, that’s what you get.

PH: Hmm.

EE: And all the glasses are compatible, so I know that they’re not going to fracture. That’s even got two orange pieces of glass in it—

PH: Yeah, I see it. I see it.

EE: See, that one’s got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven different colors of glass in it. And this one has—

PH: And they all kind of bleed, do they?

EE: Yeah. A little.

PH: But you can control, you can control—

EE: Yes.

PH: —so that that’s just gonna stay there and not go through.

EE: Yes. I make my edges sharp enough so they do. And part of it—

PH: Is it—some of it looks—

EE: —part of it is a question of design. You know, that if you make a design that is going to come out right, like that. You don’t have to worry. But you could make another design and have the whole thing—[addressing someone else] oh. Thank you. I thought your coat was beautiful.

Unidentified Woman (UW): Oh, that’s made by a wife of a glassblower.

EE: Well, it is—

UW: That’s how I happened to get it.

EE: It’s one of those wearable arts.

UW: Yes. Oh, I love it.

EE: It’s beautiful.

UW: I love it. I was so [inaudible]

EE: So do I.

UW: [laughs] Well, [inaudible]

PH: You were saying about that—

EE: This has about—

PH: —that it was hard to go wrong.

EE: Yes, because you see this one has got very curvy lines. And it’s all greens.

PH: This is a head.

EE: Yeah. And it’s greens and blues. And this one, this little—

PH: Fawn or deer?

EE: —has about seven different shades of red, brown, orange, amber, red in it. And brown. And crystal.

PH: It looks like pâte de verre, doesn’t it. It has that—

EE: Except that it—

PH: —sort of—

EE: —except that it doesn’t have the—

PH: —sugary—

EE: It doesn’t look like sugar. And that’s what I hated about pâte de verre. I did not want my work to look like that pâte de verre. I wanted it to look like glass.

PH: Some of Doug Anderson’s pâte de verre has a glassy look, like that translucency there.

EE: And you take this, all of these have the look—

PH: That looks like jade.

EE: Yes. And look at the horse.

PH: Yeah.

EE: Now when that horse gets the right light, that has green in it, amber, and gold, and brown.

PH: And then fumed on the surface in addition?

EE: Yes. To put a luster on them. That one has a gold—

PH: This is—

EE: —luster. This has a gold luster on it. That has a silver luster on it.

PH: It’s incredible because the silver gives the illusion as if you were seeing very brightly through crystal, doesn’t it?

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: It has that white, white light.

EE: And this one has a silver luster on it. And that one has a very light gold luster on it.

PH: That’s—

EE: This one has a light gold luster on it.

PH: You ought to—

EE: And that is a separate firing. After I get it out of the investment and grind my glass and grind whatever little flashings there are in it, then is when I do the luster work and put it in the kiln for the last time.

PH: Hmm. It’s remarkable.

EE: And that you have to watch because seconds will make it so that you ruin it.

PH: This is a very mysterious—those two.

EE: Which one? These two?

PH: The both of those. Yeah.

EE: This one from the front is very lovely. [inaudible, EE and PH speaking simultaneously] the other side.

PH: They’re very jade-like.

[recording stops and then starts again]

PH: That’s a beauty. Yeah. That’s the one that—

EE: And you can see every petal in the crown of daisies around her head.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: In that Ophelia.

PH: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s lovely.

EE: And this little Phaedra, the detail on that is very, very exact and sharp. And now you can see the orange again on the White Knight in the bunch of carrots on his back.

PH: Yeah.

EE: See if you didn’t make all your own glass—

PH: Are—

EE: —you absolutely couldn’t do this and combine all these colors this way.

PH: No, I mean, it’s like what [Emile] Gallé did, but by a completely different—

EE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

PH: —process of sticking on the surface and then cutting back. Have you seen any of Doug Anderson’s work?

EE: No.

PH: He’s about 23 years old [PH and EE laugh], and it’s unbelievable. But I love that I get the blue through her hair there. That’s—

EE: Yes. This one has some teal—

PH: —the blue-green—

EE: —teal blues and turquoise blues put in it, as well as green.

PH: Those are just wonderful.

EE: I’m very fond of this one.

PH: I like that one, and I like the wooden stand, too—

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: —the wooden base. I like that.

EE: And I like the wooden base on the horse. It’s just right for that horse.

PH: Yeah, just right for the horse. Yeah. And that’s right for that, too.

EE: And this one is aluminum and glass. And I’ve got plant life from California that is right in the casting. There’s different plant life—

PH: You mentioned that.

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: Tell me about that. I don’t understand.

EE: See the sort of plant life here. I lay that right in the casting, in the wax, and cast it when I make—

PH: I see.

EE: —the investment material.

PH: I see. I see.

EE: So I’ve got plant life from California all over this Night Passage. I think on the other side it shows a lot of—see if you tip it you can see it. See?

PH: Yeah. And what is the purple? Or—

EE: That is oxidization, that I use just like you would patine a bronze—

PH: Right.

EE: —I patine this. See all the—

PH: Yeah. Yeah.

EE: —floral life of the country that it came from—

PH: Yeah. It’s a nice block.

EE: That one I carved.

PH: Is that the front?

EE: Well, it’s what they wanted for the front. Really doesn’t matter which.

PH: I just saw it as the other one.

EE: I like the other side better.

PH: Yeah, I do, too.

EE: But apparently they like this side better, so they put this one out. And on this one, I like the opposite side better than this side. That’s my favorite side right there.

PH: Yeah, yeah. There’s a—

EE: The textures on this are beautiful.

PH: There’s an Italian sculptor named [Arnaldo] Pomodoro. Ever seen any of his work? This reminds me of it.

EE: It’s got beautiful texture on it.

PH: This is wonderful in here.

EE: Yeah.

PH: Yeah.

EE: [inaudible]

PH: That’s very tricky. Wow. That’s very interesting texture.

EE: And this is a vertical laminate, the glass. I think I’ll put it out this way for a while.

PH: What do you mean by vertical laminate? You mean when it was—

EE: Come back here and I’ll show you.

PH: —I used that expression—

[recording stops and starts again mid-sentence]

EE: —has probably about a thousand pieces of glass, cut, that are all the way from about this length—this one’s only this long, you can see it—to this length.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: And the glass is only an eighth of an inch thick.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: And I put it in an investment, stack it in like you would books in a bookend.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: And fire it. And so if you move this way or that way, you’re getting a different color scheme—

PH: You drop off and pick up—

EE: —because you’re looking through a different series of cullet.

PH: Yes.

EE: And that’s a vertical laminate. Now that’s a vertical laminate that’s fired fairly flat. In other words, it has no edges on it. Now if you’d feel the edges of that blue angel—

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: —in the case, every one of these are ridges or edges—

PH: Yeah.

EE: —but I didn’t fire it to where it got perfectly flat. I kept the edges on it, but nevertheless it’s a vertical laminate.

PH: You could line them up—

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: —sort of this way—

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: —and that way—

EE: I made one that’s a Phoenix where—the bird is flying upward, and the old bird is dropping backward. So it goes first this way, in diagonals, and then this way. And then on this background, it’s like this. But I—

PH: And then it has additional texture on the surface.

EE: Yes. Cause I thought that made it more interesting when it’s [inaudible].

PH: Wonderful. And that’s a nice mouth for it, too.

EE: And then this one is Curtain of Time.

PH: Curtain of Time?

EE: Mm-hmm. And Curtain of Time is only about an eighth of an inch—or I mean about a quarter of an inch thick on all of this, through here, but it drops back to a piece of glass that’s that thick, fused to it, to get this—

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: —halation.

PH: Big jewels.

EE: Yeah. And notice what beautiful shades you get on the blue—

PH: Oh, that’s wonderful. Yes.

EE: —and on the green. I’ve always loved this piece.

PH: It’s a three-dimensional stained—

EE: Yeah.

PH: —glass window, really, isn’t it?

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: And I’m just describing it. It’s mounted with a velvet—

EE: I’ve done a lot—

PH: —mat—

EE: I’ve done a lot of these horizontal and vertical laminates like this.

PH: —and in a frame.

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: And then it’s got a light cord—

EE: Yep. And it’s a—

PH: —and a light—

EE: —fluorescent light so that it won’t get too hot. And then this one is a drawing in molten glass, and then it’s got about four or five layers. It’s very heavy. It’s about this thick through.

PH: Mm.

EE: So that it shows this cloud with the rift of light coming through the cloud, hitting the mountain, bouncing off the mountain and slightly halating this mountain lake. So you’ve got a little mountain lake there that the ray of sunlight is hitting. And I’ve got three birch trees that I’ve drawn in molten glass.

PH: That’s extraordinary, that.

EE: Well, do you want to see one that’s even—

PH: I mean no, but the calligraphy of that. That really great—

EE: Well, I invented a pen that I can draw with molten glass; just the way you could draw with a pen I can draw with molten glass.

PH: [laughs] You fill it up with molten glass and squeeze?

EE: Well, It’s run by both pressure and also by heat. And also how much pressure you put on it, and how I adjust the nozzle so that I can make lines as fine as a human hair, or some lines that are very coarse like that.

PH: Yeah. It’s sort of a lampwork in motion kind of thing.

EE: It’s a very sensitive performance—

PH: Oh, it is.

EE: —and the one over there is even more so. Let’s see if we can get over here.

PH: On the wall.

[recording stops and starts again mid-sentence]

EE: —this gold, this is a gold ruby—

PH: Right, right.

EE: And this is, you know, my drawing with molten glass. And I used this magnifying bubble, so you see the strands. And look how fine some of the glass is. And then I’ve used a crystallization between the branches to give me texture. I love this one.

PH: Crystallization. By that you mean—

EE: It’s a high-fire glass that won’t go flat. See? It’ll stay in shape like a grain of sand. It’s a high-fired glass. Now you couldn’t put this high-fire crystal—

PH: And then you just sprinkled the dust of it?

EE: Yes. You couldn’t put that crystal in between the sheets of glass. It would crack it. But you can put it on the outside.

PH: Yeah. I did a whole series, about 30 drawings, of a cedar tree. I’ve been drawing cedar trees for years. This reminds me of a whole structure of those cedars, about 15 feet tall. Perfectly—

EE: In glass?

PH: No, no. In pastel.

EE: Oh. Mm-hmm. Well, I just drew these branchy things because I’ve always liked bushes. And I’ve especially liked bushes that—

PH: It’s a little—

EE: —were—

PH: —a little—

EE: It’s awfully hard to get it straight once you get it crooked.

PH:  [inaudible] now.

[recording stops and then starts again]

PH: —just see the edges.

EE: —glass.

PH: Yeah.

EE: And this one, I fired perfectly flat like the other one back there, and it loops like this. I think you can see it in the light here. It’s not quite bright enough. Yesterday when the sun was here you could see to the back.

PH: No, I got it. I got it. Yeah.

EE: And you could see through this and this. And this was beautiful color. This is a beautiful color of amber when the sun comes through it.

PH: I love the little jewels, too.

EE: Well, I meant to add to it.

PH: Yeah.

EE: Gives you refraction. And what I wanted to suggest was like a mother lode where you find precious jewels in veins of ore.

PH: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

EE: And that was the idea of that.

PH: It does.

EE: And it was also the idea of the other one that I showed you, that I told you I liked the back of it better than—

PH: Yeah.

EE: —the front.

PH: Yeah.

EE: That one is also like a mother lode idea of where you see the gems, or jewels, in between the layers of the—

PH: It reminds me of those religious things. Oh, I don’t know, bound books and monstrances—

EE: And the reliquaries, yes.

PH: The different round pyxes and the different reliquaries with all all the jewels studded in.

EE: Actually, what started me doing the glass and bronze was I went to the King Tut show—

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: —and I saw that wonderful—

PH: You only started it after that?

EE: No. [inaudible] the bronze and glass I’ve only been doing since ’62.

PH: Hmm.

EE: Just since ’62. And I developed the glass in one week, that would work with the bronze. But then it took me about two weeks to develop a bronze that wouldn’t crush the glass and crack it. Or fracture it. So in three weeks I had the whole thing, and this is how I got my final degree. I made it my project for my degree work. And I had it in three weeks. And they told me that I wouldn’t get the degree if I didn’t succeed, and they said since nobody has ever done that before, how can you be so sure that you’re going to accomplish much—

PH: How could they be sure that they could—

EE: —in a six-week course?

PH: —they could judge?

EE: And I said, ‘Well, this is what I want to do. My time and my money.’ And I did it, and in two weeks I had it.

PH: That’s great.

EE: I like this one.

PH: Yes, I like this one. I think it’s wonderful.

EE: Well I had another one, which tomorrow when I talk—I don’t whether you’re coming to my talk tomorrow—

PH: I am.

EE: —at the—

PH: I am.

EE: —where is it? Renwick Gallery [Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.].

PH: Renwick. Yeah.

EE: But I’m going to show the one that the man that owns the other vertical laminate over there, commissioned me to do what he called ‘the tree of the four seasons.’ There’s one quarter of the tree is spring, one quarter of the tree is summer, one quarter is fall, and one quarter is winter. And I’ve used different patinas on the different sides and different jewels—

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: —on the different sides, so it gives you the idea of the seasons not only by color but by [inaudible] And he owns that, and that piece is about as big or a little larger than that. Three of the four seasons stands about that high.

PH: Yeah.

EE: Cause it weighed 85 pounds. It was all I could do to lift it. And I’m not going to make any more large things like this because I almost wrecked my back and shoulders doing this one and the three of the four seasons.

PH: Yeah. That would [inaudible. PH and EE speaking simultaneously].

EE: I’m going to make more things that are more this size from now on because—

PH: Thinner.

EE: —they’re beautiful, but they don’t wreck your back like this does.

PH: Mm. Mm.

EE: You pick up that and that’s 75 pounds sheer dead weight.

PH: Mm.

EE: And that’s—

PH: Without the pedestal?

EE: Yeah. And that’s gettin’ to be too much for me. Cause I work alone.

PH: Yeah. Yeah.

EE: I don’t work in a studio with other people.

PH: Where do you work?

EE: In my home in Monticello Boulevard. I’ve got all of my kilns and everything there.

PH: Where is that? Is that—

EE: Cleveland.

PH: Cleveland.

EE: Cleveland Heights, Ohio. And you take that green figure and this horse, with the investment on them, and with the glass in the mold, they’d weigh about 85 full pounds when I put them in the kiln.

PH: Really.

EE: Yeah. They take an awful big shelf to contain that much glass when it’s expanding.

PH: Mm.

EE: Both of those had tremendous expansion. And it’s a glass that expands a lot, like a sponge when it’s hot.

PH: Mm.

EE: And I’ve got three different types of investment material used on these—one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, there’s eight works here, and there’s four different types of investment material because I’ve used different families of glass with different coefficient expansions, and I had to have different types of investment to meet each glass.

PH: Mmm.

EE: So I add just the investment to go with the glass that I’m going to use.

PH: [inaudible] amazing. This ought to be in Central Park.

EE: [laughs] Yeah.

PH: At five times the size.

EE: The Alice you mean?

PH: White Knight and the Alice. Yeah.

EE: Well, you know this is only part of a series. They only have the one. There’s ten to the series.

PH: Ah.

EE: There’s Alice and the rabbit. There’s the lobster quadrille, which is wonderful. There’s the walrus and the carpenter—

PH: Did you do them from the [John] Tenniel drawings?

EE: Mm-hmm.

PH: Did you base them on the Tenniel?

EE: Yes. Very much so.

PH: Mm.

EE: I wanted—I kept them—

PH: Cause it looks so familiar.

EE: I kept them as close to the Tenniel drawings as I could and still make them good sculpture.

PH: Yeah.

EE: And then I got the three queens, where the queens sit down, and the two queens go to sleep on her shoulder. [laughs] And I’ve got the mad tea party, and the croquet—

PH: The whole thing?

EE: Mm-hmm. And the croquet party with the Queen of Hearts hollering, ‘Off with their heads,’ and Alice with the flamingo tucked under her arm.

PH: And when did you start doing all your work?

EE: ’52.

PH: ’52. Wow.

EE: I had the two Guggenheims. I had a Guggenheim in ’56, and then I had another Guggenheim in ’59, fellowship to continue this work. And then I got a Tiffany Fellowship in ’59.

PH: That was about the last Tiffany, wasn’t it?

EE: Yes. It was the last. And then in ’62 I started developing the glass and bronze.

PH: Fascinating. Fascinating.

EE: So that was ten years later. In the meantime, I had developed the vertical laminates and the horizontal laminates and—

PH: Have you done jewelry?

EE: Oh, yes. And [laughs] when I made bronze and glass jewelry—

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: —which is really stunning.

PH: Yeah. I bet.

EE: And Nelson Rockefeller used to come into New York where they had the jewelry, and he’d buy the whole tray of it.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: All of it.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: He never left any of it for anyone else.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: And then I made glass jewelry that were vertical laminates like that with edges. They’re pins and pendants, which are very handsome, with the gold and silver in them so that they radiated like glass.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: And the person that used to buy those in New York was the Kennedy family.

PH: Mm-hmm.

EE: Mrs. Kennedy would come in with her sister-in-law, and they’d buy a whole tray of the pins out. So it was awfully hard to keep any of that stuff in New York. Between the Kennedys and the Rockefellers, why the stuff was always gone.

PH: Did you keep a photographic record of some of these things?

EE: Never. I would say I only have about one-seventh of the pieces I’ve made photographed, cause I don’t take photographs myself. And I have to have somebody do it for me, and I don’t have anyone around to do it.

PH: Mm.

EE: And so it usually means that—

PH: I’d take them, but I don’t have any time.

EE: —like a piece like that, that one I had photographed. And this one I never had photographed. That one I never had photographed.

PH: Mm.

EE: That one I had photographed but one similar to it in rose, not in green.

[recording stops and then starts again mid-sentence]

EE: —two pieces of glass and bronze—

PH: I love your necklace. That’s terrific.

EE: —in ’62. Oh, isn’t that fun?

PH: Oh, that’s terrific. Did you design that?

EE: No.

PH: But it’s great.

EE: But I liked it.

PH: Yeah. That’s great.

EE: I enjoyed it because it’s [inaudible] confines the pearls; it lets them free.

PH: Yeah. That’s nice.

EE: What they call floating pearls.

PH: Yeah. It’s wonderful.

[recording stops and then starts again, with PH talking directly into the recorder]

PH: This is a—

EE: Oh. Oh, you’re talking into that.

PH: I’m just talking into that.

EE: That’s not a guest. That’s a good idea.

PH: This is a Michael Higgins piece with the gold leaf and then stenciled through to the glass. It’s inside the sandwich in the Roman method really. And it’s glass, it’s weiss und gold glass in the most gorgeous Deco design. They ought to have photos of every one of these.

[recording stops and then starts again]

PH: This is a fascinating kind of thing that happens to real artists. What did you get say, for an average? If you sold that one of the gold plate, about the time it was made?

Frances Higgins (FH): Well, see that’s—

PH: Or was that later?

FH: —see that’s hard to say.

PH: Well, alright. Pick any one.

FH: Alright, look. This was production, and I think that sold in the stores for $15.

PH: You’re kidding.

FH: Yeah. Yeah.

PH: And what kind of stores did it sell in?

FH: Marshall Field’s [PH laughs] and Georg Jensen and—

PH: Ohhh.

FH: —jewelry stores about the country, and Bloomingdales, and Bullocks stores and—

PH: Ohhh. $15 and—this is a wonderful—

FH: And we had [inaudible] time.

PH: —clear glass bowl with gold loops, gold leaf loops on the—

FH: I think it was [$]15; I’m not sure.

PH: —and splashes of—

FH: It was no more than that.

PH: —color, flower-like splashes, that look like dandelions gone to seed in red.

FH: I bought that at a—

PH: It’s a beautiful thing.

FH: —I bought that in a flea market.

PH: You did. Your own piece.

FH: All of our early stuff was lost til this exhibition. I tried [inaudible. FH and PH speaking simultaneously]—

PH: And you tried to get it back? This was one of them?

FH: No. No. This was one that was our production piece when we had this studio selling wholesale because we could not—you ever remember a company called Raymor, or Richards Morgenthau? They were pretty good. Mr. Richards [unidentified clicking sound, after which the recorded voices are muffled and difficult to hear for the rest of the recording] went to Italy and Scandinavia and had artisans make certain objects for him. And he was pretty clever at getting good design and selling it to stores. And they sold this—

PH: Behind you.

FH: But it was hard [inaudible] because it was so varied and the salesman always wanted something new. And that was hard for us because developing something new and [inaudible] and everything all at the same time. It was a rat race. And we worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week for weeks on end. [inaudible] Christmas [inaudible]. And then one year we almost quit because we sold so many [inaudible]. And we got this extra industrial group called about them, took very, very good photography firm, and we packaged it for them and made the things, and they made a beautiful photograph and had a little blurb written by a professional about us and sent it to all their clients. And they were architectural photographers. And they sent it to people like Frank Lloyd Wright and [the] editor of House and Garden, [inaudible], Better Homes and Gardens, and all those people. These gifts went to these people. So these people became aware of us, but it was a help, but not enough to—we were too remote. We used to sell to Neiman Marcus.

PH: Mm. Mm.

FH: Georg Jensen was a terrific customer for years. But they only ordered cake plates and sets of [inaudible] Not much [inaudible] and we’d give them a hundred designs.

PH: What are you doing now? Are you doing anything that are production items?

FH: See we don’t have a wholesale line anymore.

PH: Mm.

FH: But I do have somebody who can draw with that stylus that I designed. It took her a year to train her. But she’s good now, and I can talk to her and tell her what I want, and she can do it. Otherwise, we’d have to quit doing the studio. We’d just have to do one-of-a-kind, Jensen, [inaudible]. See now that’s an early production piece right there, that white one, that little white plate. That might have sold for $4 [laughs] I don’t know. I’ve forgotten. We’re amazed when we look back to see what happened. That one over there was a production piece with Dearborn Glass [Dearborn Glass Company, Chicago, Illinois] when we were at Dearborn Glass. That one. That little bowl.

PH: Mm-hmm.

FH: And we did things similar to that but not with the iridescent glass that was production and they were very interesting. We knew they were too inexpensive then, but you couldn’t sell it.

PH: Oh, I know. I know.

FH: That was in 1950.

PH: I know. I know.

FH: And—

PH: I had a show last December, a year ago December of my pastels. My best ones from the top price of $350; most of them were $175. And I’ve had 18 one-man shows. I’ve been doing it in painting and oils since 1985. I’m going to change the tape on this in a second. I love this. That has a Gallic quality that’s wonderful.

FH: Well, see that was done with that sprinkle. You know, I took hardware [inaudible] and cut them and made this thing and then I would put this line of hardware—sprinkle the color on it, and then—

PH: Mm-hmm.

FH: —but that takes a lot of doing. I silkscreened this. I just made these little doodly silkscreens—

PH: And then you slumped it afterwards?

FH: Oh, yeah.

PH: Mm-hmm. But didn’t—

FH: And that’s—

PH: —didn’t distort it much in the slumping.

FH: That’s three layers.

PH: Yeah. Yeah.

FH: See I sort of blotted it. You know, sort of put a color all over it. You can see.

PH: Mm-hmm.

FH: And then picked it up. It’s sort of that [inaudible] look to give it that texture, and then I put a piece of clear over that and—

[recording ends]