Paul M. Hollister Collection, The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass
Transcribed by Bard Graduate Center
Title: Paul Hollister Lecture on Glass America 1987, January 11, 1987 (Rakow title: Talk on Studio [sound recording] / with Paul M. Hollister, BIB ID: 168493).
Paul Hollister, Lecturer
Location: 83 Spring Street New York, New York, in conjunction with Heller Gallery’s Glass America 1987 exhibition
Skylar Smith, Transcriber
Barb Elam, Summary and Editor
Duration: 61:18 [cuts off at 37:16 with unrelated recording, not transcribed]
Length: 9 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.
Summary: In this recording, Paul Hollister gives a slide lecture on American studio glass before 1962, a program for Heller Gallery’s 1987 Glass America exhibition.
Mentioned: John Burton, Frederick Carder, Chicago Institute of Design, The Corning Museum of Glass, Dearborn Glass Company, Edris Eckhardt, Michael Glancy, Maurice Heaton, Frances Higgins, Michael Higgins, Charles Kaziun, Dominick Labino, Lightolier, L.P. Hollander and Company, Harvey Littleton, Maurice Marinot, Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Northwood, Penland School of Craft, RCA Building, Jean Sala, Paul Schultz, Paul Stankard, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stevens & Williams Glassworks, André Thuret, Tiffany, University of Southern California, Victoria & Albert Museum, Francis Whittemore
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.
Paul Hollister (PH): This is Sunday, January 11th, 1987, and I’m giving my first talk of the year for Doug Heller and the Glass America show [Heller Gallery, New York, New York] but the talk, along with the other people speaking is being given at 83 Spring Street upstairs on the third floor, which is where they held it last year.
[tape quality changes]
And [Harvey] Littleton created the world in six days and Toledo in ‘62. And Littleton said, ‘Let there be glass,’ and [Dominick] Labino went and made the glass. And Littleton saw that it was good and he said, ‘Now go out and play with your 475 Marbles,’ but beginnings are usually earlier than one suspects. In 1880 when Frederick Carder, 1863 to 1963, was only 17, he carved a Neoclassic marble plaque. The same year he went to work for the Stevens & Williams Glassworks in Brierley Hill, England. Carder frequented the studio of John Northwood who had copied the famous Portland Vase, and in 1887 while working as a designer for Stevens & Williams, Carder carved this Neoclassic case glass plate on the left. He was 24. Carder, like most of the early glassworkers in the American studio movement, had worked clay and knew all about glazes and firing. He knew glass chemistry. He could draw, design glass, make it, decorate it, he knew the entire glass process from building the furnace to marketing the finished product. I’ll come back to Carder, where he fits in again in the 1950s. Carder was perhaps the original pioneer of studio glass working. The next major figure is Maurice Marinot, 1882 to 1960. Marinot entered the École des Beaux-Arts [Paris, France] in 1901 and became well known as a [inaudible] painter, Marinot is shown over there. Exhibiting in various galleries and Paris salons until 1913. In 1911 at the age of 30, very late to begin work in glass, he visited the glass house of friends, the Viard Brothers at Bar-sur-Seine, Southwest of Paris, and developed an instant passion for the material glass. With help from an old gaffer at the Viard Works, in the basics of glass technique, Marinot began to teach himself glassblowing and enameling. From then on, until 1937, when for health reasons he had to cease glassblowing, Marinot developed into the archetypal studio glassblower and the most important and original studio figure in the art of the Art Deco period and of the twentieth century up to 1987. On the left you see one of his faux-style paintings, and on the right a sketch, which is illustrated in the book as a pochoir of an enamel design to go on that highball glass. Marinot’s earlier enamel pieces derive from his skill as a painter in placing simple, yet forceful colored enamel lines on clear glass forms in the light-hearted and dashing manner of the best book and fashion illustration of the twenties.
[audience member says something inaudible]
PH: Well I hope you enjoyed the talk.
PH: I think that the earliest pieces that Marinot decorated were blown by someone else at the factory until he had taught himself how to do the blowing, and then he did it all himself after that, as you could see in that slide over there.
[person whispers something inaudible to PH]
PH: There’s a circuit break, which may turn into a coffee break.
[audience laughs and murmurs inaudibly]
[tape recording stops and starts again]
PH: Okay, here are three pieces that sort of show you, yes, that one doesn’t belong there but that’s alright. Three pieces to show you, the simplification of the design entirely done by acid etching and cut-back, probably called acid cut back—very deep, very thick blanks to be cut back that far. We haven’t seen this kind of thing since Sassanian times. There is an even stronger one, deeply acid cut back date of 1928 and I think it’s interesting because, there’s the vase by Michael Glancy and where did Michael get his ideas, did he get that idea of the spiral from Marinot? He says he got the spiral idea from ziggurats in the Middle East, and it may be that both of them were reminded of that.
[addresses person working with slides] Now let’s get a pair.
And here again is just the interesting comparison—here’s a Glancy with its wonderful rough, iron filing texture on the bosses and there’s a Marinot deeply acid cut back—a vase in 1934 really right at the peak of the Art Deco period. Michael denied to me, one time when we were discussing this, that he had even seen Sassanian pieces of the sixth and seventh century Persian Sassanian Empire, but he spends a great deal of time in art libraries and I think he really must have seen these even if it was sub rosa.
[addresses person working with slides] Next, please.
There’s a Sassanian vessel. It’s devitrified. It’s decaying, but it’s very, very similar and it’s—to the Glancy piece and to the Marinot piece and you can see the influence, conscious or otherwise.
[pause for 9 seconds]
Two other technical styles of working glass were perfected by Marinot—layering or casing over a metallic oxide to suggest tree bark or moss, or river algae and the bottoms of streams, he was very much interested in nature and the simple things that one passes by all the time without really paying much attention to them. And we have a little perfume bottle on the left that shows that it’s described as a nut, a bark of a nut, something like a horse chestnut. And the one on the right could be looking down into a fast-flowing stream with that wonderful sort of gleam of light catching the ripples on the top, and then the moss and algae at the bottom.
[addresses person working with slides] Okay.
The second thing that he really perfected, that as far as I know nobody else seems to have done prior to that and Paul Schultz may be able to correct me on that—I’d like to be corrected if I’m wrong, was to introduce bubbles into glass. How he did it, I have no idea and every article I have read about Marinot says nothing about how it was done it just describes it, but I did read somewhere that Frederick Carder when inner layering or casing use tapioca and that this causes bubbles, and I’m sure that there are chemicals that many of you glass people know about that—
UAM: Chewing tobacco.
PH: Chewing tobacco? [UAM utters something and audience laughs] That’s not a commercial, that’s a fact—
PH: —would create this sizzle in these bubbles. This I love, because it’s almost Egyptian in its hieroglyphic simplicity and here we have a vase—with a grass design, a goblet design, right in the middle of it, as a design. It’s glass on glass or goblet on glass, with the bubbles and on the right, this beautiful flowing example where the bubbles just rising like champagne.
[addresses person working with slides] Please.
This idea though—it’s awfully hard sometimes to find slides and you [laughs] can see they’re taken out of books many of them and under less than the best conditions. This doesn’t seem to have any bubbles in it, but André Thuret’s work does. Thuret was born in 1898 and he began producing his own glass single-handed in 1924 at the Alfortville factory near Paris. He made some fine hot worked pieces, they are all hot worked, furnace work, in transparent glass, slightly tinted in pinks and blues to seem as effluent as baby spit. I couldn’t think of any other thing that sounds—you know, [audience laughs] after they’ve had a meal the bubbles come out, and [more laughter]—but neither he nor anyone else could get the bubbles in glass to look as Marinot’s bubbles did, like sparkling champagne.
[addresses person working with slides] Next; there.
The last of the French studio glass workers to mention is Jean Sala born 1895, the son of a Spanish glassmaker who had immigrated like [Pablo] Picasso and many others to Paris. Sala mixed his own batch, blue, and decorated it at the furnace in his left-bank studio until 1950, when he converted the studio into a furniture repair shop for sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish furniture which he imported from Spain. Harvey Littleton visited Sala in 1957 and Sala took him into the furniture shop and showed him a few of the glass pieces and gave him two of his rusting tools—
UAM: Can I add something to that?
UAW: Sala kept a little furnace going until ’53 and in a garage further up….[continues mostly inaudibly]
PH: That’s a very good—anybody who has any filler material here. This is a very valuable addition to this little discussion.
PH: Now we are—coming to the U.S. Maurice Heaton on the left was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 1900. He’s now 87 and doing well. He and his father made stained glass windows, the ones you see behind him here, the one on the right is done by his father, and the one on the left by him. His grandfather ran a London stained glass firm which employed 200 people, family moved to New York in 1914 and Maurice took engineering at the Stevens Institute [Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey] that stood him in good stead for making his kiln, molds, and the complicated machinery he has devised for his glass. Some of it looks like Rube Goldberg inventions, he’s taken old farm machinery apart and bicycle chains and so forth and made them all work for him. The magazine Architecture I would show that photograph slide of the Xerox of a reproduction of a black-and-white [laughs] glossy, from the magazine Architecture show some of the architectural glass commissions he designed in the 1930s. The picture at the top is a very wide window, I forget how many feet, 15 feet or 20 feet, that was commissioned for the Rockefeller Center Theatre [Center Theatre, New York, New York], which has since then been torn down and was put into the ladies’ room where no man ever saw it. And it commemorates Amelia Earhart’s flight across the Atlantic, and there’s a woman on the left watching the plane fly and there’s a lighthouse in Ireland over on the right. Born with the century, [Maurice] Heaton entered the Art Deco atmosphere of dynamic, simplified forms with which he combined his knowledge of enameling techniques. During the thirties until indirect lighting superseded individual wall sconces and ceiling fixtures, Heaton produced lighting for the well-known Lightolier Company. His fixtures were shown in two prestigious exhibitions of modern industrial art at the Metropolitan [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York], and you can see how much in the spirit of Art Deco he naturally gravitated. Think of water. The one on the left, shows a display window for L.P. Hollander and Company [New York, New York] which was down about 42nd or 43rd Street, and he also did some for Stern’s [probably Stern’s department store, New York, New York], he put in the glass for large spaces as you can see here. And on the right, the elevator doors of the swank Park Avenue apartment in which amber glass is used with English sycamore and in an Egyptian papyrus design. Heaton had—his studio burned down in 1974 and with it, much of the documentation and some of these illustrations are heavily damaged by fire and water. Heaton’s warm and cold-colored glazes varied in thickness and accented by cuts into clear colorless glass played with daylight, enlivening the empty formality of large rooms. For the past twenty years, or more, Heaton has done enameling and slumping wall panels, plates, and bowls by his own ingenious method using templates to create the design, sifting crushed glass powders through specially grated sieves onto a glass turntable, beneath which a mirror shows how the piece will look after slumping in the kiln. I have to get over here and go at this a bit. [recording quality lessens as PH walks away from microphone] Here’s the glass with powders having been put on, and here you see it partially applied to the glass to the upper surface of this flat glass plate—flat at that point. How does he put on—he used templates like that thing there which has a cardboard fish nailed to the bottom of it to get a certain curve, there’s French curves and all kinds of different shapes that he uses—they all hang up neatly in the studio and he gets them out to make these designs. He could take a pencil like this and use the eraser end to draw that line, removing the enamels so that the drawing in effect here that you see as we’re moving the enamel. Then he sprays it with a [inaudible] solution and when he puts it in the kiln, he’s got a solution that’s fixed this and he turns the plate upside-down and slumps it into an iron mold. This shows the plate sitting up on the round glass turntable and underneath the big mirror—the 45-degree angle looking out into a window on the outside of the studio so that the light comes right in and bounces right up and he can therefore see what the design [inaudible] looks like when it’s cooked in the kiln. [recording quality improves as PH moves back to the microphone] It’s rather fascinating and this man—I talked with him the other night, he said [imitating Heaton’s voice] ‘Do you know—I saw so much,’ he said, ‘People came in, they had bus trips come in’ and they’d buy everything in his shop and then he’d work from eight in the morning until six or seven at night, turning out more of these things, and I wish I had more pictures of the variety. Let’s try the next. Here’s a detail, loses something in translation, and a worse slide of mine of a more figurative piece on the right. These platters can be up to that large, 15/16 inches.
[addresses person working with slides] Okay.
We’ll have to move along through all these people. Michael and Frances Higgins are in their late seventies. They’re hard to see on the upper-right of the left slide. A graphic designer and printer until 1946, Michael completed his pre-glass career in 1948 as head of the visual design department in the Chicago Institute of Design [Illinois]. Frances, who got her M.F.A. degree at the same place, the Institute, had previously been assistant professor at the University of Georgia [Athens] and she had slumped glass back about 1942, I think, and done some lamination, and she was apparently influential in encouraging Earl McCutchen, who was a ceramicist, to do designs in glass and I don’t have any slides of his famous one or two pieces—they’re from Corning [The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York] and I would like to get slides up of them because he’s important too, but you can’t cover it all. They married in ’48 and thereafter the Higgins team made a precarious living, and I mean precarious. Producing and selling fused enamel glass in all forms and sizes from earrings to church windows. In the fifties their designs for dessert and cake plates retailed at $5 through such prominent outlets as Marshall Field, Bloomingdale’s, and Georg Jensen. They worked 14 hours-a-day seven days a week creating new items for sale. They applied enamel to sheets of glass through silkscreen stencils and enameling of up to 31 colors over templates of various materials, including flowers. Some pieces required 10 or 12 laminations. In Chicago they designed for six years for Dearborn Glass Company and then they had a falling out there and afterwards they were on their own again and they got some big commissions. I might add here that when they got finished with some of the big pieces if there were broken parts they cut them up and made them into jewelry or sold them as smaller objects. There’s some jewelry—terrible slide—on the top and this is a plate of Michael Higgins and this is a slumped silk hat-type bow of Francis Higgins. She had done that kind of slumping. Nex—oh, Michael did the 11-foot window in which fused-glass panels were sculpted on both sides and set in concrete. I think that sign says something like the ‘Dental Parlor of Dr. Myron Finkel [phonetic].’ Their largest commission was for the 28 foot by 80-foot wide window for the First National Bank of Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s a little out of focus there, but there you see into the bank and you see this—it’s backwards too—in more ways than one, because they remodeled the bank, and there is no trace of this window today. It’s completely gone. I got the bank people in Appleton and they just had no idea where it had gone. Michael tends toward energetic abstractions, like this glass and cement panel for an apartment lobby, or this fused-glass painting on the right, and again, and this plate, which seems to be out of focus—it’s a gold glass sandwich—that goes back to Roman times with those gold glass pieces that were used in the urns in the catacombs. But very Art Deco, and they go in-between the two slumped pieces of glass. While Francis tends toward more natural looking fused, slumped dishes like these three little babies here that are about five, six inches in diameter, or large intricately molded plates like that. But, you see that one thing is they’re so busy working they never really had time to make a good slide record of their stuff, they had a show last year at Fifty/50 on Broadway there, 12th street, and there was no record of almost any of it. But that has been slumped in a mold, cast in a mold if you wish to call it that or slumped in the mold, and it’s taken on that design in gold leaf, and she’d done some very, very beautiful ones that way.
Okay, English-born John Burton of the left, lampworker, first worked for the steel industry in Sheffield [England] but immigrated to California in 1927. He lectured in western universities during the thirties and began working in glass sometime in the forties or fifties. His first exhibition of glass lampwork was at the University of Southern California [Los Angeles] in 1957. His lampwork is represented at Corning, at Corning, and in the V&A [Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England] and it is free-wheeling, gay, and whimsical, based on his travels to glass factories all over Europe, particularly places like Denmark and Venice, and these are sketches in his book called Glass, which was published in 1967. It’s a semiautobiographical—but it also gives all the techniques for the lampworking of these pieces. One can also—
[addresses person working with slides] Yup.
Here are some of the pieces. One can also see the embellishments were carved from ancient Syrian or Middle-eastern glass, like that piece on the right. He’s—well, I read that, but it’s very interesting work, unfortunately there are not many color pictures in there and they aren’t very good, but he did all sorts of things, he even made some wonderful little, almost Art Nouveau pieces about that big called Touch Pieces, they’re just the sort of thing that you just do as an exercise and throw into the annealer, but they’re very attractive.
Charles Kaziun, the great pioneer American paperweight maker, began making weights about 1939, but he says they were very crude and he didn’t get an idea what a good paperweight ought to look like until he saw Mrs. [Evangeline] Bergstrom’s book [Old Glass Paperweights: Their Art, Construction, and Distinguishing Features.] in 1940, which was privately printed and then later went to Crown Publishers. Charlie has been making weights ever since, in total secrecy, in his basement. And that this is of course is lampworking. He’s been making—about the time the studio glass movement came along, Francis Whittemore was beginning to make paperweights, but Paul Stankard is the first, and only American or European, to challenge Kaziun’s supremacy, and I must say here parenthetically that lampworking and paperweight making have always been very secretive techniques until Paul Stankard came out of the closet last May was it? Or April? And gave an absolutely wild one-week demonstration with 40 people hanging over the burners making little objects—
PH: —and he had vases of flowers on—fresh wildflowers on the table—this was done at Penland [Penland School of Craft, Penland, North Carolina], every morning fresh flowers, and the people that would come in about nine o’clock and start to lampwork and they left about four a.m., every day. The girls came out of the jewelry department, they came out of the ceramics department, the men came out of the forge, and they all started to lampwork. So it is now, thanks to Paul, in the public domain, but not in Charlie Kaziun’s domain, he won’t reveal anything about it. He’s the greatest question dodger that I know. [audience laughs]
[addresses person working with slides] Next please.
Isn’t this marvelous? Edris Eckhardt, she’s now in her late seventies, I believe, began making all her own glass from scratch in 1952 in her own kitchen. In 1953, she rediscovered for herself the ancient method of laminating gold and silver foil between layers of glass. After engraving 24-carat gold leaf with a stylus, she enclosed it within sheets of colored glass, rolled out onto hot marble with a wet rolling pin. That’s a process I would loved to have seen. And that’s called ‘cooking with glass.’[audience members laugh] She even shaped silvered glass into fish scales by cutting them underwater with fingernail scissors. Fingernail scissors. By the time the studio movement began, with the aid of a Tiffany and two Guggenheim Fellowships, she had mastered vertical laminations with up to a thousand different colors of vertical layers with glass. It’s like walking by a library when you go from left to right across them. [pause for four seconds]
She did full sculptural casting, by the cire perdue process. She invented the pen for drawing with hot glass and a method for casting glass into bronze sculpture, with a bronze-zinc alloy. It combines with glass without shrinking. As you can see here you’ve got the problem of the shrinking and expansion changes of two different materials—copper is supposed to be the only one that will really combine easily with glass and that’s why we see so much of it over here at the Heller show, because it works very well with glass but doing this with the bronze is something else again. Incredible as it sounds. Oh, this is relief, fused-relief and mosaic. Very rich, it looks almost like a detail of some of the little passages in the Tiffany windows. Incredible as it sounds, she has even sealed off feathers, flowers, and paper in a glass vacuum that will not burn when fused. Don’t ask me how it’s done. But there’s an undersea creation on the left with the sea sand down in the bottom and a butterfly and whatever the other ingredient was up at the top. [pause for 7 seconds]
In the depths of the Depression in 1932, at the age of 69, Frederick Carder was replaced as manager at the Steuben glass division of Corning Glass Works, which Steuben, he had founded in 1903. He was kicked upstairs and given the title of art director of Corning Glass Works. He was actually now free to do pretty much as he liked, and he began experimenting with millefiore. I’m sorry I couldn’t find that slide of a millefiore bowl, glass castings, and pâte de verre. He made casts—the castings over the main entrance of the RCA Building [New York, New York] and among other things, diatreta work done by cire perdue or lost wax process as seen in this extraordinary vase of 1953. Diatreta, you know, is what they call cage cups—really the diatrari were the glass makers and the diatretari were the glass decorators, well diatreta work is done by weaving these vines or whatever other subjects there is, stand out in places from the blank so that all the cutting had to be done in behind and it was done in the fourth century in Rome, but here it was revived in 1953 by Carder.
PH: Yes, it is a cutting tech—
UAM: [inaudible]…cut them at all.
PH: He—oh, you’ve moved. [audience members laugh]
PH: You’re pretending to be someone else. [audience members laugh]
PH: Yes, that’s right. I should make that distinction, he didn’t cut this, he cast it in the cire perdue lost wax process, but the original Roman ones were done by cutting back and leaving these little struts of support. Frederick Carder lived to be 100 and was unquestionably the greatest all-around glass worker of all time.
And now we come at last to young Harvey Littleton, who slip-cast this glass torso in a five-part piece mold after a fired ceramic clay maquette, which he had made while in the army. For those of you in the audience who are young, this is World War II, not the Spanish American [War]. [audience members laugh] Harvey made this piece in 1946. He was 24 years old. Who says the studio movement began in 1962?
[end of lecture]