A novel based on factual information and written by Susan Vreeland, it tells the story of Clara Driscoll, an artist and artisan who worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany in his stained glass factory. The book combines details about the history of the stained glass industry, the culture of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the problems of working women, the advancement of labor unions and more, all while exploring Clara’s life and relationships with friends and lovers.
Tiffany, the son of the founder of Tiffany & Company jewelers, was an artist in his own right, known for his magnificent stained glass windows. Much of his company’s manufacturing work was done by men but unmarried (only) women were hired to select the colors of the glass and use them in detailed work, as Mr. Tiffany believed that women had a better eye for color. Clara became an indispensable part of Tiffany’s company as her management skills (at one time she managed a department of close to thirty women artisans), her attention to detail and her creativity developed. Only recently has it been determined that Clara was the originator of the Tiffany lamp, designing and supervising the manufacture of a great many versions of it. Ultimately their production was halted because of its overwhelming expense. Clara resigned from the company because of her impending marriage, ending an important era in American crafts history.