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The Arts and Crafts Movement in Victoria, B.C.


Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company

Son of Charles Tiffany, the famous owner of the New York jewellery company, Louis Comfort Tiffany is considered to be "the foremost American designer of art objects and decoratives" at the turn of the century (Clark, pg. 19).

Tiffany was greatly influenced by the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the works of William Morris, whom he visited while in Europe in 1867. Although he started as a painter, Tiffany became attracted to the art of stain glass making. He experimented with this art and, by 1876, had created his first art window.

In 1879, Tiffany established the Louis C. Tiffany and Associated Artists company in New York. Although this was a short-lived venture, he worked with many great artists such as de Forest, Colman and Wheeler. The company worked within the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the writings of William Morris. They focused on quality and individual freedom to be creative.

M968.7.1, Tiffany Stained Glass Table Lamp, Tiffany Studios, nd
Tiffany Stained Glass Table Lamp
Tiffany Studios, nd

By 1883, Tiffany had moved onto his passion of glassmaking. He established a company called the Tiffany Glass Company which made stain glass windows and mosaics, tiles and glass plaque pieces for architectural detailing. To reflect the growing and changing business, Tiffany changed the name of his company in 1892 to the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. By the 1900's, the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company had reached their peak and added to their line metalwork, enameling and brass. In 1904, Tiffany introduced a new line of pottery.

The most significant part of the Arts and Crafts philosophy which Tiffany adopted was the belief in high quality, hand made goods. Unlike the more socialist leanings of the English proponents of the movement, Tiffany believed in high quality, hand made goods made in large scale proportions. In this way, Tiffany did succeed in fulfilling another Arts and Crafts Movement philosophy of bringing art to the masses. Because the diversity of products and their large-scale production, Tiffany produced items that ranged from very affordable to exclusively for the upper class.

Tiffany was dedicated and committed to perfection in his work. Although most of the work was left to individual craftspeople, Tiffany carefully supervised the manufacture of every piece from start to finish. He organized craftspeople of various trades under one roof in a large factory. He educated his workers on his art and trained his own apprentices.

In 1902, the name of the company was once again changed to Tiffany Studios. This marked a more commercial phase of the company's history. To keep up with the demand for Tiffany products and stay economically viable, Tiffany Studios began to develop many pieces using the production line method. However, because workers were still free to choose the colours of glass as they pleased, each piece did look original and it was difficult to discern which pieces were hand made and which pieces were made on the production line.

Despite their popularity at the time and their recognition for quality in the present day, the Tiffany Studios were not immune to the depressed economic climate of the last 1920's. In 1932, the Tiffany Studios, which was operating without the retired founder, declared bankruptcy. The legacy, however, continues to this day.

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