Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland is the book with a pretty cover that I chose for this year’s Hot Reads for Cold Nights entry. I’ve loved stained glass and reading books (both fiction and nonfiction) about art for a long time, so I was happy to put these two together! The beautiful window behind Clara’s silhouette on the cover pulled me right in and really set the stage for the story inside.
Clara was the head of the Women’s Department for Mr. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s glass company in New York City. Mr. Tiffany believed that women were better with the various shades of color, and he employed them at the turn of the 20th century for some of his most important windows and other pieces of glass art. This book follows Clara’s personal and professional lives from 1892-1908.
I loved learning more about stained glass and even catching a glimpse at how it is made. I certainly did not know that Tiffany developed specialty glasses like iridescent for the first time. I was also enthralled by the descriptions of how a window was put together and the many layers of glass that are needed for many of the deep colors I associate with Tiffany windows. To say I learned a lot about this kind of art is an understatement.
I was less enthusiastic about Clara’s personal life with all its trials and tribulations. They got overwrought and soap operatic at times which detracted from the overall story. And while she was friends with some very interesting characters, I was more interested in learning about the lives of the girls who worked with and for her. And this interest was in vain as Vreeland chose to have them be mostly one dimensional and their spunk and individuality was only briefly highlighted.
This book could have also been edited with more of a heavy hand – it got sidetracked more than once and if these had been cut out, I would have enjoyed it even more.