Friday, March 11, 2011

Designer of the Month: Frederick Carder

Week 2: Stevens & Williams

As I mentioned last week, Frederick Carder went to work at the Stevens & Williams glassmaking company at the age of 17, with the recommendation of John Northwood. A year earlier, Carder had gone to see Northwood's copy of the famous Portland Vase, a Roman cameo glass vase that until this point, no one had ever successfully replicated in glass.[1] As Carder later wrote about this moment, "When I saw this vase, I was struck by the possibilities of glass and determined, if possible, to get into the business."[2] Northwood, impressed by a small marble head that Carder had carved and brought to show him, invited Carder to spend Saturdays in his studio learning with him.[3] After a few months of this work, Northwood recommended Carder for an open glass designer position at Stevens & Williams, thus beginning Carder's glassmaking career.[4]

 John Northwood, Replica of the Portland Vase,1873–1876. England, Wordsley, Red House Glass Works. H. 25 cm, D. (max.) 18.2 cm. Blown, cased (cup-overlay method: opaque white over translucent blue), acid-dipped, carved, ground, polished, The Corning Museum of Glass (92.2.7, bequest of Juliette K. Rakow). Formerly in the collections of the Pargeter family, E. Mary Duffy, and Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow. Courtesy of The Corning Museum of Glass, New York.

The first of Carder's designs at Steven's and Williams was for a cut glass, crystal decanter, which was accepted and produced around 1881.[5] Carder's choice of a cut glass, rather than colored glass design was no accident. Colored glass, although it had been produced for by the firm for many years, fell out of fashion during this period, although it would be Carder who would change this trend. After much persuasion, Carder convinced the head of the factory to have some of his colored glass designs produced on a trial basis.[6] Although the sample pieces were scoffed at by everyone at the factory, when set to London for sale, they turned out to be wildly popular; Carder was congratulated for his foresight, encouraged to widen his creative actives and promised greater freedom to work out his ideas.[7]

Stevens & Williams, Design for Cut and Engraved Scent Bottle, 1890s. Brierley Hill Glass Works, Stourbridge, England. Pencil, red ink, and watercolor on white paper. Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass Library (CMGL Bib 100101). Courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass, New York.

Carder took an interest in educating others as well as designing during his time at Stevens & Williams, teaching classes on design and drawing at the factory and eventually at the Stourbridge School of Art.[8] He observed that glassblowers needed a model or object as a visual reference when creating a piece, and from both this idea and his experimentation with melting, coloring and manufacturing glass, these classes gave other glassworkers a chance to both experiment with and learn techniques for glassmaking themselves.[9] As a result of the educational programs that were brought about by Carder, the numbers and skills of glassworkers in the area increased immensely, and in 1902, he was sent on a tour of the glassmaking centers of Germany and Austria.[10] The trip a success, Carder was next sent to the United States. His last, and most important stop was in Corning, New York, where he met with Thomas G. Hawkes, the president of a glass-decorating firm, a meeting that would result in the incorporation of the Steuben Glass Works, and prove to be a major turning point in Carder's career.[11]

[1] Paul V. Gardner, "Carder in England - From Stourbridge to Steuben," The Glass of Frederick Carder (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971), 7.

[2] Ibid., 7.

[3] Ibid., 7.

[4] Ibid., 7.

[5] Ibid., 9.

[6] Ibid., 11.

[7] Ibid., 11.

[8] Thomas P. Dimitroff, Frederick Carder and Steuben Glass: American Classics (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1998), 15.

[9] Ibid., 15-16.

[10] Paul V. Gardner, "Carder in England - From Stourbridge to Steuben," The Glass of Frederick Carder (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971), 21.

[11] Ibid., 25.

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