A Brief History of Tiffany Lamps and Their Design

Tiffany lamps were originally made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, a painter of who worked in the decorative arts throughout the 19th and early part of the 20th Century. Admitted to the National Academy at the age of 23, he was the youngest member ever to join up until that point.

Tiffany began his coloured glass career in the 1870’s and specialised in making stained glass windows for churches, often incorporating floral patterns.

His prowess led to collaborations with two other artists and together they founded Louis Tiffany Company and the Associated American Artists, a business that specialised in glass windows. With the dissolution of the his business in 1885 he founded the Tiffany Glass Company which later evolved into Tiffany Studios which specialised in making Tiffany lamps at the beginning of the 1930’s.

Edison’s invention of the light bulb in 1879 compelled Tiffany to begin to make glass lampshades. Drawing on his experience making stained glass windows and design vision, the Tiffany lamp was born. Tiffany used the same methods as he had for his windows by making paper patterns to cut the glass into pieces edging the pieces with copper foil and soldering them together to construct the lampshade. Patenting his design, Tiffany created his first design, a shell shaped lampshade and exhibited the design in 1899.

Today, Tiffany lamps and lampshades are still made using the methods developed by Tiffany one hundred and sixteen years ago, with designs that mirror the original visions of Tiffany.

Making a Tiffany lamp requires considered and consistent effort. The first aspect of the process is to carve a wooden model of the lampshade. The design is then translated to paper or linen with each line representing a small piece of coloured glass.

Once the design has been transferred to paper or linen and cut along the selected lines so it lays flat and becomes a two dimensional pattern. A number is assigned to the section of the lamp assembly, which is then cut into smaller sections and used as the basis for the design.

The final process is the construction. Simply add adhesive wax to the wooden model by pressing each piece of glass into its individual slot. Once the surface area of the lampshade has been constructed copper foil is used to solder the glass into place. The whole design is the heated to melt the solder and allow the lampshade to be constructed.

Today Tiffany lighting designs decorate a wealth of homes and interior environments the world over. Shining brilliant lights in across the room, they create an ambiance that cannot be matched.

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