Text by Madison P. Whyde, Gallery Attendant at the Forsyth Galleries
The Forsyth Galleries at Texas A&M University’s Memorial Student Center features an eloquent and extensive collection of English Cameo Glass. Last month’s article goes into detail about one of our cameo glass pieces and how it was created. However, our galleries also feature a beautiful collection of Steuben Glass, whose history you may be less aware of.
Frederick C. Carder was born in Staffordshire, England where he grew up loving the arts. He quit his schooling at a young age and started developing his glass-making skills at various local firms until a few of his designs became commercially popular. In 1903, on a business trip to the United States, Carder met Thomas Hawkes who was familiar with his success. As the president of Corning Glass Works, Hawkes offered to establish and provide funds for a company to be run by Carder in Corning, New York, and soon after Steuben Glass Works emerged as an American art glass company.
Throughout his career with Steuben Glass Works, Frederick C. Carder created more than 8,000 designs, of which one of his more famous types is known as Aurene. To create his patented Aurene glass, Carder would spray clear, malleable glass with a metallic chloride and then heat it in a specific manner; the glass surface would crack into millions of tiny lines causing the light to reflect off it in an unprecedented, exquisite manner.
He was also known for his incorporation of different art styles into his pieces. For the vase pictured here, Carder managed to create almost perfectly clear glass and embellish it with a striking black floral intarsia design. Intarsia refers to an art technique that developed during the Italian Renaissance of decorating a surface with recurring patterns. This vase truly highlights Carder’s masterful ability to manipulate the raw material by combining both the technology of glass making and the expertise of design. In addition to the vase’s asymmetrical nature and improbable rippling rim, its stunning colors and uniqueness highlight the power and expressivity of simplicity.
However, with the onset of World War I, America underwent many raw material shortages, which eventually lead to a decline in Steuben glass popularity. His company was bought by Corning Glass works, and under new management the Steuben division produced new pieces of art that were instead formed with different, revolutionary techniques. Most notably, a manufacturing process known as 10-M was developed by Corning in an effort to create glass that would transmit, instead of absorb, ultraviolet light; the iron impurities that are found in glass are removed which achieves an extremely high refractive quality that permits the entire spectrum of light and ultraviolet light to pass through. This purifying procedure creates a pure, beautiful finished product unique to the Steuben standard of glass making. Frederick Carder retired in 1932, although the production of his style of glass continued. To exemplify the prestige of his glass, it’s interesting to note that famous persons and dignitaries were awarded Steuben Glass pieces, and in 1951, a piece was even presented to Princess Elizabeth during the opening of England’s “Exhibit of Exhibits.”
Although Steuben glass officially ceased its manufacturing in 2012, it stands as an American symbol of our ability to produce world-class art glass. Carder’s art is rare, and his incredible formulas for glass transformation into extraordinary works of art continue to be recognized in the field. To see more works designed by Carder for Steuben, be sure to visit the Forsyth Galleries and our current “Forsyth Favorites” exhibit that features several of his extraordinary works!