A friend said he thought it was important that people be passionate about something. While I agreed, it had me wondering about just what that might mean to me.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself spending time relishing the brilliance of Dale Chihuly’s art at both the new Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle and the private studio where they put some of the pieces together. Seeing both, especially the studio, brought to mind my fascination with how glass artists reign in the passions of fire to create amazingly beautiful pieces of art.
Passion! It’s what makes life more interesting and colorful. It also is what inspires and adds joy to one’s very soul. Color is one thing I have always felt passionate about. It stimulates my brain and lets me find artistic inspiration everywhere, especially in nature; the textures and tints of the trees, how flowers add touches of visual surprise.
This ardor for color and art drew me to Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland; that, and my book club. The book had a slow start and it was a little too long so I hadn't finished it by the discussion last spring. After my Chihuly visit, I decided to pick it up again, but this time it was through the eyes of an artist that I read. For I found I could relate to the enthusiasm with how Clara saw the natural beauty in life and then incorporated it into stunning art.
The book is a fictionalized story of the woman who ran the women’s glass department at Tiffany’s. In reading some other historical accounts, it’s speculated that she may have been the actual creative genius behind many of the Tiffany lamps associated with Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Louis was an artist and a great lover of beauty, though he had his shortcomings, pun intended. While he employed women to be artisans at a time when no one else would, he also had some onerous stipulations, like the fact that once married, a woman would need to give up her job and income. He is also depicted as an extravagant spendthrift and somewhat of a narcissistic tyrant, especially to his family. Yet he did seem to nurture and encourage creativity in his artists.
Life in the late 1800s/early 1900s New York is depicted. It’s a bit bleak as there’s a lot about the hard life and poverty of recent immigrants as well as the plight of women in the arts trade. Though Clara was well respected and seemed to live reasonably well, life was not easy for many. Even Clara herself had a few challenges to deal with.
I don't know that I would have made the same choices as Clara, the woman, but what kept me with the book this time was that I loved being inside the mind of Clara, the artist. It intrigued me to see how she took beauty and interpreted it through the colors and textures of glass. It is also why I love Chihuly’s art. He does the same.
I know that I may never be the artist that Clara was or Chihuly is, but I also know that I will always appreciate and feel the joy and passion in each piece created. And that may be enough for me.
After all, I am, if nothing else, a passionate being with at least the soul of an artist…