How were Tiffany Lamps Actually Made?
The current exhibition Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light includes an educational space that allows visitors to see the process behind the creation of a Tiffany lamp. This intensive process required planning, practice, and a lot of patience.
The production of a Tiffany lampshade began with a watercolor sketch of the proposed design. The design was then reproduced on a three-dimensional plaster mold. Once approved by Tiffany, the design was transferred onto a wooden mold and patterns were created using paper or more-durable brass, as guides to cut the glass.
Each piece of glass for the lampshade was carefully selected from a larger sheet. Because each sheet of glass varied in color, shading, and opacity, the glass selector first studied the sheet to decide exactly where to place the pattern. With the pattern set, the glass sheet was handed to another artisan who used a glass cutter to score and break the glass to match the pattern.
Once all the glass was selected and cut, the edges of each piece were wrapped in thin strips of copper foil, with a slight overlap on front and back.
One by one, the wrapped pieces were then placed on the mold and the copper-foiled edges were soldered together to hold the glass in place.
After all of the pieces were assembled, the shade was removed from the mold, turned upside down, and solder was applied to the copper-foiled edges on the inside. To stabilize the top and bottom openings, brass rings were soldered onto the copper-foiled edges of the glass. The final step in the fabrication process was to apply a patina, typically a bronze or gold finish, to the silver solder lines.
See an educational model demonstrating this process at Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light, open through May 5, 2018, at the BYU Museum of Art.