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Harvey K. Littleton

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Harvey K. Littleton

American, (1922–2013)
University of Michigan, B.A. (1947), Cranbrook Academy of Art, M.F.A. (1951)
University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of California, Los Angeles; Toledo Museum of Art

Harvey K. Littleton (Corning, NY 1922–2013 Spruce Pine, NC) grew up around the glass manufacturing industry thanks to his father heading research and development at Corning Glassworks, the company that invented Pyrex. Littleton studied industrial design, ceramics, and metalwork at the University of Michigan and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It was during that time that he met his wife Bess Tamura Littleton (Honokaa, HI 1926—2009 Fort Pierce, FL), a painting student, at the University of Michigan.

While Littleton began his art career in studio craft as a ceramicist, he would go on to combine his history with glass with his formal education to found the Studio Glass Movement in the United States. In the late 1950s, after visiting glass workshops in Italy, he came back determined to make it possible for an artist to work with glass alone in a studio as opposed to a team in a factory. He went on to build his own glass furnace while continuing to improve techniques for studio glass blowing.

As a ceramics teacher, he instituted a glass art program at the University of Wisconsin Madison. By making his own tools and bringing a furnace into his studio he began in 1962 to teach the craft to others at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Littleton taught the first generation of studio glass artists including Dale Chihuly, Fritz Dreisbach, and Sam Herman —who taught the next generation—and his influence can still be seen today. For example, Littleton’s son John went on to become a glass artist who today creates art with his wife Kate Vogel.

Littleton retired in 1976 and opened a glass studio near the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. Many glass artists in the area came to use Littleton’s studio which was well stocked with equipment. Littleton remarked that he learned as much from his peers in North Carolina as they learned from him. The North Carolina artists who worked with Littleton include Mark Peiser, Richard Ritter, and William and Katherine Bernstein. Littleton’s studio and his involvement with Penland School, such as serving on the board of trustees contributed to today’s large community of glass artists in Western North Carolina

Today, Littleton’s work is held in many museums including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Museum of Modern Art.

[Source: Museum Staff using Harvey K. Littleton: A Life in Glass by Joan Falconer Byrd]

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