Harvey Littleton (1922 – 2013) was an American glassware designer. He was born in Corning, New York. He was the son of a Corning Glass Works scientist, he studied ceramics at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts. He was professionally active in the USA and Britain. In a 2001 oral history, he links the emergence of American Art in the years before and after World war 2 to the impact of federal funding and the proliferation of art departments in colleges and universities nationwide.
Between 1939-42 and 1946-47, he studied at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, receiving a bachelor’s degree in design. In 1941 and 1949-51, he studied Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, receiving a master’s degree in ceramics. In 1945, he was a student at the Brighton School of Art, Brighton, under Nora Braden’s tutelage.
He worked in the manufacturing section of Steuben Glass-works. He and a small group developed glass as an expression of abstract art intended for use in domestic interiors. During World War II, he served in Britain; he enrolled in Nora Braden’s pottery classes near Brighton. In 1945·, he joined Corning Glassworks in Corning, New York.
Before Harvey Littleton, glass was used for eyeglasses and windshields, cups and vases-but, not for heating and blowing into fine art. People worked with glass in industrial settings, not in art studios. That changed when Littleton launched America’s first hot-glass art programme at the University of Wisconsin.
Littleton became a well-known teacher and member of the American Crafts Council. In 1957, he studied Hispano-Moresque pottery and was commissioned by the Corning Museum to research Spanish glass. He went to Venice to learn Murano glassmakers’ techniques and set up an artists’ group in the USA based on their practices. He evolved glass as a sculptural medium with little reference to the methods typically used in vessel production.
He deliberately encourages the formation of bubbles and flaws. As his Father directed research at Corning Glassware, Littelton’s mother complains to him, ” Your Father worked 50 years to get the imperfections out of glass and now you’re putting them back in.”
Choosing Craft: The Artist’s Viewpoint. (2009). United States: University of North Carolina Press.