Women in Glasshouses: Communism in a Juice Glass – the designs of Freda Diamond

Freda Diamond, “Designer for
Everybody.” Life Magazine, April 5, 1954.

In the decades after the second world war, millions of Americans unknowingly allowed a communist into their homes in the shape of innocent housewares. How? Through the designs of Freda Diamond (American, 1905-1998), industrial designer and tastemaker with almost unmatched influence in the post-war American home. Diamond’s greatest success was her work with Libbey Glass, designing almost 80 glassware patterns between 1946 and her retirement in 1988. Despite her influential and prolific career, only in the past twenty years has her legacy in the history of design begun to be cemented. But one question that has yet to be asked is whether Diamond’s political and social beliefs influenced her body of work.

Diamond was born in New York City in 1905 to Russian Jewish immigrants. After her father departed when she was only three-years-old, Diamond was raised solely by her mother Ida, a costume designer and anarchist. Ida soon began a relationship with Moe Goldman, brother of prominent anarchist political activist and thinker Emma Goldman. Moe became a surrogate father to Diamond, and Emma a lifelong friend. Diamond studied decorative design at the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union and soon after worked for the high-end interior design firm William Baumgarten & Co. Designing for New York’s ultra-elite proved unfulfilling, so Diamond worked at the mid-market department store Stern Brothers for six years before starting her own design consulting business in 1930.

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Piecing Together a Hot Shop: One Glassmaker’s Adventure into Building a Hot Shop out of Legos

Glassblower Chris Rochelle in action.

When the Museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19 earlier this year, our glassmakers found themselves suddenly without access to the material they spent nearly every day shaping into beautiful objects. More than three months out of a hot shop meant they had to find new outlets for their creativity, and Museum glassmaker Chris Rochelle did just that.

“Glassmaking is therapeutic to me,” said Chris. “It’s active, it’s engaging, and it keeps my attention and focus. Not having that was tough. I missed the studio so much that I got busy making my own glass shop for a fun project during quarantine.” 

Having spent more than 20 years in various hot shops—with 10 of those years at the Museum—Chris knows hot shops like the back of his hand. He could envision every piece of equipment, every tool, and all the materials that come together to enable the magic that occurs when a maker meets molten glass. Of course, creating a functional hot shop at home would be out of the question for most glassmakers for a variety of reasons. But that didn’t stop Chris from getting creative with his nephews’ Lego sets. 

“I’ve always loved Legos but haven’t built anything with them since I was a kid,” said Chris.

Chris’s Lego furnace complete with a color rack (left) and pipe warmer (right).
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Women in Glasshouses: The Menace of the Unorganized Woman

First, a confession: I love organizational newsletters, newspapers, and magazines in general, so when I began research for this post on women and organized labor in the American glass industry, I started with union periodicals, many of which we have at the Rakow Research Library and some of which are available to read online via the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Cover of the October 1913 issue of The Glass Worker.

The Glass Worker, official publication of the Amalgamated Glassworkers’ International Association, and The American Flint, official magazine of the American Flint Glass Workers’ Union of North America, provide glimpses not only into the labor struggles in the glass industry in the early 1900s but also into the labor movement as a whole, nationally and internationally.

Tools for Building Solidarity

These publications weren’t intended to provide unbiased news; they were vital tools used to organize and inspire workers, to build solidarity among workers, and to educate members in the principles, rules, and procedures of trade unionism.

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Superstitious? Maybe You Should Be!

Design drawing, about 1895-1905. René Lalique. CMGL 127803.

Superstitions. Everyone has them, right? I remember, as a kid, hopping down the sidewalk, trying to skip the cracks while chatting with my best friend and dodging other walkers. It was hard work, but it saved my mom some back pain and made me the excellent multi-tasker that I am today.

I had no idea, though, that there were so many superstitions tied to glass until I started reading through The Rakow Library’s files on oddities and curiosities of glass.

Most of us are familiar with the seven years of bad luck you earn for shattering a mirror. But mirrors appear in lots of superstitions. Their reflective properties give them extra mojo, with some weirdly conflicting powers. They can ward off the evil eye or sometimes trap souls who should otherwise be progressing on to another realm after death. A couple of years ago I took a Halloween tour of a Victorian house. In the room with the coffin for a recently deceased family member, the mirrors were covered to prevent the deceased’s soul from getting sidetracked and caught. And almost any kid who has been at a sleepover will know the story of Bloody Mary. Say her name three times in front of a mirror and you will have the misfortune to bring a murderous witch to life. I don’t know if this actually works, because, well, I was a big chicken as a kid.

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Blown Away Season 2! Catching Up with the Judges

Arguably the hottest show on Netflix, the glassblowing competition series Blown Away–once again featuring expert glassmakers from The Corning Museum of Glass–returns for a second season tomorrow, January 22, 2021.

Blown Away Season 2 starts streamingon Netflix tomorrow, Friday, January 22, 2021.

The Museum will also host Blown Away Season 2, an exhibit of work made during Season 2, featuring one object from each of the 10 contestants. You can view the exhibit on the Museum’s West Bridge starting tomorrow.

When the first season of Blown Away launched in the summer of 2019, CMoG was invited into the spotlight, bringing to the program its expertise in an artform that much of the world was discovering for the first time through the show.

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Rob Cassetti, the creative way

2020 has been a monumental year. There have certainly been times of difficulty, but also moments of innovation and progress. And for some, that change has been positive, a steppingstone to new roads and new adventures. This is certainly true for Rob Cassetti, who announces his retirement from The Corning Museum of Glass after more than 20 years of service.

A career of creative excellence is something we can all strive to achieve. For Rob, that endeavor has been essential; it’s a deeply rooted way of thinking, a calling, and a joy for him to practice. It’s the only way his brain works. Rob’s professional life has been one steeped in creative people, energy, places, and experiences, and for many of these moments, he has been the instigator, the spark that brought it all together.

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Meet Penguin Pierre: From the Shelf to the Spotlight

Meet Pierre!

He sat casually in the corner of an office workspace, just waiting for his unlikely rise to fame. Born of sand and fire during artist Catherine Labonté’s live stream demo, this goofy-looking character could make you smile just by looking at him. And really, what more could he have hoped to accomplish than spreading simple happiness to an office filled with museum marketing employees? Then COVID-19 hit, and those employees packed up their desks and left to work from home for the foreseeable future, leaving Penguin Pierre in solitude—with no more faces to light up.

Then, when Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium shared videos of a penguin called Wellington waddling around their empty spaces; inspiration struck! Only, Pierre couldn’t waddle around the Museum… he’s made of glass. Except, could he?!

Penguin Pierre has the whole Museum to himself.
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Going His Own Way: Victor Nemard, a memorial

The Corning Museum of Glass has lost one of its warmest, kindest smiles. It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our own Victor Alexander Nemard, who died suddenly on March 17, 2020. He was 61.

Victor joined the Museum in 1996 and began his career as a buyer for the Museum Shops, which was known as the Glass Market at the time, before taking the reins as Senior Manager, a post he held for more than 20 years.

In that time, Victor oversaw two major renovations. The first was an expansive redesign of the retail space during the Museum’s 2001 renovation, which created one of the largest museum gift shops in the United States with eight boutiques devoted to various glass shopping experiences. The second came in 2015-2016 with the redesign and renaming of The Shops in conjunction with the opening of the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, creating the world-class retail experience we know and love today.

Walking through The Shops, Victor’s presence was felt in every small detail. From the seasonal bouquets and decorations to the visionary strategy that makes The Shops unique. And if you were lucky, you might have found Victor slowly walking the aisles, his hands clasped behind his back, carefully looking at the displays, the positioning of a piece of glass and the way the light fell on it, or the way a glass-beaded scarf was draped across a hanger. He was a quiet, ever-smiling presence and if you found him ruminating in this way, he was always one to stop, to talk, and ask you how you were.

Read more →

Blown Away Season 2! Catching Up with the Judges

Arguably the hottest show on Netflix, the glassblowing competition series Blown Away–once again featuring expert glassmakers from The Corning Museum of Glass–returns for a second season tomorrow, January 22, 2021.

Blown Away Season 2 starts streamingon Netflix tomorrow, Friday, January 22, 2021.

The Museum will also host Blown Away Season 2, an exhibit of work made during Season 2, featuring one object from each of the 10 contestants. You can view the exhibit on the Museum’s West Bridge starting tomorrow.

When the first season of Blown Away launched in the summer of 2019, CMoG was invited into the spotlight, bringing to the program its expertise in an artform that much of the world was discovering for the first time through the show.

Read more →

Rob Cassetti, the creative way

2020 has been a monumental year. There have certainly been times of difficulty, but also moments of innovation and progress. And for some, that change has been positive, a steppingstone to new roads and new adventures. This is certainly true for Rob Cassetti, who announces his retirement from The Corning Museum of Glass after more than 20 years of service.

A career of creative excellence is something we can all strive to achieve. For Rob, that endeavor has been essential; it’s a deeply rooted way of thinking, a calling, and a joy for him to practice. It’s the only way his brain works. Rob’s professional life has been one steeped in creative people, energy, places, and experiences, and for many of these moments, he has been the instigator, the spark that brought it all together.

Read more →

Meet Penguin Pierre: From the Shelf to the Spotlight

Meet Pierre!

He sat casually in the corner of an office workspace, just waiting for his unlikely rise to fame. Born of sand and fire during artist Catherine Labonté’s live stream demo, this goofy-looking character could make you smile just by looking at him. And really, what more could he have hoped to accomplish than spreading simple happiness to an office filled with museum marketing employees? Then COVID-19 hit, and those employees packed up their desks and left to work from home for the foreseeable future, leaving Penguin Pierre in solitude—with no more faces to light up.

Then, when Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium shared videos of a penguin called Wellington waddling around their empty spaces; inspiration struck! Only, Pierre couldn’t waddle around the Museum… he’s made of glass. Except, could he?!

Penguin Pierre has the whole Museum to himself.
Read more →

Going His Own Way: Victor Nemard, a memorial

The Corning Museum of Glass has lost one of its warmest, kindest smiles. It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our own Victor Alexander Nemard, who died suddenly on March 17, 2020. He was 61.

Victor joined the Museum in 1996 and began his career as a buyer for the Museum Shops, which was known as the Glass Market at the time, before taking the reins as Senior Manager, a post he held for more than 20 years.

In that time, Victor oversaw two major renovations. The first was an expansive redesign of the retail space during the Museum’s 2001 renovation, which created one of the largest museum gift shops in the United States with eight boutiques devoted to various glass shopping experiences. The second came in 2015-2016 with the redesign and renaming of The Shops in conjunction with the opening of the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, creating the world-class retail experience we know and love today.

Walking through The Shops, Victor’s presence was felt in every small detail. From the seasonal bouquets and decorations to the visionary strategy that makes The Shops unique. And if you were lucky, you might have found Victor slowly walking the aisles, his hands clasped behind his back, carefully looking at the displays, the positioning of a piece of glass and the way the light fell on it, or the way a glass-beaded scarf was draped across a hanger. He was a quiet, ever-smiling presence and if you found him ruminating in this way, he was always one to stop, to talk, and ask you how you were.

Read more →