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For 100 years, Steuben has been at the forefront of glass design, balancing state-of-the-art technological advancements with centuries-old traditional glassmaking techniques . Founder Frederick Carder was clearly a child prodigy who was born in England and a self trained chemist, physicist, draftsman, and pottery. He became passionate about glassmaking as a child growing up in Staffordshire and spent time sketching, modeling, and playing with clay at his grandfather's pottery factory. Unusually headstrong, Carder quite school at 14 to work full time at the factory. He soon realized he made a mistake and started taking courses at night in art, chemistry, electricity, and metallurgy. In 18878, his grandfather died and his father and uncles inherited the factory not appreciating the talents of the ambitious 15 year old. He left and took a job as draftsman and designer at a local glassmaking firm, Stevens & Williams. Here, he was allowed to experiment with colorizing agents and create new designs in colored glass, cameo glass, and engraved glass. The company put his designs into production, and they were such a commercial success that it eventually sent him on "fact finding" trips to Austria, Germany, and the United States.

In 1903, Carder was on his way to meet Thomas E. Hawkes, the president of a Corning company that bought glass blanks from Stevens & Williams. When Hawkes offered to establish a glass factory for Carder, Carder accepted. He named the company Steuben after the county where it was located and began production almost immediately. Steuben Glass Works was almost a one man operation, where Carder designed the ware, supervised production, and dictated sales policies. They specialized in colorful Art Nouveau glass just coming into popularity, and the early years were the most productive. At least half of the more than 100 recorded colors and over 8000 design forms which make up the Carder record from 1903 to 1932 were initiated before World War I. Carder's innovative experimentation with glassmaking techniques produced important results including iridescent surfaces like their well known "Aurene" glass, murky translucence, and saturated colors. Aurene was the first great commercial success, glass with a golden iridescence whose name was taken from the Latin word for gold, aurum, and the last 3 letters of schene, a Middle English word for sheen. In 1913, Louis Comfort Tiffany sued Steuben for $50,000 for copying his trademarked iridescent favrile glass which was somewhat similar to Aurene. Carder demanded a bill of particulars which Tiffany's lawyers failed to produce, and the suit was subsequently dropped and Tiffany and Carder reconciled. In 1918, the Corning Glass Works acquires Steuben as both companies positioned themselves for the years following World War I, and Frederick Carder continued in his capacity of Managing Director of the new "Steuben Division" of Corning Glass.

Carder was constantly tinkering, taking rods of differently colored glass to make Venetian style millefiori wares. He sandwiched a layer of powdered glass, called a frit, between two layers of clear glass. In about 1928 Carder made what many consider his pioneering achievement in "intarsia" glass after the word intarsiatura, a type of 15th century Italian marquetry. A design is etched in a colored glass casing which is then reheated and covered with a layer of clear glass. A third layer of clear glass is added so it becomes one homogeneous piece. It is a difficult, complicated process and only about 100 known examples were made, each signed "Fred'k Carder" on the front, not underneath.

In 1932, Steuben made one of its most significant technological advances, a glass they named "10M" which had extremely high refractive qualities that permits the entire light wave spectrum to pass through the glass, including the ultraviolet range. In 1933, Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. became Steuben's new president, and he introduced to the market this clear, pure 10M glass now known as Steuben crystal. This new type of glass was created by Corning researchers and had amazing brilliance, clarity, and surface finish. Houghton collaborated with sculptor Sidney Waugh and architect John Gates. With the introduction of Steuben crystal, colored glass was gradually phased out of Steuben production, and the Steuben Division became known as simply Steuben Glass. Some forms of Carder's original glass designs continue to be made in the new clear glass formula although many new styles are also introduced influenced by the sculptor Sidney Waugh and architect John Gates. In these early years of Steuben's history, Steuben primarily made objects for the home including stemware, urns, candlesticks, bowls, and drinking glasses. Gazelle, Steuben's first major engraved design, is introduced in 1935 and reflects the influences of Swedish simplicity and the massive geometry of Art Deco, and this is the first Steuben pattern that utilizes all of Steuben's renowned glassmaking techniques: blowing, cutting, polishing, and copper-wheel engraving. Houghton continued over the following years to push the boundaries of creative expression as shown through the partnership of the glass designer and glassmaker. Frederick Carder himself continued to work in a small studio at Corning until his final retirement at age 96.

Having now made glass for over 100 years, Steuben has always sought to balance state-of-the-art technological advancements with the centuries old craft of glassmaking and the skills of the craftsmen. They continue today to create distinctive designs and to adhere to the "hand methods" of forming, polishing and engraving fine art glass in a mission to produce "the finest glass the world has ever seen."

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Frederick Carder and Steuben Glass: American Classics The Corning Museum of Glass: A Decade of Glass Collecting
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