Harvey Littleton is perhaps the single most important figure in the American Studio Glass movement, in which glass is used as a sculptural, rather than a utilitarian, material. Because his father was director of research for Corning Glass Works, from an early age Littleton had access to glass making activities. From 1949 to 1951, Littleton was a ceramics instructor at the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art School of Design, where he met Dominick Labino, who was destined to supply much of the technical knowledge for early studio glass makers. At Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit, Littleton earned his master's degree in ceramics and then began teaching at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Littleton's interest in glass persisted, but it was not until a series of Toledo Art Museum workshops in 1962 that Littleton shared his basic knowledge of glass-making with a small group of interested students. During this time, glass-making became more than experimentation for him. Shortly thereafter, he established a glass-making program at Madison and many of his original students from Detroit followed suit in other parts
of the country.
Traditionally, glassblowing was only done in large factories by tradesmen who created functional objects such as vases, decanters and tableware. The only guidelines Littleton and others like him had at their disposal were the few technical manuals produced for industry. Besides being written in a very technical and specialized manner, the manuals were not appropriate for the smaller-scale studios these artists were patching together. The first decade or so of the studio glass movement was characterized by a large amount of experimentation with different mineral additives for color, temperature calibration and even recipes for the glass itself.
Glass Garden, 1970, is one of three pieces Littleton made on the garden theme. With its colorful bowls and stems, the piece is intended to look like crystalline flowers growing up from the ground.