Harvey K. Littleton is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in developing and promoting contemporary studio glass. In 1947, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in industrial design, and in 1951, he earned an M.F.A. in ceramics at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, near Detroit. Later that fall, he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Even though he began his career as a ceramist, Littleton was also interested in glass.
At a 1960 conference, Littleton announced his intention to explore traditional glassworking methods. He then conducted two experimental glass workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962. These seminal workshops, which mark the birth of the American Studio Glass movement, were led by Littleton and glass research scientist Dominick Labino. The aim of the workshops was to introduce artists to the use of hot glass as a material for contemporary art.
During the late 1960s and 1970s, Littleton’s students and other artists established glass programs at universities, art schools, and summer programs across the country. What began 50 years ago as a small group of artists who shared an unusual interest has grown into an international community of thousands of artists working in glass.
At the end of the 1960s, Littleton moved from making blown vessels to developing sculptural work based on a vocabulary of geometric forms. The exploration of columns and tubes, and later, color and motion in glass, occupied him for the rest of his career. This small, experimental sculpture represents the kind of investigation into material that was typical of Littleton and his students in the early years of studio glass.