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Mary Shaffer papers, 1969-2002

Mary Shaffer papers, 1969-2002

Shaffer, Mary, 1947-

Sculptor, Glass artist

Collection Information

Size: 4.0 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of internationally renowned glass artist and sculptor, Mary Shaffer, measure four linear feet and date from 1969 to 2002. Through correspondence, subject files, printed material and photographs the collection provides an overview of many aspects of Shaffer's career, including commissions, exhibitions, her teaching appointments, and the day-to-day administration of her affairs.

Correspondence files cross-referenced with records organized by subject provide insight into Shaffer's artistic aspirations and techniques, and represent a good overview of Shaffer's important contribution to the American Studio Glass Movement. These two series document her interaction with galleries, museums, and individual clients, her work as an educator, and her participation in glass and sculpture-related conferences and programs both at home and abroad. The collection provides solid documentation of specific methods used by Shaffer in her work, particularly in Series 3: Center-Light Project, which details her choice and designs for glass notching tubes, plate glass, fiber optics, and other materials. Additional commissions and techniques are documented in Series 1 and 2.

Printed Material, Series 4, contains exhibition catalogs and announcements, clippings, magazines and other publications reproducing Shaffer's work, providing a good overview of the progress of Shaffer's career and an understanding of the significance of her work. Photographs include several of Shaffer's work, ca. 1970s-1980s, and of Shaffer attending various events, 1986-1990.

Biographical/Historical Note

Mary Shaffer (1947-) is a sculptor and glass artist working in Rhode Island, New York, N.Y., and Maryland. Shaffer is recognized worldwide as one of the founding artists of the American Studio Glass Movement. In the 1970s and 1980s Shaffer taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Wellesley College, and New York University where she was Director of the Crafts Program in the Department of Art and Art Education. She also managed the Art Center at the University of Maryland in the 1980s. From 1975 on, she exhibited her work at O.K. Harris Gallery in New York, and other glass-specific or craft venues.

Provenance

Donated 2002 by Mary Shaffer as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.

A Finding Aid to the Mary Shaffer Papers,
1969-2002
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.shafmary
Biographical Note
Sculptor and glass artist Mary Shaffer was born in Walterboro, South Carolina, in 1947. As a child she lived in South America and her first language was Spanish. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied illustration and minored in painting. Having a mother who believed strongly in the value of travel as education, she also attended the Ecole d'Humanite in Goldern, Switzerland, for several years.
Shaffer is recognized worldwide as one of the founding artists of the American Studio Glass Movement. In the early 1970s she adapted an auto industry technique for shaping windshield glass into a "mid-air slumping," process which allowed her to move glass in a particular way as it was heated. She then began mixing glass and metal tools, casting, dipping and slumping glass from objects found in flea markets and junk yards, and innovatively extending her materials to include "light, bronze, steel, stone and glass, water and sound."
In the 1970s and 1980s Shaffer taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Wellesley College, and New York University where she was Director of the Crafts Program in the Department of Art and Art Education. She also managed the Art Center at the University of Maryland in the 1980s. From 1975 on she exhibited her work at O.K. Harris Gallery in New York (a gallery primarily devoted to painting and non craft sculpture), and has also shown in glass-specific or craft venues such as Habatat Galleries in Michigan and Boca Raton, Florida, Hellery Gallery in New York, and Anne O'Brien Gallery in Washington, DC. In 1992 Shaffer completed the installation of her largest sculpture to date,
Center-Light
, a luminous column of glass and bronze in the three-story open stairwell of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a building designed by architects Cesare Pelli and Associates.
Shaffer's work can be found in the collections of nearly twenty major museums worldwide including the American Craft Museum, the Corning Glass Museum, the Kyoto Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. She has received numerous honors and awards for her work, and has been honored by the American Craft Museum as a Visionary.
Shaffer moved to Marfa, Texas, in 2001 after having been a long-time resident of Bethesda, Maryland, and having studios in Maryland and, later, New York.
Arrangement
In general, files are arranged either chronologically or alphabetically by subject. Within files material is generally arranged chronologically. Every effort was made to retain Shaffer's original arrangement as it provided context for the records, but some re-arrangement of unfiled material and re-naming of subject headings for clarification was necessary during processing. The collection is arranged as five series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1973-1998, undated (box 1, OV 5, 0.8 linear ft.)
Series 2: Subject Files, 1969-1997, undated (box 1-3, OV 5, 1.5 linear ft.)
Series 3:
Center-Light
Project, 1985-1993 (box 3, OV 5, 0.7 linear ft.)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1973-2002, undated (box 4, OV 5-6, 0.8 linear ft.)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1970-1990 (box 4, 3 folders)
Provenance
Donated 2002 by Mary Shaffer as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Stephanie Ashley in December 2002 and January 2003 with funding provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Mary Shaffer papers, 1969-2002. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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