Miniature Glass Figures
Made by Henry Carter Johnson
Gift of Ruth Totten Johnson
Carter Johnson (1908-1996) was born in Saginaw, Michigan but moved soon
after to Detroit. A trained painter and sculptor, Johnson discovered the
art of glassmaking while living in New York during the early 1930s. He
worked briefly as a WPA artist in Winter Park, Florida during the late
1930s and served as a photographer and surgical artist for the U.S. Army
Medical Corps during World War II. After the war, he returned to his Hart,
Michigan farmhouse where he continued to experiment with glassmaking and
began to demonstrate his craft each summer in the nearby town of Pentwater
on Lake Michigan.
figures were not blown, but were formed by heating colored glass rods
to temperatures up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit and drawing them into
shapes that ranged from the slender, delicate legs of a deer to the
graceful sweep of a fish fin. This process of forming a multicolored
creature was complex, for each color of glass had a different melting
temperature. Heating the glass too much changed its color and excessive
reheating altered its composition. Johnson soon learned the perfect
combination of color and form for each of his designs. Henry Johnson’s
official title for his business was always “Fine Miniatures in
Glass,” although “The Glass Menagerie” became the
informal, and ultimately, more popular title among his fans. In 1972,
Johnson moved to the small town of Ferry, Michigan, where he continued
to fashion his glass figures until shortly before his death in 1996.
Johnson, also a
nature photographer, had his photographs featured in publications that
included the New York Times and Natural History Magazine.
He also sold many photographs to the Audubon Society.
-- Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life, Leisure and Entertainment