Louis Comfort Tiffany started out as a painter. He became interested in glassmaking from about 1875 and worked at several glasshouses in Brooklyn between then and 1878. In 1879, he joined with Candace Wheeler, Samuel Colman and Lockwood de Forest to form Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated American Artists. Tiffany's leadership and talent, as well as by his father's money and connections, led this business to thrive.
A desire to concentrate on art in glass led to the breakup of the firm in 1885, when Tiffany chose to establish his own glassmaking firm later that same year. The first Tiffany Glass Company was incorporated on December 1, 1885, which in 1902 became known as the Tiffany In the beginning of his career, Tiffany used cheap jelly jars and bottles because they had the mineral impurities that finer glass lacked. When he was unable to convince fine glassmakers to leave the impurities in, he began making his own glass. Tiffany used opalescent glass in a variety of colors and textures to create a unique style of stained glass. This can be contrasted with the method of painting in glass paint or enamels on colorless glass that had been the dominant method of creating stained glass for several hundred years in Europe. (The First Presbyterian Church building of 1905 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is unique in that it uses Tiffany windows that partially make use of painted glass.) Use of the colored glass itself to create stained glass pictures was motivated by the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and its leader William Morris in England. Fellow artist and glassmakers Oliver Kimberly and Frank Duffner, founders of the Duffner and Kimberly company, and John La Farge were Tiffany's chief competitors in this new American style of stained glass. Tiffany, Duffner and Kimberly, along with La Farge, had learned their craft at the same glasshouses in Brooklyn in the late-1870s.
In 1893, Tiffany built a new factory called the Stourbridge Glass Company, later called Tiffany Glass Furnaces, which was located in Corona, Queens, New York. In 1893, his company also introduced the term, Favrile in conjunction with his first production of blown glass at his new glass factory. Some early examples of his lamps were exhibited in the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.
He trademarked Favrile (from the old French word for handmade) on November 13, 1894. He later used this word to apply to all of his glass, enamel and pottery. Tiffany's first commercially produced lamps date from around 1895. Much of his company's production was in making stained glass windows and Tiffany lamps, but his company designed a complete range of interior decorations. At its peak, his factory employed more than 300 artisans.
He used all his skills in the design of his own house, the 84-room Laurelton Hall, in the village of Laurel Hollow, on Long Island, New York completed in 1905. Later this estate was donated to his foundation for art students along with 60 acres (243,000 m²) of land, sold in 1949, and was destroyed by a fire in 1957.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida houses the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, including Tiffany jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass windows, lamps, and the chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After the close of the exposition, a generous benefactor purchased the entire chapel for installation in the crypt of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York in New York City. As construction on the cathedral continued, the chapel fell into disuse, and in 1916, Tiffany removed the bulk of it to Laurelton Hall. After the 1957 fire, the chapel was rescued by Hugh McKean,Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. a former art student in 1930 at Laurelton Hall, and his wife Jeannette Genius McKean,Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. and now occupies an entire wing of the Morse Museum which they founded. Many glass panels from Laurelton Hall are also there; for many years some were on display in local restaurants and businesses in Central Florida. Some were replaced by full-scale color transparencies after the museum opened. A major exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on Laurelton Hall opened in November 2006. A new exhibit at the New-York Historical Society through 28 May 2007 features new information about the women who worked for Tiffany and their contribution to designs credited to Tiffany.Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.
Tiffany maintained close ties with the family firm. The Tiffany Company sold many products produced by the studios. He became Artistic Director of Tiffany & Co. after his father's death in 1902. The Tiffany Studios remained in business until 1932.