Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (2023)

Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (1)

Skip to contentSkip to site index

The former first lady, Naomi Campbell and Anne Hathaway are among those whose faces Hugh Findletar has reimagined as glass vases.

A so-called flowerheadz vase by Hugh Findletar inspired by the face of his friend Sara Nozza. The vase is one of several pieces Mr. Findletar is showing at an upcoming group art show at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.Credit...Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Supported by


  • 53

By Chantel Tattoli

Reporting from Venice

“Amore,” Hugh Findletar shouted. “Amore!”

The words echoed through Studio Salvadore, a family-run glassblowing workshop on Murano, the Italian island near Venice known for its centuries-old glass industry. It was 3 p.m. on a Friday in late July, and Mr. Findletar had been making drinking glasses with a small team since around 6:30 in the morning. The temperature near the studio’s furnaces had risen to as high as about 120 degrees.

At the mouth of a furnace, colorful glass rods lined up on the head of a shovel were melting together. Mr. Findletar, 49, flicked water droplets at the glass, which would become a cup, to make bubbles. Then he moved to a table with bowls full of ground glass that looked more like sand. He took pinches of the particles, in shades of lemon yellow and Campari red, and dusted them onto the cup to create splotches.

“I call this dirtying up the glass,” Mr. Findletar said. Some of the pieces being made that day were for India Mahdavi, an interior designer and architect, who is starting to sell his glassware at her namesake boutique in Paris.

(Video) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis remembered in new biography | Nightline

Though Mr. Findletar makes housewares like cups, he is perhaps best known for his bust-like vases, which he calls “flowerheadz.” The “z,” he said, is for his daughter, Zadie, who was named after the writer Zadie Smith. He uses the letter liberally: Mr. Findletar refers to his pieces collectively as “glassz,” and he has made sculptures of horses, fish and shells that he calls “horseheadz,” “fishiez” and “shellz.”



The flowerheadz vases are usually based on people, and he has made versions inspired by the model Naomi Campbell, a doorwoman who works at his apartment building in Milan and Solomon, the biblical king. The pieces start at $25,000, and Mr. Findletar encourages buyers to fill them with flowers. (He likes cattail, anthurium, hydrangea and palmetto, which he said create dramatic hairdos.)

Angela Missoni, 65, the president of the Missoni fashion brand, has bought three of the vases, including the King Solomon edition. Ms. Missoni compared arranging flowers in the pieces to “taking them to the hairdresser.”

Other collectors include Marina Prada, the sister of Miuccia Prada, and the designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who have commissioned flowerheadz vases in their likenesses. King Mohammed VI of Morocco bought a school of eight fishiez sculptures at L’Éclaireur, a luxury store in Paris. (Each cost about $7,500.)

Glass by Way of Photography

In September, Mr. Findletar will introduce new flowerheadz vases at Bergdorf Goodman in Midtown Manhattan, as part of a group art show hosted by the Spaceless Gallery in the department store’s home décor section.

Some of the pieces are modeled after people connected to New York, including the jazz singer Billie Holiday; Patricia Field, the merchant turned “Sex and the City” costume designer; and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who Mr. Findletar rendered in bubble-gum pink, a reference to the color of the Chanel suit she was wearing on the day her first husband, President John F. Kennedy, was shot.

(Video) Jackie Kennedy’s Personal Assistant Speaks Out In New Book 'Jackie’s Girl’ | TODAY

Mr. Findletar typically works with five other artisans to create each flowerheadz vase. (Ears are applied last.) He has been working with many of the same people for more than a decade. “When I start with somebody, there’s a wedding,” he said of the professional bonds he has made.

His path to becoming a glass artist — and to Murano, where he lives on most weekends — was not exactly direct.


Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (3)

Mr. Findletar was born in Jamaica and was raised by his maternal grandparents and great-grandparents, who ran a banana and coffee farm in St. Ann Parish, until he was 8. His interest in flowers, he said, came from his childhood in what’s known as Jamaica’s garden parish.

He then moved to New York and lived with his parents in Brooklyn. His early jobs in the city included working for a political club and managing the floor at a home décor shop, Mr. Findletar said. He also worked as a housekeeping supervisor at a hotel on the Upper East Side, which is now closed. He recalled Tina Turner staying there. “I went and smelled everything in her room,” he said.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Findletar started working as an assistant to the photographer Ken Nahoum, who specialized in celebrity portraiture. Later, in the 1990s, he assisted other photographers, including Michel Comte on shoots with Sophia Loren and other notable subjects. Around the same time, Mr. Findletar also began working as a photographer; his portraits have appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere.

“For a long time, my career was only photography,” he said.

He had moved from New York to Milan by the time he went to Kenya in 1999 on a photography job for the Italian edition of Marie Claire. He stayed in Kenya for about a month, he said, and during that time he visited Anselm’s Kitengela Hot Glass, a glassblowing studio on the outskirts of Nairobi, where he started taking lessons in the craft.

Mr. Findletar said he first made vases that he would use for floral arrangements, some of which he would photograph. He also began to experiment with making glass masks, after buying a wooden mask made by members of Kenya’s Kikuyu tribe.

Eventually, Mr. Findletar said, he thought, “What if I put a mask on a vase, and flowers in the vase?”

“Ding-dong!” he added of the idea that became the foundation for his flowerheadz pieces.

Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (4)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (5)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (6)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (7)

Mr. Findletar pursued glass work as a hobby for about a decade while continuing to work as a photographer. He became more serious about glass, he said, after being invited to show some vases at the 2013 edition of Germany’s International Design Week. Before the festival, Mr. Findletar went to Murano to refine his technique. He said the island is one of the very best places to be for glass.

An ‘Outsider-Outsider’ in Venice

On the island he met Oscar Zanetti, the head of Zanetti Murano, a glassblowing studio that Mr. Zanetti’s family has operated since the 1950s.

“He’s a character,” Mr. Zanetti, 62, said of Mr. Findletar. “I liked him. I liked his ideas.” But he “didn’t know glass well when he arrived and really had to try hard to learn,” Mr. Zanetti said.

Around the time Mr. Findletar started working with Mr. Zanetti, he met Lino Tagliapietra, another master glassblower, at a bar on Murano. (Mr. Tagliapietra has collaborated on various projects with the artist Dale Chihuly.) Mr. Findletar said he helped advance his understanding of the theory of glass as a modern art.

Mr. Findletar, who now rents work space at Mr. Zanetti’s studio and others on Murano, is among a handful of Black glass artists who have penetrated the native industry in Venice, said Adrienne Childs, an art historian and an associate at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard. Others include Fred Wilson, a Black American artist whose black glass chandeliers were made on Murano, and the Senegalese artisan Moulaye Niang, who studied at the Abate Zanetti School of Glass — Venice’s only glassmaking school — and helped found a studio, Muranero, in the city.

Outsiders in the field are not usually Black, Mr. Findletar said. He described himself as an “outsider-outsider” — or a particularly rare presence — on Murano and in Venice. “I consider myself a Moor in all this,” he added, using a term once used in Europe to describe Muslims and people from Northern Africa, and which was later used to generally describe people with dark skin, like Shakespeare’s character Othello.

(Video) Inside Jackie O’s Final Days
Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (8)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (9)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (10)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (11)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (12)Jackie Kennedy as You’ve Never Seen Her (13)


Dr. Childs said that decorative objects called blackamoors, which portray Black people in problematic ways, are still made in Venice. They typically feature Black servants and enslaved people, she said, dressed in fashionable livery that represented the wealth of their owners or employers.

Reni Folawiyo, the owner of Alára, a boutique in Lagos, Nigeria, brought four of Mr. Findletar’s vases to a pop-up shop she curated for this year’s “Africa Fashion” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, which runs through October.

Ms. Folawiyo said that from the 1970s to the 1990s, Venetian glass tiles and chandeliers were considered status items in Nigerian homes. By supporting Mr. Findletar, she said, she is hoping to raise his profile in Africa and to boost its glassblowing industry.

“Our diaspora is very important to the story we tell,” she said. “I think more people need to know Hugh’s work.”

Mr. Findletar is also attempting to promote the African glass industry, he said, by developing a series of glass masks informed by Venetian romanticism with the studio in Kenya where he learned the basics of glassblowing.

He said he sees making the flowerheadz vases as a way of trying to repopulate the planet with “my people of every color, even green.” (He gives some pieces a green complexion similar to the color of bamboo canes.) He added that, through his work, he is “bringing that Rift Valley energy to Venice,” referring to the swath of East Africa where some of humans’ oldest ancestors lived.

As he put it, “I’m playing God.”

A correction was made on

Aug. 16, 2023


An earlier version of this article misspelled, in several instances, the surname of the creator of “flowerheadz” vases. He is Hugh Findletar, not Findeltar.

How we handle corrections

(Video) "Camera Girl" and how Jackie met JFK

A version of this article appears in print on , Section


, Page


of the New York edition

with the headline:

From the Flames, Vessels of Imagination. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


  • 53



(Video) Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations


What did Queen Elizabeth write to Jackie Kennedy? ›

Answer and Explanation: Queen Elizabeth wrote the following note to Jackie Kennedy after her husband was murdered on November 22, 1963: "I am so deeply distressed to learn of the tragic death of President Kennedy. My husband joins me in sending our heartfelt and sincere sympathy to you and to your family."

What did Jackie Kennedy say about raising children? ›

Jackie Kennedy Quote

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much.

What were Jackie Kennedy's accomplishments? ›

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was noted for her style and elegance. As first lady, she made the White House a showcase for America's most talented and accomplished individuals, and worked to restore the White House to its original elegance and to protect its holdings.

Why was Jackie Kennedy so famous? ›

During her lifetime, she was regarded as an international fashion icon and her work as a cultural ambassador of the United States made her very popular globally.

What was the last thing JFK said to Jackie? ›

Well, historians have now clarified that the last words Jack spoke before the fatal shot were, “No, you certainly can't.” No, you certainly can't? He was making small talk in the car.

Did the Queen go to Kennedy's funeral? ›

The queen did not attend JFK's funeral for several reasons. It is very rare for the queen to attend a funeral. And, at the time of JFK's funeral, the queen was several months pregnant with Prince Edward.

Did President Kennedy love Jackie? ›

Though the Kennedy's relationship is often marked by JFK's several affairs and tragic assassination in 1963, JFK and Jackie did love each other and indelibly left a mark on the White House and the U.S. at large.

What happened to Jackie Kennedy's first baby? ›

Jackie Kennedy's first pregnancy in 1955 had resulted in a miscarriage. A year later, a stillborn baby girl, Arabella, was delivered by Cesarean section. Her third and fourth pregnancies delivered Caroline and John, Jr. Baby Patrick was her fifth pregnancy.

What is the misfortune of the Kennedy family? ›

December 31, 1997 – Michael LeMoyne Kennedy died in a skiing accident after crashing into a tree in Aspen, Colorado. July 16, 1999 – John F. Kennedy Jr. died when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

What was Jackie Kennedy wearing when JFK was shot? ›

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was wearing a pink suit when her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Who was Jackie Kennedy's maid of honor? ›

Michael T. Canfield) as matron of honor; her stepsister Nina G. Auchincloss as maid of honor; and ten bridesmaids, among them the groom's sister Jean and sister-in-law Ethel, and the bride's former boarding school roommate, Nancy Tuckerman.

How did JFK meet Marilyn Monroe? ›

When did Monroe and JFK first meet? There are several conflicting suggestions as to when they first entered into each other's orbit. In 1954, according to biographer James Spada, talking to People, the actor Peter Lawford – brother-in-law to the president – first introduced JFK to Monroe.

Why did Jackie Kennedy crawl to the back of the car? ›

Q: Why did First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy climb onto the back of the car after the shooting? A: Jacqueline Kennedy climbed on the back of the car to retrieve fragments from the president's head, though she had no memory of it afterward.

Was Jackie Kennedy known for her beauty? ›

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (or Jackie O as she's fondly known) has long been one of the world's most beloved beauty icons.

How much did JFK leave Jackie? ›

Upon her husband's death, Jackie became the beneficiary of a Kennedy family trust that provided around $200,000 in annual income. That's the same as around $1.7 million in today's dollars.

How accurate is the crown? ›

Though The Crown is clearly based on real events involving the monarchy—especially the various scandals and rumors that have embroiled the royal family over the years, from Prince Charles and Princess Diana's contentious marriage to Prince Philip's alleged infidelity—the people behind the Emmy Award–winning show have ...

What happened in Ghana with Queen Elizabeth? ›

Queen Elizabeth II visited the Republic of Ghana from 9 to 20 November 1961 and from 7 to 9 November 1999. During her 1961 tour, the Queen famously danced with Ghana's president Kwame Nkrumah at a farewell ball in Accra, which many scholars believe was a symbolic moment in the history of the Commonwealth.

Was Prince Philip at JFK's funeral? ›


Who did Jackie Kennedy marry after her husband died? ›

After the assassination and funeral of her husband, Kennedy and her two children, left public life. In October 1968, she married Greek businessman Aristotle Onassis. After his death in 1975, she worked as a book editor in New York City.


1. The Untold Truth Of Jackie Kennedy
(The List)
2. Protecting Jacqueline Kennedy
(JFK Library)
3. Who Inherited Jackie Kennedy Onassis' Money After She Died?
4. Jackie Kennedy on MLK: 'That man's terrible' - theGrio
5. Watch a Tour of Jackie Kennedy's Former Georgetown Mansion, Now Listed at $26.5M
(NBC4 Washington)
6. Jacqueline Kennedy's White House Tour
(ABC News)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Margart Wisoky

Last Updated: 05/20/2023

Views: 6286

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Margart Wisoky

Birthday: 1993-05-13

Address: 2113 Abernathy Knoll, New Tamerafurt, CT 66893-2169

Phone: +25815234346805

Job: Central Developer

Hobby: Machining, Pottery, Rafting, Cosplaying, Jogging, Taekwondo, Scouting

Introduction: My name is Margart Wisoky, I am a gorgeous, shiny, successful, beautiful, adventurous, excited, pleasant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.