“He was a very dynamic and strong-willed person,” says Joan Byrd, a professor of ceramics at Western Carolina University, and Littleton’s biographer and friend. “Glass has caught on, but in those days he was really heading upstream. It took a tremendous amount of energy and a tremendous amount of perseverance.” Byrd was also one of Littleton’s graduate students in the first studio glass classes that he offered after returning to the University of Wisconsin from the Toledo workshops.
In 1976, Byrd invited Littleton to WCU to give a talk at North Carolina Glass ’76, the second all-glass art exhibition she organized there. During that trip, Littleton decided to move to WNC. He retired from the university the following year. “It was mostly because of the activity around the Penland school and the vitality of the community of artists in the area,” Byrd says. She adds, “If you think something is impossible, Harvey is going to make it happen. That’s how the studio glass movement happened — he made it happen.” The region’s lush, foggy green mountains, she says, also reminded Littleton’s wife, Bess, of her home in Hawaii. The artist set up his studio in Spruce Pine, just miles from the Penland campus. He later served on the school’s board of trustees, and as board chair, and helped expand the school’s glass program.
“Harvey was a larger-than-life personality,” says Jean McLaughlin, executive director at Penland School of Crafts.