A quirky masterpiece is an 1867 piano made out of exquisite layers of papier mache with mother-of-pearl inlays. And when a Pittsburgh-area religious order, the Harmonists, made silk textiles, they raised the silkworms themselves.
Over time designers experimented with less precious materials, such as a curved lounge chair from 1936 made out of bent plywood. Pyrex, nylon and stainless steel were used, too. In 1925, J. & L. Lobmeyr added uranium to the glass in a group of bowls, causing the colors to change under different types of light.
The exhibit opened Saturday and runs through Feb. 24. It also will make stops at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., co-curated the show.