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Monday 20 May 2024

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Monday 20 May 2024

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    Lampworking or the privilege of shaping glass

    According to the promise made in a previous content (In Vitro Humanitas: an ode to craftsmanship across the centuries), we are dealing today with an ancient art, which has reached a extraordinary technical-constructive excellence: lampworking of glass.
    With this technique a variegated typology of objects is created which cannot be obtained by blowing in the furnace. Now let us try to understand why.

    Lampworking: what is it about?

    The expression "lampwork glass" refers to a branch of glass processing, performed using a burner, the torch, in which oxygen and natural gas (and alternatively propane) are mixed to obtain correct combustion. This means having a hot flame available through which to melt semi-finished glass rods. It is from those same rods that the mastery of the glassmakers generates objects of extraordinary charm.

    The subjects: the glories of the XNUMXth century and the curiosity of the XNUMXth

    Lampworking represents the other face of the Murano glass-related techniques. It is a method of very ancient origin, which reached its peak during the early nineteenth century. In particular, the production of pearls. In fact, the small handicraft masterpieces in vogue in the XNUMXth century, such as perfume or salt bottles, but also the more complex millefiori or figured murrine derived precisely from the blowing and decoration of pearls.

    The products obtained using this technique need a long processing, contrary to what happens for those produced in the furnaces. That of lampwork glass is a solitary operation that offers a privileged relationship between craftsman and material vitrea, promoted by the power of fire. And precisely because of the artist's protagonism, there are essentially no creative limits. Among the most complex subjects made with lampwork there are certainly the so-called “Glass Zoo”, whose production established itself during the XNUMXth century for a mainly didactic function.

    Borosilicate glass or Murano?

    The two main strands of lampworking depend on the type of glass used: on the one hand that borosilicate, a resistant and hard material, which requires greater heat to be worked, on the other hand that of Murano, a more ductile and widespread sodium-calcium compound in this tradition. In both types of lampwork glass, the creation of objects is envisaged through the development of full or blown bodies. 

    Processing stages

    We now enter into the merits of the actual operation. The starting point of lampworking is the sphere. To obtain it, the craftsman heats the wand. The latter can present three different shades: transparent, pastel and opal, and therefore guarantees any color variant. The rotation of the wrist, back and forth, allows the end of the wand to round into a glowing ball.

    At this point, the procedure varies according to the final goal, using specific movements and tools to take the desired shape. The sphere can be passed over the bronzin (the flat metal plate placed above the torch) to give the molten mass a cylindrical appearance or, again, it can be pressed on the same surface according to a greater inclination to bring out a point.

    The tools of the trade

    To facilitate the grip on the incandescent sphere, a second rod is used, generally thinner, called ponteo. In reality, there are several tools used by master glassmakers to obtain products with incredible chromatic effects more easily. First of all the pliers, indispensable for stretching the incandescent ball, making it assume the desired shapes. But also the scissors, the cutter (a sort of cigar cutter) and the knife, useful for creating hollows and thin cavities. Finally, the clothespin should not be forgotten, an iron or steel utensil used to have a firm grip on the work and at the same time cool it, thanks to a fabric in glass fiber.

    In extreme synthesis, that of lampwork glass is a centuries-old technique, rooted in the sign of an incredible tradition, which is reinvented, however, every time a craftsman lets his imagination shape the material vitrea through an almost divine pact with fire. 


    You may also be interested in: A window on history: Altar or the Glass Phoenix
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