Flame Worked Murano Glass
or - How Does She Do That?
Flame worked glass is a 5000-year-old art form that has been practiced by artisans in cultures around the world. I personally began working with glass almost 25 years ago, and now I can't imagine my life without hot glass. It is the most exciting and responsive art material I've ever worked with!
Modern flame-working employs a propane/oxygen torch with a 3500° flame. In my studio, I sit behind this torch wearing protective goggles and begin by building up layers of molten glass onto a steel rod that has been coated in a ceramic material. I shape the glass with very simple tools, primarily a pointed steel scribe and a flat graphite paddle.
Once the shape and pattern are complete, I "fume" most of my pieces with 24 karat gold or fine silver which bonds into the surface to enhance the colors and add depth and luminosity to the piece. Fuming is a process of vaporizing precious metal and then catching the metal vapor in the surface of the molten glass. The metal combines with the mineral colorants in the glass to create a new color. 24-karat gold produces a burgundy vapor which gives tones of pink, lavendar and gold depending on the underlying glass color. Pure silver makes a bluish vapor that adds a rich caramel earth tone and sometimes silvery blue veining to the finished piece. When a piece is fumed with both gold and silver, it is called a "vermeil" fuming, and the colors are softer and even more varied.
What Makes It Murano Glass?
The glass I use is handmade by a 400-year-old company in Murano, Venice. This is the same glass that is used by the fabled Venetian glass workers and prized by collectors and artists around the world. It comes in approximately 75 different colors. The addition of the gold, silver and vermeil fuming quadruples my palette to encompass 300 different hues.
The base colors of the glass are created at the factory, using secret formulas adding minerals and metallic oxides into the molten silica/quartz/soda ash mixture that becomes flame-working soda lime glass. The addition of fuming the precious metals in the final step subtly alters the metallic content of each bead, so every one shows a wide variation of color and pattern.
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