Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Flamework and Murano

Tomorrow I am going to Murano, Italy to take a glassmaking class from Lucio Bubacco. As many of you know, I am a glass beadmaker, making flameworked beads from Murano glass. These beads are sold individually or designed into jewelry.

The basic process for making flameworked glass beads starts with glass rods that come from Murano, Italy or Germany and now some from the U.S. The Murano glass rods are called “soft glass” as they contain a high soda content and have a bright color palette. They are in the form of about 13 inch rods of glass which are then melted with a focused source of heat: a torch flame. Glass can then be formed into any composition. It is a process of both science and art. Shown above is a photo of me melting a glass rod onto a wire mandrel that has been coated in bead release. Yes, very important to be able to get this bead off the mandrel after it is annealed, otherwise it could be a waste of an hour of your time! And yes, I have had to take the hammer and smash a bead in order to get the mandrel back to use. This can be heartbreaking if the bead was particularly fine!

Everything is done to a bead while it is molten hot; no poking with your fingers! A variety of metal tools are utilized to poke, form, or pull the molten glass to create your little piece of art. After a bead is formed, either on the mandrel as shown, or off the mandrel, it goes into a kiln set at 940 degrees for annealing or hardening. This temperature is ramped down over about 6 hours. In the other photo you can see me making the bead with the kiln in the background. Notice that there is a ventilation system to draw the fumes outside and I have on didymium glasses so I can see the work without the flare from the soda glass.

That is a short primer on basic flamework or lampwork as it is called. Shown above is also a photo of one of my beads (Next to Lucio's work, it looks pretty insignificant).

In Italy the class will be with Lucio Bubacco who makes artistic compositions of glass – not beads but whole structures which can sell upwards of $1500. As his website says: Lucio Bubacco's sensuous works combine the anatomic perfection of Greek sculpture with the Byzantine gothic architecture of his native Venice. Seductive themes, metamorphosis and transformation, forms emerging from the void, echo themes from our mythological past when sexuality was spiritual, not political. Above is a photo from Lucio’s Carnival series, which is very impressive glasswork. My beadmaking will hopefully be taken to the next higher level after this class with Lucio!

My trip to Italy starts on April 2, 2008. After I get to Venice and our Murano homebase, and meeting up with a classmate, I will then travel to Florence and Tuscany for a pre-trip. An Italian beadmaker will be meeting us and be our own personal guide for Florence and Tuscany. Then back to Murano, after a train trip, and a couple rides on boats. Our class starts on April 9th until the 16th.

Stay tuned! Hopefully I can load some wonderful photos into my blog.

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Deborah's Glass Beads said...

I am loving reading about your trip. I have been checking your blog every day. I met Lucio when I was in Murano in 2005 for a class with Tom and Sage Holland. Keep the photos and descriptions coming. BTW, tell more about this assitant thingy that you got at the tool shop.

Carnival Art Glass said...

The glass beads are wonderful. I liked the color combinations. Thanks for giving us a clear picture on how these beads are created. It was interesting. Hope you enjoy your trip to Murano.