Any way you slice it!
In our last entry we talked about how 'millefiore' rods and Filigree rods are made, now I want to talk about how art glass pieces are made from these "component parts", but before I begin I want to give you an idea of how varied and complex these "component parts" for this type of glass can be.
Fratelli Toso, one of the top producers of glass on the island of Murano, is known to have produced over 1500 unique and different millefiore designs! The possibilites are limited only by the glass makers imagination.
The "millefiore" rods, before they can be used to greatest effect , must be sliced into pieces to expose the design within to its admiring public. The rods are first heated until they are in a pliable plastic state then cut through either cleanly straight up and down into flat disks, or obliquely to expose more surface area, depending on what the glass artist desires in the finished product.
These pieces are then laid out onto a marver in the pattern determined by the glass artist when a regular pattern is desired, or it can be completely random, as in the "scrambled" glass paperweights. The piece shown with this entry is an example of a regular mosaic pattern, where the slices are placed in a determined pattern and interspersed with clear and colored glass rods. These rods not only add to the intricacy of the design, but also act as guides to keep the mosaic slices aligned as the artist intended during the steps that follow.
Next, a ball of molten glass is gathered from the gloryhole onto the end of a punty (a long metal pipe) and this glob of molten glass is then rolled over the millefiore slices on the table by the glass master to pick them up. The molten ball and the adhering slices are then, rolled on the marver to securely adhere the slices to the ball. This ball may then be dipped into molten glass to completely cover the millefiore or not. The ball with the adhering slices is then heated at the gloryhole to bring the whole to a plastic state to be blown or worked into the desired object. The piece may also be stretched or twisted to add interest and variation to the finished piece.
In the case of the paperweight, the slices are picked up on the molten glob, and then dipped several times in molten crystal glass until a sufficient glass dome has been bulit up over the embeded glass pieces., which is then smoothed and worked to by the glass artist to crystal perfection.
Filgree rods are treated in much the same way, except these are usually not cut into slices, but cut to length, and laid out again on a marver in the desired pattern. Clear crystal rods are usually interspersed to aid in keeping the desired pattern and spacing in the finished product. A ball of clear crystal glass is used to gather the fancy colored rods up to be worked, and once heated this crystal glob and the crystal joining rods, blend together leaving only the colored twists and turns of the filgree rods visble to the eye in the finished product.
With these simple techniques, well, simple for the trained glass master, glass articles of complex design and endless variety of color have been created for centuries each totally unique from the next owing to the nature of medium and the imagination of the human mind.