Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Murano Island - A Glassmaker's Paradise

Murano Glass Factory
(photo courtesy of The Golden Fingers)
A few years ago my husband and I had the chance to revisit Italy. Of course, we couldn’t miss Venice as one of our stops along the way, and among all the other tourist attractions like San Marco Basilica, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canale, Palazzo Ducale, a classic concert in Piazza San Marco and countless museums, we took a tour of the lagoon, Murano Island included.
Since 1291, this tiny Venetian island has been the home of Venice's glassmaking industry. Murano is actually a series of islands linked by bridges in theVenetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It lies about 1 mile north of Venice, accessible by boat only, and measures less than 1 mile across with a population of just over 5,000.

Murano Channel (photo courtesy of Travel Via Italy)
Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and the destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano.
Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on high-quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk  glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelry to chandeliers and wine stoppers.
Murano Glass Factory (image courtesy of Lin Thorsen)
Venice kept protecting the secret of the production of glass and of crystal but the Republic partially lost its monopoly at the end of the sixteenth century, because of some glassmakers who let the secret be known in many European countries. Today, Murano is home to the Museo del Vetro (Murano Glass Museum) in the Palazzo Giustinian, which holds displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.
Some of the companies that own historical glass factories in Murano are among the most important brands of glass in the world. These companies include Venini, Ferro Murano, Barovier & Toso, Simone Cenedese and Seguso. Today, in order to protect the original Murano Glass art from foreign markets, the most famous Glass Factories of this island have a trademark - "Vetro Artistico Murano" - that certifies products in glass made in the island of Murano. 
Colors, techniques and materials vary depending upon the look a glassmaker is trying to achieve. Aquamarine is created through the use of copper and cobalt compounds, whereas ruby red uses a gold solution as a coloring agent.
Murano Millefiori Glass Bowl (image courtesy of Fossilfly Imports)
The murine technique begins with the layering of colored liquid glass, which is then stretched into long rods called canes. When cold, these canes are then sliced in cross-section, which reveals the layered pattern. The better-known term "millefiori" is a style of murrine that is defined by each layer of molten color being molded into a star, then cooled and layered again. When sliced, this type of murrine has the appearance of many flowers, thus mille (thousand) fiori (flowers).
Filigree, glass engraving, gold engraving, incalmo, lattimo, painted enamel, ribbed glass and submersion are just a few of the other techniques a glassmaker can employ.

Special tools are essential for Murano artisans to make their glass. Some of these tools include borselle (tongs or pliers used to hand-form the red-hot glass), canna da soffio (blowing pipe), pontello (an iron rod to which the craftsman attaches the object after blowing in order to add final touches), scagno (the glass-master's workbench) and tagianti (large glass-cutting clippers). The tools for glass-blowing have changed little over the centuries and remain simple. An old Murano saying goes "Good tools are nice, but good hands are better," reinforcing the artistic nature of the glass-making process, which relies on the skill of the worker rather than the use of special tools. 
Murano Glassmaker (photo courtesy of Megan Cytron)
(Information courtesy of Thank you!)


  1. I love the millefiori bowl! I have some beads with that design and I've never used them...

    1. I am not using much Venetian glass in my designs either, but I am fascinated by the beauty and diversity of this centuries-old art. Thanks for stopping by! :)