As we head into July I continue to enjoy the warm weather in my studio and the lush green view from the window. Seeing the delicate rose buds open in the garden I’m inspired to try to capture their form and colour in my glass work. A murrini a day.... keeps me busy, so let’s take a closer look at their construction.
Murrini first appeared in glass work in the Middle East more than 4000 years ago. These techniques were later revived on the island of Murano in the early 16th century. Millefiori, which means “a thousand pieces” in Italian, are also known as murrini.
They start with the glass being pressed into a simple star or flower mold and then further encased with contrasting colors of molten glass. This gather, on the end of a punty, is then heated and stretched to form a long, thin cane. The detailed pattern is visible from the end of the cane and chips are cut for fusing to be used in pendants, plates, bowls or any shape one likes, thus creating 1000 flowers!
When you walk the streets of Murano you see these beautiful pieces in every shop window. Furnace glass blowers are also known to incorporate these tiny pieces into their work, often creating large vessels or sculpture. Lino Tagliapietra, Davide Salvatore, Dante Marioni, David Patchen and Richard Marquis are but a few of the famous glass artists using these techniques.
In the lamp working field there are generally two methods for murrini construction. I have some experience with the Japanese Tondo-dama method where you create the stamen and the petal cane separately. The pieces are then warmed and fused together one at a time at the torch. As a novice this method can be quite daunting as it takes quite a bit of practice to work out proportions and heat control to have it all come together without pieces flying off...
Recently I’ve been creating most of my murrini using a second, slightly different method in which I build the flower from the inside out, but it still involves calculating proportions and planning your colour scheme ahead of time; visualizing from the center out. The main advantage to working like this is being able to keep the whole gather warm as you add the glass layer by layer. I particularly like this method to build my roses, as you can add depth to individual petals, giving the whole flower a more realistic shape.
As summer progresses, I looking forward to more warm days in the studio: more flowers, more roses of many hues and even a few fantasy murrini, all developed from the inside out.