Glass Bead Making: Flamework for Beginners : Glassblowing History


So, we have the ancients working and discovering
glass about thirty-five hundred years ago, four thousand years ago. And then, about two
thousand years ago, glass underwent a further transformation. There was now glass blowing
and the peoples who had been doing the glasswork in the Mediterranean area got dispersed at
the point at which the Romans made their conquests of the Middle East. They imported glass artisans
from Mesopotamia, from Canaan, and brought them to Europe. And, that gave rise to the
Venetian glass industry which is where most of the techniques that modern glasswork come
from. The Venetians perfected the making of image chips, known as Murrini. Or, otherwise
known, if they are floral, as Millefiori. And, they did cane work. They did blowing
and then, Venetian goblets. And, leading directly to what we have today which is a very thriving
and burgeoning glass bead making industry. A cottage industry here in the United States.
This cottage industry caught back on in Europe after several hundred years of dis-use and
decay. But, about a hundred and fifty years ago, certain Italians brought back the techniques
that their ancestors had developed. And, that again had been developed earlier on still
in Mesopotamia. And so, this more recent development from about 1850 to 1910, 1920 eventually the
European methods made their way over to U.S. shores. Some of the workers who were in Italy
were sworn to secrecy and there had been a tradition of secrecy. Those who revealed glass
secrets, up to about 1600, were eligible for the death penalty. That is how guarded and
cherished glass secrets were in the Old World. This tendency of secrecy gradually was chipped
away at, though, and in the 1950s, 1960s with the studio glass movement in the United States
artists began freely collaborating and sharing. At the same time, the technologies improved
for the glass production that a person no longer required a full fledged production
factory or large shop. But, that the tools techniques, in particular, the torches and
the kilns shrunk in size and so an everyday amateur could start to afford to set up a
small section of workshop in their basement or garage. And, that in the last ten years
has really led to this renaissance in glass bead making and small scale flamework.

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