History of lampworking
Lampworking is the technique of transforming molten glass into beads, sculptures and other artworks. This ancient craft was originally preformed by using oil burning lamps, hence the appellation of Lampwork. By increasing the temperature of the flame with a bellows, similar to blacksmithing, ancient lampworkers were able to melt and shape glass.
The artisans living in Murano, Italy have been creating glass art for centuries. Their techniques were kept secret from the outside world and only shared by passing down the knowledge within families. This knowledge of the craft was judicially guarded requiring all artisans to remain on the island of Murano their entire life. This isolation from the rest of the world sealed the secrets of lampworking, insuring the livelihood for each generation.
The craftsmen who used this technique were called “perleri”, specialized in the manifacture of beads using a rod, “contarie da speo”
At the beginning they did not belong to any official guild and only in 1629 this category merged with the “paternostreri” and from then the beads makers were called first of supialume then changed to perleri
In the 1647 they had their own rules, “the Mariegola” under the definition of guild of the bead makers. There was a period of great prosperity until the end of the XVIII century when the inexorable decline started and coincided with that of the whole Venetian economy. It culminated in the French first and then Austrian domination that opened the market to the competition of Bohemian, Styria and Carintia.
From the middle of the XIX century the conterie, seed beads sector had a period of growth that lasted until the Second World War.
Nowadays thanks to the new technologies there are torches fueled by methane/propane gas and propelled by air/oxygen. A larger and more powerful flame allows to obtain very interesting results, enabling larger masses of glass to be worked and fashion jewelry and sculptured of considerable size to be created.
Maybe you already know what lampworking means: known as torchworking or flameworking, is a craft that involves using a torch to melt glass rods that are either transparent or colored. When the glass is melted special tools are used to shape it into beautiful objects, mostly beads. Don’t confuse it with glassblowing because the latter requires that the crafter uses a blowpipe to inflate a piece of liquid glass. In contrast, lampworking involves shaping melted glass by the use of gravity and various tools.
Usually most of people who make beads or use borosilicate glass find very difficult to learn because the glass changes its molecular structure very quickly and if they are not taught it takes a lot of time to understand when it is the right moment for clamping, cooling down, reheating and so on. Moreover, bead lampworkers rarely use tools like mashers, tweezers, punchers, shapers for big quantities of glass.