Infernally hot would be a crass understatement. The glowing mass of glass facing us in a sticky ball has the consistency of honey and has been heated to 1500 degrees. The reddish-orange ball clings to the end of a long steel rod, which the glass blower rotates in a wooden form. He then lifts the hollow rod, complete with glass ball, puffs out his cheeks like a jazz trumpeter and breathes life into the glass. Using the power of his lungs, he inflates the viscous mass, transfers it to a two-part wooden mould, which represents an exact negative of the desired shape, and blows it to the final design. It is a strenuous task that requires plenty of finesse but above all many years of experience. And considerable lung capacity.
Glass, that mysterious mixture of quartz sand and flux, usually soda ash, first emerged around 7000 years ago. However, the real revolution was the invention of the blowpipe in the first century BC. Since then, glass makers have been able to produce vessels that gleam like rock crystal. Glassworks sprang up wherever there was sufficient wood (for fuelling the furnaces), water (for polishing the crystal glass) and craftsmanship. North of the Alps this was primarily in Thuringia, Bohemia and the Bavarian Forest, where the tradition continues to this day. South of the Alps, Venice was the prime location. However, the oldest evidence of a glassworks dates back to the 13th century BC in Qantir-Piramesses (Egypt).
In Italy, Murano is the epitome of consummate glassmaking. In the 13th century, La Serenissima moved the glass artists to their own island. By then, their glassware was already famous throughout Europe and in high demand. A second boom was experienced by manufacturers such as Archimede Seguso, Barovier & Toso and Venini in the 1920s. Their studio glass combined the craftsmanship of the glassmakers with the creativity of international designers: the range of products was expanded through designs by Paolo Venini, Fulvio Bianconi and Ercole Barovier. Murano glass continued to include both large-scale objects and delicate pieces of luminous colour.
For our handblown lamps, we turn to traditional craftsmanship. Our glass factory is located in Casuale sul Sile, close to Venice and comprises a production hall with ten furnaces, presses and diamond cutters. The atmosphere is hot and sticky. Up to 1000 lamps are fashioned each day from the glowing mass. The glass blowers work with extreme concentration, their every move precise. Once the pieces have been shaped, they spend six hours in a gigantic furnace, which gradually cools them down to 100 degrees Celsius. The furnace then spits them out and they are transferred to a diamond saw where workers finish the edges before the final sanding and polishing stage. The result is a brilliant collection of masterpieces, which carry 7000 years of cultural history inside them.