Archive for August 2009
There are several levels and techniques for making glass murrini cane and I am going to talk a little about the best contemporary Italian murrini maker. It is generally agreed that Mario Dei Rossi is one of the best Specialty Italian Murrini maker’s. Contemporary glass artists from the past centuries have worked with Murrini, however none has achieved Dei Rossi’s excellence in realism. By the time Dei Rossi reached the age of 24, he had become a glass master, and had been working with glass for a decade. De Rossi started making murrini when he retired from glass furnace work.
I met Dei Rossi at his home on the island of Burano about 12 years ago when Mike and I were hunting for exceptional murrini. Dei Rossi’s house was a thrill to walk through because as I found out later, he was also passionate about painting and his house was full of fabulous drawings and paintings.
While Mike and I were at Dei Rossi’s house, he showed us a segment of a European TV program that showed him demonstrating making and finishing his murrini and it blew my mind! Dei Rossi develops his murrini cane by placing an image at the bottom of a large coffee can and pulling thin hand mixed canes (some with as many as 10,000 strands of glass) and placing them over the image. His method for placing down the colors for the murrini is like working with pixels in a digital image.
Dei Rossi made one of the largest murrini I have ever heard about, named “The Tempest” (translation: storm). His murrini is a copy of a very famous Italian painting called “The Tempest” by Giorgione that hangs in Accademia Museum in Venice, Italy. Between 1989 and 2003 Mario managed to create 70 murrini, many of them extraordinary.
Since tomorrow August 22nd is the date for the Frantz Art Glass “August Bash”, I thought I would talk a little about what I will be showing during my demo.
I really like dichroic glass, so I am starting the demo off with a dichroic piece, but this time I am going to make an off mandrel heart pendant. I started doing these off mandrel pieces about 4 or 5 years ago and though they were challenging at first, I got really addicted to making them.
I started making off mandrel pendants when I discovered how to use a tungsten pick to push a hole into a warm glass project. In the beginning I just used two sizes of tungsten picks to make a hole, but I found that the pick slid across the surface of the pendant I would be making a hole in and burn my hand. The solution to this problem turned out to be a peculiar pair of tweezers called “Peter Tweezers”. “Peter Tweezers” has opposing points to them and they allow you to heat up the glass and make a controlled dent where you want the hole to be. After you make the dent it is much easier to push the tungsten picks through the glass because the spot the pick goes through is much thinner than the depth of the pendant.
The second thing I am demonstrating is how to blow shards with a small size borosilicate tube. Then I am making a second heart pendant and I will use the shards that I just produced as the decorative element on the second heart that will not be made with dichroic glass.
Hope to see you at the Bash.
I thought I would talk about how glass rods are made in Italy. I think I should mention that information about glass making in Italy and anywhere else for that matter is intensely guarded by those who make their living from it. Back in the 15th and 16th century they use to kill anyone who tried to take this kind of information away from Venice and Murano.
The beautiful colored glass rods we are use to, start out as fine toxic silica dust with a few other mineral elements add and only becomes what we are familiar with after much processing.
One of the things that blow’s my mind is the fact that companies like Effetre / Moretti have to have all the supplies that they use to make glass brought in by small cargo boats. They store all these components in a portion of their huge warehouse complex. The components mostly arrive in paper bags and get moved to big labeled bins in the mixing room. From the bins the components get shoveled into mixers and blended. The minerals that end up in the glass formulas are weighed on counter-balanced scales and the weight of these elements is subject to the influences of the ever present humidity of the Venetian Lagoon where Murano is located. It is so humid on Murano and Venice that the stucco that covers so many walls in the area seems to peel almost as soon as it has been repaired.
After the glass formula is mixed, it is transferred to big bins that can be lifted by forklifts and these bins have lids to keep contaminates out of the bin. The powder mix is loaded into a crucible in a specific kind of glass furnace designed for glass melts. A crucible is a heat resistant container that is made out of a very dense ceramic material that is very expensive and they have a limited life expectancy due to the prolonged heat exposure.
Every time I went to Effetre to interact with the factory, I was always struck by the beauty of all the piles of different color glass cullet (big chunks of glass). I would pester them to sell me these glass chunks and I could not figure out why they were so reluctant to do so. Later I found out that it is customary to throw same color glass cullet into a new batch of glass in the furnace because the cullet absorbs the heat and causes the powder components to melt faster.
The factory gets their cullet by pulling out the last few kilos of molten glass out of a finished crucible and put it into a big three legged steel bowl like container to cool in the open air. As the glass cools, it fractures into chunks and when it is completely cool they dump the cullet out on a concrete patio between the warehouses. The cullet sits in this patio until it is needed for the next appropriate glass melt.
When the glass in a melt furnace is ready to be made into rods, the factory lays out dozens and dozens of small wooden slates down the long walk ways between groups of furnaces to provide a place where the long cane pulls can be laid so that it doesn’t touch the cold concrete floors and get thermal shocked. Until I saw this being done, I couldn’t understand why there were these black burn marks on some of the hand pulled glass rods, but when you know that the black marks are caused by the hot glass touching the wood slates it all makes perfect sense.
Studio Photography is like painting with light. Instead of paint on a canvas you are laying light on the surface of your subject. But unlike painting you don’t have a brush to spread the light to where you want it… or do you? Actually you do have tools to do that, a light diffuser and a light bounce. These are two of the most useful tools any bead photographer has.
Light Diffusers are useful because they soften the light by spreading it out. This cuts down on the contrast in the photo so you will be able to capture more of the true color of the bead. It’s also a good way to cut down on hot spots on the bead.
Light Bounces work the other way. Diffusers soften the light, but light bounces soften the shadows by reflecting the light back at the bead with a soft glow. When shooting with only one light you need a diffuser to fill out the shadows.
To achieve this effect you can buy a photography tent or dome. They can be expensive but they work. I used to use a photography tent to take the photos for Frantz Art Glass, but I found that some home made light modifiers work better for what I was doing. For $10 you can make a diffuser and a bounce.
I have attached 5 pages of my tutorial explaining how to do this. If you’re interested in how to make a diffuser and bounce set Click Here.
Another fantastic thing that light diffusers can do is really enhance your silvering glass. Sometimes it’s tricky to get a good photo of glass that has a metallic shimmer or prismatic effect. But if you use a diffuser it softens and spreads out the light allowing the shimmer to really come out.