Lampworking and the Phoenician technique.


“Lampworking” is a branch of glass working made with a burner, the so-called “cannello” (torch) in which oxygen and methane gas (or alternatively propane) are mixed to get a combustion through which you can obtain a flame that is “hot” enough. In the flame you subsequently melt semi-finished glass rods and the artist’s mastery is what makes the sticks become more elaborate glass objects.

The ancient art of lampworking has nowadays reached an extraordinary and universally known technical and execution excellence. Only the shifting Murano glass, available in different thicknesses, is used for this processing. The objects obtained through lampworking include all the ones which cannot be created through glass blowing in furnaces and which, as a consequence, require a longer processing better glassmaking skills. Beads are, as a consequence, often created through lampworking.      

During the 19th century beads were used to create many objects loved by the Venetian population, from perfume bottles to the famous “murrine”.

The lampworking technique

Cesare Toffolo, in his book “Il vetro a lume”, wrote about Stefano Morasso’s 40-year long passion for this work and about his expertise, enhancing his innovation in coloring techniques with Murano glass.

“After an apprenticeship in a furnace, young Morasso arrived in his father Mino’s studio and Mino passed him on his knowledge. Thanks to a clever intuition Stefano stood out from the other Murano glassworkers. For ten years, in the island, artists used a small iron tube to create beads and this reminded Stefano of the furnace techniques and he decided to unite those two worlds through that iron tube.  

As a consequence, he started thinking about a miniature furnace where he could create not just beads but also complex and colored objects, where the fire belonged to lampworking but the movements made were those of the furnace.

Since the technique was new, everything had to be invented and no one could teach him anything, everything needed to be decided and experimented. The objects became more and more harmonious and the colors found their way, new objects were born, as well as a new way of conceiving lampworking.    

Stefano paved a new way that others decided to follow and this technique, which seems to have existed forever, was actually born in the 80s. Until those years the glassworkers created solid and big objects, especially animals, while it was only the great glass industry that was specialized in glass blowing.  

During those years, Stefano recalls selling his glass objects in Venice to different customers, who were continuously asking him for new objects to sell in their store and that is how he started blowing small bottles. At the beginning – Stefano itself explains – the bottles were monochromatic but later colors became the protagonists of his works.

From that moment Stefano began creating chalices, bowls, chandeliers, thimbles, jars, objects that no one, before him, had ever created through lampworking.

For this reason, as you can read in Cesare Toffolo’s first volume of “Il vetro a lume”, Stefano Morasso is considered the first artist who created complex objects through lampworking. Today Stefano is a middle-aged man who continues experimenting with new chromatic compositions to blow using the steel tube, assisted by his wife and son.

Phoenician glass working technique

The PHOENICIAN technique, also known as the STRIATED or PLUMED (since it can remind of a plumage), is one of the most ancient Murano glass working techniques. Works obtained through this process can be seen at the Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro)in Murano, and I’ve been doing it from the beginning of my career. It is a long and laborious technique and it requires a special knowledge of glass and a significant execution speed. At the moment I am the only lampworker who uses this technique.