The artistic decorative glass products are shaped of liquid glass. This liquidity allows an artist to create various, rich in shape products-real pieces of art. Glass can be called a medium for artists. It is impossible to talk about decorative art glass without mentioning the Murano glassmaking history. Their tradition of precision in glassworks is maintained since the 13th century. Due to its uniqueness Murano glass is often referred to as “cristallo”.
There are two opinions on how Murano, the island in the Venetian Lagoon became a centre of glassmaking. It is being said that in 1291 the Venetian Republic, fearing that fire used by glassmakers might burn down Venice’s wood buildings, ordered its glass artists to move their foundries to Murano. This way the glassmakers became the noblest citizens of this island. Another, more frequently suggested opinion, is that the move was made to isolate the glassblowing masters and prevent them from sharing their knowledge with foreigners. Glass making became a trade exclusively for those born on the island of Murano, and whoever glassmaker left the Venetian State was condemned to death as a traitor.
In the 1400s, the Italian island of Murano became the centre of glass luxury. Many new glass making techniques were developed there and Murano played a main role in the export trade of dinnerware, mirrors and other luxurious items. A distinguishing feature of glass pieces made by Venetians was their content and a technique of making. Local quartz pebbles were almost pure silica ground into clear sand and combined with soda ash obtained from the Levant.
The contemporary Venetian glass art flourished in the 50ths and 60ths of the 20th century. Murano is still a Mecca for artists and glass lovers. The Murano School remains one of the most important in the world, and the art of glassmaking, just like centuries ago is still handed down from father to son. However, not only the Italians became famous of their glass making skills. It is worth to mention that the Czech Republic Region of Bohemia and Moravia is a significant source of European glass making traditions. From the earliest days, the Czechs were setting tone in European and world art of glass making.
The United States are famous for making artistic glass items as well. The American glassworks tradition comes from the colonial times, when green glass house ware was produced. Currently, there are a lot of individual artists, and the art in glass is practiced and taught in the universities. Beginning in the 19th century, a variety of extravagant glass items started to become an important part of the decorative art. Particularly significant impact on development of decorative glass had the Art Nouveau movement. The members produced coloured pieces, often in cameo glass (a form of glass art involving etching and carving through fused layers of differently coloured glass; the main characteristic are white figures carved on black background), as well as using the lustre technique.
With the 20th century came an era of revolutionary technology. Machines were developed which replaced traditional mouth blowing with a semi-automatic process, and transformed the craft into an industry. A new mould-etch process was invented which allowed to reduce manufacturing costs. This led to cheap glassware in the 1930s, later called “Depression glass”. Classical man-made glassblowing maintaining the tradition and knowledge of ancient glassblowers became an art. Today’s glassblower still utilizes the basic blowpipe, but now they have a vast number of supplementary tools to aid in working the material.
Here are the most common techniques to produce glass art:
– blowing: a glassblower works at a furnace full of molten glass using metal rods and hand tools to blow and shape almost any form of glass;
– kiln-casting: can be done at the furnace at the torch or in a kiln; generally the artist makes a mould out of refractory, sand, or plaster and silica which can be filled with either clear glass or coloured or patterned glass;
– fusing, slumping: usually glass is only heated enough to impress a shape or a texture onto the piece, or to stick several pieces of glass together without glue;
– flame working: the artist generally works at a bench using rods and tubes of glass, shaping with hand tools to create their work;
– hot sculpting; – cold-working; The most common glass objects include vessels such as bowls, glass vases, bottles, etc. as well as paperweights, beads, sculptures and installation art. They are great as home accessories or gifts.