The glass factories of Murano have long been a tourist favorite to visit and watch a small horse being made. The maestro (though usually not a maestro, rather a production glass blower who has been hired to demonstrate to the tourist). The major work goes on in the furnaces off the main streets in Murano. It is dangerous work, timing is key and the production furnaces have schedules to meet for the wholesale buyers around the world. Even so, the magic of creating a horse out of a ball of molten glass is still entrancing. (On the left are some of the very low tech tools used to produce the beautiful and intricate products.) Tourist Demonstrations:
Here is a typical tourist demonstration piece, but note that it stands on a drawing for production products. They make it look so easy, effortless, and tourist standing away from the heat hardly realize the intensity of the furnace or the dangers lurking. The glass burns your body instantly upon contact. In the US and elsewhere, the glass blowers wear protective coatings, gloves, and specially coated glasses. In Murano they sport le ciabatte, bedroom slippers, shorts and that Italian flair. But don’t be fooled by their apparent casual appearance, they know the dangers, it’s experience not carelessness! It is a carefully orchestrated routine they follow, all at the command of the maestro who has total control. How does one become a glassblower?In the US and elsewhere, it is most often through the Industrial Arts programs at colleges. There are some marvelous glassblowers and it’s a love of the glass and a draw of the furnace. When I studied glass blowing, at a local university and from the first day of the class it was a clear divide of students: those who were absolutely horrified of the heat and intensity and those who were infatuated and drawn to the furnace. Count me among the latter.
In Murano, it’s the luck of being born there, and especially if you are born into a family of glass blowers. The older blowers (now nearing retirement) often began working when they were in their ‘teens to help support their family, learning on the job and never finishing school. It takes years of experience to become a maestro and not everyone makes it. One of our closest friends went to work at 9 years old cleaning in the furnace until he was strong enough to do other work. He bought his own furnace in his early 20s and became a spokesperson for the industry throughout the world. It was his passion, like so many in Murano of the famous glass blowers. Below in the “muffler” or annealing oven are lampshades in the front and wine glasses in the back. They gradually bring the blown glass temperature down to prevent cracking. Want to study glassblowing:Check your local colleges for classes, but be prepared to spend long hours working as an apprendista. Many schools offer the course as continuing education. It is both a trade and an art. A quick search on the web can give you results as does GlassArtSociety http://www.glassart.orgGoogle