Customers sometimes think there is a giant warehouse in Venice/Murano stocked with the thousands of beads we sell. Well that would be fun, but it is not how it happens. Each bead we sell is ordered specifying color, foils, designs, shapes, sizes and then handmade one by one.
Since 1993, we have learned a lot about making Murano Glass Beads, especially what we can and can’t do. The laws of physics have a lot to do with our possibilities as does the skill of our beadmakers, the material limitations and above all the flight of fantasy of ideas. The Muranese and Venetians have no limitation on inspiration and ideas. When we had a company copy our beads having them made in China, one of our bead makers, said “Don’t worry, I have a lot of ideas and I will make new designs.” And he did just that!
All our bead share one thing in common. They are all Effetre (what is known as Moretti 104) glass canes. These canes are produced at the factory in Murano. They are sold around the world. We all use a common “language” that is the number that Effetre assigns to the canes. And every bead makers knows that the 104 canes are compatible (well sort of – because mixing the opaque with the transparent can be tricky). Our bead makers just get to walk or take a boat over and buy them. I get to tag along sometimes if I am lucky.
For all the beads, except the blown, hollow beads, we almost always use a tool because we need them to be sort of similar in size and shape. Having said that, no two will ever be the same. But we do have some basic starting points. From there, it is the artistic ability and fantasy that give us the beads.
Our standard rounds, squares, cubes in single colors, or single colors over 24kt Gold Foil, or .925 Sterling Silver or White Gold the same from each bead maker. However, if you show me a bead, I can tell you who made it, because each bead maker uses their own particular tools. These tools are made for us by Roberto Donà, who is known the world over for the quality of his tools, not only for bead making, but the big blow pipes, giant scissors that are used in the furnaces. He makes each tools according to the specifications of the person using it. He does have some stock of “standard” tools. And most bead makers around the world would jump at the chance to see his machine shop. Fortunately, I see it often. He even modifies tools I find in the US like our Crocus or our Vela Squares for the way we work there. He is a huge part of our bead making.
So the forms you see here are sort of our blank canvass. What to do then?
We use foils, gold, silver and white gold as well as avventurina (a Murano exclusive as a patent is held by the same family for hundreds of years) and layers of glass, much like a painter would mix paints on his palette, just that our palette is at about 1733 degrees! The beads are painstakingly made one by one at these temperatures. While working the glass, it is all one color – red!
There are so many variations possible, we have made bead cards which both our bead makers and us keep to make ordering a little more simple.
Usually, I begin with a shape and then the color and decoration. The beads are painstakingly made one by one at temperatures around 1733 degrees. We decide the decorations together with the bead maker. And sometimes the bead card is just me gluing beads and writing down the colors. It is so much easier now than it was before technology. Now since they are +9 hours from me. I can send an idea to them before I go to bed and the next morning, they will have made a sample and we can proceed. Before, well we just guessed and faxed sketches….in black and white!
Some of you may recognize our SP13 Caramella line. We went slightly crazy, or maybe we drove our bead maker slightly crazy when we came up with this idea. This line is a mixture of several colors to and even though we write down the colors, each time we make them, they turn out a little difference because each bead maker puts their own interpretations on the bead. A little more of the underlying layer and less of our transparent over coat and we get a darker color. For some of our bead makers, it is what we write down at the kitchen table. I try to take exacting notes so we can re-order. And sometimes I get it right! Other times, well that is where our orphans originate.