This Corning Museum short clip gives you an idea of the origins of “lampworking”. It was exceedingly painstaking to make a bead, or small animals or fruit. This arduous effort is where we get the term lampwork. Even though today the torches are fueled by bottled gas which does not require a bellows or foot petal, the term lampwork is still used today not only for making figurines, but also for making beads, especially in the ISGB (International Society of Glass Beads).
Lampworking versus Bead Maker
Lampworking was a large industry in Murano since the 14th Century, and continues today. Though in Murano they make a distinction. They consider a “lamp worker” to be a person who makes small objects or small animals and a “bead maker” to be a person who makes beads.
To the Muranese, the distinction is that a lampworker works not with a mandrel, rather with canes of glass forming the small animal on the end of the glass cane, so the animal or object does not have a hole through it. And generally, the lampworker is held in higher esteem than a beadmaker. Some of our best beadmakers began as lampworkers, following in the footsteps of their fathers. But we convinced them that if they could make a gondola or small bear on the end of a glass cane, they could make beautiful beads!
In the picture above, it’s clear to see that the skills to be a lampworker are the same as a beadmaker, just add a hole!