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Discover Glassblowing: filigree

The filigree technique - Photo credit: © Russell Johnson photographer - Lino Tagliapietra Inc

Glassblowing… What is the magical aspect of this art? Why is it so intriguing? How many things are there to discover about it? There are a lot of questions we can come up with and a great variety of answers and opinions among the artists themselves. In our previous blog we already mentioned that we are excited to share some clues, details, and news about this fascinating art.

Focusing on the technique, the first one we want to talk about is the well-known filigree, half filigree or ‘filigrana’ – the Italian version.

The term Filigree takes us back to the 16th century to the island of Murano. The technique rapidly reached other countries all over Europe when glassblowers used it up to the 18th century. During the 20th century Filigree regained its past value. This term indicates a composite cane, spirally deformed, whose internal linear pattern is made from lengths of pulled, fused, and bundled canes that are colorless, white, and colored from time to time. Dino Martens in the catalogue “Dino Martens – Muranese glass designer, Muranese Glas-Designer, designer muranese del vetro: catalogue, 1922-1963” defines filigrane as:

“[…] a ‘canne’ applications, spirally deformed, the filigree was obtained by telescoping two opposite spiralling half-filigree vases into one another. The final result was obtained by further blowing, and was characterized by a small grain-like air-bubble at each crossing, which led to the name ‘fili’ (threads) and ‘grana’ (grain). […] The ‘a trina’ technique consisted of blowing a half-filigree object into a mould with fines ribs, causing an undulating pattern which resembled lace (trina).”



Reticello or Vetro a Reticello – Photo credit: © Russell Johnson photographer – Lino Tagliapietra Inc


Talking about filigrana we cannot fail to describe the well know half-filigree or ‘mezza filigrana’ that consists of taking ‘filigrana’ canes with straight, parallel, white or colored treads crafted to undertake a diagonal lean. Another type we have to include in the description is the so called ‘vetro a reticello’ that is a blown glass with crisscrossed ‘filigrana’ canes that create a net pattern containing small bubbles within each cane intersection.

Also, as the Maestro underlines, we cannot miss the infamous ‘reticello’ or ‘vetro a reticello’ (small network or network glass). This is a particular kind of blown glass made with crisscrossed filigrana canes that create a lattice pattern, which may have tiny bubbles or air traps.

Among the various types of this glassblowing creation, we can name Zanfirico, a technique we will discuss in the next blog.

There is always something new to learn…

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