Emilio is a glass artist born in Mirano, Italy (just outside Venice) into a noble Venetian family with over five hundred years of glass blowing tradition. His father, a glass blower and a self-taught lamp-worker on Murano, was his first teacher.
PIASA (PYAH-zah), in Italian PIAZZA (PYAHT-tsah)
In English translating literally: Square (as in a town square)
In English glass blowing lingo: Team (glass blowing team)
There is nowhere I could find why the glass blowing team is called PIASA (PIAZZA in Italian) in Murano.
PIAZZA, as far as I know, is a term that was not used in the beginning of this art in Murano. It defines the team that is usually composed of a minimum of three people (or fewer in some cases) to a maximum of five members. They are, in the modern glass lingo, and in order of importance and skill: the MAESTRO (mah-EH-stroh) master, the SERVENTE(sehr-VEN-teh) assistant to the master, SERVENTIN (sehr-ven-TEEN), the GARZON (gar-ZOHN), the GARZONETO (gar-zoh-NEH-toh).
And in talking about small number of people in a team, we have to give credit to Bill Gudenrath for refining the technique and proselytizing worldwide the “one man PIAZZA”. Nobody has reached the technical ability of a one-man PIASA as he has.
I will explain in detail the various roles of all those people in the next definitions. For now, let me tell you something that relates to the Venetian language and Venetian culture regarding “PIAZZA”.
In Venice and in all the islands of the Venetian Estuary, everybody knows that there is only one PIAZZA, and it is PIAZZA SAN MARCO (sahn MAR-coh), San Mark’s Square. All the other little and large squares in Venice are called CAMPO (CAHM-poh) for a normal size or a large one, or CAMPIEO (cahm-PYEH-oh), CAMPIELLO (cahm-PYEHL-loh) in Italian, for a small one, which in English translates to mean: field, as in cultivated field. With the exception of Venice and its estuary, everywhere else in Italy the “squares” are called “PIAZZA” (plural is PIAZZE (PYAHT-tseh)). Only in Venice is there only one PIASA, the PIAZZA SAN MARCO.
What happened is that originally, all the little and larger squares (in the plural CAMPIELLI (cahm-PYEHL-lee) e CAMPI (CAHM-pee)) were covered with grass and were never created to be town squares; the people living in the surrounding houses that were facing the canals, because canals were the sidewalk of that time and everything happened by “boat”, I was saying that those inhabitants used them as a pasture for animals, like small fields. Only PIAZZA SAN MARCO in front of the basilica was created with the function of a town square. Later on, when more and more houses were built around those fields, the spaces were paved but they retained they original names as CAMPO or CAMPIELLO.
This is to confuse your mind a bit more:
BAIOTINI (bah-yoh-TEE-nee) (plural of BAIOTIN) is also the old name given to miniature spheres (BAIOTINI comes from BAIOTA (bah-YOH-tah, sphere) or fragments of glass usually used to give a halo of colour to the clear glass. They usually put the coloured glass fragments on the top of the BRONZIN (marver) or in a metal tray and then roll the hot glass in it, applying the fragments to give a light colour to the clear glass. As far as I know, nobody uses the little spheres anymore but just fragments of glass.
The word BAIOTINI is not used much anymore in the Muranese glass factories. What they use now is MACE (MAH-cheh), in Italian MACCHIE (MAK-kyeh), spots, or GRANIGLIA (grah-NEEL-ya). They come in different degrees of coarseness.
In English: Frit.
In English: POST. It is the flat disk at the end of the PONTEO, achieved by gathering glass at the end of a PONTEO, usually a PONTEO GROSSO (GROHS-soh) (large punty), and flattening it vertically on the BRONZIN (marver); it is then worked at the bench with paper or jacks (BORSEE) to shape it into a disk, until it has the right diameter.
The main use of it is to attach the large gather of glass (PASTON) with the FILIGRANA in it (or just plain color or clear) and then stretch to pull it into a thin rod.
The word CONSAURA comes from CONSAR (kohn-SAHR) or CONZAR (kohn-SAHR) that mean to attach together, to put in good order, to fix together. From the Italian ACCONCIARE (ah-kohn-CHAH-reh) to put in good order, to fix together, to fix your hair, .
Interestingly nowadays, in Venice and Murano, CONSAR now has another meaning in the everyday talk; it means to dress, to put condiment in a salad or other kind of food that ask for it.
On the subject of CANA DE VERO (KAH-nah deh VEH-roh), glass cane or rod, there are some interesting terms or words used in this technique. Let’s start with PASTON (pahs-TOHN) in Italian PASTONE (pahs-TOH-neh).
It has a culinary origin since the word comes from PASTA (PAHS-tah), I think in English you use the same word. When you prepare the dough for pasta, the PASTON is usually a piece, normally cylindrically shaped, detached from the total amount of dough prepared, that you use for your pasta making.
In the LINGUA MURANESE DEL VETRO (LEENG-wah moo-rah-NEH-zeh dehl VEH-troh), Muranese Glass Language, it is the cylinder of clear or coloured glass, or of FILIGRANA or ZANFIRICO glass, before it is stretched.
The word PASTON is used for any kind of cane-pulling, from the simple BACCHETTA DI VETRO, glass rods used for lampworking, to the more difficult hollow tubing and ROSETTA (roh-ZEHT-tah) cane.
I know that many of the readers are waiting for me to name the various kinds of pulled canes that are used in the FILIGRANA A RETORTOLI; the problem is, as I checked with some older glass blowers from Murano, plus with Maestro Davide Fuin, as I was saying, the problem is that names, with few exceptions, are different from glass factory to glass factory. I have already described BALOTIN, or BALLOTTINI (ball-loh-TEE-nee). The other two that I am pretty sure are the same in every glass factory are CANNA A RETE and CANNA A NASTRO (NAH-stroh) also called CANNA A FETTUCCIA (feht-TOOCH-chah). All the other variations or new creations in this field either have no names, or names that differ from factory to factory.
CANA A RETE (KAH-nah ah REH-teh) in Italian CANNA A RETE (KAHN-nah ah REH-teh) means net cane.
It is a solid rod with a number of twisted coloured threads (FILI (FEE-lee)) on the outside. It can be achieved in a few ways and I will briefly describe two: a hot, preformed cylindrical gather of glass, that is rolled over a certain number of preheated white (or other colour) canes interspaced with clear canes; or a hot preformed cylindrical gather of glass rolled over a number of preheated CANNE DI FILIGRANA (clear canes with a thread of colour inside). After picking up the canes, the glass cylinder is reheated and rolled a number of times on the BRONZIN and then stretched while being twisted.
The CANA A NASTRO is obtained starting with a rectangular piece of coloured glass, which is completely covered with clear glass and then twisted and stretched.
There are also many more variations of those two and the use of both techniques\]= together.
As I said before, I am not the ultimate judge so, if any of you have more information and knowledge about this subject and names of other RETORTOLI, please suggest it as a comment. This is an open forum.
During the description of FILIGRANA, I already explained how this particular FIIGRANA A RETORTOI is made. Check back to refresh your memory. As for why this word is used for this particular kind of cane, I have not been able to find out. I asked a few old masters from Murano, but it seems nobody knows why.
For sure, the word BAIOTIN was and is very important in the history of the Republic of Venice. Let me tell you the interesting story behind it. On the occasion of a new doge’s election, the Great Council (il Maggior Consiglio (eel mah-JOR cohn-SEEL-yoh) met and charged the youngest of their members with going to St. Mark’s Square and choosing the first 8- to 10-year old child that he met in the square. This child was given the duty of extracting balls (BALOTE) one by one from an urn (called “CONCA” (COHN-kah) because it was shaped like a shel, which is “CONCHIGLIA” (cohn-KEEL-yah) in Venetian) containing a large number of these balls, 30 of which were golden. The child then handed the balls to the Major Council members and those 30 who received golden balls were the group from whom the electors of the Doge would be chosen. This lucky child, after performing this duty, would be employed full-time in the service of the new Doge until the end of his term (usually upon his death). At that time, the child – or young man – would receive 100 ducats and become a full-time employee of the Chancellery.
Even in this country, we have a word that derives directly from “BALOTA” or “BALOTON,” used in all elections, and that word is “ballot,” a distant reference to that spherical object used in Venice as part of the Doge’s election.
The three images below are courtesy of Sonoran Glass School in Tucson AZ. The master pulling the cane is Paul Anders-Stout, director of the hot shop. They shows you three different stages of the BAIOTIN cane making. You can clearly see the DNA strand like shape on the last one when Paul is getting ready to pull the cane with a helper.
In Italian: PIETRA (PYEHT-rah )
In English: Brick or stone (to be more precise brick is MATTONE (maht-TOH-neh) and stone is PIETRA)
It is called PIETRA because in the old times they did not have large flat iron plates, so they used a flat refractory brick about 3/4 inch thick. Actually, in the oldest times in Murano, before the advent of refractory bricks, they used stones (PIETRE) from quarries near Verona that contained a high percentage of silica.
In the old times it was called PIERA DA POSO or POSA (PYEH-rah da POH-zoh / POH-zah), brick on which to lay.
In the USA almost everybody calls it PLATE.
Also in the ancient times it was called GALTÉLLA (gahl-TEHL-lah), which is the specific name for a part of the mast on a Venetian vessel, shaped like a small flat shelf.
What it is used for is to place the FILIGRANA canes on it to be preheated in the furnace, in this country in the glory hole, to be then picked up on a collar on a blow pipe.
Today the PIERA is made of metal and rectangular in shape but, since the metal, when hot, sticks on glass (or the glass sticks on it), to prevent that we cover the entire surface, where we lay the canes, with wet clay, which we then dry before laying the CANETE DE FILIGRANA (cah-NEH-teh deh fee-ee-GRAH-nah) (short filigrana canes) on top so, even when hot, they do not stick on the plate, since this clay membrane or layer, keep them separated from the metal. In Murano, some of the glass factories still use mud from the Venetian Lagoon for this process instead of clay, since they say it is better because the glass, even when very hot, never sticks on it. It is true, because the mud from the Venetian Lagoon contains a high percentage of salt that will keep the glass separated from the metal.
Incidentally, talking about salt as a separator, during the Phoenician times (2,500 years before Christ, 4,700 years ago) they used to make objects, specifically pendants in the form of heads, on which they applied glass curls one by one. Those curls (2 or 3 mm thick) were premade with a small gather around a thin bronze rod that was precoated with salt (sodium chloride) an then attached on the forehead and then with a hard twist they broke the salt layer and extracted the bronze mandrel. Sorry, I thought it was worth narrating.
In Italian: PASTORALE (pahs-toh-RAH-leh)
Comes from PASTORE (pahs-TOH-reh) Shepherd.
In English: shepherd’s staff (crosier)
It is that tool with a very long handle that at one end is bifurcated to support the plate, and on the other end, where it is held by the glass blower, ends in a T so it can be prevented from rolling around and dropping everything. The long handle is needed because the plate at one end of the PASTORALE gets inserted in the furnace or glory hole to preheat LE CANNE DI FILIGRANA.
In Italian: LATTIMO (LAHT-tee-moh)
In English: Milky
It comes from LATE (eeAH-teh), in Italian LATTE (LAHT-teh). In English: Milk.
It is the name given to the white glass used, as far as I know, as the only colour in the early 1500s, to make the CANA PAR FIIGRANA (KAH-nah pahr fee-ee-GRAH-nah) (in Italian: CANNA DA FILIGRANA (KAHN-nah dah fee-lee-GRAH-nah), filigrana rods or, literally, glass rods for filigrana) or BACHETA DA FIIGRANA (bah-KEH-tah dah fee-ee-GRAH-nah) (in Italian: BACCHETTA PER FILIGRANA, (bahk-KEHT-tah pehr fee-lee-GRAH-nah) filigrana stick). Later on, and particularly in our time, any colour available was used to create FILIGRANA objects.
In the mid-1500s, LATTIMO is used to prepare canes for FILIGRANA pieces as well.
To obtain this dense white glass they used calcined tin, sometime mixed with calcined lead. They first produced this kind of white in the XIV century with the Latin name of “Attimum” (as documents state for the production of mosaics for the Cathedral of Orvieto; “Le avventure del lattimo”, Zecchin), likely only for mosaic and enamel use.
The theory, or guess, is that the white colour was used in the beginning for the first FIIGRANA objects because the Serena family, thanks to the “invention” of Francesco Zen, who had obtained the exclusive for producing this new kind of glass from the Council of Ten (CONSIGLIO DEI DIECI (kohn-SEEL-yoh dey DYEH-chee)), the highest controlling organ during the time of the Venetian Republic, immediately under the DOGE (DOH-jeh), was a maker of very intense white, LATTIMO, for mosaic tesserae.
For what I have read, LATTIMO is different from LATTICINO (laht-tee-CHEE-noh) (literally any milk derivate, particularly cheese), or LATEROLO (lah-teh-ROH-loh) from LATTE again (looking like LATTE) or PORCELLANO (por-chehl-LAH-noh) (porcelain-like), because developed to look like PORCELLANA (por-chehl-LAH-nah), porcelain. This kind of white glass sometimes has a slight blue hue and is not as intense as LATTICINO.
In the XV century in Murano, since they wanted to compete with the porcelain imported from China, they started blowing objects of LATTICINO (white glass) very thin to imitate the translucency of porcelain and they also started copying the same designs with enamels on the surface of those objects. Some of the flasks in museums made of LATTICINO, also called LATESIN (eeah-teh-ZEEN) in Muranese, are almost carbon copies of the ones made with porcelain or Maiolica. As far as pieces in museum collections, and as far as I know, almost all the glass objects in LATESIN have surface decoration.
There is also an interesting theory, or actually a story, about the word LATTICINO. The word used to be in vogue in this country until 35 years ago to indicate FILIGRANA glass rods, when finally, thanks to Lino Tagliapietra and company that followed, we started using the proper names for those glass canes and objects.
In the old times, when….., actually, nobody really knows exactly when, but let’s say a long, long time ago, when the canals of Venice were crossed only by rowing boats and with no tourists to invade the island, there were a glass blower and his son from Murano (let’s call them Paolo and Daniele), who thought they deserved more credit and more money for their skills; so they decided to expatriate illegally (expatriation was illegal for some, entering illegally was allowed since the city had no doors and anybody with a boat could enter and start a business) with their glass knowledge out in the known world, the world of Europe, and sell themselves and the glass secrets they carried with them to the highest bidder. First they visited the Dutch countries where they showed them how to blow beautiful goblets in clear glass, cristallo di Murano, (Murano crystal, that is what we called and still call clear glass in Murano) and got paid in gold coins. Since gold was so prevalent in the Dutch country, they decided to show them also the last technique invented in Murano called FILIGRANA, all with white canes. They also listed, for those buyers of secrets, all the names of their tools and techniques. One of those names was related to FILIGRANA and it was LATTIMO. Naturally, those ignorant Dutch knew neither the pronunciation nor the real meaning of those words used in glass blowing, so our two traitors of the Muranese secrets tried to explain to them that LATTIMO derives from LATTE, and that LATTICINO or LATESIN (a LATTE derivate) was also a word for white glass, not so intense as LATTIMO but still white glass. So, derivation after derivation, the ignorant Dutch people started using LATTICINO instead of LATTIMO without knowing that, yes, it means derived from LATTE and it is white, but in the real lives of every Muranese and every Italian, LATTICINI (plural of LATTICINO) means the large family of cheeses, FORMAGGI (for-MAHJ-jee) (singular FORMAGGIO (for-MAHJ-joh)) produced with LATTE. But Paolo and Daniele were not interested in correcting mistakes since the Dutch were paying gold even for the mistakes.
After pocketing as much gold as they could, Paolo and Daniele moved to England and were introduced to the court of the King to show their skills with glass blowing. More gold entered their pockets and they sold more secret instructions to the English, and with them, the FILIGRANA as well, as they had done in Holland. Again, the English also wanted to know the various names and, again LATTICINO instead of LATTIMO, was absorbed by those narrow-minded Englishmen instead of LATTIMO; or maybe Paolo and Diego, feeling guilty, told them the wrong word to make up for their wrongs toward the secrets of the Murano glass; or maybe they just made fun of the ignorant Englishmen and told them LATTICINO instead of LATTIMO.
A hundred or so years later, when Paolo and his son Daniele had been dead for a while, drowning in gold coins while trying to reenter the island of Murano swimming, the FILIGRANA canes technique, and all the names that go with it, was exported by the Brits to their colonies in the New World where it remained, until the good soul of a Muranese glass blower visiting those shores in the hope of gold coins, told them that their FILIGRANA work wasn’t that good because they had been trying to blow glass with cheese canes (LATTICINO) instead of glass rods.
Today, as we all know, we use the proper Muranese names for all the glass blowing work, with the exception of small pockets of ignorant stained glass craftsmen and some pipe makers, that still use LATTICINO for LATTIMO and, even worse, for FILIGRANA.
We all know that those reactionary, conservative minded, country singer followers, will not have a long life and will never succeed in making beautiful glass creations that will withstand the judgment of time, if they keep calling cheese what in reality is none other than glass FILIGRANA.
In Italian: FILIGRANA (fee-lee-GRAH-nah)
In English: Filigree, but in the glass world in the USA we still use the Italian version FILIGRANA.
It comes from FILO (FEE-loh): thread; and GRANO (GRAH-noh): grain.
Likely, it was introduced as a term in glass blowing since it recalled the intricate FILIGRANA work done with precious metals (gold and silver mostly). In glass, it is a technique invented in Murano in the first half of the 16th century.
Originally, as far as can be seen from pieces of that period that remain, it was made only of white glass, what we in Murano called and still call IATIMO (ee-AH-tee-moh), in Italian LATTIMO (LAHT-tee-moh), a word that derives from IATE eeAH-teh), in Italian LATTE (LAHT-teh), in English milk. So you could say it is called milky glass. In this writing, I will talk about FILIGRANA made of LATTIMO glass only. But we stop here for now about this kind of glass, LATTIMO, that we will discover a few definitions from now.
As we said, FIIGRANA was created in Murano in the early 1500s, but we do not know by whom. So far there are no unearthed documents that point us in any direction. Originally, the now large family of FIIGRANA was composed of only three different kinds of techniques; all three of them, as far as we know, were called FILIGRANA. At the base of this technique there is the pulling of the FIIGRANA cane that consists of a center core of white glass (IATIMO, LATTIMO) surrounded by clear glass. This technique will deserve an explanation of its own—look for it as another definition.
Going back to basics, the three types of FIIGRANA are:
MESA FIIGRANA (MEH-zah fee-ee-GRAH-nah)
In Italian: MEZZA FILIGRANA (MEHD-zah fee-lee-GRAH-nah)
In English: Half filigree.
Half filigree consists of a certain number of clear glass canes with a white thread as the center core, that are twisted and shaped into a hollow object. See image.
FIIGRANA A REDESEO (…ah reh-deh-ZEH-oh)
In Italian: FILIGRANA A RETICELLO (…ah reh-tee-CHEHL-loh)
In English they use the same words as in Italian.
Filigrana a reticello consists of a cylindrical bubble of MESA FIIGRANA (MEZZA FILIGRANA) left-twisted or right-twisted, inserted into an open cylinder of MESA FIIGRANA twisted the opposite direction and then expanded to adhere to the other one, creating a rhomboid crossed design of the white canes. (The resulting design resembles a net, or REDE (REH-deh), in Italian RETE (REH-teh); the diminuitive form of these words – REDESEO or RETECELLO, is used to describe this pattern.) Usually, as the inner and outer layers are joined, a little bubble of air trapped in each crossing, since the canes of the bubble and cylinder are a bit bumpy, so there is not complete contact across the entire surface, and where the two layers do not touch, a bubble of air gets trapped.
Sometime this kind of FIIGRANA A REDESEO (FILIGRANA A RETICELLO) is also called DOPIA FIIGRANA (DOH-pyah …), in Italian DOPPIA FILIGRANA (DOHP-pyah…), which means double filigree.
FIIGRANA A RETORTOI (… ah reh-TOR-toh-ee)
In Italian: FILIGRANA A RETORTOLI (…ah reh-TOR-toh-lee)
In English: Twisted filigree
The word RETORTOLO (reh-TOR-toh-loh), singular of RETORTOLI, comes from the Italian RITORTO (ree-TOR-toh), meaning twisted on itself. The canes to make such amazing glass require more work and are produced using a certain number of simple FILIGRANA canes that are applied on the outside of a cylindrical clear glass or, more exactly, picked up on the outside of a solid clear cylinder and then, after reheating and marvering (MARMORIZAR), they are stretched and pulled, while twisting, resulting in a thin solid cane with twisted threads of coloured glass on the outside. Another different RETORTOIO (reh-TOR-toh-yoh) (RETORTOLO) is produced when the simple FILIGRANA canes are on the inside of a cylinder of clear glass and are twisted and stretched to create a thin cane that looks like a DNA strand. This is a more time-consuming and complicated technique than the first one since, after you have cut seven or eight, or as many as you want (it should be observed that if you have an odd number of canes the one in the center stays almost straight when you twist them), you preheat them and then pick them up at the end of a flat rectangular gather as wide as the number of canes. Now comes the trick: to completely incase them in clear glass, you cannot gather glass with them in the pot otherwise every depression in between the round canes will become a string of air that will not look nice with the FILIGRANA. (I will tell you another day how this mistake can be turned into your advantage). So the assistant, while the Master is holding the canes vertically, comes with a fresh gather of glass and lets it drop from the top of the canes down toward the pipe, completely covering all the canes and depressions with the fresh hot glass. After that, the Master keeps reheating and caressing the gather on the marver, BRONZIN, trying to push it all to the end of the canes, completely covering all of them. Then he can gather into the pot, and then he twists and stretches.
I know—long explanation, but it was due.
Let me conclude this definition telling you that today, in Murano and around the world, the words FIIGRANA A RETOTOI are not used very much, with the exception of inside the Muranese glass factories. Today we use the word ZANFIRICO (zahn-FEE-ree-koh) or SANFIRICO (sahn-FEE-ree-koh) instead. There is an interesting story about the origin of this word. During the Napoleonic occupation and pillaging of Venice, one of the things that Napoleon, who conquered Venice in May 1797, imposed was the closure of all the glass factories so the French glass factories could take over that part of the market with great monetary gains. In October of 1797, after the treaty on Campo Formio, Napoleon gave the administration of Venice to Austria but in 1805 regained control of it by placing his brother Joseph Bonaparte as regnant of Venice, and still the glass factories were closed. Venice stayed under French domain until the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, when Venice passed again under Austria. During that period, a movement to separate from Austria was born, but (and here I am going to leave out a few details for time’s sake) Venice, seeking independence and trying to join other Italian states, was again crushed, looted and half destroyed by the Austrians, who after have reconquered and half destroyed the city, ceded it back to France in 1866 (and still the factories were closed). In the same year France gave Venice to the kingdom of Italy, finally restoring freedom and peace again for Venice. During those 70 years, there was no glass blowing in Venice. Only after regaining freedom did some glass factories reignite the fire, but there was little market willing to spend money on glass, after so much destruction in Europe caused mostly by Napoleon and the Austrians.
Still, some factories found a nice market in making (fake) reproductions of old and antique work and selling them to antique dealers with few scruples, who sold them as originals to collectors. In Murano, a certain Ongaro (probably related to the Ongaro who the first teacher from Murano at Pilchuck) was making reproductions of FIIGRANA A RETORTOI pieces for an antique dealer, copying originals from the 1500s that the dealer owned. The name of that dealer was Sanquirico (sahn-QUEE-ree-koh), from which the word ZANFIRICO that we use now for the FIIGRANA A RETORTOI.
Wrongly, many people in Murano believe this event, combined with the efforts of Abate Zanetti (abbot Zanetti), to be the springboard of the rebirth of glass in Murano. Without subtracting any credit, particularly from Abate Zanetti who did so much for Murano—starting with the founding of the Glass Museum in Murano and the school of design for glass blowers—what actually happened was that the economic rebirth of Europe, during the reconstruction after so many years of war, allowed market conditions to be favorable once again for spending money on objects of beauty with little utilitarian use, and created a market for glass objects from Murano, a cycle we have seen even during our lives.
The images are: Mezza filigrana by Venini designed by Carlo scarpa. The filigrana a reticello di Barovier e Toso. The Filigrana a retortoli o Zanfirico by Venini.
Addendum to FILIGRANA
I have to apologize but I made some mistakes and forgot about a few things regarding the FILIGRANA definition.
Scott Benefield, a great glass artist and a great and humble person that now resides near Ballintoy, N.Ireland, made an acute and very well-informed observation about my FILIGRANA word description. Let me summarize it and try to find some excuses for my ignorance.
Let’s start with the “excuses”: In the distant year 1985, a group of scholars, curious individuals, glass lovers, etc., etc., mostly from Murano, after the death of the world famous glass scholar Luigi Zecchin from Murano in 1984, decided to collect many of his papers in a three-volume collection called “Vetro e Vetrai di Murano” (Glass and glass makers from Murano), with the first one published in1987. I bought the book immediately and read it cover to cover. One of the interesting sections in this book is the one about the “Muranesi” families and their origins. One of these families is the “Serena”. I read it 33 years ago and forgot about it.
The other “excuse” is that I did not read the “Atti” (Acts) of the study days on venetian glass of the 2017/18 conference on the subject of glass Filigrana, and in particular the paper presented by Rosa Barovier on the subject. The third and last “excuse” is that, although I like the history of glass, particularly of Muranese Glass, I am not a scholar because I have other interests in life like writing, poetry, art, and gardening, so I dedicate not enough time to it and in this case, since I made some statement regarding the origin of the technique, I should have researched a bit more instead of relying so much on my memory and sparse knowledge.
But let’s talk about what Scott Benefield’s observations pointed out. (He likely must be part Italian, since his last name is composed of two words, “bene” [good/well in Italian] and “field”).
In 1527, the Serena family from Murano applied to the Council of Ten for a 25-year exclusive license to produce, “a new invention in our trade, made with ‘FILI RETOROI’ in a certain way [...] granting that Francesco Zen who was the inventor of such ‘opera’.” (pages 212, 213, Volume I L.Zecchin)
This is what Zecchin found in the Venetian State Archives, and he ends with this phrase: “That is a document of a singular importance, for being together the birth certificate and the baptism of one of the most interesting decorative artifices proposed by the Muranesi glassblowers in the Renaissance.”
Summarizing: Francesco Zen, who we today would call a designer, is considered by most glass scholars the inventor of the FILIGRANA technique in 1527, trademarked by the Serena family.
The other correction or addendum is that it seems likely that the Muranesi got inspired by (or copied) some of the cane bowls of the Roman period (fused, not blown), that were made with twisted canes.
Below is some info if you want to further research the story of FILIGRANA from Murano including the website of Scott Benefield, the American, now transplanted in N.Ireland, that specializes in Venetian glass techniques. Check out his FILIGRANA objects on his website below.
Again, I apologize for my lack of knowledge and mistakes.
Lastly, I have an idea that has been floating in my daydreams of a “WIKIGLASS”, or similar, website. What do you all think about it?
Luigi Zecchin “Vetro e Vetrai di Murano” Volume I, II, II. You can find them on various book sites for sale. Quite expensive and I do not think there is an English version
Before we conclude this section on BORSEE with the last post about them, I wanted to let you know that this family of glass blowing tools has basically no end, since the Masters have designed and continue to design tools to facilitate their work (I am talking repetitive work), with the help of the blacksmiths that create them, and especially BORSEE that will help them to accomplish a particular part of an object or facilitate and speed up certain actions. I remember when I was young, that my uncle Giacinto Cadmuro, the famous glass Master of Venetian chandeliers, had a special tool made following his own design to achieve a repeated curvature on the cup rims of chandeliers, so that with one action or movement he could shave 50% off the time he took him to create such rims; and since he was paid by the piece on top of the hourly wage, he was able to produce more work and make more money. Naturally, what we often tend to forget is that the Master was the only one getting the incentive to produce more to make more money, so he pushed the entire team to be more productive, but only he profited.
Here is my last BORSEE:
BORSEE PIATE A ANGOLO (bor-SAY-eh PYAH-teh ah AHN-goh-yoh)
In Italian: BORSELLE PIATTE AD ANGOLO (bor-SEHL-leh PYAHT-teh ah DAHN-goh-loh)
In English: Flat angle crimps.
They are identical to the BORSEE PIATE but instead of having the flat square pieces at the end aligned with the spring/handle side, the pieces are soldered at an angle that can vary according to the need of the object made.
BORSEE DA OCI (bor-SAY-eh dah OH-chee)
In Italian: BORSELLE DA OCCHI (bor-SEHL-leh dah OAK-kee)
In English: Eye Crimps
This is an easy one since as you can see from the image, the purpose of those two short cylinders at the end of the BORSEE is very clear. They are used to press in the eyes of many of the small animals that are usually part of the stem of a goblet. Naturally, as I always state, the Master will find innumerable more uses for those BORSEE.
In the picture they are the third from the left.
BORSEE DA PISEGAR (bor-SAY-eh dah pee-seh-GAR)
In Italian: BORSELLE DA PIZZICARE (bor-SEHL-leh dah peet-tsee-CAH-reh)
In English: Pinching tweezers, or tweezers.
We finally come to another of the most often used tools in the suitcase of the master: BORSEE DA PISEGAR. In the US they are the commonly called tweezers and have sharp points. They are also called PINSE (PEEN-seh), in Italian PINZE (PEEN-tseh), tweezers, but in the old times the name BORSEE DA PISEGAR referred to only one kind of tweezers, made on purpose for pinching and grabbing the glass. PISEGAR, in Italian PIZZICARE, means to pinch. DA PISEGAR, because they need to grab the glass, pinching it for various reasons, usually for stretching it, but also for sculpting the glass. As usual, the Master finds innumerable uses for them.
I want to emphasize again that, in the old times, there used to be a distinction between the BORSEE DA PISEGAR and the PINSE, since the BORSEE DA PISEGAR had (and have) a slight curvature toward the inside and were (and are) really pointed. If you are familiar with glass blowing tools, you well know that there are PINSE (tweezers) that, although they have pointed ends, are also rather flat instead of slightly curving to the inside
Image courtesy of Carlo Donà tools, Murano, Italy.
BORSEE DA CAPAR (bor-SAY-eh dah cah-PAR)
In Italian: BORSELLE DA CONCHIGLIA A PETTINE (bor-SEHL-leh dah cohn-KEEL-yah ah PEHT-tee-neh)
In English: Scallop Crimps.
They are almost identical to the BORSEE A COPO and they are used to make undulated edges or undulated lips.
The word CAPAR comes from the Venetian CAPA (CAH-pah), in Italian VONGOLA (VOHN-goh-lah), in English scallop. Basically the name comes from the shape that the tool gives to the glass similar to the edge of the scallop.
BORSEE A GEIOSIA (bor-SAY-eh ah jeh-yo-ZEE-ah)
In Italian: BORSELLE A GELOSIA (bor-SEHL-leh ah jeh-loh-ZEE-ah)
In English: I have no idea what you call them. Last time I saw them used, by an American at the Corning Studio, he called them A GEIOSIA. The translation would be: Jealousy Crimps.
The end of those BORSEE are usually round flat, not larger then a penny. The inside is carved with grooves that cross each other at 90º. They are usually used to work on MORISE, squeezing the MORISE every few centimeters creating a pattern of crowned crossed grooves.
They are called GEIOSIA because the GEIOSIE (jeh-yo-ZEE-eh), or as they used to say in the old Venetian, ZELOSIA (zeh-yo-ZEE-ah), was the name of the 90º woven panel or screen that was put in front of or behind the window to prevent passersby from seeing what was happening inside. Those particular panels were called GEIOSIA because this word comes from GELOSO (jeh-LOH-zoh), which means jealous. When the men of the house went to work, they put those up on the windows so nobody could see what their wives were doing.
From that 90º woven pattern comes the word GEIOSIA for the BORSEE.
In the image they are the first on the left.
Thanks to Carlo Donà tool maker from Murano for the image.
BORSEE A COPO (bor-SAY-eh ah KOH-poh)
In Italian: BORSELLE A COPPO (bor-SEHL-leh ah KOHP-poh)
In English: Spanish roof tile crimps. They probably have another name as well, since they were used in this country for “Depression glass”.
COPPO o TEGOLA (TEH-goh-lah) is what in the US we call a Spanish roof tile.
Each end of these BORSEE looks like a tile, with one nesting within the other when they are closed, like two miniature Spanish roof tiles, one on top of the other; the bottom one is sometimes hollow, sometimes solid.
They usually used them on the rim of vases and cups pressing multiple times to obtain an edge of multiple semicircles. You can see the application on them on the rims of some “Depression glass”.
As for origin of the word COPO, it is one of the few in Italian words about which there is debate as to whether it comes from the Latin (“Coppus”, roof tile) or from the Saxon (“Coppe”, top, summit).
In the picture they are the one in the center. As you can see the bottom part in this case is solid.
Thanks again to Carl Donà Tool Maker from Murano for the image.
BORSEE A SGUATARON (bor-SAY-eh ah z-gwah-tah-ROAN)
In Italian: BORSELLE A DRAPPI (bor-SEHL-leh ah DRAHP-pee)
In English: Directly translates into Cornice Drape Crimps, cornices being the two side fabric panels in front of a curtain that, with the valance, frame the curtain around the window.
They have multiple large transversal recesses to give a lobate shape to the rims of vases.
Picture to come.
BORSEE A SQUEOTO (bor-SAY-eh ah skweh-OH-toh) or A SCUGIER (ah skoo-JEHR)
In Italian: BORSELLE A SCODELLONE (bor-SEHL-leh ah skoh-dehl-LOH-neh) or A CUCCHIAIO (ah kook-KYAH-yoh)
In English: Spoon crimp.
They look like a pair of tweezers that have two semispherical bowls at the ends, one slightly smaller than the other one so it fits into it. SCUGIER, (CUCCHIAIO in Italian), means spoon. SQUEOTO, (SCODELLONE in Italian) means large bowl. I do not know why they are also called A SQUEOTO since I have never seen them as large as a bowl. I have to confess that, unless Davide Fuin comes to my aid, I do not know what they use them for besides pressing glass into a semi-spherical shape.
In the picture, they are the second from the right with the two semisfpheres at the end. Thanks again to Carlo Donà tool maker from Murano for the use of the image.
BORSEE A SPINA DE PESE
In English: Leaf crimp.
SPINA DI PESCE in English means “fish bone”, so the entire literal translation would be: fish bone crimp.
Interesting to observe that those BORSEE are nowadays mostly used for leaf making although the name comes from the design of the grooves inside the square or rectangular paddle ends that reminds of fish bones. You have to keep in mind that the most common food in the Venetian lagoon was fish.
The grooves are set from the outside rims toward the center where they meet, usually at 45º angle but it can be at different angle.
When I was a kid working my Summers at the Cenedese glass factory with my uncle Cadamuro blowing Venetian Chandeliers, we use them mostly to shape into leaves the end of the “tazza” that fits at the end of the chandelier brace, holding the candle or light bulb.
Master glassblowers when they use them to make a single small leaf they squeeze the hot glass with them and then lightly shear the edges of the squeezed glass and then stretch it and curve it to give movement to the leaf. The light shearing gives a more natural look to the leaf gently separating the edge line, and the indented grooves in the center formed by the use of the BORSEE A SPINA DE PESE, recall the lines on the back side of a leaf.
Thanks to Jim Moore American tool maker for the image.
BORSEE A RIGADIN (bohr-SAY-ah ah ree-gah-DEEN). In Italian: BORSELLE A RIGADINO (bor-SEHL-leh ah ree-gah-DEE-noh)
In English: “straight line crimp”, also called “fine ribbed crimp”.
They are a direct derivation from the BORSEE A GATOLO with the difference that they have finer grooves, not that deep and usually close to each other. They have wider square or rectangular ends.
The word RIGADIN derives from RIGA (REE-gah) that means line. RIGADINO is the diminutive of RIGATO. The diminutive of RIGA, would be RIGHETTA (ree-GEHT-tah), little line.
This is extra is for those passionate about language: in Italian we also have another “modus dicendi” (way of saying) that has a character of endearment and is called VEZZEGGIATIVO (vets-zeh-jah-TEE-voh), so for RIGA, it would be RIGHINA (ree-GEE-nah, with a hard “g” as in “get”) and for RIGATO it would be RIGATELLO (ree-gah-TEHL-lo)
Image courtesy of Jim Moore Tools.
BORSEE A GATOLO (bor-SAY-eh ah GAH-toh-yoh). In English, ribbed crimp.
There are many kinds of BORSEE A GATOLO because it depends on how many GATOLI (GAH-toh-yee) (plural) they have; and the more they have the wider the rectangular metal part at the end is. The grooves also vary in depth and width.
So, what is a GATOLO? It is the groove on the inside face of the end of the BORSEE. Depending on the number or grooves you can have: BORSEE A UN GATOLO (ah oon GAH-toh-yoh), crimp with one groove; BORSEE A DO GATOI (ah doh GAH-toh-yee) with two grooves; BORSEE A TRE GATOI (ahtreh GAH-toh-yee ) with three grooves; A QUATRO GATOI (ah QUAH-troh GAH-toh-yee) with four grooves; and so on.
Naturally, the more GATOI you have, the larger the flat rectangular part at the end of the BORSEE A GATOLO. They are used in many different kinds of decorative work, pressing hot glass with them for MORISE and many others embellishments, depending on the creativity of the Master and the piece of classical Muranese glass being reproduced.
They are called A GATOLO because GATOLO, in Venetian and Muranese dialect, means CANAL DE SCOLO (cah-NAHL deh SKOY-oh), drain channel (in Italian CANALE DI SCOLO (cah-NAH-leh dee SKOH-loh)). In the old times, though not too old, when they used to plow the soil (now, thanks to Monsanto, they use roundup to kill the grass instead of turning it under, and then plant genetically modified seeds to resist the weed killer), they used to put another furrow transversally on the seeded soil to facilitate
the drainage. That extra furrow is/was called the GATOLO.
Venetians, and all the islanders of the surrounding lagoon, adopted the word GATOLO for the drain at pavement level, covered with a metal grate, on the streets of Venice, to drain the water during rainy days and to drain the water after the high tides from the CALE/CAE (CAH-eh) in Italian CALLE (CAHL-leh), alley.
Unfortunately, the same GATOI in the streets, not only drain the water but also bring in the water from the canal during high tide since they drain directly into the CANAL (cah-NAHL) (in Italian CANALE (cah-NAH-leh), channel) allowing the high tide to bring the water into the street.
Let’s go back now to the BORSEE. As I said before, some of the newbies in the glass world, and in Murano as well in the world of lamp-working, make the mistake of calling some or all the different kinds of BORSEE with the word PINZE (we’ll talk later about those). In Muranese glass blowing, more or less any kind of spring tool, with the exception of PINZE e PINZETTE, are called BORSEE.
The BORSEE family is a large one. Here are some types.
BORSEE PIATE (PYAH-teh) In English: flat masher or flat crimp.
In Italian PIATE is PIATTE (PYAHT-teh) that means flat. PIATTE is the plural of PIATTA (PYAHT-tah) flat (female in this case because BORSEA (singular of borsee) is female and in Italian the adjective of a word follows the gender of the noun). Interestingly the male version of the adjective PIATTA is PIATTO
(PYAHT-toh) that is also a noun that means plate or dish. Both plate (in English) and PIATTO (in Italian), derive from the Greek platys or platus (wide, flat) and then from the Latin plattum (flat).
The BORSEE PIATE are used to flatten the glass, whether solid or hollow; or square it, if rotating the axes 90º after the first squeeze and squeezing again. They look like a pair of large tweezers with two small or larger square flat pieces of metal at the end. Those
end pieces can also be smaller and narrower.
In the picture, the BORSEE PIATE are the third ones from the right and as you can see they are narrow.
BORSEE A PARCIOFI (ah par-CHOH-fee) or A PACIOFI (ah pah-CHOH-fee)
In English, they are the wooden jacks.
In Murano they commonly call them just PARCIOFI or PACIOFI, dropping the first word BORSEE. In the US they mostly use the Muranese word PACIOFI but, as you all probably know how much love there is in the US for abbreviation - maybe because everybody is in a hurry, or to reflect the brevity of life - many call them just CIOFI (CHOH-fee). (VITA BREVIS EST (Life is short) the Latins used to say. They also said ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS (Art is long, life is short, meaning that it takes forever to learn an art or a craft while life is too short). Both quotations are actually not from a Latin philosopher, but from a translation into Latin from Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher. The entire phrase is: “ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS, OCCASIO PRAECEPS, EXPERIMENTUM PERICULOSUM, IUDICIUM DIFFICILE”). Going back to our tool: the derivation of the Muranese word PACIOFI is not really clear. My friend from Canada, (but originally from just outside Venice), Alberto Gee, found that it might come from pacion or pacioso, which also means chubby. If one day I find the perfect etymology I will let everybody know.
PACIOFI are BORSEE that, instead of metal blades, have two wooden rods inserted into two short hollow cylinders at the end of the BORSEA’s spring. The wood used for them varies from country to country. In the USA they use wild cherry (for these and for more or less everything else in wood that is used in the hot shop); in Italy, Germany and other European country, they use wild pear (also for everything else in wood in the hot shop).
Why those two kinds of fruit tree wood and not oak or other strong woods? Because in contact with veryhot glass they do not burn very quickly and create a thin layer of carbon on top of the wood, probably thanks to the kind of sap and the structure of the wood. PACIOFI are used wet on glass, otherwise they will burn too quickly. They are used when the hot glass needs to be worked without leaving any marks on it: for instance, while opening a large, thick vase, or while trying to open a low bowl (TAZZA (TAHT-tsah)); in this case the action of the tool is pushing the hollow soft glass from the inside toward the back and toward the outside. Think if you used that motion with the pointed blades of the BORSEE, you would, for sure, end up with a deep narrow canyon inside your bowl.
We have already said that the PARCIOFI need to be wet so, during the working day, they are constantly kept immersed in a bucket of water just behind the Master’s bench, to let the wood absorb the water. In some special cases, instead of water, they use a solution of water and powdered graphite so the PARCIOFI slide more on the glass and leave practically no marks. When Steuben was still in business in Corning, NY, that is what they used when working with their famous high lead content crystal.
Today PARCIOFI also come in different materials: they use metal blades covered with a thin layer of
graphite and keep plunging them into a solution of water and graphite; they use Teflon blades for mass
production pieces (cancer from Teflon fumes is a hoax, according to the factory owners); they use straight graphite rods for the blades. The advantage of this last one is that graphite is a lubricant, leaving very few marks on the surface of the glass, and can withstand higher temperatures than wood or metal, which would burn or be ruined. That is why lamp-workers using Pyrex glass use graphite blades on their PACIOFI.
Lastly on this subject: Lamp-workers usually pre-shape their graphite blades, tapering them down until theyslightly resemble the CORTEI (blades) of BORSEE (jacks). This is also true for some wooden blades pre-shaped to resemble the CORTEI. Like the previous post, I want to thank Carlo Donà for allow me to use an image of his tool catalog.
BORSEE, jacks, are the most important tool of the trade. They are an extension of the Master glassblower’s hand, to shape and work glass in various forms. Their particular shape comes from having gone through centuries of the art of glass blowing, adapting and modifying their shapes to the needs of the Craft in glass, extruding their form through the experience and fire of centuries, to take the shape we now well know. The origin of the word, after research and inquiry with friends in the field from Italy, is unknown. We know that before being used in glass blowing, the word BORSELA was used by goldsmiths, centuries and centuries ago, and today, to indicate a kind of spring or spring clamp used to hold two pieces of gold or other precious metal together before soldering them, or a spring to keep a piece open from the inside. We think that the term was imported from such craft, since the BORSEE are basically a spring. Let me clarify something before I continue with this term. In Murano, there are many tools in the glass blowing world that come under the term BORSEE, but some of those tools are sometimes also called PINZE (PEEN-tseh). We’ll talk about those another day. For now let’s stick with BORSEE, jacks. The most commonly known and used form of jacks is the BORSEA DA SIEGAR (syeh-GAR), or BORSEE DA SIEGAR. SIEGAR in Italian is SEGARE (seh-GAH-reh), meaning to cut. This is the only one that has nothing at all to do with “pinze” and is commonly known simply as BORSEE. As many of you probably know, these jacks are made of metal and have such a particular shape that for this post I will publish a picture. They used to be made fully by hand in two different parts: The blades, in Muranese CORTEI (cor-TAY-ee), in Italian COLTELLI (cohl-TEHL-lee), and the spring MO(I)A (MOH- eeah), MOLLA (MOHL-lah) in Italian, that includes the handle part. Those two parts were and are soldered together. The blades, in the old times, used to be forged by hand from a piece of iron; between the hammering to get down to the right thickness, and in doing so modifying the crystalline structure of the iron, and the annealing, to harden the surface, they made blades that lasted a lifetime. (It was said that the steel of the blades should not be too hard, but soft and sweet). The large flat spring of the back side was bent by hammering it around the round part of the anvil or around a thick piece of round pipe. They did not bend it by force but by hammering it cold, and in doing so gave elasticity to the iron. The center part of the BORSEE is a smaller flat iron extension of the spring, which was bent into a half-circle to give comfort to the holding hand. Nowadays the blades are made of special steel that comes already in a pre-sized bar, so the metal worker has “only” to grind the inside of the blades, always straight, into a sharper angle and the outside to a curvature that varies with the use of the BORSEE. They also use special steel for the back side and the handle part, which is precut into the right shape by water jet.
The BORSEE are the most important tool of the Muranese glassblowers. Mostly used for widening and shrinking the glass, they are also used to jack down the piece by squeezing the glass near the blow pipe, CANNA, with the inside of the blades (CORTEI), (that is why they are called BORSEE DA SIEGAR. Necking down the glass into a narrow valley, like sawing it). They are also used for opening hollow pieces with the outside of the blades; to model the glass into various shapes by pressing the hollow glass horizontally or at an angle; to flatten the bottom of an object with the blades or with the flat back side of the BORSEE; and many many other functions that the Master sees needed.
BORSEE come with different lengths and different blade thicknesses depending on what the specific glass blower’s job is. There are BORSEE DA GAMBI (GAHM-bee) (jacks for stems) BORSEE DA BICERI or BEVANTI (bee-CHEH-ree, beh-VAHN-teh) (cup jacks) etc. etc.
Of interest to some of the glass blowing newbies: If by any chance you find that your BORSEE (jacks) have too narrow an opening on the blade side and you want to widen it, never, ever, try to force them open holding them by the blades or handles and pulling them apart. They will likely crack or break in the middle of the large spring since it, the spring, is made of harmonic metal and will break. I personally saw it happen to a great American Glass Master.
To widen them, hold them upside down and hit the concrete floor with the back part of the spring. The more and the harder you do it, the more they will open; still, use a gentle touch. If they are too wide, and the closest ironmonger is at “mailing” distance, put the wider end of the back side spring around a thick pipe and gently hammer it on the sides of the back with a motion as if you were to close them into a circle. Do it a little at the time.
If the spring is too stiff, grind off a little of material from the end of it, but not only in one spot otherwise you weakened them in one spot with the risk of breaking them during use. Do it a little at the time until you reach the right strength. This is mostly for lamp workers: never get the blade red hot—you’ll ruin the temper and the blades. With the next post I will describe some of the other tools that use the same name, BORSEE, for them.
TAGIANTE A BECO DE ANARA (tah-JAHN-the ah BEH-koh deh AH-nah-rah)
Today I want to introduce to you another kind of shears that, as far as I know, was not used in Murano until thirty years ago. It was imported from the USA, which imported it from the Swedish countries and the UK. I am talking about the TAGIANTE A BECO DE ANARA (tah-JAHN-the ah BEH-koh deh AH-nah-rah) “duckbill shears,” where BECO (BECCO in Italian (BEHK-koh)) means bill and ANARA (ANTARA in Italian (AH-nah-trah)) means duck. They are a useful tool not fully adopted in the Muranese glass blowing environment. They look like a normal pair of shears but have the tips rounded and slightly angled away from each other to prevent catching the glass on the tips while cutting. As with any innovation trying to enter a world that prides itself on a thousand years of traditions, it will probably take a few more decades before everybody will accept them in Murano. Some young masters have them in their armamentarium and a couple of older Masters that came to the USA, to generously bring their art, adopted them as well. The rest of glass blowers from Murano are waiting for the sky to fall on them. Then maybe they will use them.
Addendum: Maestro Davide Fuin, kindly suggested, that those shears are also very good for cutting thick glass.
TAIANTE TONDA (täēänte tondä) (tah-ee-YAHN-teh TOHN-dah) or TAGIANTE TONDA (tädjänte tondä) (tah-JAHN-teh TOHN-dah)
In English: diamond shears
In Italian it would translate into Forbice tonda (FOR-bee-cheh TOHN-dah), round shear.
It is, as far as I know, a tool that is used exclusively in glass blowing, unless you count the small round shears use to cut or trim off the end of a cigar and that some flame-workers use for small pieces. The blades are different from the TAGIANTE DRITA, larger and longer, and the inside blades, in the center, are shaped like a square with another small round carved indentation at the end of the blades.
The TAGIANTE TONDA has quite a few uses at the bench while blowing glass. With them, but always while turning, you can imprint in the hot glass a round valley or round indentation; you can cut the glass off in a round shape at the end of an object; you can cut a gather of glass the helper is bringing to you in a perfectly round form; you can use them when a piece needs to be detached from the PONTEO (puntil) for sculpture, squeezing hard where you want the colder glass to break off from the PONTEO; and you can use them for many other functions that the master has the fantasy and need to come up with.
Another important function is holding a pipe with the small indentation at the end. For instance, when the assistant brings a bubble or a solid amount of glass to be attached, from the top, onto another object, the master holds the CANNA or PONTEO with the TAGINATE TONDA by the small indentation at the end of it, to guide and control the descent onto the glass object. That small indentation is usually used for these purposes but, as I said before, ingenuity and creativity sometimes take over the mind of the Maestro; I can tell you I saw Pino Signoretto at the Corning Studio using that small end indentation as you would use the center part of the TAGIANTE TONDA, and I am sure many of you have done the same.
I also want to add that, although I did not see them before in Murano (and I am the first to admit not having toured every single glass factory on the island), in this country some TAGIANTE TONDE (this is the plural form) (tah-JAHN-tee TOHN-deh) are really TONDE, round, and some are lacking the round indentation on the end. So now, the conundrum comes: should we still call them diamond shears (so called because, when open, the hole in the center reminds a cut diamond) although they are totally round, or change their name?
As a curiosity some flame workers prefer the round hole versus the square/diamond hole.
TAIANTE or TAGIANTE/I (täēänte) (ta-ee-YAHN-teh) or ( tädjänte/ē ) (tah-JAHN-teh)
In English: shears
In Italian: Forbici (forbēt∫ē) (FOR-bee-chee)
I do not think much explanation is needed about the standard TAIANTE (shears). You all likely know that they are handmade shears, for cutting glass.
In Muranese they are called TAIANTE [sometimes called TAIANTI (täēäntē) (ta-ee-YAHN-tee) using the plural form like we do in English (shears)]. The word comes from the Muranese TAIAR [tädjär (I had to put a j for the phonetic symbol I do not have on my keyboard, sorry) (ta-ee-YAR) or TAGIAR (tädjär) (tah-JAR)] that means to cut; in Italian TAGLIARE (tälēäre ) (tahl-YAR-eh) For the newbies in Italian language: the diphthong “GL” is rather difficult to pronounce so, instead of trying to say it and end up with a knot in your tongue, just pronounce only the letter “L”.
There are a number of TAGIANTI of different kinds and shapes used in the art of glass blowing. The one I just described here are the simple straight shears that in Muranese are called TAIANTI DRITE (täēäntē drēte) (ta-ee-THAN-tee DREE-teh) that translate exactly in to straight shears where straight means DRITE in Muranese (in Italian DRITTE (DREET-teh)), and shears means TAIANTI in Muranese (forbici in Italian)
From tomorrow, I will tell you about and describe the other kind of shears used in this art.
BRONZIN – Marver or marvering table. Comes from the word bronzo (bronze). It consists of a thick metal table where the glass blower rolls his hot glass into a cylindrical, conical, or other shape. Originally, it was made of stone or marble, from which comes the word marmorizzare, in English “to marver.” Later, probably during the bronze age, it was cast out of bronze. Interestingly, from those two words – bronzo and marmo – you have, in Venetian glass jargon, people who marmorizzano on the bronzin. The last person I know that was still using stone as a marvering table in Murano, though probably his son still uses it, is Dino Rosin, who used a slab of granite.
Lamp-workers usually use graphite as a marvering surface.
SPEADA (speädä) (speh-YAH-dah)
This is the action of the person in charge of the melting during the night, gathering a small amount of glass from the pot using a
SPEO. It is still done with coloured glass during the night, particularly with coral red and other reds, to check how the colour is forming and if there is the need to stir it or add more minerals or oxides.
SPEO (speo) (SPEH-yoh) Thin and shorter punty rod.
It comes from Spiedo (spēedo) (SPYEH-doh). It literally means skewer (spit).
It is usually used to gather small amount of glass for small applications on the glass object like a MORISE or a FILETTO SUL BORDO.
PONTEO DA BEVANTE (ponteo dä bevänte) (pohn-TEH-yoh dah beh-VAHN-teh)
A normal punty, but gathered on a SPEO rod (see above), that while still hot is rolled on a soft fabric to pick up impurities (in the form of clay powder), to make it easier to detach the cup from the punty during the assembly of the goblet.
PONTEO A DISCO (ponteo ä dēsko) (pohn-TEH-yoh ah DEES-koh)
A punty that is actually shaped like a flat disk and is normally used only with special pieces, usually goblets, where the disk punty is attached to the top of the goblet, the cup, until the rest of the piece is finished and detached at the end. It is the most difficult PONTEO to make and to use, and if not made properly, it usually leaves a sharp edge on the top of the cup that then has to be cold-worked.
PUNTEO A TRE PUNTE (pōōnteo ä tre pōōnte) (poon-TEH-yoh ah treh POON-teh):
The glass end on the punty is shaped like a tripod by stretching three rods of glass with the tweezers from the extra glass at the end of the rod, or by dividing the glass into three pieces with two cuts and then stretching each piece. Sometimes, when needed, it can have more points. It is used with pieces when the normal punty cannot be applied because there is no flat surface on the bottom of the piece, like when the flat bottom of an object is pushed inward, when hot, by the action of tweezers or jacks, to obtain a inner cone; the result is similar to the bottom of a champagne bottle, but narrower and sharper.
PONTEO A CORONA (ponteo ä coronä) (pohn-TEH-yoh ah coh-ROH-nah)
A punty where the gather of glass is shaped into a hollow crown at the end by using tweezers on hot glass with a double action of pulling and squeezing at the same time. It seems that those kinds of PONTEI started to be used in the 19th century.
PONTEO DA SCULTURA (ponteo da skōōltōōrä) (pohn-TEH-yoh dah skool-TOO-rah): Usually formed on a larger punty rod with one or two gathers of glass, sometimes with extra glass on the very end. Normally used for large heavy pieces.
PONTEO: is the normal version of a glassworker's iron rod, the regular one, obtained with a gather of glass on a PONTEO (rod), rolled on the marver, (see below).
PONTELLO or PUNTELLO (pontello or pōōntello) (pohn-TEHL-lo or poon-TEHL-lo)
In English: Punty rod or Pontil (from the French pontil)
In Muranese: PONTEO (ponteo) (pohn-TEH-yo) or PUNTEO (Pōōnteo) (poon-TEH-yo)
An iron rod on which a small amount of glass is gathered at the end and then rolled on the marver (BRONZIN) and used to hold the glass object detached from the blow pipe (CANA) for further shaping.
There are a few kinds of PONTEI (ponteē) (pohn-TEH-ee) (plural of PONTEO). Besides the standard one of about 130 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter, there are longer ones and thicker ones, sometimes solid, sometimes hollow (naturally with closed ends), for bigger glass pieces. Usually those have one enlarged end that acts as a counterweight for heavier pieces.
The PONTEO or PUNTEO is also used to gather small amount of glass for other applications like MORISE or FILETTO.
PUNTEO or PONTEO in Muranese also has the meaning of the "punty mark" on the bottom of the finished object. After the object is detached from the PONTEO, an inscribed small circle remains on the bottom of the object. It also has the meaning of the finished punty with the shaped glass at the end of it.
Preparing a good PUNTEO is almost an art, like almost everything in glass blowing. I thought I would explain a few details about it. Let's use the making of a tumbler (GOTO) to explain further: After blowing and shaping the tumbler into a cylindrical form, the moment comes when it must be transferred to a PONTEO (punty rod), detaching it from the blow pipe, so as to finish the front of it by opening it all the way to the diameter of the cylinder. The PONTEO creates a cold connection with the bottom of the tumbler, meaning that the PUNTEO and the bottom are at different temperature; one is colder (and not glowing) than the other.
Between the bottom of the tumbler and the PONTEO, the PONTEO is always the hotter of the two for a couple or reasons:
1) if the bottom were hotter, when the PUNTEO is pressed onto it it would deform the bottom, making the tumbler unstable.
2) when the time comes to put the tumbler into the annealer or kiln, the master gently taps the punty rod and the cold connection makes the tumbler detach from the punty rod. If the PONTEO was too hot, part of it or a section of it remains attached to the bottom of the tumbler. If the bottom of the tumbler were the hotter of the two, a small part of the bottom would come off leaving a sharp indentation on the bottom, or in some cases a hole. We can infer from this that if a piece of glass breaks off when the PUNTEO is detached, it is always from the hotter of the two.
Needless to say, if both are too hot they will never separate, and if both are too cold they will never join properly.
Although it is the job of the Master's assistant to bring the perfectly shaped PONTEO at the perfect temperature it is, in the end, the dexterity, practice, and art of the Master to decide if the PONTEO is good or not. Beginners usually have the tendency to blame the assistant for a cold PONTEO.
Phrases related to PONTEO
EVA UN PONTEO (in Muranese) (evä ōōn ponteo) (EH-vah oon pohn-TEH-oh) Meaning: gather a punty.
PORTIME UN PONTEO (in Muranese) (portēme ōōn ponteo) (POR-teh-mee oon pohn-TEH-oh) Meaning: bring me a punty.
MASA CALDO (in Muranese) (masa caldo) (MAH-sah CAHL-doh) Meaning: too hot.
MASA FREDO (in Muranese) (masa frädo) (MAH-sah FREH-doh) Meaning: too cold.
As probably many of you already know, there are many shapes of PONTEI depending on the object the Master is creating, but we will describe them another day.
SBUSO (sbōōso) (ZBOO-zoh)
In English: Perforated or holed.
In Muranese, sometimes, instead of SBUSO for holed, they use BUSO (bōōso) (BOO-zoh) (hole). It is another characteristic of the Muranese language that, sometimes, adding an "S" at the beginning of a noun (substantive) turns it into a verb or an adjective.
Interesting to know is that nowadays, if you go to Murano and visit a glass factory, you can hear both terms, FERR and CANA, used. You could hear the phrase "meti i FERI a scaldar(se)" (metē ē ferē ä skäldär(se)) (MEH-tee ee FEh-ree ah skahl-DAR(seh)), that literally means "put the irons to get hot" or you could hear "tote na cana" (tote nä cänä) (TOH-teh nah KAH-nah), in English "grab a blow pipe, or "tol su na cana" (tol sōō nä cänä) (tohl SOO nah KAH-nah), in English "pick up a pipe"..
So, FERRI (or singular FERRO) and CANNA, could be used interchangeably with the distinction that FERRI/O can be used for all the variety of pipes and punty rods and CANNA or CANNA DA SOFFIO is only used for the blow pipe.
FERRO (ferro) [FEHR-roh (these "r"s should be rolled)]
In English: Iron.
In Muranese: FERO (fero) (FEh-roh)
CANNA in English translates as “ Cane”, as in reed or hollow cane. In Italian it has the same meaning as in English.
In Muranese CANA (cänä) (KAH-nah) SOFFIO means “blow”
In Muranese SOFIO (sofēo) (SOH-fyoh) EVAR (in Muranese) come from the Italian LEVARE meaning “To take away or to raise”.
The term CANNA becomes part of the glass blowing lingo in Murano only after the XIX century, at least at a document level; this does not mean it was not used before. From the XIV century (again, as recorded in documents), the terms they used were FERRO or FERRO SBUSO.
CANNA DA SOFFIO (cännä dä soffēo) (KAHN-nah dah SOHF-fyoh )
In English: blow pipe
In Muranese: cana da supiar (cänä dä sōōpēär) (KAH-nah dah soop-YAR) (not used very often)
Also called CANA DA EVAR (cänä dä evär) (KAH-nah dah eh-VAR)
This is the blow pipe that is used to gather glass and then blow hollow glass objects. It used to be made of iron, including the head, with the consequence of having to bang the head of the pipe to knock the cold glass off at the end of the blowing process. Today, the head is made out of steel or stainless steel and the glass, during the cooling process, pops off by itself.
In the past a blow pipe was obtained by drilling a hole by hand into an iron rod. (If you do not believe me, check how they drilled barrels for guns in the late 1500s) Later on, with the advent of new technologies, the pipe is made in two or three pieces:
1) The pipe itself measuring about 120 cm usually made of iron and not with a very thick wall to give it lightness.
2) The mouthpiece tapers into a point with a hole through it, and measures about 2.5 cm. It is welded or sometimes, for "fancy and pretty" glassblowers, screwed in and made of brass or plastic.
3) The head, that can be conical and measures about 17cm with the wider part at the end, has a small hole all the way through it. That brings the total length of a blow pipe to about 140 cm.
Naturally, there are various size pipes, depending on the size of the work you want to blow: the bigger the work, the bigger and a bit longer the pipe, and the bigger the Ego, with bigger pleasure from the collectors and for the pockets of the gallery owner that cashes in 50% of the retail price.
I am not going to go into further details about blow pipes but I want to add one thing that could be an interesting curiosity: the main part of the pipe usually has a larger diameter hole through it, not only for lightness of the pipe itself but also to make space for a larger amount of air in the pipe. That is because this makes it easier to create enough pressure, particularly with the first blow for the first bubble, than it is with a very small hole all the way through it. It is a physics principle that was applied to the pipes unwittingly. Naturally, there is an ideal hole size given the length and thickness of the pipe; needless to say, an almost capillary hole would be of no use at all.
The other detail/curiosity is that the head is made of thick iron to withstand the heat of the fire and to retain more heat while at the bench shaping the glass.
Let us now see the origin of those terms above and, in doing so, give you a few more words in the coming days.
GOTO (goto) (GOH-toh)
In English: tumbler. It is, as in English, the most common shape of drinking vessel. It is usually a cylindrical or upside down truncated V-shaped cone. It can be any color and with or without FILETTO SUL BORDO (coloured lipwrap)
By now, all of you reading my (our) glossary, have figured out that, normally, an Italian word used in Muranese or Venetian, drops or loses the double consonants and the “L”. Examples: Tipetto becomes Tipeto; Filetto becomes Fieto. It is not a fixed rule but it is applied quite often.
TIPETTO (tēpetto) (tee-PEHT-toh)
In English: It roughly translates as a “little chap” but it is
normally used for an adult in a negative or mocking way. (what a type of a person; what an odd character)(in some cases it also indicates a nice looking young man).
In Muranese: TIPETO (tēpeto) (tee-PEH-toh)
This is another typical and only MURANESE (moo-rah-NEH-zeh) (from Murano) word created on the island. Why it came to be used to identify a certain glass object, nobody knows, even today.
In glass blowing, it started to be used in the 19 th century and it defines a goblet that usually has a stylized swan or dolphin as a stem. Nowadays, it is also used for another kind of stemware but, if you ask a “real” MURANESE, he/she will tell you that is the swan stem, or dolphin stem, goblet.
------------------------------- CALICE (cälēt∫e) (CAH-lee-cheh)
In English: Chalice
In Muranese: CAICE (cäēt∫e) (CAH-ee-cheh)
There is not clear distinction or differentiation in Murano between the words CALICE and BICCHIERE . In Italian CALICE is normally used for goblets that are larger then the ones used at the dinner table and relates more to the large one used during church services. So, in Murano, the word is frequently used for an elaborate or larger goblet, but it also depends on who you are talking too. Murano is a small island full of people that know all, or at least know the truth about life, since they just heard it from Nane (NAH-neh) at the fishmonger, who heard it from Bepi (BEH-pee) that worked with Rino (REE-noh). The conversation about glass blowing terms and their spelling can sometimes drag on for hours if started in the OSTERIA (osterēä) (oh-steh-REE- ah, Italian rustic bar where they serve mostly wine). So there is no well-defined boundary between Goblet and Chalice in Murano – it all depends on the amount of wine drunk from them.
GAMBO SOFFIATO (gämbo soffēato) (GAHM-boh sohf-FIAH-toh)
In English: blown stem.
In Muranese: GAMBO SUPIÀ (gämbo sōōpēà) (GAHM-boh soo-PYAH)
Not much to explain with this expression, but here we introduce another important word in the glass blowing lingo: SOFFIATO (blown); from which the important expression of :
VETRO SOFFIATO (vetro soffēato) (VEH-troh sohf-FIAH-toh)
In English: blown glass
In Muranese: VERO SUPIÀ (vero sōōpēà) (VEH-roh soo-PYAH)
The “vetro soffiato di Murano” (blown glass from Murano) still has an important meaning around the world, and in Murano it has an extra meaning, because “pride” starts playing a crucial part when this phrase is used. Unfortunately, pride is still playing a role even with the decline of the glass industry in Murano, but it is still a pride of the past and will soon be the only thing left. What it does to the present ongoing disappearance of the glass blowing industry, love for the material and love of its history, nobody really knows, but that is Murano for you; a mirror of the world, a miniaturized universe where the world could see its future if it were not blinded by the hedonistic, narcissistic, short-term-gain view we have, and Murano has of life.
Sometimes only the word “SOFFIATO or SOFFIATI (sohf-FYAH-tee, plural)” is used to indicate the multitude of blown objects made at the furnace. For example: you could say “I soffiati di Murano (or i soffiati muranesi)” or just “i soffiati” of such-and-such factory. It is better to use the full expression “i vetri soffiati” but in Murano sometimes they used only “soffiati/o”.
“Bei sti sofiati” (BEH-ee stee soh-FYAH-tee: “These are beautiful blown glass pieces.”)
ALETTE (älette) (ah-LET-teh)
In English: wings.
In Muranese: AETE (äete) (ah-YEH-teh)
Those are, usually, the two semicircular thick glass threads, one above the other, usually with the large one above, applied on the side of the goblet stem, one per side on the same axis that usually are then embellished with a MORISE. They sort of look like butterfly wings.
|Salviati glassmakers, Murano, 19th cent.(detail). |
Courtesy of "kipictoca" in Palau
FIETO (fēeto) (fee-YEH-toh) [in Italian: FILETTO (fēletto) (fee-LEHT-toh)
In English: Thread. Glass thread. The direct translation would be: thin or fine thread. It comes from FILO (fēlo) (FEE-loh): Thread. It is a thin thread of glass applied to various parts of any glass object. When applied on the edge of an object (what we call “on the mouth” of the object) that later will be open into a large aperture, it is called FILETTO SUL BORDO (…sōōl bordo) (sool BOR-doh) or sometimes FILETTO SULLA BOCCA (…sōōlla bokka) (sool-lah BOHK-kah)
Guide to pronounce double consonant in Italian: Pronounce the written consonant and then hold it for a pause of half a second before the following vowel.
MORISE or MORISA (morēdze/ä)
(moh-REE-zeh or moh-REE-zah)
In English: I do not know the direct translation.
It is a decorative thread of glass that, having been applied to part
of a glass object, is tweezed or pinched with tweezers. It can have many shapes, depending on the tweezers used and on the motion of the hand of the master.
It is usually applied on the edge or side of the cups of chandeliers,
on the side wings of a goblet stem, on the foot, and on many other
parts of glass objects.
AVOGLIO or AVOLIO (ävolēo) (ah-VOHL-yo)
In English: as far as I know, there is no English equivalent, but feel
free to suggest.
The Avolio is that small piece of glass shaped like a bobbin sometime used, in the Venetian glass-making tradition, as a transition piece between the cup (bevante) and the stem (gambo) or the stem (gambo) and the foot (piede).
There is no absolute certainty as to the origin of this term. The most recognized genesis of the word is that it comes from AVORIO (ävorēo) (ah-VOR-yo), in English Ivory.
The Italian “avorio” used to be translated in Venetian as Avolio. In the old times, the cup of a goblet (mostly of metal but sometimes of glass) used to be joined to the stem by a piece of metal: pewter, silver, gold. Sometimes they used ivory. Even today, in Catholic churches, many of the chalices used for the mass have the cup united to the stem by a piece of ivory. You can still find them sold today in catalogs for church objects.
The bobbin shape is due to the fact that it is one of the only shapes that can be accomplished at the furnace, particularly during the assembling stage, without the aid of a torch, if you want to have something close to a narrow cylinder as the transitional part.
Having the Avolio as a transition piece between the cup and the foot also allows you to align everything after the cup has been attached to the stem by means of it. Usually it is almost impossible to have everything straight after assembling; so, having to reheat the finished cup, the first thing that softens up in the glory hole is the Avolio, while the rest of the goblet, unless it spends too much time in the heat, stays firm.
When I was young I remember that you could recognize the various hands of the great masters by the shape or size of their Avolio. One made it longer, one shorter, one skinnier and so on. The top or the bottom of the Avolio, also hides the “glue bit” joining the parts together.
SIEE (see-EH-eh) (SIEE is the plural of SIEA).
Almost for sure the name derives from the “çilele degli spezieri” (thelozenges of the apothecaries) The lozenges (disks) that the apothecary prepared in ancient times, were pressed into a disk form and sold as remedies for various ailments, depending on their content.
SIEA (written siela) (sēeä) (see-EH-yah)
In English: glass disk (sometime called Maria in the scientific
glassblowing world) It is a small disk that sometimes is placed between the cup and the stem or the foot and the stem of a goblet. Sometimes it is also placed in the middle of the stem by itself or in the company of many other
PIEDE: (pēede) (PYEH-deh)
In English: Foot.
Muranese: PIE. (pēe) (PEE-eh)
The foot (almost always round) that supports everything above it and give stability to the "bicchiere".
GAMBO: (gämbo) (GAHM-bo)
In English: Stem.
Muranese: GAMBO. (gämbo) (GAHM-bo)
From "gamba" (gämbä) (GAHM-bah).
In English: Leg.
The stem of the goblet.
BEVANTE (bevänte) (beh-VAHN-te)
In English: Cup.
It is the top part of a goblet that you are supposed to drink from, unless you are from the USA, in that case you use a straw.
The word comes from Bere (bere) (BEH-reh) or Bevere (bevere) (BEH-veh-reh).
In English: To drink.
BICCHIERE (bēkkēere) (beek-KYEH-reh)
In English: Goblet.
Muranese: BICER. (bēcher) (bee-CHAIR)
Uncertain origin, probably from the old French "Bichier" or from the
Compiled by Emilio Santini
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