What is Lampworking?

by Cindy Wright

Cindy Wright at bench

Early lampworking was done in the flame of an oil lamp, with the artist blowing air into the flame through a pipe or using foot-powered bellows. Most artists today use torches that burn a mix of natural gas and oxygen. Lampworking is also known as flameworking or torchworking, It involves holding a glass cane over a flame with one hand, and holding a thin metal wire with another hand. The heated-up liquid glass then drips onto the metal wire, and through rotating the wire and adding various touches such as gold or silver leaf, aventurine, enamels, or another layer of liquid glass decoration, different designs of lampworked beads are produced.

Different colours and moods are created in the flame using practiced techniques with soda lime or borosilicate glass rods where metals are added including silver to what we call double helix. Over many years, Venetian glassmakers have developed secret recipes and methods for making glass. Production of glass and glass rods has been concentrated on the venetian island of Murano since the 13th century. It has a long history of innovations in glassmaking and was Europe’s major glassmaking center from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Gravitation, Marvers & tools are used to shape, smooth or consolidate applied decoration to the glass beads, these are typically made of graphite or steel.

Once the bead has been worked in the flame it needs to slowly cool to relieve residual internal stresses introduced in the hot flame. This is a process of annealing in a temperature-controlled kiln. Annealing of glass is critical to its durability. Glass that has not been properly annealed retains thermal stresses caused by quenching, which indefinitely decrease the strength and reliability of the product.

To see some of my lampworking creations click on this link