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What is lampworked glass?

Lampwork is an old term that is used to describe glass ornament created by working glass in a hot flame. In 17th century Italy, where the craft of glassmaking reached its modern artistic heights, workers generated heat to plasticize the glass by blowing air into the flame of an oil lamp. (More correctly, it may be said they accomplished this by forcing air thru a small pipe using their mouth or a bellows.) The malleable glass was then shaped with hand tools whose types and styles are still in use today. This heating process was similar to the method used on a larger scale by blacksmiths and glassblowers, though lampwork is a vastly more intimate and small-scale performance. Of course, unlike the iron used by a smithy, the glass had to be kept moving so it would not melt and drip away!

As is the case with many artistic processes, modern lampworkers have both adopted and adapted this technology. The method today usually employs a torch burning an oxygen-gas mixture.

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