Here we will be learning: What the f@#! is lampworking!?
So I've noticed that most of my readers are not ones who come from a glass art/ or art bead background and I've from time to time blathered on about lampworking like you should know what it is, when really you shouldn't, and its a confusing word to say the least.
Lampworking, lampwork beads, etc, have nothing to do with lamps. Lampworking is a type of glass work that uses a torch to melt clear and colored glass rods. The word lampworking comes from the Italian perle a lume. Perle meaning beads and lume referring to the torch, but also translates to lamp in English, so now we know where the confusion comes from. (This forum about lampworking is the only reference i could find online that was correct.)
I've also heard that its called lampworking because originally oil fueled lamps were used, which may or may not me true, but 5000 years ago the Egyptians used small furnaces to make little hollow vessels, so it is conceivable that an oil lamp could produce enough heat.
image from flickr creative commons
Along with little vessels the Egyptians, and also many other cultures, made 'evil eye beads' that one wore to ward off evil. Lots of lampworkers today carry on the tradition of making their own version of evil eye beads including one of my favorites, this velocity evil eye bead by Genea.
So lampworking has been very big in Italy, particularly in Venice and on Murano island- actually this was around the time that glass-blowing became widely used and all the glass artists were sent to the island because their craft was a fire hazard!
Anyway, during the Renaissance different types of glass working techniques were being used and improved upon all over Europe. The techniques were passed on from father to son, and it wasn't till the mid-twentieth century that lampworking really spread to artists in North America and became popular in China, Japan, Australia, and other countries. If you're interested in reading a more complete history, yet still rather brief, check out the Art Glass Lampwork History Page at www.theglassmuseum.com (most of my info can be found there) or you can find some info on wikipedia.
If you want some more eye-candy, I highly suggest checking out the Harvard Museum of Natural History glass flowers. In 1886 Leopold Blaschka and his son were commissioned to this project and it currently contains over 830 plant species.