The Art of Making Glass
As part of a Venice, Italy, photography tour, our group was given the privilege of spending time photographing a working glass factory on the island of Murano. The Nason & Moretti Glass Factory has been in business since 1925. Their handmade glass is known around the world for its exceptional beauty and quality. Spending time in this non-tourist factory was made possible by Fabio Thian, one of the tour leaders and a Venice local.
Prior to entering the factory, we were told to watch the men working for a while before taking photos. Their art is like a choreographed dance. Timing is imperative as is the reliance on one another. Glass pieces begin as molten blobs that become perfect pieces of art through the combined effort of the master craftsmen.
Glass Making Process
Shaping of the glass is a continual process that starts when the glass is molten. It is first removed from the furnace as a viscous blob on the end of a long, hollow rod. The process involves spinning the rod to retain an even shape. While molten, the glass is lowered into a form that gives the basic shape of the glass or globe. The form also imparts texture to the glass, such as patterns. The glass then goes through a specific process of continual rotation, blowing, and additional shaping. Watching the process is like seeing magic.
Each man has a specific role in the creation of the glass work. One man's part may be working the furnace, withdrawing the molten glass, and passing it off to another man. Another man's part may be blowing and shaping with the forms. Yet another man's effort may be additional shaping further in the process as well as blowing. One young man's work appeared to be assisting with quality control as well as shaping using water and metal tools. Each man worked deliberately, efficiently, and with focus. Eye contact was made at critical times during the process, providing silent communication. There was no chatting, no wasting time.
Each handmade piece required constant attention and inspection. While being crafted, the glass was always in motion.
Parts of the process required one person, while other parts required two. Final shaping of the large globes was accomplished by one man holding the globe on a rod while another worked on the shaping. No words were spoken and at specific points in the process, the young man shaping the globe would look up to the man holding the rod to make the necessary communication.
Timing and Process
Watching the process was fascinating. As suggested by our tour leaders, getting a feel for the rhythm of the process gave photographers a sense of the best timing for shots. Repeated and exacting, there were specific moments in the process that made for the most evocative photographs. There was a kind of circular motion involved - a seamless flow from completion of one piece into the start of another.
As the men quietly worked and the furnaces gave off warmth and a low background roar, capturing the human element of the process became quite natural. Skill, mindfulness, and experience of the glass makers created conditions for beautiful images of this ancient craft.
Our time at the factory passed like the blink of an eye. While we watched many glass works being made, observing the process was fascinating. I could have stayed there all day.
Nason & Moretti Showroom
After our time in the factory, we were allowed some time in the showroom to photograph glass works. The pieces included many styles and were created over different time periods. This variety provided a impressive overview of the kinds of work that Nason & Moretti has done over the years.
It was a privilege to be able to spend time photographing in such a fascinating place. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to spend time there. Thanks are extended to Fabio Thian, Bobbie Lane, David Nightingale, and Lee Varis for making it possible.