Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It lies about 1.5 km north of Venice and measures about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) across with a population of just over 5,000 (2004 figures). It is famous for its glass making, particularly lampworking. It was once an independent comune, but is now a frazione of the comune of Venice.
Murano was initially settled by the Romans then, from the sixth century, by people from Altinum and Oderzo. At first, the island prospered as a fishing port and through its production of salt. It was also a centre for trade through the port it controlled on Sant'Erasmo. From the eleventh century, it began to decline as islanders moved to Dorsoduro. It had a Grand Council, like that of Venice, but from the thirteenth century, Murano was ultimately governed by a podestà from Venice. Unlike the other islands in the Lagoon, Murano minted its own coins. Early in the second millennium, hermits of the Camaldolese Order occupied one of the islands, seeking a place of solitude for their way of life. There they founded the Monastery of St. Michael (Italian: S. Michele di Murano). This monastery became a great center of learning and printing. The famous cartographer, Fra Mauro, whose maps were so crucial to the European exploration of the world, was a monk of this community. The monastery was suppressed in 1810 by French forces under Napoleon, in the course of their conquest of the Italian peninsula, and the monks were expelled in 1814. The grounds then became Venice's major cemetery. In 1291, all the glassmakers in Venice were forced to move to Murano due to the risk of fires. In the following century, exports began, and the island became famous, initially for glass beads and mirrors. Aventurine glass was invented on the island, and for a while Murano was the main producer of glass in Europe. The island later became known for chandeliers. Although decline set in during the eighteenth century, glassmaking is still the island's main industry. In the fifteenth century, the island became popular as a resort for Venetians, and palaces were built, but this later declined. The countryside of the island was known for its orchards and vegetable gardens until the nineteenth century, when more housing was built. Attractions on the island include the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato (known for its twelfth century Byzantine mosaic pavement and said to house the bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus), the church of San Pietro Martire with the chapel of the Ballarin family built in 1506 and artworks by Giovanni Bellini, and the Palazzo da Mula. Glass-related attractions include the many glassworks, some Mediaeval and most open to the public, and the Murano Glass Museum, housed in the large Palazzo Giustinian.
Murano glass is a famous product of the Venetian island of Murano. Located off the shore of Venice, Italy, Murano has been a commercial port as far back as the 7th century. By the 10th century, the city had become well known for its glassmakers,who created unique Murano glass. While Murano glassmakers have settled and operate elsewhere, some say authentic Murano glass is fabricated only in Murano. It is believed that glassmaking in Murano originated in 9th century Rome, with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port. Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass. Murano's glassmakers were soon the island’s most prominent citizens. However glassmakers were not allowed to leave the Republic. Many craftsmen took this risk and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far afield as England and the Netherlands. By the end of the 16th century, three thousand of Murano island's seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glassmaking industry. Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (avventurine), multicoloured glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass figurines to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers. Today, Murano is home to a vast number of factories and a few individual artists' studios making all manner of glass objects from mass marketed stemware to original sculpture. Today only few factories use the Artistic Glass Murano® trade mark of origin, that certifies products in glass made on the island of Murano, introduced and regulated by Region of Veneto Law no.70 of the 23/12/1994. There are a lot of other producers that use their own name and still produce in Murano original Murano Glass too.
Lampworking is a type of glasswork where a torch or lamp is primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements. It is also known as flameworking or torchworking, as the modern practice no longer uses oil-fueled lamps. Although lack of a precise definition for lampworking makes it difficult to determine when this technique was first developed, the earliest verifiable lampworked glass is probably a collection of beads thought to date to the fifth century BC. Lampworking became widely practiced in Murano, Italy in the 14th century. In the mid 19th century lampwork technique was extended to the production of paperweights, primarily in France, where it became a popular art form, still collected today. Lampworking differs from glassblowing in that glassblowing uses a furnace and glory hole as the primary heat source, although torches are also used. Early lampworking was done in the flame of an oil lamp, with the artist blowing air into the flame through a pipe. Most artists today use torches that burn either propane or natural gas, or in some countries butane, for the fuel gas, mixed with either air or pure oxygen as the oxidizer. Many hobbyists use MAPP gas in portable canisters for fuel. Lampworking is used to create artwork, including figurines, trinkets, curios, Christmas tree ornaments, beads and much more.
Murrine is an Italian term for colored patterns or images made in a glass cane (long rods of glass) that are revealed when cut in cross-sections. Murrine can be made in infinite designs—some styles are more familiar, such as millefiore. Artists working in glass design murrine in a variety of ways from simple circular or square patterns to complex detailed designs to even portraits of people. Murrine are designed by layering different colors of molten glass around a core, then heating and stretching it into a rod. When cool, the rod is sliced into cross-sections of desired thickness with each slice possessing the same pattern in cross-section. The murrine process first appeared in the Mideast more than 4,000 years ago and was revived by Venetian glassmakers on Murano in the early 16th century.
Sommerso (lit. "submerged" in Italian), or "sunken glasses", is a form of artistic Murano glass that has layers of contrasting colors (typically two), which are formed by dipping the object in molten glass; the outermost layer, or casing, is often clear. Sommerso was developed in Murano during the late thirties and was made popular by Seguso d'Arte in the fifties. This process is a popular technique for vases, and is sometimes used for sculptures.
Filigree (a type of caneworking), glass engraving, gold engraving, incalmo,lattimo, painted enamel and ribbed glass are just a few of the other techniques a glassmaker can employ.
Special tools are essential for Murano artisans to make their glass. Some of these tools include borselle (tongs or pliers used to hand-form the red-hot glass), canna da soffio (blowing pipe), pontello (an iron rod to which the craftsman attaches the object after blowing in order to add final touches), scagno (the glass-master's workbench) and tagianti (large glass-cutting clippers).