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European Virtual Training Centre
for glass arts and techniques

France Lampworked beads


By Mireille Mazet, translated by Steve et Karen Linn

This technique has been practiced since Antiquity in the fashioning and decorating of beads as well as in the fabrication of stills. Afterwards, from the Middle Ages to the present day, this process has been used in the production of laboratory equipment for use in science and industry. Requiring little space and a simple set up, lampworking is relatively easy to practice at home or on the road. The invention in 1860 of a blow torch fed by a mixture of air and gas, then the replacement of forced air with oxygen, as well as the invention of borosilicate glass in 1922 , have significantly advanced the technique. Parallel to the utilitarian production for scientific use, there has always existed an artistic production of little decorative figurines of spun or “torch blown” glass, animals, Christmas ornaments, even genuine masterpieces like the “filés de Nevers“, or the Art Nouveau chalices of Karl Koepping. Still today there exists a marked infatuation among contemporary glassmakers for this type of conventional handicraft which they are successfully revisiting, sometimes using it in conjunction with other techniques -- for example blowing and casting, incorporating motifs made by lampworking into a mass of molten glass.