Millefiori Ball

Millefiori Ball

Here is a ball made with millefiori canes. Millefiori, originally an Italian word that means “1,000 flowers,” is also known as mosaic glass, referring to objects made from preformed elements placed in a mold and heated until they fuse. In this video, the process of making millefiori cane slices and blowing the ball is presented.


This object is made by fusing millefiori canes into the surface of a rather thick bubble of glass.  There are two types of canes: canes meant to be viewed from the side and canes meant to be viewed from the end.  Millefiori canes are this type.  They’re usually cut into small sections.  A millefiori cane can be cold-worked to reveal a chevron pattern.  In this video, three colored glasses will be used to create a millefiori bead.  The first is opaque white.  Molten, the glass appears colorless.  As the glass cools, crystals form which create the opacity.  This is an opaque red glass that similarly appears colorless and transparent when molten.  The third is a transparent, intensely colored aqua.  When the glass cools to room temperature, the colors reveal themselves.  The first step is gathering glass onto the end of a metal rod.  To get a sufficient amount, this is done two times.  The glass is rolled back and forth on the brass table called the marver, and this elongates the mass of glass.  This is lowered into a different color—here, opaque white.  Marvering ensures an even coating.  This is lowered into the transparent aqua glass.  Excess is left to drip off.  It’s marvered, and the excess at the tip is cut away.  The goal is to produce a rather thin layer of aqua.  This is pressed firmly into the dip or optic mold to create ribs, and as soon as it hardens, it’s lowered gradually into the pot of molten opaque white glass.  Excess glass is trimmed free at the end.  This is then pressed into a larger optic or dip mold.  After slightly cooling, it’s lowered gradually into the opaque red glass.  After reheating, it goes into another mold.  The final layer will be opaque white glass.  This is pressed into the dip mold, and after reheating, the cane is pulled.  No matter how long the cane is pulled, and no matter how small the diameter, the pattern will remain intact.  A simple machine is used to cut the cane into thin slices.  The ball is made by gathering clear glass, marvering it to make the glass even, blowing air into the pipe to create a bubble, and then rolling the bubble over the preheated millefiori slices.  The glass is reheated, and the process repeated.  The glass is reheated and marvered to press the canes gently into the surface of the clear glass.  Eventually the surface becomes smooth.  The goal is to completely cover the bubble with millefiori canes, so the process is repeated.  The canes are embedded in clear glass, so a second gather of glass is made atop the millefiori canes.  Glassblowing now begins.  To separate the bubble from the blowpipe, it’s necessary to make a constriction.  Water is dropped on the constriction, the blowpipe tapped, and the ball breaks free.  Only after cooling to room temperature do the colors reveal themselves. 

object information
Decorative Technique(s):
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Accession Number:
Overall H: 6.6 cm, Diam (max): 5.1 cm
silver made 1600-1699; glass made about 1500
Place Made:
Venice, Italy

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