It feels like we are falling ever faster towards winter solstice, towards darkness. There is also a chill in the air to match this darkness. The annual cycle of the sun seems upon us so much more quickly this year that even the trees with their expected set of fall colors appear to have fallen a step or two behind the times. What better excuse do I need, in these darkening days then to post a little color, a bit of sunshine, one last gasp of summer?
“A thousand flowers” is the literal translation of millefiori, a term coined in 1849 to denote the technique whereby glass canes enclosing flower like patterns are cut into cross sections and used as a decorative motif. These canes are made by assembling colored glass rods of varying thickness to create a pattern, heating the rods until they fuse, and then stretching them out like taffy in order to miniaturize the design. Once a variety of patterned canes have been made, they may be bundled together , reheated, and pulled again to form all manner of geometric or floral designs when cut. Infinite variations of cane sections may be assembled, producing a kaleidoscopic final effect. These canes are manipulated using techniques called lampworking. Glass rods of various colors are worked with shears or other tools to create small, three-dimensional sculptures.
The paperweight pictured above was specially made for the Art Institute of Chicago in honor of the reopening of its expanded paperweight galleries in 2012. The millefiori beads below were a gift from my mother to Anne. Mom bought this necklace in Venice.