What is Millefiori?
I am often asked, “Millefiori? What does that mean?” Literally translated from Italian to English, “mille” means thousand and “fiori” means flower so millefiori means thousand flowers. It refers to the flower design inside of each mosaic chip multiplied by the many chips it takes to create an object using this form of glass artistry.
How Millefiori is made:
It begins as a large flower made up of many thin rods of colored glass bundled together. It can be an abstract design but most of the time the bundles depict the pattern of a flower. The glass canes are then fused together with heat creating one solid rod with the design visible at each end.
It can then be stretched into a thinner diameter depending on the size needed for the piece the artist is making. To stretch the rod, it is heated with attachments on either end so that when the glass is substantially warmed, two people move in opposite directions and pull the cane into the diameter needed. Looking down the center of the spaghetti like strand of glass, you will see the pattern of the original flower.
Next step is to cut the cane into smaller mosaic chips. The cross section shows the individual design. The mosaics are then placed one by one into a metal form—maybe a circle, square or rectangle to create a solid piece of Millefiori glass for a paperweight, piece of jewelry, a small dish, a frame or a myriad of objects. If a larger piece is needed then the mosaics are laid out in a large metal tray like a cookie sheet.
The artist arranges the mosaics with blank mosaics or solid colored mosaics alongside the flower patterns to create a design of the artist’s choosing. The mosaics are then heated to meld them together into a solid pattern piece of glass.
Millefiori being added to a Murano glass art piece or Jewelry:
Once they have a large piece of Millefiori glass solidified into an arrangement of mosaics, this piece can now be manipulated into an art object. If they are making a Millefiori ornament for instance, the flat piece of mosaics would be heated and wrapped around a metal blowpipe. The glass is then heated again and the Murano glass Master then uses tools to elongate the glass while also blowing into the center to enlarge and shape the piece. The same technique would be used for a perfume bottle, a glass, a vase or any other hollowed out object, even Murano Jewelry beads.