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Blown glass

Through Italy is a relatively new contributor to the world of ornament making, its whimsical creations have become highly collectable as fine example of the glass blowers craft.Venice has produced glass in Venice and Murano for many centuries using techniques that were passed down from ancient Greece and Egypt. Their goblets, glass sculptures, and technical glass pieces were blown, and today continue to be formed, from solid masses of molten glass.

It wasn’t until the early post war years of the 1940’s that German Christmas traditions begun to manifest in Italy, and even then, only in the northern regions of Lombardy and Lake Como. At the end of the war, the German manufacturer Karl Becker left his homestead to settle to sunny Como, near the Swiss border. There, he started Florida, a company, that made artificial Christmas trees and garlands. At the same time , unemployed Italian glass-blowers who had previously made glass kitchen wares and wine flasks adapted their skills to supply Mr Becker with glass ornaments. 

Graceful free blowing techniques diminished in Germany after the war, but were picked up and developed by Italian glass-blowers. Some early Italian pieces, such as their storks, elephants, and circus seals balancing balls on their nose tips, can be traced back to German pre-war ornaments catalogues. It did not take long, though,  for the Italian glass-blowers to develop their own style. 

By the 1950’s thousands of their creations were imported to America. Considered pricey even then, these fantasy pieces were sold only at upscale gift shops and exclusive department stores. 

 

Italian designs followed popular cartoon and storybook characters, as well as public figures. Children in the 1950’s could find a set of Peter Pan figural or Sputnik miniatures hanging on their tree, as well as decorations resembling Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. In the 1960’s Charlie Brown, the Beatles, and the Pink Panther inspired creations that were immortalized in glass. Each piece was individually blown, without the help of a mold to guide the glass-blower. Only the most nimble glass-blowers could mater these shapes, which is why this particular style of making ornaments may have fallen by the wayside in Germany, where glass craftsmen could rely on a vast library of molds, from which ornaments could be made more economically and with greater technical ease. 

 

The secret to creating Italian figural ornaments lies in a process known as annealing. First, the glassblower, using Pyrex glass, creates the hollow main body of the ornaments from a hollow glass tube. Then the glass-blower heats a separate solid rod of glass, and attaches it at appropriate points to form arms, legs, mitten hands, feet, and tails. When this point of juncture is super heated, the blower puffs air through the main body into the new segment, creating a hollow arm or leg that is permanently joined to the body. In Bellagio there is a long history of glass blowing...