Archive for the ‘Lampwork’ Category

Happy New Year!!  😀

Most of us make some sort of resolution each year, usually things that aren’t terribly fun and often abandoned after a few weeks.  This year, my resolution is a little challenge that will hopefully be fun, not quickly abandoned and also improve my skills.  It will be to create a new murrini (or millefiori) and post it each Monday.  I’m going to post these sometimes here but each week for sure over on my new Instagram account (@studioambenz) under #murrinimonday.


the logo

For the first week of the year – this murrini comes with a bit of a story.  I actually created it last year (had to if it was going to come on Jan 1!).  It is a bit special as the pattern is actually my logo.

Since starting in mosaics, I’ve always signed the back of my art with my name and a piece of murrini, but it was commercially made murrini and the pattern wasn’t anything special or related to me.

I wanted to make my logo in murrini and start using that in my signature instead.  The design is a stylized frog foot – (read why by clicking here)– doesn’t look too hard on paper but try building that from nothing with molten glass! o_O

You have to slowly build up the design.  A bit of black glass for the middle, then add a toe, fill in some green. All the while keeping it warm enough so it won’t blow up but not too much that it melts out of shape!  It is an intense amount of very focused work.

It took 2.5 hrs to create the design and the blob of glass was HUGE!  When you’re doing murrini you’re holding your blob in a flame and constantly rotating it, kind of like a rotisserie chicken.  As the blob gets bigger, it can get quite heavy, it is hard work on the shoulders and neck, especially after 2.5 hours of constant movement!

The I day made it, there were several people in the studio.  My blob got way bigger than originally intended and drew a bit of attention (I’m not good with attention….).  It was so big another person helped me hold one end when it came time to pull as there was going to be more glass than the width of my arms!  We pulled, I cut it so it would fit in the kiln to cool down and in that one cut could see it looked good.  I was so worn out and shaky after the intense 2.5 hrs that I had to sit down and rest before getting in my car to go home.

Wish me luck in my attempt to stick with the resolution and create 52 murrini this year!  Hopefully the end of the year will show 52 interesting patterns and some improved skills.

Best wishes to all of you for a wonderful, healthy prosperous 2018 and success in any resolutions you choose to undertake!  😀


The whole reason I got into working with molten glass at GSS Studio was to learn how to make my own murrini (or millefiori ) and to pull glass into stringers in the colors and sizes I wanted for micro-mosaic pieces.

starting a murrini

the start, 2 layers of glass so far!

So what are murrini anyways?  Most likely, you know what it is – or you know it by the name millefiori.  It is slices of glass, cut from a rod that has a pattern in the cross section.  It is most famously made on the island of Murano outside of Venice Italy.  Often you see it in jewelry or on decorative vases or paperweights. The pattern can be anything – when it is a flower based pattern it is called millefiori (a thousand petals) other patterns are called murrini, though many would use the term millefiori loosely for any pattern as it is the more well known name.

Murrini are complex to make, involving many layers of molten glass being put together and shaped, then heated up till red hot and finally pulling the hot blob by hand into a long rod.  You have to be careful to not twist or turn the blob of molten hot glass when pulling or you risk messing up the pattern created inside!  After the rod has cooled, it is cut into slices revealing the pattern in the cross-section.


rod just after it has pulled

I buy commercial murrini made in Italy and use it in my micro-mosaic jewelry.  So why would I want to learn to make it?

While I love the murini I can buy, I just thought it would be so cool to create unique patterns myself.  Then if I’m using my handmade murrini in my handmade micro-mosaic jewelry designs, it makes the piece of jewelry that much more unique, that much more “one-of-a-kind”.  Truly, no one else in the world will have anything like it.

Most of my murrini patterns so far are abstract (my ultimate love) or geometrical.  There will be more complex designs as time goes on but so far it’s a good start!  Here’s some pics below – look for some of these in this year’s holiday collection of jewelry coming soon!  😀

Thar she blows!

Posted: March 21, 2017 in Lampwork
Tags: , ,

me blowing on the pipe

While I’m busy working on new mosaics to blog about in the future, I’d like to share a bit of my other glass journey, flameworking.  Started flameworking at the wonderful GSS Studio in late 2015.  You can read about my initial foray in this old blog post -> here.

Early last year I learned a new skill at the studio – glass blowing!

This is glass blowing on small scale, not big vases or cups, but beads or little forms.  To do this, you use small hand held metal pipes, get a blob of glass molten in the flame and stick it to the end of the pipe then blow on the opposite (this part is important 😉 ) end.


grabber tool and 2 pipes with ruler as size references

Sounds simple, but it’s hard to get an initial bubble of air into a blob of glass.  It feels as if you’re blowing your lungs out sometimes and nothing is happening!  You can help your initial bubble along by holding your pipe certain ways and also using your tongue to stop up the air in the pipe which forces it to expand into the glass.  But, once your bubble gets going it’s really easy to then blow too much – or hold the air in the pipe a bit long and it expands too quick – then POP!!  Your glass bubble blows up and out and all over the place in tiny little shards.  Sadly, this has happened more than once to me but now with practice it is a lot less.  🙂img_7674-516x640

After learning round bubbles, I’ve tried making different shapes or opening the bubbles up and sculpting them to make some fun forms.

Don’t know what I’ll do with what I’ve made so far – some have turned into necklaces and the rest are just some pretty baubles resting in a clear glass container.  I’ve been playing around with some ideas for incorporating them into the mosaics – but not sure yet how that will play out.  For now, this small scale glass blowing is just a bit of super fun stuff to play with and relax.  Some pics of the creations so far are below.  🙂

Getting ready to go on a little adventure, so will be MIA for a bit but will return soon with fun pictures to share!

Wonderful Serendipity!

Posted: February 11, 2016 in Lampwork
Tags: , , , ,
melting glass in the flame!

melting glass in the flame!

A bit of serendipity last fall brought me to the exciting world of lampworking and I’ve delved into it with glee ever since!

In the midst of working on new mosaic jewelry, I went to visit a supply store I’d never been to in search of new chain.  While I didn’t find what I was looking for, noticed they shared an interior window with the shop next door.  I could see a big workbench and flames, it was intriguing and decided to check it out.

Upon walking into The Glass Shoppe Studio I noticed they glass rods!  I use rods in the jewelry but always have to order them.  While most of the rods were a bit too big for my work, I got talking with the lovely Grace & Laura and learned that this studio was for Lampworking and they made glass beads by melting the rods in a torch flame.

Told them I make mosaics and they let me dig through a pile of rod scraps that might work for me.  I discovered a multi colored thin rod of glass – perfect for my jewelry type mosaics!  I was so excited – can you teach me how to do this? – I asked.  The answer was yes, with an Intro to Beadmaking course.  Even if beads weren’t my thing – it would teach all the basics of working with molten glass.

I took the course and fell in love.  I absolutely adore making the beads, even though I have no clue what to do with them! (pics below)  It is an engrossing experience working with the flame to melt the glass and control it into a form you want.  Also as a wonderful bonus, got to meet many great new people and make new friends!

getting a big glob of glass ready to squish in to a flat shape

getting a big glob of glass ready to squish in to a flat shape

As promised, I did learn the multi (or solid) colored thin rod and now don’t need to order them!  Next up, learning how to create my own patterned murrini to put into mosaic jewelry and make future collections extra special.  I’ve also been exploring ways to work the glass and make some interesting inclusions that could go into the wall and sculptural mosaics.

Life can surprise us in so many ways – it is wonderful when it brings you towards something you didn’t even know you wanted and gives you so much new joy!  I’m incredibly thankful for this bit of serendipity that brought me not only to lampworking but especially to The Glass Shoppe Studio here in Ottawa, and led me to meet Grace, Laura and other great new friends.  Going into the studio and have “torch time” a bit each week is my new place of happy!