How Do They Do That? Spotted Glass

By Ben

December 20th, 2010

The three photos shown below were all posted on Show & Tell by ozmarty, who has a fondness for Czech or Bohemian glass.

For a very brief period, no longer than a few months, I became somewhat familiar with the technique used to produce the speckled effect seen on the bottoms of ozmarty’s vases when I worked for Dale Chihuly. This was in 1983 or ’84 or so, when Chihuly was in the thick of his Macchia series. Mostly my role was to cook for the crew, but occasionally they would let me help out with the actual glass making.

One of the particularly thankless tasks given to unskilled wannabes like me was to crack rods of pure color into little pieces—think “jimmies” or “sprinkles” on an ice cream cone, only scaled up for Chihuly. After the sprinkles were sifted for size uniformity, they’d be spread onto the marver, which is a thick steel table. The glassblower would bring the bullet-shaped form he’d created to the marver and roll the hot glass at the end of the blow pipe onto the cold sprinkles I’d prepared. The cold sprinkles would stick to the hot glass, and after some reheating and a dip or two into the furnace for another layer of molten glass, the sprinkles would be sealed within the walls of the piece.

The sprinkles in the vase on the left are all concentrated at the bottom—the top flares to a vibrant red. The middle one was picked up at a flea market in Uruguay—its sprinkles have been deliberately deformed and swirled. The vase on the right has a long, cylindrical neck that largely resembles its base. Thanks ozmarty!

3 comments so far

  1. Ellen Says:

    thanks Ben – what an amazing opportunity. I learned the name for the little pieces used in glass blowing as a volunteer docent, describing the process to little kids, and it’s been a boon for crosswords and bananagrams – to whit – frit! That’s as close as I got though, and I envy you the chance to play in the studio. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Warren Galle Says:

    Your middle vase (purchased at a flea market?!??) is made by Loetz, decor is Ausfuhrung 237. Thanks for posting.

  3. Jericho Mora Says:

    thank you for focusing on a widely used technique. my main interest is how the bohemian or czech glass houses used them. related glass searches: end of day technique or confetti application. thanx jm

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