Dancing with colour and light

 My little piece of Murano

My little piece of Murano

I'm not usually one for the "tourist trail" but recently we visited the tiny island of Murano near Venice and, as we got off the ferry, we were accidentally caught up in a large group of other tourists and herded into the workshop of a glass factory. We soon realised there was no escape and as our eyes became accustomed to the darkness, a very elderly gentleman, who must have been in his eighties, stepped out of the shadows. He acknowledged us with a nod and went to choose a long hollow metal pole from a large selection leaning up against the wall. He dipped the end of it into the blazing furnace to gather up a lump of liquid glass and then began to turn the pole in his hands. Dancing on light feet, like a man half his age, he began to rotate the pole, back and forth, back and forth, blowing down it for a moment to create the shape he wanted from the glowing molten orb, which expanded with his breath as he swung it about, but always moving and swaying as if to music only he could hear. As it grew he dipped it into trays of tiny coloured glass pieces which dissolved instantly, adding swirls of vibrant colour, then he sat for a moment and lifted his ancient pear wood tools out of a bucket of water. They hissed and smoked as he held them to the glass ball he had created, cooling and shaping it by hand now but still moving the pole to keep everything fluid before expertly blowing one last time to expand it into the exact size he wanted. He pulled out a short stem with callipers before clamping it delicately with another tool, marking it with a knife and breaking it off the pole in exactly the right place. Then he added another piece of molten glass to create the base and suddenly there it was, an exquisite Murano Vase dancing with colour and light. It had taken him less than five minutes from start to finish to make something utterly beguiling from a lump of molten glass. How thrilled I was to have unexpectedly seen this magical act of brilliant craftsmanship. We clapped and cheered and he gave us a small humble bow as the furnaces spat curls of orange fire, inviting him to do it again.