Over the course of a few months, we have learned as much as we could about pottery throwing, knitting, leather working and even the alchemy of mixing botanicals. But by far, the most exciting and excruciatingly nerve-wracking trade we have featured to date, is the art of glassblowing.
The tradition is an old one here in Europe, dating back thousands of years. The art of shaping heated glass by blowing through a tube was first introduced to the Roman Empire in the 1st century BC. Blown, cut, cast, flameworked, fused, etched, sandblasted and illuminated, new techniques have been introduced over time, but the basic method has remained remarkably the same.
As a tourist I watched the glassblowers in Murano and in northern Bohemia and I was equally in awe of both, but after seeing the Netflix series, “Blown Away”, my appreciation for the craft has deepened.
These skilled artists are the muscle of the art industry. The amount of sweat and pure strength that goes into the manipulation of glass is simply mind-blowing. They are truly combining artistry and technicality as they painstakingly mold their vision from such a delicate material. And, oh, when the glass breaks mid-turn, your heart will break with the million shards left on the workshop floor! These artists not only have vision and grit, they must also have the deepest levels of patience and perseverance.
Mouthblown or handblown glass offers endless potential for transformation. But with spring upon us, my mother and I knew we wanted to feature the centerpiece of our spring tables — the flower vase.
We hope you enjoy our edit below of mouth-blown glass vases for all flowers and foliage. Or, if you prefer, to simply stand on its own as a statement piece in your home.
We know you can’t resist a good backstory. Neither can we. Valentina and Sebastien Nobile of La Soufflerie, a non-profit glassblowing studio, provide a great one. “Our Yoshi Big vase is named after a Japanese florist we used to work with back in 2010. Yoshi asked us to make a vase with soft, rounded lines and a small opening to hold tighter bouquets. Sebastien then worked on perfecting this request back in his glass blowing studio, and the Yoshi became our fifth ever creation!” The less-is-more, beauty-in-simplicity aesthetic. These vases are entirely made by hand, and on the base of each item, you can feel the pontil mark left by the glassblower’s cane. The presence of this mark indicates that the glass was blown freehand. Recycled glass, of course. All proceeds are given to the glassblowers in order to keep the art alive.
Rebecca Hein drew the designs for her Ostrea Collection on the West coast of Denmark in 2015. Every vase is mouthblown in a family-owned studio in Poland. The mould is carved by hand creating the unique raw surface and color variations. “Infinite treasures of the sea — light reflections of rock and oyster formations — transformed to an organic collection of small objects, created to beautify, ease and calm everyday living,” is how she describes the collection. You, too, can enjoy the undulating shoreline of the Danish seacoast. Maybe fill your pastel vessel with newly flowering branches.
What is the story behind Yali glass? “Our story really starts and continues with Marie-Rose Kahane’s passion for glass and design,” reads the website. “Working and living in Venice means having the possibility to look at different types of glass from the Renaissance to the ever so modern Carlo Scarpa,” says Kahane. Vital to Yali are the very talented and committed artisans of Murano. “Spending a day in Murano producing a new piece is always fascinating and inspiring,” she says. “The dialogue with the maestro is based on a quiet understanding which grows over the years. Glassblowing is a delicate yet labour-intensive process requiring great skill and accuracy.” The Nastro Bolla vase comes to life with the swirling thick white nastro of hot glass which is carefully applied to clear molten glass prior to being hand blown into its final form. Each piece is signed.
A special occasion is upcoming. Are you contemplating a spring bouquet for your bien aimé? Imagine if she could bask in the beauty of delicate wildflowers every day of the year. The hand-painted Fleur Blanche vase, inspired by the story of lovers, needs no fresh floral accompaniment. It’s a stand-alone, mouth-blown work of art, painted and polished by František Jungvirt at Ajeto Glass Studio in the Czech Republic. At age 25, he is already an award-winning master of his craft.
Who is your muse? Berlin designers Gunnar and Steve were inspired by the ample curves of fertility goddesses when they conceived their mouth-blown muse vases for Fundamental. These voluptuous crystal vases were developed in dialogue with Berlin’s cult florist Marsano, and artisanal glassblowers in Bohemia. Using a combination of formwork and distortion, the designers developed a process that ensures that each vase is unique.
an&angel creative director, designer and glass artist Artis Nimanis develops crystal and glass creations that are minimalist in their aesthetics, functional in their design and unique by virtue of their hand-crafted nature. Every an&angel vase is an individual work of art, hand-blown by European artisans utilizing his technique of fusing layers of glass into one. In his Latvian studio, Nimanis experiments with innovative materials and unprecedented forms. The King, the Queen or the Rook — choose your favorite majestic shape among these powerful pieces on the chessboard.
Inspired by visual art, sculpture and design, Valeria Vasi designs handcrafted pieces that balance artistic expression with utility and functionality. Based in Barcelona, she partnered with master glassblower Ferran Collado to produce her original, authentic mouth-blown bubbles vases. “These are the real thing, handblown with love,” says Vasi, who champions local artisans and small businesses and designers. Check out her to-die-for studio on Instagram.
Stories of Italy
The founders and creative directors of Stories of Italy, Matilde Antonacci and Dario Buratto, conceived their Milan studio to create fine pieces connected with traditional Italian craft. “Inspiration comes from the great archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of our country.” Their material focus is on Murano blown glass, and all the pieces carry their own stories. “The studio represents our small contribution to the Italian heritage preservation,” they write. The patterns on the Spring Olla Murano vases, part of the Nougat collection, are achieved by using pieces and shards of previously blown glass. The effect is stunning.
Says Czech designer and entrepreneur Radua Kaňáková Zneikahová, “I first encountered the glass craft as a child. I loved watching my mother at work in the workshop and sensing her love of hand-made glass. I fell under the same spell as her, and in 1994, I founded the Radua crystal brand and fulfilled my big dream.” You might want to invite ‘Maria’ to your next dinner party. She is a hand-blown vase made of lead-free crystal, and will provide every modern lover of old times with an elegant centerpiece. She stands alone, or beautifully complements flowers from your spring garden.