Lampworking is glassworking using a torch to melt and shape the glass. It is also known as
flameworking or torchworking, deriving from the ancient use of oil-fueled lamps. This age old art
form has been widely practiced in Murano, Italy since the 14th century. In the mid 19th century
lampwork technique was extended to the production of paperweights, primarily in France,
where it became a popular art form, still collected today.
Early lampworkers used the flame of an oil lamp, with the artist blowing air into the flame
through a pipe. Today, most artists use torches that burn either propane or natural gas for the
fuel gas, with either air or pure oxygen (which can be produced by an oxygen concentrator) as
the oxidizer. It was not until the late 1960s that lampwork became recognized as a serious art
form by German born lampwork glass artist Hans Godo Frabel who utilized his scientific
glassblowing training to create relatively large pieces of lampwork glass art in borosilicate. In
addition to beads and artwork, lampworking is used to create scientific tools, particularly for
There are many types of glass that can be used for lampworking; two of which, soda lime (soft)
and Borosilicate (hard), being the ones that I use in my creations.
Soda lime glass
The most popular glass for lampworking is soda-lime glass, and is available pre-colored.
Soda-lime glass is the traditional mix used in blown furnace glass, and lampworking glass rods
were originally hand-drawn from the furnace and allowed to cool for use by lampworkers. Today
soda-lime, or "soft" glass is manufactured globally, including Italy, Germany, Czech Republic,
China and America.
Beadmakers can use borosilicate glass, a very hard glass requiring greater heat. This is
laboratory glass, such as Pyrex. At one time, soft (soda lime and lead) and hard (borosilicate)
glasses had distinctly different looking palettes, but demand by soft-glass artists for the silver
strike colors on the one hand, and the development of the bright, cadmium based `crayon
colors' in the boro line on the other, has diminished the distinctions between them.
Hot Coles Glass - by Heidi Coles
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