One of epiphany’s signature pieces is the Splash bowl, which April has been creating with her team since the start of her career. They are whimsical objects resembling drops of liquid hitting a surface and bursting outward. Splash bowls are made using the Fazzoletto technique, a freeform sculpting style created at the Venini Factory in the 1940’s and recently popularized in America by Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly. April used the Fazzelletto technique as a starting point and then added her own unique method of glassblowing to create something unique and fresh. We will be taking a look at the history of this technique and how the styles of Venini, Chihuly and April compare.
The Fazzoletto technique originated at the Venini Factory in the late 1940s, created by Paolo Venini in collaboration with Italian glassmaker, Fulvio Bianconi. This freeform style, resembling a scrunched up handkerchief, is considered to be an aesthetic that embraces postwar liberalism, as it creates irregular freeform shapes that differ from the mostly symmetrical designs that were made prior to World War II.
Fazzoletto is made by blowing a molten glass bubble, which is then cut open to allow the glass to flow freely. The glass is spun and centripetal force spreads and flattens the glass similar to pizza dough. After this shape is created, the glass is flipped downward so gravity can create the iconic handkerchief points that fazzoletto is defined by.
This process is demonstrated in the video below taken at the Venini Factory in Murano, Italy during the Glass Art Society Annual Conference last month.
You can see how a combination of speed and large movements result in the glass folding in on itself, creating the appearance of a crumpled handkerchief, which is the essence of the Fazzoletto style. This freeform look may seem simple to create but takes a very high level of skill. The molten glass is moving so quickly the gaffer must trust that they have set the parameters of the heat and thickness of the glass to match the speed of the turning. There is little room for error. If the glass falls too quickly or is weighted off center the piece will spin out of control and the curvaceous edges will collapse and fold onto each other
There are variations on this technique which are utilized by many artists to expand on this artform. All these techniques are native to the island of Murano, where glassmaking dates back to the eighth century.
Lattimo is fazzoletto made of opaque white glass.
Incamiciato is made by layering glass of one color with an overlay of glass of another. Sometimes a layer of white is in between the two colors. This creates a juxtaposition between the interior and exterior of the vessel.
Canne is made with colored glass cane to create vertical solid colored stripes.
Zanfirico also uses a different type of colored cane and twists them together in the furnace to create delicate lace-like patterns in a vertical pattern.
These techniques can be further combined with one another to create even further variations. You will see examples of this below.
In 1968, Dale Chihuly became the first American glassblower to study these techniques in Venini while on a Fulbright Scholarship. His body of work is based around exploiting the spontaneity in the art of glassblowing, so his interest in the fazzoletto seems quite natural.
Chihuly took fazzoletto to a new level in his series Sea Forms, which he produced in 1995. These pieces are differentiated by his use of optic molds and irregular forms. The optic molds give a ribbed effect while strengthening the glass, similar to corrugation in cardboard. Despite the added rigidity, there is a very organic, free flowing feeling to them, reminiscent of the sea creatures he used as inspiration for this series.
Examples of different types of optic molds. Glass is placed inside and forms to the shape and texture of the mold.
You can see that Chihuly uses the variations of fazzoletto discussed above. The first piece uses colored glass in two shades of green to create vibrating horizontal stripes that play against each other. The second piece utilizes incamiciato, creating a distinct difference between the interior and exterior. The interior would be created first, followed by an overlay of white glass, and then an overlay of frit, or granulated colored glass, which would then be heated up in the furnace to create the different spots and textures. In the final image, you can see that he also added stripes of glass over the layer of frit. There is also a line of red on the top of the bowl, a lip wrap, which emphasizes the shape of the opening and plays with the idea of line versus form.
April fell in love with the Fazzoletto technique when she first started blowing glass in college and has been making the Splash bowl on and off for most of her career. The bowls have evolved a little over time, becoming more nad more refined and while these pieces have similarities to the Fazzoletto styles of Venini and Chihuly, there are major differences in how they are created.
The Splash bowls are organic shaped pieces adorned with solid glass on the outside. The loops of the Splash bowl are very regular and uniform in size, which creates an evenness in the shape and consistency in the line quality. Though there is uniformity in the loops, no optic molds are used in the creation of Splash bowls. To create the shapes April lays hot bits of molten glass over the outside of the form in either 12 or 13 "fingers" from the bottom of the piece up the sides. This is done completely freehand, which requires a great deal of skill. Where the glass is thicker it pulls out and where it is thinner it curves in creating the beautiful line quality.This exoskeleton is both function and decorative; it adds an interesting design element while giving the bowl more stability and strength.
Color plays a very important role in this design. It emphasizes the curvaceousness of the form. You can see the lip of the bowls is exploited by the use of a contrasting color, which draws attention to the unique shape, resembling a splash of liquid. Bright colors are used against darker colors to draw attention to specific parts of the bowl and to create a dynamic piece. Color techniques such as incamiciato, like on the middle bowl, are used to create the differentiation between the interior and exterior. The third piece also shows an example of reduced glass, resulting in a shiny metallic surface.
The stripes on the bowl are added freehand, similar to Chihuly, rather than using cane like the Venini bowls. Below is an example of a transparent violet glass with a silver blue stripe and matching lip wrap. The stripe color is reduced, meaning the oxygen is taken out of the reheating chamber and the carbon molecule brings the gold and silver colors to the surface in the blue glass giving it a metallic sheen.
The clear exoskeleton on the bottom of the Splash bowl is a unique feature that requires great technical skill to execute.
The video below shows clips of the process of the Splash bowl being created. This was being broadcast on the news during a live segment so the piece is already in process, at the approximate stage as the piece in the Venini factory video. You will notice that the glassblower uses a tool to accentuate and even out the curves of the bowl unlike the glassblower in Murano.
Fazzoletto is a very versatile style that opens up a world of creativity for the artist. It can be interpreted many different ways, allowing each artist to riff off the technique and make glasswork that while it appears similar is actually very different. April specifically loves this technique because is captures the nature of glass as a molten material, freezing the glass at a moment in time so it appears like it’s still moving.
This is just a brief overview of the history and evolution of Fazzoletto and you can read more about it in the resources listed below.
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