Glass Blowing History

The modern art of glass blowing may use modern equipment, but the essence of working with glass remains an ancient art. Throughout history, the basic knowledge and techniques of glass blowing have been highly coveted, and at times, held sacred by only a select few.

Glass blowing origins link back to the Roman Empire when the blowpipe was invented around 300 BC. From this point, the Roman Empire created new techniques for making glass vessels. Molds were used as well as the blowing techniques to make shapes and patterns on the glass. New formulas for color were invented and gold and silver inlays were added to decorate vessels.

During the middle ages, Venice became the centre of glassmaking. To control the knowledge and trade of glass, the government forced all Venetian glassblowers to move to the island of Murano in 1291. While in exile, the Murano glassblowers developed an incredibly clear glass called cristalo, along with new vivid colours such as deep blue, amethyst and emerald.

Many Venetian glassblowers managed to escape Murano and spread their new techniques and colours throughout Europe and parts of Asia.

In the Renaissance period glassblowing techniques spread and developed throughout Europe. The first widely available textbook on glassblowing, Arte Vetraria (The Art of Glass), was published in Italy in the 17th Century. Window glass, glass bottles and glass drinking vessels became more common and readily accessible for the average person.

The invention of mechanical presses in the late 1800s made functional glass production faster and easier on a global scale. By the end of the 19th century glass bottles, jars, glasses, butter dishes and flower vases were found in most homes.

The 1960s saw the beginning of the studio glass movement in America. Individual artists, opened their own glassblowing studios independently of the large glass factories to pursue their own artistic visions and to develop new techniques for glass blowing, casting and carving. This movement spread and continues across the globe today.