While some purists may see the process as cheating a bit, others see using polymer clay to make millefiori objects -- usually beads -- as a medium in which more people can experience and understand the art form. This is because the materials are simple, easy to come by and less time-consuming to use than glass.
Any home artist can purchase commercial clay and the materials needed to make polymer millefiori at most craft stores. In fact, the canes of clay come already put together or as separate pieces.
To put together the bull's-eye cane, for example, the artist wraps a thin strip of polymer around a thicker piece in a contrasting color [source: Ralph]. Then the artist rolls the material along the work surface to lengthen and thin it out. He or she creates rectangular and square pieces by gently pinching and stretching the clay to elongate and thin it out.
The polymer artist can also lay sheets of clay in alternating contrasting colors on top of each other to create a striped pattern, or use long rectangles of clay to make a checkerboard pattern. As with glass, the combinations are limited only by imagination.
The clay pieces, once sliced, are placed on a ceramic or metal baking tray and baked in a regular household oven. It is important to remember that undercooked clay will be fragile. Over-baked clay is a disaster: It can discolor, burn and give off noxious fumes [source: Ralph]. Most commercial clay indicates its baking temperature on its packaging. That said, a good rule of thumb is to bake the clay in a pre-heated oven between 265 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit (129.4 to 135 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes.
The clay is then sanded and can be varnished, but it isn't necessary for most pieces.
Glass artists still use millefiori today. Ventian artist Davide Salvadore is known for combining millefiori with another, almost identical technique called Murrini in his pieces which are sold around the world [source: Kennard]. Another notable fiori sighting was in artist Joshua Simpson's "Mega Planet," a 100-pound (45.4-kilogram) paperweight resembling the Earth.
Regardless of the material and who's manipulating it, millefiori continues to be popular with artists of all types, centuries after its invention. If your interest in millefiori has bloomed, take a look at the links below to learn more about it and other related topics.
More Great Links
- Carboni, Stefano, and Qamar Adamjee. "Mosaic Glass from Islamic Lands." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mosa/hd_mosa.htm
- Carboni, Stefano, and Qamar Adamjee. "Glass from Islamic Lands." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/igls/hd_igls.htm
- Corning Museum of Glass. "The Evolution of the Paperweight." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=1620
- Corning Museum of Glass. "Objects from Worlds Within." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=5948
- Corning Museum of Glass. "Pietro Bigaglia." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=5824
- Corning Museum of Glass. "Compagnie des Cristalleries de Saint-Louis." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=5788
- Corning Museum of Glass. "Compagnie des Verreries et Cristalleries de Baccarat." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=5790
- Corning Museum of Glass . "Cristallerie de Clichy." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=5804
- Corning Museum of Glass . "Raw Materials of Glass." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=5292
- Corning Museum of Glass. "Coloring Glass." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://collection.cmog.org/media/Video/PR/AVPR_coloring_glass.wmv
- Corning Museum of Glass. "Annealing and Tension in Glass." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://collection.cmog.org/media/Video/PR/AVPR_annealing_tension_in_glass.wmv
- Illinois State Museum. "Activity: Polymer Clay Millefiori Cane Beads." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismdepts/anthro/beads/millefiori_bead_lesson.html
- Illinois State Museum. "Millefiori Technique." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/barker/techniques/tech_millefiori.php
- Kennard, George. Glass Artist at the Corning Museum of Glass. Personal interviews conducted Aug. 15 and 16, 2011.
- Penn Museum. "Glass Making in Roman Times." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.penn.museum/sites/Roman%20Glass/index.html
- Pollard, A. M., Heron, Carl. "Archeological Chemistry." Cambridge, U.K.: Royal Society of Chemistry. 1996.
- Phillips, Phoebe . "The Encyclopedia of Glass." New York: Crown Publishers. 1981.
- Ralph, Emma. "Get Creative with Polymer Clay." London: New Holland Publishers. 2006.
- Savage, George. "Glass of the World." New York: Galahad Books. 1975.
- Trentinella, Rosemarie. "Roman Mosaic and Network Glass". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rmos/hd_rmos.htm
- University of Michigan. "Roman Glass-Making." Wondrous Glass. 1982. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.umich.edu/~kelseydb/Exhibits/WondrousGlass/RomanGlass-Making.html
- University of Michigan. "Decorative Techniques of Roman Glass." Wondrous Glass. 1982. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.umich.edu/~kelseydb/Exhibits/WondrousGlass/RomanGlass-Techniques.html
- Whitehouse, David. "Looking Through Roman Glass." Archeology: A Publication of the Archeology Institute of America. Sept. 8, 1997. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.archaeology.org/online/reviews/roman/index.html