The Cane Technique


Our uniquely detailed decorations are largely the result of our use of traditional cane techniques. These labor-intensive techniques are difficult to master, but result in patterns and decorations that are beautiful and sometimes mind-boggling as to how they were made. These techniques have traditionally been used to make paperweights, and marbles, but have also been used in a variety of glass objects for over 2000 years.

Basically, cane work involves building up layers of glass and stretching the mass out, resulting in a cane, which, when cut, reveals the miniaturized pattern of the original larger mass. We make cane which is meant to be viewed as a cross-section, these are called "murrinis", and we also make cane that is meant to be viewed from the side, which results in a striped or twist or braid pattern. The twisted lines that resemble braids are called "latticinio." We originally thought this translated as "lattice", but have since been corrected. The word is derived from "latte" to mean "milk-white" referring to the white colored stripes.

The time involved in making a single cane can range from ten minutes to close to an hour. Because some canes are made of other canes, the process can actually take place over many days. Each day one or more components of the final cane are made, and eventually they are put together to result in what is called a complex cane. Sometimes these resemble flowers, and are called "millefiore," which translates to " a thousand flowers." All these terms are from Venice, Italy, where many of the techniques were perfected in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

To build up a cane, we work from the center out, adding succeeding layers of colors or other pieces of already made cane. Sometimes the piece will be put in a mold to give it a star-shaped pattern before the next layer is added. There are many different ways of adding colors for various effects. After the mass is built up anywhere from the size of a thumb to the size of a coffee can, it is heated through completely to about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit and then stretched all at once to a length of 3 to 30 feet depending on how big it started out. To make twisted canes, we each twist in opposite directions as the cane is being pulled. When the cane is cool, it is cut to length (button size for murrinis, and 1"-5" for latticinio.)

To use these pieces of cane in our work, we then reheat them again to about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit where they will fuse together and can be shaped and blown.