This is not meant to cover of all the history of glass as its much too extensive to cover in a quickly. This is the general history of glass in the world and in America.  I will also share how my personal journey in glass has connected to some of these historical highlights in glass history.

Ancient historian Pliny gives us reason to believe that the Phoenicians first made glass as far as about 5,000 BCE. But the earliest archeological proof of glass being made was from Mesopotamia and Egypt at about 3,500 BCE. Even though glass has such a long history, it wasn't until the first century BC that glass was first blown in the Roman Empire.

The first evidence of Venetian glass is actually not from Murano or the main island of Venice but from the Island of Torcello, one of the other isles of the Venetian lagoon. The glass was found from as far back as the 8th century. Torcello at one point was an even more powerful trading center than the Venice. At some point the main island of Venice was the focal point in the world for glass art. The commonly accepted thought is that in 1291 the Venetian Republic moved all the glass furnaces to the Isle of Murano due to fear of fire and destruction to the city's mostly wooden buildings.

I have heard of other thoughts on why the artists were moved onto the Isle of Murano that are not shared in text books. Remember the art of glass blowing brought great wealth to the Venetian Republic. Did you know that artists that were on the Isle of Murano were not allowed to leave without fear of death or the death of a family member? You can connect the dots; it doesn't take a detective to figure this one out.

My first glass blowing maestro from Venice, Livio Serena, has had a glass blower in his family line 1,100 years. He is the last of the line though. He was so glad to share what he knew with me. I am honored to call him friend and teacher. I took a summer glass class with him on the Isle of Murano while I was still a student in college.

When the first settlers came to America they settled in Jamestown, VA in 1492. This original settlement in America had production handmade factory glass blowing. One of my first glass blowing instructors worked at the historical reenactment location of Jamestown, VA. They are probably the only american glass studio that still does the journeyman apprenticeship program.
Image Credit to Debbie Bailey

Americas history of glass from that point until the 1960's was that of the same, production handmade factory glass blowing. There was no individual artists who did furnace glass blowing.

In response to this Harvey Littleton, Son of Jesse Littleton, later started a movement called the American Studio Glass Art Movement. Harvey Littletons' Father Jesse was a Corning Glass scientist. His father Jesse first discovered what we call Pyrex or Corningware, a glass with a resistance to high temperature. Harvey became interested in glass while visiting his fathers work. He even had opportunity to make art there and play with the medium at different times. He became interested in glass and wanted to see it become more accessible to the individual artist. He took this idea of individual artists being able to have their own glass studios and after much work he started classes that would then become the beginning of a movement. In 1962 Harvey was able to provide workshops in glass at the Toledo Museum of Art. This is believed to the the birthplace of this American Glass Art Studio Movement. Harvey also taught college level courses at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In the first class Harvey taught at the University of Wisconsin one of his students was a man named Dale Chihuly.   Chihuly became highly influential in the studio glass art movement.  He has since made a great name for himself. 


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