Murrini challenges

I play around a lot with mosaic cane. One of last year’s projects on the murrini/mosaic cane front was an attempt to recreate the Northern Army’s badge in glass. I pulled a decent cane for it, but I just never could get it to apply right. My guess is that the black I used isn’t opaque enough (it runs to a very deep clear-ish purple) and that the nippers I’m using to cut slices off the cane are not cutting it flat enough, so the face runs and distorts, even with a clear encasing. Sigh. I need to try this with “Intense Black” glass which is designed not to bleed out to dark clear purple.

I find making cane to be pretty challenging – not only do you have to think in the standard dimensions, but add the extra dimensions of time/heat balance and glass sag. To top it off, you’re doing it blind (the design gets covered as you make it) and sideways (you’re going to be pulling it like taffy and cutting off slices).

Three beads made with slices from that cane show the flaws in the pattern and different application tricks you can use for varying effects. The first one (the orange bead) is done traditionally, just applying the murrini slice to the surface of the molten bead and letting it melt flat. The downside to this is that you usually lose the detail of the design’s center, as seen. It’s recognizable, but the star is supposed to be the center charge and the white lines are just supposed to be embattlements. What happens is that the center pattern shrinks down into the bead as the base expands out while melting. This technique is period, and it’s used to make what’s referred to as the Viking “sunburst” murrini pattern. (Think the Imperial Japanese rising sun flag from World War II – a red core covered with red and white stripes will expand into this design when melted flat onto a bead. You can see other examples of sunburst murrini that I pulled for this bead strand.) It’s a flop when you’re trying to draw attention to the center of the murrini slice.

A modern glassworker’s trick to prevent this loss of center detail is to cap the slice with a dot of clear glass right after you stick it to the bead. This dot of clear glass melts in and protects the slice’s face, and also has the added benefit of serving as a lens to magnify the center design. Unfortunately, if the murrini slice is already starting to melt, or wasn’t cut straight enough, the face design warps. As seen here.

Northern and Boreal Army beads.

Northern and Boreal Army beads.

So yeah, I haven’t perfected the Northern Army badge murrini yet, but I feel confident I’ll get there. In the mean time, I’ve gotten around this temporary stumbling block by making Northern Army and Boreal Army beads that use a finely twisted stringer to recreate the embattlements along the border. I originally tried to make the embattlements with masked dots, but found that way too time consuming for not enough results. The star is applied white glass that is dragged out with a sharp tool to create the points. They aren’t heraldically perfect, but at least everyone who looks at them can tell what they’re supposed to be!

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