The four elements

30 November 2021

Fire, water, air, earth. Inside the production cycle of the creations of Barovier&Toso, the four elements alternate, combine and interact as intrinsically connected forces.

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Powerful, audacious and alive, fire is energy, light, heat. Its glow communicates its force, capable of producing a change of state in matter. Fire has been indispensable for the evolution of the human race, and it has always been an inseparable factor in the creation and crafting of glass.

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The alchemy between earth and fire has distant roots in time, elements Barovier&Toso has known how to master for over 700 years. The starting point of the process is simple silica sand, subjected to very high temperatures.

The magical recipe is known as a partìa, and there is not just one. These instructions are gathered in an antique book passed down (in secret) from one generation to the next. The recipes indicate different temperatures, proportions and ingredients with which to obtain various types of glass.

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But the foundation is always earth, in the form of sand, oxides, mineral salts and other powders, ready to meet the spirit of the furnace: the fire.

This is a constant presence, which flares in the night, glowing from the mouth of the furnace, reaching 1400°C, fed and regulated by the foundryman to literally bring the vitreous compound to life.

During the day, fire helps the master glassmaker like a loyal companion in all the operations required to shape the glass, giving it form.

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This is where another one of the four elements comes into play: air, the protagonist of glassblowing, an extraordinary technique that calls for experience, skill and artistic sensitivity. A visceral bond is created between the master craftsman and the piece, which will always tell the story of that gesture, that energy that is transferred from the lungs to the crystal. Force and delicacy are thus sublimated in the relationship between man, air and incandescent glass.

To bring these unique creations to life, gestures and forms of expertise must meet in synchrony, almost by magic. Glass requires teamwork, like a dance, full of accents and fast-paced rhythms. A precious ally in this arduous dance in close contact with the furnaces is water, often utilized by the master glassmaker and his helpers to cool red-hot pipes, tongs and moulds. Apparently opposites, fire and water cooperate in this creative process, as elements that turn and return, having contradictory but complementary functions.

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An essential tool inside the glassworks, for Barovier&Toso water has another meaning, outside those spaces: it is the sea around Murano, the canals, a constant source of unique beauty. And it is by sea, in fact, that 3 to 4 thousand kilos of sand and all the raw materials required to create and colour glass arrive at the glassworks every week.  

Earth, water, fire and air conserve ties of distant, lasting memory, ties that conceal the secret of the creations of Barovier&Toso through extraordinary skills and painstaking workmanship.

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