‘Millefiori’ (Italian for ‘Thousand Flowers’), was originally used for making decorative glass work. It was invented by the ancient Egyptians and was known to be used by craftsmen as far back as the 2nd century BC. It was further developed by the Romans then revived and refined into a complicated and skillful process by Venetian glassmakers in the 15th century.
A bundle of thin glass rods in a variety of colours would be heated until they were fused together, then pulled thin by two glass makers, one at each end, walking in opposite directions. After the cooling process this would be sliced into small disks revealing beautiful flower-like designs, which would then be used to adorn a variety of decorative objects.
It is much more recently that the millefiori technique has been applied to polymer clay, but the principle is the same. Using different colours and patterns I build a long tube of polymer clay (called a cane) with the colours and patterns running through it…this can take a very long time! Slices from this cane are then used to create some of my beads.
Thank you clever Egyptians, Romans and Venetians!