Murrini

Note: This post was originally published on January 20, 2011. Since then, some of these offerings have changed, and more murrini makers are offering kilnformer supplies, so I thought this needed an update.

I’ve been exploring all the different ways to make murrini cane in a kiln, and having a lot of fun with it. Check out some of these (amazingly long-winded) posts for step-by-step instructions:

But I gotta tell you, it’s a lot of work and it’s not cheap. So what do you do if you want good-looking, kiln-fusing murrini that you don’t have to make yourself?

The vast majority of murrini makers are using 104COE (Moretti/Effetre) soft glass, which is NOT compatible with the most popular fusing glasses. Some will custom-produce their designs in 90- or 96-COE glasses if you ask…but you gotta ask.

There are a few artists producing (and selling) traditional murrini using Bullseye-compatible or Spectrum 96-compatible glass, and there’s some impressive stuff out there. It’s consistently-sized, it’s repeatable, you can buy as much as you want to cover large areas…and some of it is absolutely gorgeous.

I thought it’d be useful to keep a running list of such places on my blog.

CAUTION: The murrini sold on these sites is often intended for torchworkers and may or may not work well in a kiln. The better sites (or at least the ones that aren’t aimed exclusively at working on the torch) will tell you which murrini are torch- or hotshop-only, but most won’t. In addition, these are hand-made, non-factory murrini so the diameter of each slice can sometimes vary dramatically.

Also, be careful to note the COE of the particular murrini you’re buying–many sites sell more than one and it’s easy to fall in love with a pattern, buy a bunch and then find you’ve got 104 when you wanted Bullseye. I’ve found it best to test one or two chips in the kiln before using them in production. Melt them into clear glass and check them through a polariscope to make sure that your new murrini really does work with your project.

If you make fusing murrini for sale, or you know of other murrini-makers who sell online, lemme know and I’ll check it out.

Please note: I’m only listing independent makers who regularly sell Bullseye and/or 96 murrini online. Many fusing supply stores (including Bullseye’s resource centers) sell compatible murrini chips. Sometimes they come from the following suppliers. They can also be made by local artisans, or by store employees or a factory in Malaysia or something.

If you’ve got a retail outlet that sells murrini close by, check it out first (I like to support local merchants). You can handle the murrini before you buy, you don’t have to wait for shipment, and you’re pretty much guaranteed it’ll work with whatever glass the store sells (or that you can get a refund if it doesn’t).

Disadvantages? Well, you’ll often find a much smaller selection than if you buy online. And you may not be able to buy a lot of a single pattern–many stores bundle many different designs into a small “grab bag.”  That can make it difficult to buy enough for a repeating pattern.

Fusible murrini makers who sell online

Glacial Art Glass. Bullseye only. This lady (Correction; I just met the proprietor tonight at the Oregon Glass Guild meeting, and he’s definitely a guy.) offers regular and small murrini–the regular ranges from 5-12mm in diameter; the small is 3-6mm. The canes are primarily based on flowers, i.e., millifiore, and there’s a wonderful variety.

The site is well-organized and attractive and lets you buy with PayPal or credit card. Each murrini is listed with enlarged before- and after-fusing photos, with rules and coins to show scale, and information about which Bullseye colors went into the murrini (critical info if you want to avoid color reactions).

Glacial is so far the only site I’ve found that’s really focused on murrini made of kilnforming glass. Glacial sells murrini by weight, so it’s difficult to compare prices with other sellers. You’ll pay around $4 for a sample bag of ten slices to $12 for a half-ounce of murrini. Apparently you can also order the uncut cane for $8 and size the murrini yourself–yay!

The site looks professionally done and is the easiest to use of the ones listed here. Product pages offer related murrini styles, and some advice on chopping and using the slices, and the shopping cart system worked well.

Glacial does tend to be out of stock on a bunch of stuff, so it would be helpful if they showed exactly which packaging (sample, half-ounce or cane) was in stock before you clicked on the product page. It’s a little irritating to decide on a purchase, click to order and then find out it’s out of stock…but this is a minor quibble in an otherwise great site.

UPDATE 8/29/12: Doing some murrini pendant projects (and they’re turning out wonderfully even as they deplete my murrini supply), so headed back to Glacial for more. They’ve definitely improved the site: There’s a stock availability tag now, and even more information on how to use their murrini in your work. They’ve also got an Etsy presence, but you’ll find a much bigger selection on their website, along with a few varieties of zanfirico cane and sample bags.

Chase Designs. 104, Bullseye. The murrini slices from Chase Designs are absolutely gorgeous, intended to be used in paperweights and marbles and such. There are beautifully shaded butterflies and whales, wonderful lips and eyes, words and flowers and fish and more.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that these things really aren’t intended for kilnformers, so there’s relatively little Bullseye-compatible stuff. What there is (as in the picture at left) is VERY different from the usual BE millifiore cane, and really worth a second look. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with at least one cane that’s disappointingly 104…but Chase will make it up in Bullseye if you ask.

This is an Etsy site, so it’s automatically well-organized. Chase does NOT tell you which Bullseye colors went into each murrini, so as far as reactivity is concerned, you’re on your own. (Or you can ask)

They take PayPal, money orders and checks. Not surprisingly, these murrini are a bit pricier, ranging from around 35 cents each ($7 for a bag of 25) to about 85 cents a pop ($8.50 for a bag of ten). Given the work that went into these, I think it’s eminently reasonable, but I won’t be paving a 22-inch platter with these things anytime soon.

UPDATE 8/29/12: I couldn’t make murrini-containing pendants without visiting Chase, and–whew–they’ve REALLY upped the quantity of 90 COE murrini they sell. I just took possession of six bags of parrots, fish and butterflies and they are fabulous.

Feng Frit Factory. 96, 104, Bullseye, boro. The full complement of stuff isn’t onsite yet, apparently, as Feng Frit dumps its Etsy store and moves to its own hosted site. There is a LOT of stuff here, although the bulk of it is 104/96 COE, so Bullseye users beware.

The site itself isn’t as usable as Glacial’s–which so far is about the best small glassist supply site I’ve used. But it’s still very well-organized and useful, showing you related murrinis, good images and other very cool products such as cubic zirconia, silver foil and powder and handpulled stringer.

Their murrini generally sells by the piece, with the prices I’ve seen ranging from about $3 for ten chips (30 cents each) to $8.50 for 25 Bullseye chips (34 cents each).

Hegan Glassworks. 96 only. The pickin’s are slim here, and what’s sold is primarily intended for glassblowing so it’s longer lengths of cane. OTOH, that gives you a lot of control over slice diameter if you’re interested in fusing, and there are some gorgeous choices. You will need a murrini chopper, or a heavy hammer with wide jaws to chop these things, so be warned.

Hegan sells both cane and murrini, and it mostly looks like they’re selling whatever’s leftover from their own production runs. From what I can tell they only offer assorted murrini packs, although you might be able to prevail upon them to produce a lot of something for you on a custom basis.  Still, as I said, it’s beautiful, unusual stuff.

It’s also, once again, meant for GLASSBLOWING. Before you use this in a kiln project, test a small slice, as I said.

The store is run through eBay on a bidding basis, so it’s hard to say what you’ll pay for your order. Right now, a pound of “jewelry scrap murrini” is up for $5.50, which looks like a very good deal. The much longer glassblowing canes are selling for around $25/pound.

Lori & Kim. 104, 96 and Bullseye “occasionally.” I wish I could post a pic of their 90- or 96-compatible murrini, but “occasionally” seems to be “almost never unless you ask,” and there’s nothing available as I write this. They’ve got some lovely stuff, though, so it’s probably worth asking.

Their murrini is torch-made and smallish (2.5-4mm), what I call “bead murrini.” They tend to sell assortments in a particular color way or palette (what you see at left is their “Heyday” collection in mostly hot colors). There are clichy-style roses, flowers, bullseyes, swirls…I’d despair of getting enough of any one color to do much with it, but as a grouping these would be great.

This is an Etsy store, accepting PayPal and credit cards, with not a lot of information outside catalog/product info. You can see a LOT more about them on their respective websites–they’re primarily beadmakers with some beautiful stuff–and I wish they’d do more with kilnformable murrini.

UPDATE 8/10/12: Ask and ye shall receive, apparently. There are seven different styles of 90 COE murrini on their Etsy store right now–I just took possession of three bags-worth–and it definitely lives up to its promise. These are geometric, reminiscent of that old-fashioned Christmas candy you find in Europe, and the color choices are luscious. I ordered the “candy” and “grab bag” assortments and, as I suspected, I’d really REALLY love to be able to order two or three canes in a couple of these designs for some bigger work.