Real Fabrica de Cristals: Blown Glass: The Magic of an Ancient Art at La Granza

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“Blown glass production hasn’t changed much since Roman times,” says Alba Martin, who has been teaching this ancient technique to 15 new apprentices since last December – it is estimated to have appeared in Syria around the 1st century AD was in the school La Granza’s Royal Crystal Factory (Segovia), a center where she was a student almost two decades ago, and the only center in Spain that currently transmits this ancient art. The precise handling of ovens, canes, ferrets and ceilings—original tools already used by the Romans—by their master blowers, practically magic in one’s eyes, was declared an intangible cultural heritage by the Spanish government in July 2021. it was done. It is a trade that runs the risk of being forgotten,” warned Paloma Pastor, director of the Royal Glass Factory’s Technical Museum, reopened to the public after pandemic restrictions, and whose guided tour you can meet and visit. can consider, on siteSuch a fascinating creative process.

The moment could not be more fitting: last 10 February, the International Year of Glass was inaugurated, with which the United Nations intends to raise awareness of the economic, technological and social importance of this material, “the most versatile and One of the transformative history”, according to the institution, and whose artistic technique of blowing aspires to enter the UNESCO cultural heritage list from 23 March.

“People who come to visit us are clearly amazed by the size and importance of the building,” says the pastor. Perhaps because the so-called Oven Nave, which begins a tour of the Royal Glass Factory Museum, seems, at first glance, more like a church than a factory. We enter the same pavilion that was designed in 1770 on the outskirts of La Granza by the architect of the Royal site, José Díaz Gammones, Carlos III. An bisexual space with thick and high white walls, with half-arched windows, through which a bright winter sun shines. With a basilica floor plan, three naves and two transepts crowned by domes, it is a magnificent example of imperial European industrial architecture, declared a property of cultural interest, located in this Segovian city at the foot of the Sierra de justifies the journey. Guadarrama.

security issue

“In 1770, a series of large mirrors were introduced from the Royal Glass Factory of La Granza for the Throne Room and the Gasparini Room in the Royal Palace of Madrid, but a problem arose”, explains Paloma Pastor. In particular, a fire at the original flat glass factory built in 1727 by Philip V in the town of La Granza, which put nearby homes at risk. “For this reason, and because there was already a need to expand the factory, it was decided to build a new plant outside the walls.” But if by then the ovens had wooden covers, in this case they would have been built of brick and located under high domes—a reconstruction of one of them, with a circular floor plan, now receives visitors— “All of the new building intended to guarantee security”, says the pastor.

In the respectable rehabilitation of the original cave by Ignacio de las Casas houses the technical collection of the museum; Spain devoted 16,000 square meters to the technological development of blown glass, from the most basic, its raw material (silica sand, so abundant in the region), or lead oxide, an element “which separates glass from crystals”. begins, declares the director, “what gives it that shine and sound, its added value”. The factory also displays machinery historically used, such as granite wheeled mills “for crushing and filtering mixtures”, pastor description; The large casting table that made it possible to produce mirrors requisitioned by the Court of Bourbon—even one so large that, according to tradition, Carlos III could see himself reflected on horseback—; Arm presses, or Hispano-Suiza generator sets used during power outages, were incorporated in the 19th century. “This brooch, held by a Christ from the House of Moumijn,” says Paloma Pastor, was exhibited at the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, and which forms part of the valuable collection of stained-glass windows from this family’s museum. Is part of. Treasures of French Artisans. , the author, among others, who covers the dome of the Palace Hotel in Madrid or the operational courtyard of the Bank of Spain.

live art

Before seeing the rest of the Moumigne collection, the room dedicated to La Granza Glass (Central European-style pieces from the 18th century) or the contemporary glass room, which houses the recreation of glass las meninas Velázquez (work by Kazuo Taguchi), you have to visit the Patio de la Lina – originally the fire in the oven was filled with wood from Valsán forests – to see for the first time the expertise of the craftsmen of the Royal Glass Factory. Via the walkway, visitors reach the Blowing Workshop, where masters and executives take shape factory store parts, It is wonderful to consider that a small incandescent and orange ball taken out of the kiln, with the end of a cane, by molding and blowing, at about 1,130 degrees, is transformed into a piece of brilliant glass, which is then introduced into annealing. goes. Chest. In this second oven, tall and with a conveyor belt inside, the creations are cooled for eight hours – 500 degrees to room temperature – until they come out the other end.

Only then can he be handcuffed and taken to the carving room, also accessible from the courtyard, where a team of five expert carvers stationed in front of his lathe cuts, polished, and cuts creations that do not meet the quality standard. Makes, decorates and throws the factory. “The hero for us is glass”, explains Elena Arenal, Head of Communications at the Royal Factory; Transparency and brilliant shine are the defining characteristics of La Granza glass. “Behind each piece”, says Paloma Pastor, “is a human process, a trade that requires more than ten years of learning, and if we do not value it, if it is not understood, it is will disappear”.

To avoid this, the Royal Crystal Factory of La Granza, which together Majorcan Gordiola Preserve a tradition in Spain with a history of more than three centuries, has resumed training (with a certificate of professionalism) in blow molding and casting techniques in its workshop school established in the 1990s and which includes such as Alba Martin Former students are now teachers. Despite the pandemic, the Royal Factory has also promoted—via Zoom, Paloma acknowledges the clergy—with centers in the Ministry of Culture and five other European countries (Germany, Finland, the Czech Republic, France and Hungary), of glass. Flight to be recognized as a UNESCO cultural heritage project. “It is a broad candidacy, which includes decoration and blowtorch techniques”, the clergy describes, and which aims to raise awareness of “the value of the uniqueness of craftsmanship”, he synthesizes, “this is what humanity has to offer.” should be dispatched”. A tradition that has hardly changed in more than two millennia.

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