Glassmaking & Magic ~ Guest Post with Ruth Nestvold

**Editor’s note: Since I am currently out of town, and since the lovely and talented Ruth Nestvold has recently released Island of Glass,  today, I turn my blog over to her. Take it away, Ruth!**

I have a penchant for creating fantasy worlds based on history, and Island of Glass is no exception. The novella is set in a 17th Century Venetian Empire that never existed, and revolves around the fate of a young glassmaker of Murano who is unfortunate enough to catch the attention of a prince. In the world of Island of Glass, magic has been set free, and alchemy and witchcraft are trades practiced for profit, just like glassmaking. In this way, I’ve tried to make magic a little less glamorous, and glassmaking a little more magical:

The work of the Murano glassmakers was in great demand throughout the world. Their craftsmanship was the basis of their riches and their curse. Out of fear that they might reveal trade secrets, the laws of La Serenissima decreed that members of the glassmaking families of Murano were never to leave the islands of their lagoon. Murano glass was more precious than gold, after all. Anyone who knew the recipe of the alchemists could make gold, but only the artisans of Murano could make glass so fine, one could nearly touch one’s fingers together on either side; cristallo without an imperfection or blemish, clear as the sky, with a sparkle to rival that of diamonds.

The idea for the novella first began to germinate on a trip to Venice with my daughter, when we stayed on Murano, the “island of glass.”

Me and my daughter on the Venice trip that started it all.

The history of glass on Murano began at the end of the 13th century, after the Venetian Republic ordered the foundaries moved off the main island for fear of fire. Murano, an island to the north of Venice proper, became the new center of the Venetian glassmaking industry.

Map of Venice and the surrounding islands.

The secret of the fine glass made on Murano lay in the Venetian monopoly on the superior quartz pebbles from the nearby rivers, the soda ash from the Levantine region which was used as a fluxing agent, and the specially prepared manganese from Piedmont ? known as glassmakers’ soap ? to counteract discoloring, which made it possible to create the clearest glass then known in the world. With this monopoly on the rew materials, combined with the craftsmanship of the glassmakers, Murano was able to dominate the glassmaking industry for centuries. By the 14th century, the glassmakers of Murano, although originally craftsmen, were allowed to wear swords and marry into the noble families of Venice.

There was only one disadvantage to this higher status — they were not allowed to leave Venice.
What a perfect setting for story conflict!

Despite the laws against glassmakers leaving Venice, over the centuries, many risked it and found employment in other important glassmaking areas such as Bohemia. Eventually, the carefully guarded secret of cristallo was leaked to other glassworks in Europe and Murano’s domination in glassmaking broken. Many such details from the history of glass found their way into my narrative. In my research, however, it became increasingly obvious to me that glass was not only my subject, it was a wonderful metaphor for magic and alchemy and the power of transformation, since glassmakers are capable of turning rocks into works of art.

And so began the story of the island of glass where alchemists created gold for the nobility and glassmakers with witchery in their veins could make glass with a touch of magic.

Find Island of Glass on Amazon for a special introductory price of only 99c!

Island of Glass (Book I of The Glassmakers Trilogy)

Seventeen-year-old Chiara Dragoni is a master glassmaker of Venice, a position that is both a privilege ? and a trap. For the glassmakers of Murano are forbidden to ever leave the islands of the Venetian lagoon.
When Chiara’s uncle is caught on the mainland and thrown into the dungeon of the Doge’s Palace, she must use all her talents, including magic, to help free him. But the gift she creates for the prince of Venice has unintended consequences, and now Chiara must decide whether to give up everything and everyone she knows and loves
in order to save her dream.





Connect with Ruth Nestvold on the Internet:

Web site:
Twitter: @Ruth_Nestvold



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  1. Thanks very much for having me, Kathi!

  2. Reblogged this on Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures and commented:
    A guest post I wrote for K.L. Schwengel’s blog about the historical background of “Island of Glass”:

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