My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Millefiori Lamp

As I mentioned in my Illumination post from ABC Wednesday's "I" week, this week I wanted to share my favorite lamp (and probably most treasured of all mmaterial possessions), a Millefiori glass lamp made in Murano, Italy that I bought nearly 30 years ago...

Millefiori"a thousand flowers" in Italian, is manufactured from mosaic glass rods or canes called murrine. The making of mosaic beads goes back to Ancient Rome, Phoenicia and Alexandria (in other words, the Mediterranean area), while the murrine process began in the Middle East or Ancient Rome (both are credited) about 4,000 years ago and was revived in the early 1500s on the Venetian island of Murano, where a multitude of masterful glassmakers held a monopoly on glassmaking for many centuries. They developed or perfected various techniques, and still manufacture their magnificent glass treasures today (click here for a virtual visit to the Venice Glass Museum). The process of making the mosaic beads and canes alone is painstakingly meticulous; making them into vases, jewelry, paperweights and lamps is mindblowing...


I didn't get to make the trip to Murano to buy my lamp (she muttered mournfully!) Instead, I moseyed less than 1/2 mile from my apartment in Alamogordo, New Mexico to The Serbian Peasant, a quirky shop in an old house owned and restored to resemble a Balkan cottage by Millicent Shyne (isn't that a marvelous name?) Millicent, who was 70 when I met her, traveled all over Europe and beyond to find unique items to sell in her shop; amber from the Baltic, glass from Venice, and even a belt she'd bartered from a Bedouin tribesman. Millicent was a force of nature - my roommate Liz and I found her quite intimidating (she'd scold us without mercy in menacing tones if she caught us meddling with the merchandise too much!), but from the first moment we entered it, her shop became our favorite haunt. It was on our first visit there that I spied "my" lamp (the only one in the shop) and fell desperately in love, but I was a brand new AF lieutenant with student loans, a car payment and rent, and the lamp's $240 price tag made this indulgence a major purchase that meant spending too much money, even for a masterpiece.

So I kept my eye on it for a year hoping it would go on sale (it never did), painfully mindful it might sell (it didn't), and saving my pennies. Finally, when I nearly had enough money saved, I mustered the moxie to approach Millicent about marking it down. Miraculously, she took 10% off, didn't charge me sales tax, and agreed to put it on layaway for free. So for three months I made my payments till the day I finally managed to bring my lamp home. It has since made nine moves (and been evacuated for a wildfire), and you can bet that I'm the one who always packs it and it travels with me - this lamp will never see the inside of a moving van while it's mine! 

Millicent Shyne retired and the Serbian Peasant closed not too many years after I left Alamogordo, and Millicent died on March 3, 2010 at age 95. I've yet to find another shop as unique as The Serbian Peasant, nor another lamp anything like this magical, magnificent Murano Millefiore ~

I love how the shade casts its candy colors on its surroundings

Here's the lamp in its newest home. When I saw that our Malone house floor plan specified a built-in bookcase in the study, I made sure to design it around the lamp! (Maybe my contractor thought I was mad as a March hare, but I didn't mind)...

And speaking of the madness of March hares,
click here for a closeup of the Mad Tea Party scene 
from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,
displayed in the cubby to the lamp's right.
The schoolhouse to the left will star in my Halloween post!

Meanwhile, Make ABC Wednesday your milieu
and don't miss more merry M's at... 


  1. I've seen these lamps but never knew any of the history. We were in Venice years ago but MISSED this glass factory. Your lamp looks lovely in its new home.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful story and the interesting video. Wow, creating such beautiful glass objects takes a lot of time and skill! I am deeply impressed.

    Have a colourful week!
    Wil, ABC Team.

  3. Your story of Millicent Shyne is wonderful. I find unique persons and non-persons are to be cherished. They add texture and pizzazz to our life. That is one gorgeous lamp. Sometimes it pays, in a meaningful way, to extend yourself financially to acquire a few treasures. -- barbara

  4. a quaint looking lamp
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  5. A beautiful lamp! And a lot of m-s!

  6. Great story and information. I've seen paperweights like this but never an entire lamp — so pretty. The lamp was meant to be yours, obviously, if it didn't let itself get sold in the shop, and survived so many moves!

  7. wow, your murano lamp is absolutely beautiful! i understand why it's a treasured possession.:p

    M is for...

  8. Truly beautiful, and worth every scrimped and saved penny. My parents had two Millefiori vases, which had travelled from either England or Germany (probably) England. Beautiful things. My youngest brother has them.
    You will note that I am so Moved by this post I am not playing my usual alphabetical games. Thank you.

  9. Love the lamp and the story.

  10. Never seen one before!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  11. I've heard of that glass before but never seen a lamp made from it - how totally stunning it is - WANT! And I love the way you designed the shelf unit round it - now that's love :O)

  12. Beautiful lamp....and story behind it. Looks like it's found a home!

  13. I'm glad I waited until I had time to listen to the whole video. That was amazing! Comparing to my art - I can only say that the stress must be amazing. I can always "reverse" sew anything that's not quite right. When they are pulling the rod, a mistake would mean having to start from the beginning and a totally wasted effort. That is what I found the most amazing. Any art that only gives you one shot requires more skill than I ever want to have in doing anything!!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story of how you got it (I remembered bits and pieces) and I love it's new home. I'm so pleased you designed your bookcase around it - it deserves pride of place.

    And although I had seen it before, I've not stared as much at it as I have now. You have so many pretty things and I tend to move from one to the other. This way, I got to really look closely only at your treasure.

    Great post!! Can't wait to see more of the inside of the house!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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