Piombino Dese, a drab industrial town between Venice and Verona, has many small glass companies, including Vetrerie New Glass, founded by Franco Pellizzon in 1991 and one of several Glo-Ball suppliers. Pellizzon trained as a glassblower but saw no future for himself in the craft; he wanted to industrialize the process.
When the blob has reached a diameter of about six inches, it has already been handled by two or three blowers, who multitask like chefs.
Vetrerie New Glass can make 18 Glo-Balls per hour—Pellizzon keeps the operation tight in order to guarantee exceptional quality. The balls sit in a slow-cooling kiln for two hours; otherwise, they crack. With a fine abrasive cutting wheel, a young man slices off the parts that cling to the pole during the blowing process. A series of sanders and buffers make the aperture perfectly round and smooth: A flattener removes coarseness outside the cut, and a pointed sander that resembles a witch’s hat rubs out the circular opening.
Quality control is overseen by several women—the only female employees in the factory. They place the globes over a fluorescent bulb mounted on a rotating plywood sheet and check for nicks and discolorations. Vetrerie New Glass then transfers the globes to a local etcher, who dunks them into a corrosive hydrofluoric-acid solution that removes the shine and makes the outer surface matte—crucial for diffusion and durability.
West of Piombino Dese, in Bovezzo, the well-tended Glo-Balls meet the other parts of the lamp: laminated tubular steel stands, bases, and electronic components sourced in Milan.
At first glance the base seems unremarkable. Its intention—to disappear below the globe—is well met. And yet, its seemingly simple character owes its existence to modern technology.
“A cylinder gets run through a computer-numerically-controlled cutting machine to become a truncated cone,” says Giambattista Scalfi, Flos’s director of research and development. The result is a subtly proportioned piece that connects the flat circular base to a narrow tubular pole so the lamp can stand. A coat of gray paint makes it all look a bit like aluminum: a material illusion of weightlessness beneath the globe, which is in fact quite heavy. Unlike the staff decked out in T-shirts and shorts in Piombino Dese, here the factory workers wear matching orange shirts perhaps more suited to the mechanical and tidy processes they execute.