Photo by Saffron Blaze via Wikimedia Commons
Anyone who has witnessed a glassmaking demonstration can surely appreciate the skill that goes into a craft that dates back to 2,000 BC. Named after the island from which it originates, Murano glass has been among the very best since the Renaissance, though the market has declined precipitously over the past few decades: according to The Guardian, the number of Murano sculptors has melted from "6,000 in 1990 to less than 1,000 [in 2012]."
Even so, it's hard not to be impressed by the practiced hands that churn out the souvenirs, kitschy though they may be, and at least one maestro has added a little flourish to the predictably well-documented process of sculpting a glass horse. This one is well worth watching in full:
The craftsman is exploiting the autoignition temperature of paper—from which Ray Bradbury's dystopian masterwork takes its name—which in reality varies from 424–471 °F; the glass is apparently well above this temperature, as glass is generally workable in the 1,600–1,900 °F range.
Meanwhile, the Corning Museum of Glass has an informative video segment on the subject of annealing, a controlled cooling of the glass from ultrahigh heat to room temperature, including pro tip on how you can tell if, say, that Murano horse has not been properly annealed:
But if you can't get enough of glass animals, it's easy enough to get lost in the ol' YouTube: A glass cat starts out looking like a bird before 'flashing' (reheating) for additional shaping, while a dolphin requires the extra step of transferring the glass via punty in order to shape its tail end.