On a sunny day, descending into Marco Polo Airport, just outside Venice, the view from the plane is incredible. It’s a rare opportunity to see almost all of the Venetian lagoon in one quick glimpse. Some of the un-inhabited islands give one a sense of what existed before the predecessors to contemporary Venetians escaped their enemy invaders by moving their lives from terra-ferma across the water to safety. One can also see the contrast between the magical architecture of Venice and its industrial neighbor/counterpart, Mestre. The island of Murano emerges into view as well, and for a glass pilgrim such as myself, it’s a goose bump-inducing experience.
I had the opportunity to visit Venice and Murano back in 2004, and that trip still stands out as one of the greatest two-week stretches of my life. For that visit, my special friend and mentor, the great flameworking maestro, Cesare Toffolo had recommended I come over. He knew quite well how an experience in this glass-Mecca would affect me as a budding glassworker, and as a person, for the rest of my life.
Ten years later, now working as the properties of glass programs supervisor at the Museum, I found this to be a great time to return. Being exposed to this amazing glass culture personally, I can better relate the stories, techniques, and culture of glassmaking around the world to our staff and, more importantly, to our guests at the Museum. Visiting also gives me the chance to better foster relationships with Murano’s glass community at-large.
Once I had my bags and cleared customs, I headed for the docks outside the airport to catch a ride to Murano. As the boat drew closer to my destination, I could feel my pulse quickening with anticipation. For this trip I had prepared a much grander plan than the previous visit, and it was time to get cracking.
My plan for this journey was not only to immerse myself in this magical place, but to document interviews with the local glassmakers, which will be available online and archived at the Rakow Library in Corning.
In preparation for this project, I made arrangements with my American friend and colleague, Domenico Cavallaro … as well as several of my Muranese friends and contacts. Domenico speaks excellent Italian and has a great deal of access and experience on Murano as a fellow glassworker and glass liaison. The right pieces were set in motion to do some extensive explorations of Murano’s historic culture.
Domenico had arrived on the island two days before me. With experience on Murano, one quickly learns that it is best to be on-site to truly confirm appointments. Being here also facilitates spontaneous interactions that can simply never be arranged. Our first visit interview was just such a serendipitous situation with internationally-renowned sculptor, Livio Seguso!
Stay tuned for more posts in this Glass Pilgrimage series where Eric visits artists Livio Seguso, Lucio Bubacco, Dario Frare, Igor Balbi, Cesare Toffolo, Davide Salvadore, Pietro and Ricardo Ferro, Moreno Bardello, Simone Crestani, and Marco Salvadore, toolmaker Roberto Doná, and visits family owned and operated glass factories SALIR, Fratelli Toso, and Signoretto Lampadari.