Italians top the world in yet another industry, but it may be one you know little about: glassmaking. For 800 years, Murano, Italy, a small island in Venice, has cultivated the world’s best glass artists and art.
Paradise Bird, beautifully crafted by Oscar Zanetti, a master glassmaker from Murano, Italy. At Pacific Wave Glass Art.
“They have the talent, the passion, the tradition, the secrets, and they pass this from generation to generation,” says John Gosek, owner of Vancouver’s premier glass art gallery Pacific Wave Glass Art. “The difference is they have [glassmaking] in their soul, in their heart, in their blood.”
By Italian master glassmaker, Mario Gambaro. At Pacific Wave Glass Art.
What makes the Italians so much better at glassmaking is that their starting point is entirely different, from the age they start, to the materials they use, to secret family recipes — some that only a handful of people in the world have the talent to put into practice. The children of these artists in Murano are raised blowing glass, so by the time they’re college-aged, when most North American glass artists pick up the trade, they’ve already been developing their skills for over a decade. “It takes 20, 30, 40 years to practice,” Gosek says. “You need this feeling in your hands, in your brain, in your head to be able to do it.”
The glassmakers in Murano all use crystal glass, a much higher grade of glass, and colours from natural metal oxides, such as gold, copper and iron, not chemicals. In addition, they have secret practices that no one else knows of or has the skills to practice, such as calcedonio, an ancient technique that was lost and revived 100 years ago. Gosek explains, it’s a “crystal glass and special paste, which imitates aged stone agate. It gives delicate veins in the glass, gives different colors, and those veins float. They look like they’re moving. There is not even one artist anywhere else in the world besides those three or four in Murano [who can do that].”