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Venetian Glass, Updated

Posted in Things We Love

Working out alien

Setting foot in Piazza S. Marco in Venice, anytime between April and October, is not for the faint of heart. Long limbed Russians, sneaker wearing Americans, camera clutching Japanese and everything else in between, will make your head spin and prevent you from taking in the exquisite beauty of the surroundings. The majority of them will have been disgorged by the humongous cruise liners you will see “parked” at the top of the Giudecca canal. Most of them only have a few hours to march on the Piazza and surrounding calles, take some shots, eat a bad meal and march back to their ships before sundown.

The dancing glasses
The dancing glasses

Part of the classic Venetian experience is also to buy some blown glass.Tourists with more time on their hands might take a vaporetto to the Isle of Murano, where some of the glass blowing factories are but, sad to say, a lot of the trinkets sold cheaply everywhere are actually  made in China. Real blown glass is an art and it’s expensive and my heart is still set on some of the magical chandeliers with real gold veneer that sell for thousands of dollars.

We owe glass blowing to Byzantium – when the city was ransacked in the mid-1200’s, some craftsmen escaped to Venice where the art of blowing glass took root and flourished. To watch an artist at work is indeed mesmerizing: as the glass is heated and moves from liquid to solid state, there is a small interval in which it’s soft enough to be plied and molded.

Ethereal sea glasses
Ethereal sea decanters

Venice is a city in flux, steeped in its rich and unyielding past and trying to find a footing in a future that should not transform it in a static floating museum. Some of its innovations are to be found in the art world, certainly with its famous Biennale but also in some contemporary glass making that is a world apart from what your image of Venetian glass probably is.

The master himself
The master himself

Massimo Lundardon, not strictly a Venetian but born near Vicenza where he has his factory, is one of my favourite contemporary glass masters. I have been amused by his aliens that I wish were dancing in my living room; I have coveted his ethereal glasses and his coral cake stands and, when I recently saw the cover of the Bergdorf-Goodman holiday catalogue featuring his dancing glasses, already drunk before one single drop was poured, my heart melted.

It’s this playfulness, this re-invention of ancient techniques, this looking forward that will catapult a city like Venice into the future. Pierre Cardin recently pledged a vast sum of money to build a glass skyscraper on the site of the old industrial port at the edge of Venice, currently lying unused and in ruin. The project has been criticized by some conservationists but I can envisage approaching the city by train, entering the lagoon and seeing the modern blending in with the old Byzantine architecture.

Banning cruise liners and cheap Chinese glass  from entering the city should be of more concern. Welcoming more aliens is the way to go.

For more information on Massimo Lunardon, his creations and where they can be purchased, please check his fun website.

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  1. Well, yes, I can still tell crappy crystal from the real thing…

    December 19, 2012
  2. silvia

    your father would be very proud if he could understand these lines. I don’t know why sometimes I tend to forget about your genes and while reading I was appreciating how well you could write about this subject! Am I silly? By the way his website is really nice.
    And yesss, let’s ban the cruise liners out from Piazza San Marco! In the name of money, what more in the name of money?

    December 18, 2012
  3. We loved the real Murano glass (not the awful turisty stuff) but unfortunately the very nice vase we bought on our honeymoon now has a crack 🙁 Oh well I suppose it’s a good excuse to go back to Venice to buy a new one 😉

    December 16, 2012
    • There is a movement that is trying to find alternative points of entry that would not put the cruise liners so close to the city (canals had to be dredged and deepened for the ships to come in thereby letting more saltwater into the lagoon with disastrous environmental and structural consequences). The problem is that they generate a pretty income at a time when every Italian city is struggling financially. It always comes down to money, doesn’t it?

      December 15, 2012

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