The Glass Artisans of Murano

As sunlight pierces store windows, our breaths still catch at the delight of glass playing with light. The glass artisans of Murano, in Venice, have the kind of skills that come from hundreds of years of constant experience with this magical solid material which however has an obscure arrangement of molecules – for liquid! With the erratic and disordered molecules of glass, the artisans can do anything, it seems.

Working with glass in Berlin I have come to see how strong and how delicate glass can be; how much knowledge is involved in the skills of working with it and how the least bit of fight from the glassblower will turn the glass against her.

In different ways Jimmie and I have always been fascinated by glass. While teaching at IUAV University in Venice some years back we loved visiting the fornaci in Murano and watching the artisans work as they with pride showed techniques which had been developed by their workshop over generations.

Once we lugged three large cartons of broken glass back to where we were staying in Venice, then took them back to Berlin and began making a broken glass chandelier. (It became Jimmie’s main therapeutic exercise after suffering from two debilitating strokes.)

First at the C.I.R.V.A. glass workshop in Marseille and then at the Berlin Glas Studio, we both worked on glass in different ways. He always likes the jagged, dangerous rejecta; I like to see what happens when mixing colours and shapes to make something new while experimenting with maintaining the fluidity of glass sculpturally. Among the first sales of works from LABINAC have been some of the vases I made in Berlin. This is a great encouragement for me and for LABINAC.

With some of the remaining parts we had gathered years ago in Murano Jimmie designed and made a wall lamp using a beautiful old pearlescent glass flower and leaf with industrial angle iron. This specific lamp also serves as inspiration for an upcoming limited edition for a museum in Italy. We showed this piece at the LABINAC grand opening in Berlin in 2018 and then again this year in Milano’s Design Week.

In February of this year we went back to Murano to find glass of the same type. A friend whose family are glass artisans for generations has the kind of love of Murano glass that he collects everything he can from old palazzos, hotels and fornaci. He is the curator-genius of a living museum of spare parts.

Celebrating glass and its relationships with our daily lives, we will continue to design and make lamps, chandeliers and vases for LABINAC.

Maria Thereza Alves, April 2019