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Murano Glass - Curation Chronicles

Murano Glass - Curation Chronicles


The Location

Deep in the shimmering waters of the Venetian Lagoon lies a place of unparalleled wonder.. Since the 13th century, the island of Murano, home to the finest glass artisans in all the land, has gained a reputation as a place of enchantment and legend, a realm where the secrets of the ancient world are part of daily life. And so it was that Murano came to be the place of reverence and devotion that it is today. This transformation was brought about by a decree of the “Maggior Consiglio”, the ruling council of Venice, which mandated that the glass artisans of Murano must exile from the city due to the fire hazard posed by their craft to the all-wooden structures. But little did anyone know at the time that this edict would be the catalyst for the birth of a magical kingdom, where the art of glassblowing would flourish and the secrets of the craft would be kept alive for generations to come.


As one approaches the island, you are struck by its ethereal beauty. The soft pastel colors of the buildings seem to glow in the morning light, their reflections dancing on the glassy surface of the water. The air is heavy with the scent of salt and sand, and the distant sound of gulls fills your ears with a soothing melody. From the island's cobblestone streets, to the breathtaking architecture, you are transported back in time. Murano is a place where the old ways still hold sway, where the magic of the glassblower's craft is passed down from generation to generation as a precious heirloom. The artisans here are the keepers of a sacred tradition, and they guard their secrets with a fierce devotion. 

The most inspiring history of this devotion happens in the 17th century. As the Palace of Versailles began to take shape, the head of construction issued a decree that every element of the palace must be crafted within the borders of France. But there was one problem: the French artisans had no knowledge of the elusive art of glassmaking. They looked to the legendary glass masters of Venice and the Isle of Murano for help.The plan was simple, pay and smuggle away these coveted artisans. The city of Venice responded by imprisoning the glassmakers' families and even dispatching assassins to take them out. But despite their best efforts, the Venetians failed to stop the rogue artisans from teaching their craft to French apprentices, and thus the legacy of Murano's glass making art lived on, even in the halls of Versailles.

The Atelier

Upon entering a Murano artisan's workshop, one is immediately inhabited by a sense of awe and reverence. The air is thick with the heady scent of burning sand and molten glass, transporting visitors to another realm entirely. The walls are lined with shelves of tools and molds, their metallic surfaces glinting in the flickering light of the furnaces. The artisans move swiftly and with purpose, their movements as smooth and precise as those of a master swordsman, engrossed in their work.

Murano Furnace

Each piece is a masterpiece, a testament to the skill and expertise of the artisans who have honed their craft over countless generations. The colors are vivid and intense, a kaleidoscope of fiery reds and shimmering golds that seem to pulsate with a life all their own. Despite the frenzied activity, there is a sense of deep calm and stillness that permeates the space, as though time itself has slowed to a crawl. The sound of the fire inhabits every conversation.

The intricacy of the artisans' tools and techniques is readily apparent. The blowpipes are long and slender, designed to keep the artisan at a safe distance from the searing heat of the furnace. The molds are made of clay and cast iron, intricately designed to shape the glass into its final form. The tools themselves are expertly crafted, each one perfectly balanced and honed to a razor's edge. Being so unique, artisans usually make their own tools and toolsets. 

The Artisans 

The craft of glassblowing in the island of Murano is steeped in history and tradition, with the expertise and knowledge of this skill being passed down from generation to generation within families. The apprenticeship process usually starts at a tender age, often as early as 10 years old, where children are taken under the wing of their parents or other family members to learn the intricacies of the craft. The path to becoming a skilled glass artisan is arduous, requiring years of dedication and practice to attain mastery.

During the 5-10 year apprenticeship, the young artisan learns everything there is to know about the craft of glassblowing - from the preparation of the raw materials to the shaping of molten glass into its final form. The techniques used by these glass artisans are a closely guarded secret, passed down only within the family or guild, with the utmost care taken to ensure that the art form remains pure and unblemished.

The artisans themselves are deeply passionate about their work, pouring their hearts and souls into each creation. They work with quiet intensity, their faces a mask of concentration as they carefully shape the molten glass into exquisite and unique forms. Each piece is a masterpiece, a true reflection of the artisan's skill and creativity.

Murano Artisan wielding glass

Despite the centuries-old tradition of glassblowing in Murano, these artisans refuse to be content with the status quo. They are constantly experimenting with new techniques and designs, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. The results of this experimentation are nothing short of awe-inspiring, with each piece of glassware being an extraordinary expression of the artisan's imagination and expertise. The art form may have been around for centuries, but the passion and innovation of these artisans ensure that it remains vibrant and alive for generations to come.


Every month, through Curation Chronicles, Provenance brings you content from the best artisans and ateliers from across the world.