In Venetian arts and crafts, Venetian traditions

Almost 30 years ago, in 1988, the Società Veneziana delle Conterie e Cristallerie (the Venetian company of Glass beads and Crystal) stopped its activity. Recently its abandoned space was transformed into a hotel and partially used as exhibition rooms of the Glass Museum on the island of Murano.

Fortunately, somebody bought the ancient conterie beads left and this is why the story continues 🙂 At the moment in Venice we have some very interesting workshops where you can find artisans able both to work with the ancient conterie beads. At the same time some continue to create glass jewels using the lamp working technique.

The Attombri brothers were among the first ones in Venice to buy the conterie beads. Stefano and Daniele Attombri started in 1987 with a laboratory and tiny shop near the University of Architecture which eventually moved to the most central area in Rialto in the Ruga Oresi.

Young, talented and pretty brave, they were able to present their jewels to Dolce Gabbana, who would recognize the beauty of the design and the day after had already their top models wear those necklaces at the fashion show!

What fascinates about their work is how the Attombri brothers intertwine the ancient colorful conterie beads with the wire work and sometimes with the cameos and erotic sculptures by Lucio Bubacco, one of our major masters of the lamp working art in Murano. Just recently they presented their latest creations at the DRAFTspace Complete Parts in New York surrounded by other jewel designers —among gold, silver and precious stones, they were the only ones with our Venetian colorful glass beads 🙂

On the other side of the Grand Canal along the Calle della Mandola, you can meet with our “impiraressa“, bead stringer, Marisa Convento. Her place is rich in wonders and words fail to describe what it’s like to enter this tiny place. Your attention will find it hard to stop by a particular object because then you will notice something else or get involved in some women’s conversations about art, furniture, jewels, history or end up looking at her collection of books on bead art 🙂

Marisa started her own activity in 2007. She would collect ancient Venetian beads which you can see some samples of in her shop —as the rosetta, or the African beads, the fiorate, the stricà, the millefiori… You can see her while she fishes with her old needle in the thousands beads on a tray either to prepare the strings or to start creating her corals, crosses and flowers —just to mention some, but, as she reports, the final creation is the point where her ability and your wishes meet 🙂

Like a patchwork in fabrics, her necklaces combine different techniques. Together with an artist that creates the lamp working beads for her, they have come up with nearly 200 combinations of colours.. and she wears around 135 around her neck 🙂

Somebody who we cannot described as a perler, bead maker, but still makes pendants (and bracelets) in glass and metal foil of exceptional originality is for sure Giorgio Nason. In campo San Gregorio you can find him melting the glass filigree cane to get spider web effects soaked in glass, shimmering in its crystal transparency.

Giorgio has worked on his own (and enjoys his independence) since 1988. Coming from a family that features hundreds of years of tradition in the glass art, the question is how to relate to that tradition. Tradition for Giorgio is to use Murano glass and just Murano glass, accepting the challenge of its technical, chemical characteristics and not to use different kind of glass that maybe would be easier to use, but would not have the same colours and effects.

And the innovation lies in the design and contemporary style. He immediately thought one needed to update the usual techniques to use glass for its weightless effect, as if it were a watercolor. So while he creates his own filigree rods, then in the final result you would never guess it was filigree… and so with the colors of the different canes that fuse together with surprising results.

The story of Perla Madre Design started in 2008. It was then that two young restorers of ancient art, Patrizia Iacovazzi, coming from the Salento, and Evelina Pescarol from Venice, started working together. They bought all the necessary technology for lamp working and opened their place in calle delle Botteghe near campo San Barnaba.

The colourful and elegant window of their shop attracts the attention of the people passing by and when you enter, you feel how every detail is the result of care and taste. It’s like a boutique. On one corner the table where Patrizia creates her beads, one by one. Behind, bunches of colourful glass canes, exclusively from Murano. On the side walls, anything that helps you appreciate the combinations of colours, shapes and sizes.

The contemporary flavour all Patrizia’s creations should not mislead you, though. When in 2012 the butterfly necklace won the prize of Open Design Italia, it was the result of a clever historical research on an ancient Venetian bead, transforming it in a modern piece…, as they did with the other creations from the vintage to the blown beads.

When a century ago the glass stringers had some unfortunate accident and the beads would fall in the street, running all over in the calle, it was the whole neighborhood that helped to collect them so important it was for the Venetian community… well, I would say, don’t miss this treasure hunt today either 🙂

by Luisella Romeo
registered tourist guide in Venice, Italy

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