The Art of Venetian Glass Making in Murano, Italy: Our Visit to B.F. Signoretti Glass Factory by Elisa Schmitz
It is said that the Venetians have been making exquisite glass for more than 1,500 years, and the Venetian island of Murano, Italy, has been the epicenter of this industry since about the 13th century. On our recent visit to Venice, we knew we had to visit Murano and see the artistry for ourselves.
We arranged for a boat tour of Venice, and part of the tour included a trip to Murano and an impressive glass factory, B.F. Signoretti. Signoretti is a working glass factory where highly-trained artisans create stunning works of art (many that serve a practical purpose, such as for lighting or serving, etc.).
I was excited to see a glass-blowing demonstration by a master glass blower who has been working on his craft for dozens of years. We watched him make a lovely vase in just a few minutes. Even more amazing was watching him turn a blob of clear glass into a little blue horse in less than two minutes. Watch my video to see him do it!
Then, it was our turn to actually blow glass. I think I was supposed to make a vase, but it turned out more like a human heart, which is why we’re all laughing so hard in the photo. My husband had a similar glass-blowing fail. We’ll do better next time, I’m sure!
Next, we took a tour through the dazzling showroom. It’s filled with a remarkable assortment of items made by hand with centuries-old tools: chandeliers, drinking glasses, mirrors, vases and bowls of all sizes, sculptures and many other creations. Note: You may feel obligated to buy something, and Murano glass is not inexpensive. But you do not have to make a purchase, so don't feel pressured to do so. It is entirely up to you and you won't offend anyone by offering a polite "no, grazie." Pro tip: You can wait until the end of the tour to see their sale items, in case you do want to buy something for less!
According to Signoretti, Murano was founded by the Romans who fled the fall of the Roman Empire and the Barbarian invasions of the late 5th century. The first evidence of glass production in Murano dates back to the 6th century.
Murano became famous for glass making when the Republic of Venice, to prevent the burning of the city’s buildings from the hot furnaces, ordered the glassmakers to move their factories to Murano in 1291, Signoretti explains.
To compensate the glass masters for having to move to the island, and to encourage their children to continue in the profession, they were treated almost as nobility. But to protect the secrets of glass making, the artisans were forbidden to leave without permission. Those who left Murano were banished from the trade. As Signoretti tells it, sharing the trade secrets of Murano glass was considered a crime punishable by death.
Murano glass is often imitated, but never quite duplicated. That’s why as tempting as it may be to save money by purchasing a knockoff, there’s nothing like having an original Murano masterpiece.
After touring the showroom filled with dazzling designs, we selected a multi-colored bowl that Signoretti shipped to us back home. It arrived safely, intact, and even more beautiful than we remembered. We love displaying this memento of our trip to Venice, knowing we helped a bit to support and preserve the beautiful artistry that still lives in Murano.
And Signnoretti even gave us the little blue horse – now sitting on our living room mantel – as a thank you!
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