Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dat Glass, Doe.

It's been a helluva long time since I wrote anything.  My guests from this summer are partly to blame, particularly Belynda...if she hadn't been here after I got back from Italy, I might have finished writing about my trip then.  Or maybe not - my laptop won't connect to my wifi at home so I have to type on my stupid little transformer, which is fine when I'm traveling but annoying any other time.  Also, there's the fact that I was at home for the better part of a month, and don't even get me started on what internet is like in the styx.  And now school's started, so I've been busy with other things...such as planning a trip for my students to Greece, which it turns out none of them are going on, because in spite of what I believe about them, they can't think for themselves.  But better late than never, right?
I have two things from Venice left to write about, and this is the first.  As per the fact that I've changed my reason to travel from phallic worship (having run out of sites to visit) to learning stuff, I put some serious effort into tracking down a place where I could start to learn how to work with glass.

When I was in Venice in 2001, I visited Murano, and loved it - loved being away from the main part of the lagoon and seeing the glassblowers work.  I think anyone who watches it finds glassblowing fascinating.  Dale Chihuly is one of my favorite artists of all time, and I had dreams of being able to sculpt glass like him.

Well, the course that Abate Zanetti, the workshop I found that offered beginner courses, had for that week was not "How to Blow Glass Like Dale Chihuly."  It was lampworking beads, and I figured it was better to start small, anyways.  I signed up, and when they reached their minimum number of students (2, it turned out) I paid my deposit and started getting stoked about the fact that I was going to making some stuff out of glass.  Yee.  Haw.

The first day of the course I rolled my sweaty ass out of bed and made my way to Fondamente Nove to catch the vaporetto (via the cafe where I bought my brioche and aranciata).  I was SUPER early, partly because I didn't want to be late, but also because I've become an early riser (NOT to be confused with a morning person...just because I'm up before the sun doesn't mean I want to talk to anyone - or hell, even see them...)  I strolled around the island, which was quiet, since most people were still asleep, and sat down to read for a while, until I got a gnat in my eye and had to go looking for a mirror so I could fish it out, which is the state I was in when I came to Abate Zanetti.
They have a showroom where they give a presentation of the noble history of glasswork in the lagoon as well as having a display of pieces of art that were created based on winning designs submitted by schoolchildren (which reminds me - I was going to have my brats enter...guess I need to go back and look at their website).  On one side of the showroom was the fornace, where hot (literally) men were making big, amazing things.  On the other side was the lampworking studio, where we bent the fires of creation to our whims and made stuff.
This is the "lamp" we used, and it felt like the blazing heart of the sun.  Lampworking basically amounts to melting the glass rods in a small, intense fire and shaping it around metal rods to create beads.  With a little practice, you could make other things, as well, and around day 3 (aka, when I realized that being precise and perfect wasn't really my thing), I started experimenting with putting petals and things on my beads, with limited success.  I had a lot of fun with that, but most of those beads didn't survive, as there are principles of heating and cooling at work that I either didn't understand or wasn't really aware of.  It DID make me think that I'd rather sculpt glass than blow it.
One of the techniques we learned was how to decorate our beads with thin rods we'd pulled out of the larger rods of glass.  You heated them in the fire, and just briefly touched them to the bead to get dots and - if you had enough control - swirls on your beads.
These are some of my finished pieces.  It was hard work, and scary at times - while you're heating a rod, sometimes it will crackle and even shatter.  We wore protective goggles and cotton clothing, but I still got a sliver of super-hot glass on my arm at one point.  I also came to have a new appreciation for my students - every time our teacher Diego came over to my side of the workspace I felt the impending judgement, sure that I was about to hear "Disaster!" which was one of his favorite English words.  But eventually I just decided I didn't care, and I was just going to have fun with it, and while my beads aren't masterpieces by any means, I really enjoyed the course.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this post Becky, understand about early mornings...Put Corning Glass Museum in NY on your list and I will visit with you. I now explore the world through cafes and felting, fun and educational isn't it?