I have just returned from a 10 day holiday in Venice. The hotel was on an island in the lagoon, about a 20 minute boat ride from St Mark's Square, which suited us well as I had my 5 year old son with me. As much as I love getting lost through the narrow alleys of Venice, and exploring the archways and canals, my son was more interested in playing in the hotel’s swimming pool… and who was to blame him in the heat of August!
A Gondola ride is a must!
One of the days we hired a water taxi (which I highly recommend) for the day and took off to the islands of Murano, known for its world class hand blown glass art, and the colorful island of Burano, known for its intricate lace work, and back through the Grand Canal to our hotel. It was an amazing day. I was captivated by the craftsmanship of the glass blowers, the lace weavers, and the mask makers, and how these skills had been passed down from generation to generation.
the colourful houses of Burano
Italy is renowned for its artisans and it made me think of how skills such these, as well as textile hand separation artists, sewers, weavers, and many more, are in danger of being lost as demand for them falls in this digital world we live in.
A beautiful display of handmade Venetian Masks
We were told repeatedly that the younger generation was uninterested in learning such labour intensive, time consuming skills for relatively little remuneration so these traditional crafts were now in the hands of an ageing population and are at risk of fading away forever. For example, on Burano the youngest lace maker was 50 years old while the oldest was 94 years.
an example of Burano lace
a lace border for a pillow
I still believe that in this digital world we live in there is a place for traditional hand crafted work, unfortunately this often equates to a high price tag. A linen handkerchief with a small handmade lace insert was 49 Euros. A magnificent lace table cloth which had taken two years to make was substantially more. Our life styles, if not our pockets, are often out of sync with this.
handblown Murano glass lights at Simone Cendese
watching the artisans at work
It is encouraging however that so many people are now learning to knit, weave, sew, upholster, upcycle etc as a leisure activity. Even on Burano there was a school which offered short courses to learn the basics of lace making for pleasure rather than profit. The rise of sites like Folksy, Etsy and notonthehighstreet are evidence of this renaissance of an interest in items which are handmade, individual and charming.
We want our homes to reflect ourselves and our interests and personalities and what better way to do it than with a handcrafted item, especially one that doesn't cost a fortune.
screen printed velvet at Antonia Sautter