Murano, Inside a Glass Furnace Factory and the Family Biz with Micheluzzi
Murano glass, a once well-kept secret recipe, has evolved over the centuries. Watch our video to learn more about Murano, a master glassmaker under the Sogni Di Cristallo brand and the new glassware from the daughters of Massimo Micheluzzi.
In 1291 Murano became the guardian of Venetian glass, the protector of creative secrets and of the chain that firmly held its glass masters. You could enter the world of glass on the islands that make up Murano but once inside, impossible to get out. The years and centuries that followed saw the reintegration of older methods, since traces of Venetian glass date from the 8th century, and brought out new techniques. A crucial development was Cristallo or Venetian Crystal in 1451 by Angelo Barovier.
Venice and the outside world bounce off each other. In fact, the creation of Venetian glass is attributed to the close ties with the Middle East. When Bohemian glass came onto the scene in the 1670s, the Venetian glass market suffered greatly until the architect Giuseppe Briati picked up the secrets of glass and adapted it to his own production. Following this, he invented so-called “ciocche” chandeliers with multiple arms of crystal, decorated with festoons, foliage and multicolored flowers.
Although his invention was celebrated throughout Venice and recognized internationally, he tried to push his luck a bit too far. He asked to return to the main islands of Venice, the Rialto Islands, where he wanted to open his oven factory. His wish was granted despite the law prohibiting the activity of any glass furnace factory on the Rialto Islands. Naturally jealous, the other glass masters threaten to kill Briati who, to save his life, offers to return to Murano. Wish granted, once again, and Briati reopened in Murano. Life went on, and so did the evolution of Venetian glass.
LILY: The history of glass in Murano and stay informed of the latest news from the Glass Museum.
Fortunately, for our glass masters of today, times have changed. They no longer have to stay on the islands of Murano. In fact, many of them left the islands for the mainland; they even went beyond Mestre to the borders of the Venice region where they opened their ovens in the countryside in order to offer a better living environment to their families. However, the masters who are not on the islands use Murano glass and the ancient techniques they have acquired. The challenge of becoming a master glassmaker has also remained intact and very few workers achieve this certification.
Marco Busato, a master glassmaker whose works are sold under the Sogni Di Cristallo brand label, explained to us during our visit to his factory in the countryside that a master will take under his wing two or three young apprentices but that only one of them will later make him become a master. Busato started when he was 8 years old, first fueling the ovens with wood in 1943, a time when it was quite normal for young children to work in the ovens. Later, he learned alongside his father, a master, who used chalk to mark the placement of feet on the floor to teach him where to stand and how to move during the glass-making process. He obtained the title of master at 18, a very young age for anyone to obtain this title, and followed in his father’s footsteps. They worked together in Murano until 1994 when they decided to open their own glass kiln where they specialized in chandeliers.
In keeping with his Venetian roots and heritage of overcoming hardship, Busato used the economic crisis of 2008 to invent a new idea for chandeliers. He embedded the bulb inside the glass flower, hidden from the viewer’s eye, instead of implementing the traditional spinning method. The latter concept required twisting the bulb on a device fixed inside the flower; yet the bulb, voluminous at the time, was visible beyond the glass form of the flower. Busato’s invention and creations have earned him further recognition and, since 2013, his work has been represented by the brand label Sogni Di Cristallo and selected for major international interior projects.
Along with advances in the Murano chandelier, artists and designers have pushed master glassmakers to rethink how they use ancient techniques in modern ways. Massimo Micheluzzi, born in Venice, worked as a photographer for the Venini glassworks in his youth, then later owned an antique shop on the Rialto Islands before entering the world of glass. His glass creations can be divided into two categories; the first is the result of using a blowing bubble application and smoke technique, where the object is rolled through the air in the smoke, and the second reveals intricate patterns. A serious research, of form and pattern, hides behind the two styles which represent the history of glass as well as Venice itself. The smoky bubble-like objects refer to the water and air of the islands, while the patterns resemble what we might see on the streets.
When his two daughters suggested he create glassware in addition to his current pieces, he simply replied, “You do.” And they did. In 2019, back in Venice after almost a decade living abroad, Elena and Margherita Micheluzzi enter the family business creating their Micheluzzi Glass brand. In the long-standing Micheluzzi boutique, a beautiful display of their vases and glassware, magnetic to the eye, moves strollers through the streets of Venice. Unlike the rather large-scale work of their father, their pieces are delicate and hauntingly vibrant in color. They work with the same master glassmaker as their father, who uses the technique of cold carving to make some of the girls’ creations.
The Micheluzzi family is an example of what we noticed in Venice: the children of Venice often study the arts and go off to explore the world, but they come back, drawn to their place of birth, and when they come back, they find a way to contribute to the growth of the city’s heritage, sometimes without realizing it. The strength of Venice seen through its history has always been in the hands of its people and, despite the recent Covid crisis and the war in Ukraine, despite the closure of several factories last Christmas and, again, during From last summer, the energy in Venice contains excited hope and a sense of purpose.