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Magistri Studium Veneti

Updated: May 7, 2022

Master's study of Venetian Glass

In 2009 I completed my Master's Degree in Italian glass at Leicester as a mature student. It had been a turbulent 18 months after the cosy cocoon of doing an HND at Grantham College especially as I hadn't had any interest in specialising in glass. With one hiccup or another, all of which was out of my control, that's what I ended up doing, I started a Masters Degree in a subject I had just 2 years experience of. I disliked making with glass as it's hot and 'hurty' and I didn't have enough experimental practise to know what the boundaries of glass were for my ideas.

I decided to run a sneaky, secret second study at the same time as the Master's. I chose to specialise on Italian glass, specifically 'A critical discussion of the origins of traditional Murano techniques and evidence of its existence in contemporary glass'' and on the quiet studied colour for myself. I chose Italian glass so I could use a few visits to Murano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon that for centuries had been glass specialists, to disguise my colour studies in Venice.

Venice has been a draw for artists since always, well, since the medieval dark ages when Venice was the only republic, a wealthy republic, in Italy. Since the early Renaissance musicians, poets and writers have been inspired by the ambiance, light, colour and romance of the lagoon. I chose to follow in the steps of master artisan/sculptor/architect Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516), the mighty Tiziano Vecelli (or Vecellio), known as Titian (1488-90 - 1576) and composer Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741) and headed for Venice with a sketchbook and camera.

As I studied the colour, layered erosion on the buildings and different light qualities I chose to incorporate these colour studies into my glass work and so I spent several days looking at Venetian architecture as a whole, not the individual masonic details usually noted on grand palaces and government buildings. The photographs above show the vertical lines I saw everywhere in Venice, stripes of colour along the perspective. This would be the basis for my glasswork colours and I decided to emphasis my research on layers and erosion

Above are the first pieces I made on my return from Venice. The round discs fused into the glass are representing the wooden piles Venice was built on and the colours pretty much speak for themselves. (The flat pieces in the photo on the left were shaped to become the bowls in the other photos). I didn't like the simple bowls, I was raging at the waste of such lovely pieces, but as I said, I had no knowledge on what the possibilities and limits were. I started looking at my photos from the trip searching for inspiration. Venice gave me an insight into her mysteries and right in front of me were the erosion photos I had taken.

Most people visit Venice and do all the posh bits whereas I spent my time under bridges, snapping worn steps and broken bricks in the north of the island, away from the tourists and finely kept palaces. These were the poorer areas that had more erosion and were very unkept. There was still such beauty though, these building so crooked they were nearly leaning on each other for support, chipped and pot marked. Yet the colours still had the same opulent richness of Venice's past. This spectacular light is only found in Venice, where the water reflects the light of skies from below, giving Venice a level of charm and elegance no other city in such dilapidation could achieve.

Back in the studio I set to work on researching how to erode glass and the most natural and obvious way was sandblasting.

I decided to make spheres after the bowls and the simplicity of the these meant the key aspects of my design would be on colour and erosion of the purest of shapes, there was no need to faff about with a complicated shape. Simple glass is always so beautiful as nature adds her bit, so I set out to design my final range

[The following phots are pictures I've taken from the hard copy of my dissertation, I don't have the glass to take a descent picture]

On the left is one of my final pieces. Referencing my studies of Venice, I started with a clear sphere lined with colour (like the blue ones above), and then I added new layers, sandblasted, added more layers, eroded it again and then finished it with a crackle glaze. If you look through the crack you can see the golden colours as the light shines through. The outer layer was a crackled bronze and copper finish as I wanted to acknowledge the less glamorous side to Venice. The full set were really lovely and I have no idea where they ended up. I dare say someone has them in their garden with candles in them, I wish I still had them.

I decided to write this blog as a reminder to myself. I found an old memory stick with just a few photos of my glass work, the only evidence of the work I did. I have the leather bound dissertation of course full of poor photographs and a production diary, but how nice would these spheres have looked running up the front path with candles in them? Although I have never since, or ever will make with glass, my Venetian colour studies have helped me to this day. Although It nearly doubled the research during my Master's Degree, having an advanced understanding of colour has ensured that the punky Stuff I make has an aesthetic quality only possible through extensive study and hard work.

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