Venice has a long tradition of artistic trades; here, we explore three examples of the beautiful craftsmanship that the city offers, including Burano lace, one of the main inspirations for our label.
The Venetian island of Burano is prestigious for highly intricate and elaborate handmade lace. This is especially important to us as the delicate patterns influenced the design of our very own Pale Fox label. While lace is no longer a commercial enterprise, for many of the female islanders’ lacework remains a passion passed down from generation to generation.
Legend has it that the Burano lace tradition was born when a young fisherman, engaged to a beautiful girl, went out to the open sea to fish. He was suddenly surrounded by sirens, who tried to seduce him with their melodious voices. However, they did not seduce him and impressed with his loyalty gave him a magnificent veil inspired by seafoam. The man gifted his fiancée this veil and all her friends were so envious that they started recreating the detailed needlework.
Lacework in Venice reached its high point during the 18th and 19th centuries when Burano lace competed with the finest Belgian products. This needlework, requiring months of work and high skill, became the most expensive, and sought-after fashion lace among the royal courts in Europe. Burano even had its very own Scuola Merletti to teach young women the craft, but today it is a museum.
When developing the label for our Prosecco, we use embossing and debossing techniques to really portray our signature Burano lace design in all it’s glory.
If you have been to Venice, you will have seen the extraordinary examples of Murano Glass. Requiring much talent and practice, glassblowers manage to contort and colour glass exquisitely. Venetian murrine and beads are also realised in glass, except the murrina is not blown glass but the cross-section of a glass cane, cut to reveal a pattern.
To make glassware the glassmakers melt together silica sand, soda, lime and potassium in a special furnace at a temperature of 1500°C until it reaches a liquid state. They then add gold or silver leaf to the glass mixture along with various minerals that each give the glass distinct vibrant colours. The resulting liquid mixture is then mouth-blown through a long tube and hand-crafted using special techniques.
The skill was properly developed by glass blowers from Constantinople after the Venetian invasion of the 13th century and was later enriched by refugees from the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantines. In 1291, by law, the island of Murano became the exclusive glassmaking location to keep the city safe as glass factories often caught fire. The glass trade supplemented the economy so greatly that the daughters of master blowers could marry into the nobility. Their craft was so prized that their trade secrets were protected under the death penalty!
The gondola is probably the icon of Venice: asymmetric, long, narrow and painted in shiny black. 11 meters long, 1.4 meters wide and composed of 280 parts, the gondola has undergone alterations over the centuries and its building requires a great deal of physics and geometry. The banana-shaped design we see today was perfected by only in the 19th century by the boat-builder Tramontin. Though, it is thought that gondolas have existed since around the 11th century and it is estimated that there were eight to ten thousand gondolas during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The number of people involved in building a gondola is simply a testament to how complex it is. The gondola’s wooden structure is expertly handmade in speciality squero (small boatyards) on the canals, of which sadly only four remain. Then, the remeri sculpt custom-made wooden oars and forcola (oarlocks) based on the specific height and weight of the gondolier, while the fravi forge the steel bow of the boat. Cushions must be sewn and symbolic ornaments created to decorate the boat after it has been heavily painted. Finally, it can’t be forgotten that even the uniform and hats of the gondolier entail skill. The final product, the sleek and functioning vessel, takes a least six months to finish.