I always knew we in the Murano Glass, Venetian Glass and beads world were a small eco system. But COVID19 and the resultant shutdown of Italy, most specifically Venice and Murano have really brought it home.
Venetians say we hate tourist and the annoyance to our daily lives they create. UNESCO says Venice can’t maintain the volume of tourist. The list of grievances goes on and on:
1) we can’t get on a vaporetto because the entrance way is blocked by tourist who have no clue where they are going 2) we can’t get on a vaporetto because the tourist have piled more luggage than the explorers searching for the Northwest Passage 3) tourist eating take away food on the steps of a church or someone’s front door step 4) tourist taking a swim in the canal 5) tourist who behave badly or walk around Piazza San Marco in bikinis 6) tourist rentals that displace locals 7) tourist who do not respect the history of Venice.
You get the point, pretty much everything the tourist does annoys someone and with valid reasons.
When Italy closed everything in early March, that put an end to tourist and not a surprise, it put an end to a lot of other things. Italians had a strict 200 Meter (656 feet) distance they could travel from their house except for the grocery store or the doctor and even then they had to download and print a document to show to the local police. Churches, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, cafes, well everything an Italian holds near and dear was closed.
And along with that all the tourist shops in Venice and Murano were closed which meant that there was no longer a demand for Murano glass. And this is where our little eco system fell apart. I had never thought much about how dependent those of us who sell Venetian Glass, Murano Glass, and Murano Glass beads were on this tourist business. Individually, none of us can support the island of Murano and the furnaces. But as an ecosystem, we all get what we need and we keep the furnaces burning…..until
Until we didn’t! The furnaces require a number of days to cool the furnaces without cracking everything. This article in Forbes of an interview with Fabiano Amadi of Ars Cenedese, a prestigious furnace in Murano supplying glass world wide gives you a pretty good idea of how difficult it was for them to shutdown and the hurdles they are encountering to reopen. Because even though Italy did it’s part and is now in a good place to re-open….The rest of the world did not match the strick shutdown and therefore many countries are still not allowed back in Italy, specifically the US. Which means that even though the shops in San Marco can open, there are not tourist to buy. Museums, malls and small galleries across the US are only just now able to open again with some restrictions, which means that the demand for Murano glass is still very low.
Read the Article in Forbes written by Rebecca Ann Hughes
To keep a furnace working is expensive whether it is a gas or electric furnace. To create glass sculptures requires a crew of a minimum of 3 and depending on the piece 5 well trained glass blowers. Then there is the person who mixes the batch, from raw mineral elements and the time it takes to get a batch ready to work. Today most furnaces do not have sufficient orders from both Venice/Murano and foreign buyers to keep their furnaces heated. And without sufficient orders they face another shutdown of the furnaces and the days or weeks it will take on both sides of a shutdown plus the cost of repairs and maintenance.
From our beads perspective, we have only one furnace which creates all the glass canes we use, but they also depend on the orders of all the small bead makers and lamp workers of Venice and the surrounding areas as well as major suppliers of glass canes across the world. And since I can’t buy every bead every bead maker can produce, we need those shops selling jewelry in Venice and Murano to be ordering new jewelry creating a demand for more beads, more canes and of utmost importance, more work for the Muranese.
So I keep buying way more beads than we need. It helps feed families in Murano and Venice as well as helping make their rent payment and keep my little part of the ecosystem working for better days.