If Italy is famous for its handcrafted quality, it’s thanks to a long tradition of making things. In the early modern period, each important city was known for certain high quality goods as well as decorative arts for the home. Just within Tuscany, Florence made cloth along the Arno (though later turned banking), Prato was famous for its wool, Montelupo did ceramics and Volterra produced fine alabaster objects. In the Renaissance, Venice was a center of trade where you could get literally anything, but from a production point of view it became known for the famous Murano glass.
Frequent travelers to Italy know that you have to hunt to find the best artisans in each city if you want to learn about their products and support them through purchases. Companies like Context Travel offer a Florence Oltrarno Artisans tour and a Rome artisans shopping tour to help you spot them. In Venice, I recently came across a useful map of authentic Venice artisans you can visit and support, and I asked the ideator, Ilaria Marcatelli (exhibition organizer at GAAF), to publish it here on the blog. What follows is her work.
As part of the Venice Design show taking place during the 2017 Venice Biennale, the GAA Foundation supported the research into and selection of 42 artisan workshops in Venice to feature on a map which intends to present the authenticity of craftsmanship of Venice. They all have different specializations and all share the values of handicraft, focus on materials, attention to detail and, ultimately, high quality. Some are functioning workshops while others are showrooms for the artisans’products. This list of 28 authentic artisans in Venice is an edited selection of the 42 on the map, which you can pick up at the exhibition or download here; the idea of sharing this list online comes from the hope of extending the reach of this paper map into the virtual and long-term world.
Before turning to our list, a reflection on its purpose. Venice Design wishes to redefine and expand the concept of a design exhibition; it’s intended as a stimulus and starting point for a wider experience, thanks to the unique context in which it is located: Venice. The city is indeed the perfect setting for this, as it is rich of centuries-old traditions and know-how, with several unique and exceptional crafts. It is often possible to see not just the product itself, but also to understand the creative process behind it and witness its production.
But if the cultural substratum of this city is extremely fertile, it is also true that it is more and more suffocated by a stratification of commercial activities and practices where meaning has been replaced by globalization. Demand for custom orders has plunged in favour of mass-produced items. That is why, after getting to know Venice’s artisans and their points of view, we selected local craftsmen and women who not only survive the constant threats of modern serialized production mechanisms, but who continue to stand out because of their indisputable quality. By giving these shops the attention they deserve, we hope to allow art lovers to continue the exhibition of international design through Venice and over time.
Declare (co-founded by Omar Pavanello and Emanuel Cestaro) is a premium Italian fashion brand and is best known for its iconic leather handbags and accessories. Faithful to its origin, the brand designs and makes all of their products in Italy. Declare’s contemporary showroom is located in San Polo and has an innovative design culture, which is unique in spirit and connected to its Venetian island location. www.dclr.it
In Giudecca, among the walls of the amazing Cloister of SS. Cosmos and Damian, Cartavenezia is a gallery, art shop and workshop. Here, surrounded by many other creators, Fernando Masone collaborates with other artisans and showcases his handmade products, varying from ornate desk lamps to delicate paper products such bookmarks, cards and notebooks. www.cartavenezia.it
3/ Le Fórcole di Saverio Pastor
In 2002, Saverio Pastor opened Le Fórcole, a new workshop in San Gregorio between the church of La Madonna della Salute and the Guggenheim Collection. Pastor specializes in a high-demand craftsmanship in Venice: the production of fórcole and oars. He has turned this tradition into an art and continues to use centuries-old techniques to make these navigational tools for gondolas and other typical boats found throughout Venice. www.forcole.com
In this lab, designer Roberto Carlon has invented a revolutionary concept of spectacles, the most lightweight in the world. Micromega is Carlon’s one and only store. Here, practicality meets creativity, and visitors will find exclusively modern eyewear with unconventional shape and style. www.micromegaottica.com
Inspired by his family’s artisanal history, Stefano Coluccio designs and creates elegant mirrors. The designer reinvents the object of narcissism with experimental designs. His shop is located near the Accademia Gallery in the heart of Venice, and every part of the mirrors is handmade by Coluccio. www.venicemirrors.com
6/ Small Caps
You can find Small Caps, a specialized graphic design shop, just off the canal and a few steps away from Campo Santa Margherita. The growth of digital devices in graphic design inspired the shop’s opening. To set them apart from other designers, Small Caps uses different printing techniques to create fully customizable pieces. www.smallcaps.it
Situated in San Polo, Alessandra and Miriam of Altrove design their clothing using geometric shapes and Italian fabrics that have been meticulously selected. Their designs mimic classic architecture while also capturing chic, modern trends. The line’s signature look uses monochromatic colours combined with precise tailoring. www.iosonoaltrove.com
8/ Alberto Cavalier
Alberto Cavalier has worked for thirty years as an indorador. He is one of the few artists that still uses the “water technique” to cover wooden objects with pure gold. The small but overflowing family workshop is covered with his art pieces with some even hanging from the ceiling, making it a perfect place to browse while venturing through Venice’s canals. www.cavaliervenice.com
9/ Davide Salvadore
Salvadore opened his studio in 1987, where he uses self-built kilns to shape and mould his glass designs. He mixes lamp work and furnace techniques that result in unique and inventive creations. Because of his work at prestigious glasshouses and artistic international collaborations, Salvadore’s glass designs have become noteworthy to collectors and visitors alike. www.davidesalvadore.com
10/ Franco Furlanetto
Franco Furlanetto is one of the four Venetian remeri craftsmen who continue to manufacture rowlocks (forcole) and oars following a method that’s been around for centuries. Franco carves every original and unique piece. He not only works for gondoliers and professional rowing racers, but also with people fascinated by these artistic wooden pieces as objects of décor. You can admire his work in this showroom. www.ffurlanetto.com
11/ Gabriele Gmeiner
Since 2003, Gabriele Gmeiner has worked in Venetian workshop at campiello del sol, where she produces shoes. It is an authentic workshop in which the quality of materials and attention to detail, along with Gabriele’s passion for her activity, create a unique atmosphere. The shop holds shoes both for men and women with a large range of styles and colours. http://gabrielegmeiner.com
12/ Vittorio Costantini
Far from Venice’s touristy areas, Vittorio Costantini’s workshop opened over 40 years ago, and now as a result of years of practice, his shop appears as a small museum with his personal collection of glass object. Vittorio works using the “flameworking” craft, but recently he has invented new techniques which allow him to create unique pieces dedicated to his inspiration: nature. www.vittoriocostantini.com
13/ Paolo Olbi
In his original workshop, Paolo Olbi produces leather goods and marmorata paper gifts traditional methods and materials. He mainly works by hand but is sometimes assisted by some antique machines such as early 20th-century typographical presses or trances for the press to warm the leather. However old the machines, the quality of Olbi’s products are everlasting. http://olbi.atspace.com
14/ Fonderia Valese
This is the last artistic foundry in operation in Venice. It was founded in 1913 by Luigi Valese, and since 2006, his art continues in the name of Carlo Semenzato, a collaborator for 28 years and the current owner. The foundry is a charming example of industrial archeology dated 1797, in which the patina of time has softened, giving it that nostalgic romanticism of the early 1900 factories. http://valese.it/
15/ Atelier Segalin di Daniela Ghezzo
Daniela Ghezzo’a artisan shop has some of the highest quality footwear. With unusual shapes, distinct colours and soft, shiny leathers, her shoes catch the eye. Influenced by master craftsman Rolando Segalin, Daniela has created her own style and continues the tradition of custom making every pair. Her internationally recognized shoes are comfortable and light. www.danielaghezzo.it
16/ Chiarastella Cattana
In her art producing textile homegoods, Chiarastella Cattana continuously weaves traditional skills with fresh, contemporary design. By using blended threads like linen, wool and cotton (all made in Italy) she brings life to colour and texture. Her shop in Venice showcases a fabric collection including cushions, table linen, blankets, as well as handmade clothing and Murano glassware. www.chiarastellacattana.com
17/ Il Forcolaio Matto
Il Forcolaio Matto is the workshop of Piero Dri, the youngest craftsman of Forcole, the traditional wooden crutches of Venetian boats. You can see Piero work on his Forcole all day, when workshop is available for guided tours and photo shoots upon request. Only if you are lucky will you find one of his art pieces for sale. www.ilforcolaiomatto.it
18/ Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua
Luigi Bevilacqua continues Venice’s most ancient fabric traditions using original 18th-century looms. With patterns from different countries and centuries, the velvets, brocades, damasks and satins found here mimic those of the past. The premises host 25 hand-operated looms, and visitors are welcome to have a look. www.luigi-bevilacqua.com
19/ Emilia Burano
Emilia Burano is a Venetian lace-making company. It started in the 1800’s with great grandmother Emilia, and the company still operates as a family-owned factory. No longer confined to producing just lace, Emilia Burano also makes fine bespoke home linens, decorating some of the world’s most eminent residences, hotels, yachts and private jets. www.emiliaburano.it
20/ Orafa ABC
ABC goldsmith is identified by its exclusively handcrafted jewellery production. Go and see jewels produced in Mokume gane, an ancient technique in which wonderful patterns are created by combining different metals: Silver, yellow, white and red Gold. Designs are never repeated, which makes it even more valuable and special. www.orafaabc.it
Located in Dorsoduro, Danghyra is a boutique as elegant and shiny as the contemporary ceramics it houses. The refined glasses, cups and vases are 100% handcrafted in Venice by Dangirute Raceviciute. The Lithuanian-born designer uses the finest materials (most notably gold) to create ornately gilded tableware and decorative objects. www.danghyra.com
22/ Tipografia Gianni Basso e Stefano Basso
Located in Cannaregio, the authentic print shop of Gianni Basso will make you time travel. With his notable clientele coining his nickname “The Gutenberg of Venice,” Basso works with an 18th-century press. After practicing this art for 30 years, his shelves are covered with his amazing lithographies and exlibris. Here, you can also admire stamps and traditional tools. 5306 Cannaregio, Venezia, VE 30121
23/ Mario Berta Battiloro
Ever dreamed of seeing how the gold foils ornamenting San Marco’s mosaics or gondolas are made? In the Cannaregio neighbourhood, former home to the famous Renaissance painter Tiziano Vecellio, you can find examples of this awe-inspiring art. Using 16th-century tools and gold beating techniques, the family carries on all handcrafted processes before your eyes. www.berta-battiloro.com
The very inspired duo of Materialmente is appropriately named. Together, Maddalena Venier and Alessandro Salvadori are able to shape any type of material. Bronze, silver, glass, wood… their means of expression are limitless. Visiting their small shop in San Marco, you will meet sculptural creatures and fantasy landscapes while also seeing refined jewellery still conveying the roughness of its materials. www.materialmentevenezia.com
25/ Marina De Grandis
Marina De Grandis’ artisanal shop in Cannaregio is an ode to traditions and passion for handmade products, focusing mainly on paper and leather. Beginning in 1996 as a book restorer and bookbinder, she now designs leather bags and other products. She also takes special requests. Her leather products are unique and genuine. Cannaregio, 30121 Venezia
26/ Dalla Lidia
On the island of Burano, the artisanal boutique Dalla Lidia Merletti d’Arte stands out for the refinement of its hand-embroidered lace. The site also hosts a private museum where visitors can learn everything about the creative process and its history. Inside there are tablecloths, bed sheets and other linens in addition to jewellery and even sculptures made of lace. These pieces are definitely collectors’ items. www.dallalidia.com
Fortuny is a Venetian textile institution. Its fabrics are still being produced on the Giudecca Island factory, which was founded by Mariano Fortuny almost a century ago. In order to preserve Fortuny’s trade secrets, the factory itself does not allow visitors. However, those interested are welcome to stop by the showroom, where you will find an array of fabrics and textile art and designs. http://fortuny.com/venice/
28/ Pierre Cardin (furniture)
The multifaceted, international and iconic designer has set up his headquarters in Santa Croce neighbourhood, where Pierre Cardin reconnects with his Italian roots and expresses his genius creativity. Famous for his haute couture creations, the store highlights his futuristic and strikingly coloured furniture, surprisingly inspired by nature. A must-see.
S. Croce, 2264, 30135 Venezia
The exhibition Venice Design (until November 26, 2017) is hosted at Palazzo Michiel; there is also a special collaboration with the VIA in Palazzo Rossini celebrating French Design. Curated by Nina Dorigo, Camille Guibaud and Anais Hammoud, these combined exhibitions provide a glimpse into international design practices.