SAMA Member, Candace Jackman won a Master in Mosaic workshop at Orsoni in Venice, Italy last year as part of our 2018 Member Incentive Promotion. The following is her account of her incredible experience this Summer.
On June 27, I flew out of Boston Logan International Airport, timing my flights to begin sightseeing in Venice early on the 28th. From Marco Polo Airport, I took a bus and water taxi to the closest stop for Domus Orsoni, the bed and breakfast associated with the Orsoni Glass factory. Anyone taking a workshop at Orsoni should definitely consider staying here. There are beautiful, unique mosaics in each room, the breakfasts are nice, and access to the studio is down the backstairs!
After checking in, I began my tour with a water taxi to St Mark’s Basilica and walked around the plaza before getting on another water taxi headed to Murano, where I had some lunch and did a little window shopping. Since the Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum was very near closing time, I opted for a meal at a nice little restaurant with outdoor seating next to the canal. I enjoyed my first, small, complimentary glass of Limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, which was very refreshing! On Sunday, I returned to the Guggenheim and spent several hours delighting in the very impressive collection! Of course, after that it was time to visit another little cafe, where I enjoyed Tiramisu and tea before heading “home.”
On Monday, after breakfast, I went down to the studio and I met Antonella, our instructor, and my two other classmates, Leonie and Diklah. I was pleasantly surprised there were only three of us. Antonella has been employed by Orsoni for 30 years and speaks English well. I brought a design with me, as had been suggested, along with some amethyst crystals. The first thing I did was to trace it onto the substrate, simplifying the design a little as my work progressed. Since I had been working with smalti since I took a class with Marian Shapiro in 2015, I didn’t need a lot of instruction, but welcomed Antonella’s assistance in choosing different types of smalti for my piece. I chose Cut A Smalti, Piastrina smalti, and Gold Wavy smalti, and had my first experience with premixed thinset. Access to the incredible colors of smalti in any amounts needed for the project was a joy—no chance of running out of a particular color! My design was non-representational, Diklah’s was a portrait, and Leonie’s was a fantastical dragon. Both my classmates live in The Netherlands and speak English which made it easier for the three of us to become fast friends.
On the second day of class, we took a break to enjoy a “photo-less” tour of the glass factory and library. Fascinating! After observing workers creating the gold smalti, we visited the Library—a large area where the pizzas of smalti are arranged, like books on shelves, by different shades of color. Luscious! It felt like being a child in a candy shop! And on July 4th, Orsoni had arranged for us to have a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and its incredible mosaics.
While there was 24-hour access to the studio, I usually spent my time there following breakfast until around 5:00pm, with a lunch break of about an hour—time to grab a dish of gelato! The class officially ended on Friday, July 5th, but I still needed some extra cleanup time and whatever I couldn’t accomplish in the studio on Saturday would have to wait till when I returned home to Maine.
On July 7th, I decided to attend the 58th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia—which included exhibits from all over the world. It took almost all day to work my way through most of it. I was exhausted, even after multiple breaks. On my way back, the skies opened up with heavy rain and hail! By the time I got home, I was soaked to the skin. The next day, I joined Leonie and Dick, her partner, on a train trip to Ravenna, taking in mosaics from 425 AD. It was overwhelming to see the detail in the ancient mosaics. You could probably spend months visiting all the mosaics in Italy. The day ended with another storm of golf ball-sized hail as the train pulled into Venice! After waiting it out on the train with the engineers, we ran for it, enduring another soaking on the water taxi back to Domus Orsoni.
I returned to Murano again, the next day, to spend more time gazing at the beautiful glass. I enjoyed a lovely “meal” of prosciutto and melon and a glass of Prosecco in a nice little restaurant during windowshopping, which included a tour of a showroom of extremely expensive, beautiful sculptures! With the help of GPS Google maps, I found the Mosaici Dona Murano shop and purchased some of their smalti—only a little, since my order from Orsoni was being shipped back to Maine. I ended the day by joining Leonie and Dick for dinner. The lights after dark on the canal and in the shops provided a perfect ending to my last night in Venice. In the morning we said our goodbyes with plans to stay in touch. I took one last water taxi and bus back to the Marco Polo Airport, on my way back to Boston.
This was a trip of a lifetime and I am very grateful for the opportunity!