The Italian Connection

By Louise Irvine

Our spectacular Chihuly collection has attracted international audiences to WMODA since the museum was founded and his magnificent Macchia Garden will be back in full bloom when we reopen. See how Chihuly’s love of Italy has influenced his work, notably his audacious Venetians created in collaboration with the Murano Maestros, Lino Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto. WMODA also showcases the work of a new generation of glassblowers at home and abroad who are contributing to the international glass movement.

Murano Maestri

The Venetian island of Murano became the center of Italian glass making in the late 13th century and many historic factories are still active there today. The late Pino Signoretto began making chandeliers in Murano at the age of 10 and the precocious young glass sculptor earned the title of maestro when he was just 16. Similarly, Lino Tagliapietra was apprenticed to the trade at the age of 11 in 1946 and ten years later earned the rank of maestro.

Dale Chihuly fell in love with Venice – the city of water and light - during his residency at the Venini factory in 1968. He learned many secrets of Venetian glass making from the Murano masters and was introduced to the team approach to glass blowing, which he adopted in his own studio. Later, he invited Lino and Pino to the USA to demonstrate and collaborate at his Seattle studio.

Chihuly Over Venice

Chihuly’s Macchia series was named after the Italian for spot and explores color combinations from all 300 colors in his hot shop. In 1988, Chihuly’s experiments with Lino led to the flamboyant Venetians inspired by Murano glass from the Art Deco era. Chihuly had seen a private collection in a Venetian palazzo and began improvising with vibrant colors, spiraling ribbons, and leaves. The traditional vessel was transformed beyond all recognition. A Chihuly Venetian was once described as a vase which has had an affair with a chandelier! Pino specialized in sculpting sea life from the lagoons of Venice and he collaborated with Chihuly on monumental vessels, often adding impish Baroque style putti.

For his Ikebana series, Chihuly took his Venetian vessels and added long-stemmed glass flowers and leaves, some reaching six feet in height. The flower heads flaunt fantastic shapes and colors rivaling the exuberance of nature. In 1996, Chihuly returned to Venice following an artistic odyssey with his team of glassblowers. They created spectacular chandeliers at factories in Finland, Ireland, Mexico, and Italy which were suspended over the canals of Venice.

Younger Venetian glass artists are now making their mark internationally. Massimiliano Schiavon represents six generations of Murano glass making and he recently reopened his grandfather’s factory where he specializes in unique vases and chandeliers. WMODA also has a striking Aurora vessel by Michele Burato, who creates vibrant abstract compositions with glass powders, threads, and fragments. When the WMODA Studio Collection shop reopens, we will present work by Dario Frare and Emmanuel Toffolo thanks to Sergio Gnesin, author and specialist in Venetian glass. Italianissimo will also be back with their gorgeous collection of glass jewelry made in Italy.

Local Talent

Two of our local glass artists learned from the Murano masters. Brenna Baker of Hollywood Hot Glass spent a year working in Murano under the tutelage of Pino before traveling the world on Celebrity Solstice class ships with the Hot Glass Show. At her Hollywood Hot Glass studio, 10 minutes from WMODA, she presents demonstrations of glass blowing and offers visitors the opportunity to make their own glass art. Brenna was a contestant on Blown Away, the popular Netflix TV show, as was Rob Stern, who is represented in the WMODA collection with his glass stars, shells, and leaves.

Rob was working with Pino Signoretto on the day that the maestro began collaborating with Chihuly and Lino on the Venetian Putti series. He is currently setting up a new glass blowing studio in Dania Beach, also 10 minutes from WMODA. Rob is an artist-in-residence at the Benzaiten Center for Creative Arts in Lake Worth, where Josh Fradis also makes his beautiful glass art. Josh is well known at WMODA for his marine sculptures including waves, coral caverns, and sea creatures. His glass hearts in a rainbow of colors are best sellers in the museum shop.

Read more about Venetian Glass...

Murano Maestro · Lino Tagliapietra

Putti by Pino

The Magic of Murano

Lampworking from the Venetian Lagoon