You’re on vacation on the Northeast coast of Italy – Trieste to be exact. It embodies Venice’s romantic waterways, while flirting with the styles of neighboring Croatia and Slovenia. You are engulfed in the cool, delicate scents carried by the gentle breeze. As you eat gelato and walk down the stone-paved pathways, you stumble upon a man lost in a beautiful craft.
The man has a rod with molten glass on the tip, and using only pliers, pulls and pinches the sticky amber substance. You watch him bring forth a valiant creature from the glowing mass. A Ferrari horse was trapped inside the orb, only to be rescued by this elegant craftsman, on a quest to save the age-old, prestigious art form of glasswork.
According to Durant Imboden, the ancient tradition of glasswork was one of the most prestigious forms of art. Dating back as far as the reign of the Egyptian empire, or farther, glasswork has long been a valued form of art. In the 13th century, average peasants who learned to create beautiful sculptures from melted sand could rise in social status and guarantee their daughters a way to marry up. But what has happened to glasswork since then?
Lynn Williams of the Baltimore Sun interviewed R. Foster Holcombe, a professional glass worker in Maryland who had dedicated his life to the craft. In the words of his business partner, Theda Hansen, “It’s a dying art.” Although once a way to make a handsome living, many artists scrape by as our world becomes evermore consumed in technological advances. Still, the artisans in Trieste and others around the world keep the tradition alive.
Trieste, which faces Venice on the Adriatic Sea, is known as one of the last places on earth to see the kind of glass work alluded to in medieval writing. Both Venice and Trieste are well known for their sculptures and making glass horses specifically is an ongoing tradition. The strength and beauty horses exhibit are an outer manifestation of the inner qualities practicing glassworkers must embody today.
Lead Image: Richard Darnell