Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Muchas Glassias

I hope there is not more glass in Venice than meets the eye because there is simply a glut of glass products, glass objects, glass beads and glass art in this city, especially on the island of Murano where the glass is produced. I have seen so much glass in just half a day that my eyes are glassing over.

On Murano, you can watch the glassblowers at work. I have seen glass artisans before but figured I'd have a look anyway. Getting off the waterbus at Murano, a few men pointed the way to a fornace that allowed visitors (not all do). A group of young cigarette smoking men, wearing jeans, shirts and wides neckties under buttoned dark pinstriped blazers that were too short and too tight, looking like a cross between the Blues Brothers and the Gambino family as dressed by a thrift shop, appeared to be guarding the entrance of this factory. Their main purpose, it seemed (other than to make me giggle), was to make sure that everyone obeyed the no flash photography rule or broke any merchandise. One of them even gave a brief shpiel, in theatrical English, about how the glass is produced. Taking a look around their gift shop, whose contents were nothing special compared to some of the finer glass I had seen, it occurred to me that all the hoopla they created - the men shepherding tourists to the factory, the guys in ties - were a way to drum up business. I can't blame them. Shop after shop overflowed with nearly identical merchandise, with just a few displaying some extremely well crafted pieces. Tourists seemed to be sticking to small items and trinkets and I wondered if and when all the glass would find a home. I did not torture myself with this question or feel compelled to let loose a ton of euros to help the cause, although I did make a small purchase.

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