17 May 2008

Her artisans

Of course everyone knows about Venice’s glass and lace industries, but the city has more than its share of craftsmen of every ilk – metal casters, mirror makers, woodcarving masters, marqueterie specialists, weavers, gilders, stonecutters, leather artisans, papermakers, printers, engravers, bookbinders, and more. Then there are all the skilled people who perform the magic of restoring old or damaged treasures to their original beauty. And then there are those who can hardly be labeled, like the amazing woman at Cenerentola (“Cinderella”) who makes fabulous lampshades out of any and everything. Once she used a countess’s underpants!

If you’re willing to step away from the “tourist tramp” and wander into some less-traveled calli, there are plenty of opportunities to peek in and watch these people at work. Many of them are delighted to take a break and chat about what they do (and just many will simply scowl or even growl at you).

How do you find them? With your eyes, ears, and nose… Watch the doorways for a puff of sawdust, listen for the tap-tap of a delicate chisel, sniff for a whiff of mineral spirits. If you’re lucky, there will be a big, gorgeous ornament on the door to draw your attention, like this beauty belonging to a busy metal caster in Santa Croce.