Why Venice and the glass of Murano?

Since I launched At Last Emporium (officially) in March 2023 I’ve been meaning to write a few lines to explain “Why Venice and the glass of Murano”?

It is a simple question, yet finding the right words is complex to me.

 
Memories of Venice by Milan Thomka Mitrovsky, 1921

I consider Venice the most beautiful city in the world.
Growing up on the outskirts of the island I had the opportunity to visit many times since a young age. I did my university studies here and although I spent more time in bars than libraries then, I always felt a strong connection to the dreamy canals and historic architecture that captivated my imagination and curiosity.

One of my fondest childhood memories is being about seven or eight and going on a school trip to Murano to visit a glass furnace. I was mesmerised by what I saw and used the little money I had to buy a small, green glass snake with a bright red tongue sticking out as a keepsake.
To me, it was the most beautiful thing ever.  

 
Vintage sheet of intricate glassware drawings, Venice

Over the years I kept going back to Venice and was always intrigued by the art of glass making but it wasn’t easy to access the secrets of the trade, or simply I didn’t know how to look, so I never thought that this world could apply to me in any way.

I was still young and wanted to work in fashion and see the world: so, the idea of trying to find work inside a glass furnace in Murano was quickly dismissed.

 

I moved on, blissfully unaware that there was a lot more to the glass industry than what I knew, and for the next fifteen years, I pursued my dreams elsewhere.

Eventually, despite an important career, I realised that I didn’t want to support designers in turning their ideas into realities anymore and started craving something meaningful for myself.
It was tough to step back and move on. I worried that having spent a life “behind the scenes” I wouldn’t know how to be in the front line and make decisions.

So, while I was trying to survive a serious burnout and mental breakdown, I decided to go back to Venice and in many ways, it felt like it was my first time.

 
Street in Venice by John Singer Sargent, 1882

I realised that for the longest time, I hadn’t “stopped to smell the roses” and I began to rediscover the city, its museums, the canals and calli (streets) and the profound history soaked into the city walls.

I immediately start feeling a purpose blossoming inside, too great to identify yet, but utterly exciting.

 

I started looking within the city for clues and answers and then, on one magical day, I returned to Murano, for the first time in years, where the Venice Glass Week was happening.
Armed with a pen and a map I started visiting as many open furnaces as I possibly could and very quickly, my love for glass-making started burning inside me again.

What an incredible art, I unequivocally realised.
This art has been around for millennia: countless generations before us created and loved glass, both for practical and fashionable reasons. Almost every person before us has (likely) seen and appreciated glass in some form.. so being a history nerd... no wonder I was hooked!

It was an epiphany! I decided that Murano’s glass was what I wanted to do next.

It took a while to turn my thoughts into reality, but I immediately laid my eyes and heart on millefiori and lamp work beads creations above all rest.

Both ancient techniques, they continue to be produced on the island with little modification to the original processes in use for centuries., so to me, this became the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. 

 
San Marco Square in Venice by Antonio Perini, mid 1800s

Answering the question “why Venice and the glass of Murano”, took so long to articulate because it feels deeply personal and emotional to me.
This project, it’s not just an outlet for my creativity: I truly believe that the city, with its typical classical art, saved me and gave me a new purpose in life. For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore and now, I can’t stop making plans. And it’s all thanks to Venice and the colourful glass of Murano.

I feel I am honouring my roots and beginning to be a part of something that is bigger than me and my ambitions.
I feel a duty to try and make something that is meaningful, and I am incredibly lucky to have met some wonderful artisans who welcomed me into their world, willing to help me create the vision I have for At Last Emporium.

 

I started off by making some buttons (hello fashion!) and quickly started adding jewellery to the Emporium’s collection, but rest assured there’s a lot more I want to do. Glassware and mirrors are only a small fraction of what I envision, but more of that in the (hopefully near) future.

I’m glad I finally found the courage to share this, I should remind myself that things only look scary until you start making them.

 

A little bit like At Last Emporium.

In a way, I feel like I wanted to start this journey my whole life, but I didn’t believe I had the skills to do it. Took me a while to prepare for it, but thanks to Venice, and “through its Looking-Glass”, at last, I am finally here and I’m having a ball.

Hope you’ll enjoy me for the ride!

Con amore,
Virginia x

 

 
Venetian sunset, seen from the Fondaco dei Tedeschi's roof, November 2022

 

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