The Irony Found in Glassblowing

Contemporary style meets century old techniques in a journey from Venice to the USA. Interview with Simone Crestani

by Giulia Zappa

Glass octopus climbing up plates and centerpieces, glass chickens hanging head down straight from the butcher’s shop… Simone Crestani is surrounded by peculiar glass objects and creates a natural world that ignites both stupor and surprise. The young glassmith unveils his passion for glass and his tenacity in learning the century old techniques of glassblowing from his studio in the small town of Marostica, Venice. The place he lives in between his travels to the States and the European capitals.

Simone Crestani's Studio - Credits Gil Gilbert
Simone Crestani's Portrait - Credits Simone Crestani

ARTEMEST: How did you become passionate about glass ?
SIMONE CRESTANI: It actually started by pure chance. I was in high school and looking for a summer job. A foundry was looking for an apprentice, I started there and never left.

A: How was your apprenticeship with Maestro Massimo Lunardon: what kind of a life does a student glassblower have?
SC: It means waking up very early at seven every morning, and work until the evening. It’s hard at first, you need years to learn the techniques and acquire the manual skills that you need to make something. In time things become easier. The opportunity to work on a large-scale production helps, you have to learn all sorts of techniques, be confronted with important objects and develop a very careful attention to detail.

A: How long does it take to learn the craft, and when do you know you can do it on your own?
SC: Time is proportional to the age you started learning. I know from experience, and see it with my own students: the younger you are the faster you learn. It’s like learning to go on a bicycle, it’s harder when you get older. I figured I was good after ten years, but it’s very subjective, as it is to know when you are ready to express your own approach to the craft and have an original and mature point of view.

The techniques of Murano Glass - Credits Gil Gilbert

A: You work recreates nature and is very realistic as well as ironic. Is there room for humor in glassblowing?
SC: There is a lot of room for humor and new ideas. The contemporary glassmith is to go beyond traditions and use century old techniques to create something new. I don’t think it’s good to put limits on creativity and the art of glassblowing.

A: Could you give us some examples of techniques or explain some you prefer?
SC: I don’t use the Murano technique, I prefer flameworking: it’s a technique that goes back to the beginning of 19th century in the States and Germany, developed to meet the needs of the chemical industry like blowing still. I use borosilicate and flamework, it brings it to a higher artistic level. This technique has already been used for objects, I try to make it more sculpture-like.

Hanging animals - Credits Gil Gilbert
Hanging Frog - Credits Gil Gilbert

A: Your relationship with Venice?

SC: I work from my land! They respect my work and I often go there, it’s part of my world, I have friends, we share a common passion for glass. Venice is a great meeting point for exchanging ideas. There are always discussions, old masters don’t want new proposals, but more and more people keep working, researching new ideas: most use the same techniques, but each has a different style, language, no one competes with the other. Not all are talented, but lately young Muranese and Venetians are opening up to the world, there is definitely movement.

A: You are now expanding your experience abroad, especially to the States where you also teach at the Corning Museum of Glass, in New York. How do you generate interest in your American students, and how is their approach to glass?

SC: There is a great culture of glass in the States, it’s very well spread, and many people do it as a hobby. This is not something you find in Italy, here you either work with glass or you are not interested. Therefore the level of my American students is lower, they don’t have ten years of experience behind them, but they have a better knowledge of the material, theory, and are well prepared for the work. Even if the skills are not perfect, some of the ideas they come up with are absolute genius.

Simone Crestani working in his studio - Credits Simone Crestani

​About the author ​Giulia Z​appa is an Italian journalist and Professor of Design Communication and Strategy. She is the editor in chief of the contemporary art magazine Artribune.

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