1. What is the relation between art and Venice? Are they synonymous since the city itself is full of art?
In the history of art, Venice plays a unique and important role. The city’s artistic traditions bear witness to its historical position as a crossroads of East and West. Venetian art is also renowned for its luminous colors and shimmering surfaces. Surrounded by the sparkling, reflective waters of the Venetian lagoon, it is only natural that artists would feel inspired to replicate these effects. Artists sought to achieve the most vibrant colors: the rich ruby, sapphire, green and amber used in painting, mosaic, glass, marble, and other materials. Today in Venice, many of the trades of the past are still living traditions. The medieval guilds may be long gone, but their arts, their techniques, and their soul still thrive in Venice. The skills, the forms, the knowledge, and more importantly, the spirit of the past, is kept alive in the hands of a small number of individuals who take pride in their city’s unique artisanal traditions. And of course, some of these traditions, like Murano glass, gondolas, and carnival masks, are virtually synonymous with the city itself.
2. When was the first time you visited Venice and what were your initial thoughts?
The first time I visited Venice as a wide eyed teenager, I knew I was supposed to buy Murano glass, but I had no idea why.All I knew was that I was whisked to the famous “glass island” on an overcrowded, stinky boat. I waited behind two dozen American and Japanese tourists to pay an exorbitant price for a little glass fish- what a bewildering experience! Still, it was the artistic traditions of the world that lured me back and inspired me to study the great artists of the past. Living in Europe and Latin America, I realized that in many places, centuries old craft traditions remain living traditions.
3. Tell us more about your book and how the idea of writing it generated?
The Venice guides are part of my Authentic Arts series, which leads you beyond the museums and souvenir shops for an immersive cultural experience that you won’t find in any other guidebook. You’ll go inside the workshops of the most accomplished makers of Venetian fabrics, Murano glass and millefiori, carnival masks and masquerade costumes, gondolas, Burano lace, mirrors, marbleized paper, hand-carved frames, and other treasures. If you’re reading on your ereader, tablet, or smartphone, you can click directly on the street addresses for an interactive map, and link to web sites and email addresses.
I also have another series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, where my mission is to lead travelers beyond the tourist traps to discover authentic local traditions and artists, and come home with great treasures in their suitcases. My focus is always on cultural immersion through a greater appreciation of art objects and the people who make them.
The story of The Gondola Maker, my first work of fiction, developed while I was working on Made in Italy. The living artisans I interviewed, whether makers of gondolas, carnival masks, or Murano glass, told me how important it was to them to pass on the torch of tradition to the next generation. I began to wonder what would happen if the successor were not able… or willing. The characters of the gondola maker and his son began to take shape, and I felt compelled to bring that story to life.…