I learned the craft as a young girl at Burano's Scuola Merletti (Lace School), but my very first teachers were my grandmother (whose pillow is now in Burano's Museo del Merletto – Lace Museum) whom I always saw working hard, especially on the “Burano stitch”, and my mother, who was a talented lacemaker. As a child, I was attracted to the little strips which I used to watch, waiting to hear the fascinating “snap” of the thimble on the paper while the needle would run stitch by stitch creating a texture out of nothingness.
Then, I attended drawing classes and bought Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbooks to study perspective, chiaroscuro, figure. I started visiting museums with fresh eyes.
When I saw my success, I kept going on, as I knew I was only risking my time, my labour, and great sacrifice, which, nonetheless, were continually leading me to meet with more suggestions, do research and throw myself into uninterrupted work to complete a piece of work.
Two people played an important role in my life: firstly, Vilma de Marchi Micheli, a teacher, lacemaker, embroiderer, historian and researcher who came to Italy from the United States to study our art. We met during one of her many journeys and, together, we went through, and shared, experiences and emotions, goals and achievements, defeats and disappointments. Her motto is: ‘There is always another way!' A woman with incredible strength, which she shared with me! Thanks to her and with her, I was able to do so many things in the States: exhibitions, conferences and lectures.
Doretta Davanzo Poli is the second person. I met her during a course I attended in 1983/84 at Consorzio Merletti Burano. She came in to give a lecture and that started a connection at first sight. She became my “Fairy godmother”, my “hook in the sky” for any doubt and research, and in times of discomfort. She is always present.
For lace too, there are several processing steps, which are usually carried out by different lacemakers, each specialising in one of them. Each step includes different stiches: from design to warping, from guipure (the basis where decorative points are fixed) to Venice stich, evoking the bridges connecting the lagoon city. But also Burano stitch, a diaphanous mesh embellishing the void spaces surrounding the guipure, a stitch created in mid-18th century, when fashion enhanced lightweight, less sumptuous lace, and raised work, a cordonnet applied with a very fine thread around the filled up forms and the piece of work.
Finally, the lift-off, when you cut the warp-thread to remove the lace from its support.
I have no favourite stitches because I decide on the ones to be used according to the design, the decoration and the meaning I want to convey.
Creating a work always takes plenty of time: from one or two weeks to one month to create a flower or several months for other subjects.
Several works kept me busy at my pillow for 8-10 months, namely “Omaggio al '92” or “Kosmikos”. It took me a year to make “Habito”, which put me to the test, both for the time it took, and financially, but was also very gratifying: with this work, in fact, I was included in Brussels' Grand Prix Reine Fabiola elitist exhibition, the only ever Italian representative.
I believe the place where you are born and grow up affects your choices about life and work. The colours, smells, customs, expressions and general culture of a territory mould you with a unique richness. Burano is a bright, coloured island: how could you create lagoon landscapes without introducing colours? How could you leave other forms and materials unexplored?
How do you combine the project's concept and the way you create it?
When an idea arises in my mind and I already envisage a whole spectrum of possibilities, I can “see” how it can be made and I start designing it. It is crucial to know what you want to create from the very beginning, because you cannot change anything in the implementation phase. Sometimes, though, I start from the material and I try to find an idea.
Definitely, the way I was welcomed in the different cities of the United States, especially in the Hawaii, where you are welcomed with a “lai”, a flower necklace. As for personal achievements, undoubtedly the Premio Assicurazioni Generali - which was awarded to Venice's Historical Regatta Champions at Cà Farsetti, in the presence of the Mayor – but also Queen Fabiola's congratulations in Brussels, and many students with their love! Not least, being acknowledged as a Maestro d'Arte e Mestiere (Art and Craft Master) by Fondazione Cologni. I struggled with institutions so that people who have been fully engaged in their lives might receive a qualification, and also to protect education and uniqueness.
Laura Inghirami, journalist and advisor specialized in the jewelry sector, and Founder of Donna Jewel, interviewed, for the Cologni Foundation, the Master artisans who have been awarded as “MAM – Master of Arts and Crafts”, in the category: Jewelry - Silversmithing – Goldsmithing.