The lacemakers of Burano Island
Burano lace is a well known handicraft of the Veneto region. In this post, you find the experience of a woman that, with passion, works in a tradition of her island. Her name is Sandra Mavaracchio and the island is Burano in the lagoon of Venice. Therefore, just below, you can read her introduction:
“The lace is living!”
Raped by the frantic race to the enrichment of unscrupulous traders. And who in recent decades have with intention almost in total supplanted the original lace with “copies”. Most of all, cheaper without quality and coming from Far East countries. Hence left on the back burner by often deaf politicians in listening the cry of pain of an art with almost one thousand years in agony. But I am convinced about a golden path to the revival of the Burano lace. And it is to teach, first, the processing technique to the younger generations.
Burano art of lacemaking
At the present days, the Burano art of lacemaking is alive thanks to the ladies, no longer young like me. For passion, they continue to produce refined lace both inspired to the tradition with the development of new designs. As a result, the goal is to enter into a global market that, perhaps due to the global crisis that has invested it in the 2007, revalues the quality instead of the quantity. In conclusion, It’s my intention to exploit the best offer from the global process to rediscover the lace of Burano. I am conscious of the fact that “history is life’s teacher” and all we need is the cooperation of the institutions in order to have protection, procedures and substantive guarantees for an art that has been the pride of Venice for centuries.
It seems that the know-how was imported from Byzantium during the thirteenth or the fourteenth century. As a result, in the lagoon, the lace making process takes place immediately. In fact, the first reliable written records that talk about the lace dates back to the mid-fourteenth century. Hence in 1414, a noble lady works to protect and spread the lace which in the fifteenth century follows the fashion of the moment. Her name was Giovanna Dandolo, wife of the Doge Pasquale Malipiero.
As a result, we find laces in sacred vestments, on blankets and sheets and on the altar decor of the Serenissima countless churches; also on curtains and pillows, on bridal dresses and veils, on lapels, collars, and cuffs; up to the ornament of the house with tablecloths, doilies, and strips for different furniture.
Burano lace around the world
However, the fame of lace maker ladies and their works of art spread quickly throughout Europe. Richard III on 1483, during his coronation as King of England, shows a dress adorned with Venetian lace. Burano lace meets also a particular interest at the French court where queen Catherine de Medici was not lacking day without showing some new piece of her endless collection.
The laboratories in the lagoon of Venice
The fame of the lace grows fast thanks to the construction of laboratories such as the Santa Fosca district, promoted by the dogaressa Morosina Morosini wife of Marino Grimani. Hence the aim was to reproduce and to enrich in Buranello-Venetian style the lace coming from the Orient. Under the guidance of the teacher (mistra) Catherine Gandin, this laboratory included more than a hundred lace makers who every day they were able to create real works of art.
As a result, the Serenissima does not create schools or brotherhoods for the needleworkers. And often even prohibits the direct sale by subduing the ladies art of lace to men arts of “Marzeri”. On the other hand, it is concerned about the European interest as Flemish and French that try to imitate lace-makers style and elegance inviting them at court. As a result, the Venetian council prohibited the export of the “know-how” lace art with severe sentences if not respected. Consequences that could reach even jailing and killing family members of the lace makers that export this art.
It was an extraordinary success of needle laces in the women’s and men’s fashion of that time, as well as in the furniture. And also, the religious institutes made an industrial production in Venice. For the needle, they choose Burano, where all women knew how to do the lace. They were working in teams specialized in individual points that they assembled at the end. In conclusion, the lace industry dresses and embellishes all the most important European courts until the fall of the Republic by Napoleon.
Mrs Cencia Scarpariola
Without Mrs Cencia Scarpariola the Burano lace would be just in the memories of our past. First of all, she was a teacher of lace-making that works deeply for the lace revival during the end of the nineteenth century. The Lace-School of Burano, where Mrs Cencia taught, dates back to the 1872. It was made thanks to Paolo Fambri deputy of the newborn Kingdom of Italy, the patronage of Queen Margherita and the passion of Countess Adriana Marcello. As a result, the aim was to revive the Burano lace production in a time of economic crisis for the island teaching the young ladies a gainful employment.
The students started the school at an early age, and there were different classes and levels. Most of all, the technical side of the school was reserved to the quality production, rediscovering the ancients points and models, and introducing some variants to embellish the lace.
Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis, like also the world wars and the unbridled industrialization, the art of lace fails and the school closes its doors in 1973.
Today the Lace School is located inside the Civic Museums and it continues to survive thanks to the work of lace-makers that give lace art demonstrations. Today, the challenge is to relaunch the lace of Burano teaching the technique to the younger generations in the hope that the institutions will take action to protect the quality of the product. As Because the “Buranelle” (girls from Burano) even know how to work with needle and thread! But it is necessary to make a qualifying and rewarding profession from all points of view.