ABOVE: The Color Library at the Orsoni mosaic foundry, where colored glass is turned into tiny tiles. INSET BELOW "Peggy," a portrait of the late Peggy Guggenheim by Maestra Anntonella Gallenda, who teaches Master in Mosaic classes at Orsoni.
Orsoni, in Venice's sestiere or district of Cannaregio, has been an important source of glass mosaic tiles since 1888. More than 110 years after its founding, the foundry still crafts its tessere with fire, glass, pigment, and 24-karat gold. It also offers classes and accommodation in its own B&B, where mosaics are a prominent design theme.
A company spokeswoman writes:
"Entering through a secluded garden, Orsoni is an oasis of artisan beauty. Over 2,000 colors of mosaic smalti are filed in the Color Library, the used crucibles display remnants of liquid rainbow batter, and the elegant Domus Orsoni with each of its five unique bedrooms is a vision of contemporary mosaic design. Orsoni is Italy's only artiturismo (inspired by the Italian word artigiani for artisan), providing the opportunity to experience an intimate, working Venice.
"The Orsoni Master in Mosaic classes originated by Honorary President Lucio Orsoni and taught by Maestra Antonella Gallenda, provide an immersion into the heart of Venetian artistry and culture. Students from beginning hobbyists to professional artists use a traditional hammer and hardie to cut the glass tesserae, study andamento to create movement and choose from the expansive Orsoni palette of colors to learn subtle shading techniques. For architecture and design professionals, continuing-education units are available through IIDA, ASID and IDEC.
"Whether visiting the foundry for a private tour (by appointment only), staying as a guest at Domus Orsoni (beginning at Euro 80 per night) or participating in a 3, 5 or 10 day mosaic class, the Orsoni artiturismo is an authentic experience that brings a remarkable understanding to Venice and the Byzantine beauty of San Marco Basilica.
Editor's note: We intend to write an in-depth description of an Orsosi tour in due course, but in the meantime, we suggest reading Karen Henderson's account of her visit to the foundry.