Venezi'Arte: where glass beads are still made by hand

Beadmaker Muriel Balensi of Venezi'Arte
At Venice for Visitors, we've just published an illustrated article about Muriel Balensi's Venezi'Arte laboratorio in Castello, where glass beads are made the old-fashioned way: by heating canes of Murano glass with a gas-fired lamp and shaping the softened perle with tongs and other hand tools.

You can watch Ms. Balensi making glass beads when you visit the shop, and you can buy anything from an abstract bead sculpture to a simple, inexpensive necklace made on the spot from beads that you've picked from the artisan's work tray. 

For more information and photos, read our three-page "Venezi'Arte glass bead workshop" article.

A stabbing in a Venice shop window

Murder is uncommon in Venice, possibly because Venetians with homicidal tendencies are afraid of being apprehended by suspicious neighbors before they can escape to the Piazzale Roma or the Santa Lucia railway station

Or maybe they've just learned to sublimate. Cheryl noticed the knife holder in the picture below as she walked past a kitchenware store near the Rio Terà dei Assassini in San Marco. (The price was a hefty 125 euros, but that's cheaper than a couple of therapy sessions.)

Homicidal knife holder

Artifex mask studio: an artisans' workshop

Giancarlo e Federika - Artifex mask studio
ABOVE: Federica and Giancarlo in their mask laboratorio.

Masks are easy to buy in Venice, but not all Venetian maschere are the real thing: Souvenir shops and street kiosks often sell imported masks made of plastic or resin-impregnated paper, and the prices charged for mass-produced knockoffs are intended to maximize profits, not to ensure that tourists get bargains.

If you're attracted by Venetian masks--either the kind you wear or ceramic display masks that are meant to be hung on a wall--we'd suggest shopping at a laboratorio or workshop run by artisans who are passionate about their craft.

One such studio is Artifex, on the Campiello Widmann in Cannaregio, where the proprietors--Giancarlo and Federica--bring a sense of history and tradition to their handiwork. The friendly, personable couple offer products for every budget, from elaborate papier-maché masks that you could wear with a Carnevale di Venezia costume to miniature ceramic display masks that cost only a few euros each. (The workshop also has a modest selection of handpicked Murano glass necklaces, frames, and other objects.) 

Giancarlo and Federica treat every purchaser with courtesy and respect. Even a €2,50 refrigerator magnet is encased in bubble pack, wrapped in paper, and presented with a handwritten receipt.

Artifex is easy to find: From the main route between Rialto and the Strada Nova, turn onto the Salizzada S. Canciano and head in the direction of the Fondamente Nove (away from the Grand Canal). The Campiello Widmann is just a few short blocks inland, past the Campo Santa Maria Nova. The map below, which is taken from the Artifex business card, and the accompanying photo of the workshop's exterior will help you get there:

Artifex map
 Artifex on Campiello Widmann