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Italian glass master visits Whidbey Island for benefit
Two islands, thousands of miles apart, find themselves fused together by a translucent connection.
Glassblowers have a centuries-old history on the island of Murano, off the coast of Venice, Italy. Likewise, the bevy of professional glass artists who reside on Whidbey Island have begun their own history of a place associated with the form.
Murano’s glass maestro Davide Fuin will be welcomed by his Whidbey counterparts and demonstrate his artistry for two days at Island Art Glass west of Bayview, hosted by artist-owners Rob Adamson and Janis Swalwell in a benefit for Whidbey Children’s Theater.
The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 and Sunday, Aug. 15, and is only the second visit to the West Coast for Fuin.
Fuin, a native of Murano, began his career in 1968 working for Venini, arguably the best-known manufacturer of fine Italian art glass.
“For us in the Northwest, being at the center of glassblowing, it’s an honor to have Davide come here,” Adamson said.
“He’s the best of the best alive today in the world, and to see an Italian master at work is unusual. You can’t often see it in this country.”
Adamson said that Fuin became one of the youngest masters in his early 20s, and has been doing the work for more than 20 years.
After lengthy apprenticeships with various glass masters, and becoming a master in his own right, Fuin worked at Elite Furnace for 10 years, collaborating with numerous designers and artists. In 1999, he founded D.F. Glassworks, which specializes in traditional Venetian-style glassware.
Fuin has come to be known as one of the major goblet maestros of Italy whose work can be found in museums around the world. His specialties are in fine blown glass and classic goblets using traditional Venetian techniques such as zanfirico, retortoli, filigree, reticello, fumè and cristallino.
During the past 700 years, the glass artists of Murano developed or refined technologies that are used to create glass objects today, such as crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo) and imitation gemstones made of glass.
Now Whidbey Island reaps the benefits of mirroring Murano in art.
Eight sponsors have commissioned a work of fine-art glass by Fuin, who will work with an American team — artists Marc Weiner and Oliver Dorris. Sponsors purchased about two hours of the maestro and his team’s time to craft the work, while the public watches the process.
Each movement is choreographed precisely to create these delicate pieces that are blown and sculpted before one’s eyes. The skill represents decades of dedication to the traditional Venetian craft. There is concern that this tradition may die with this generation of masters, making this opportunity even more special.
“He’ll make it look easy, but goblets are one of the most difficult pieces to pull off,” Adamson said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the best in the world.”
Fuin will also be the guest of the Tacoma Museum of Glass and the Glass Eye Studio in Seattle.
Additionally, local glass artists will participate in the event by providing some of their own artworks for sale in support of Whidbey Children’s Theater. They include Keke Cribbs, John DeWit, Fritz Driesbach, Katcha Fritzech, Robert Hodges, Richard La Londe, Eric Leiberman, Meredith MacLeod, Danny Perkins, Donald Singleton, Swalwell and Adamson.
The children’s theater has served the community for the past 30 years by providing opportunities in the performing arts for thousands of children. The company is grateful to Island Art Glass, MUSEO Gallery, Eddy’s On Whidbey Island, Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks, Glass Eye Studio and Sapphire INK for supporting this effort.
Admission to the event is free. Island Art Glass is at 2062 Newman Road.