Nicola Zanin sits below a massive Murano glass chandelier that his company, Arte Veneziana, created. Sparkling in the light of the newly opened Moissonnier showroom in Yaletown, the work hangs majestically in the centre of a display, each little piece of glass delicately shaped and attached. The glass’s iridescence plays tricks on the eye, letting colour and light flow and bounce. If there was ever a time to use the word “exquisite”, this would surely be it.
“It took two months,” Zanin says of the chandelier’s manufacturing process. “Each piece is blown from Murano glass, it’s made all by hand. If you take a look, each one is different from the other. That’s incredible.” Arte Veneziana, which translates simply to “Venetian art,” was founded by Zenin’s grandfather in the 1950s with a small atelier in Venice. It has grown significantly since then, with a larger team of skilled artisans blowing the glass, etching it with a custom design, and putting it together to create a mirror, a table, a dresser…a functional piece of art.
“We are in 2016, when technology is doing almost everything, but we are still able to work the glass a certain way that’s still craftsmanship,” Zanin says of the company’s dedication to producing everything by hand, even in the 21st century. “We are working in the same way that our ancestors were working. That’s incredible. We are very proud.” Because of its expert craftsmen, Arte Veneziana opens up a world of possibility to its customers, who can dream up and customize just about anything they wish. “Today the people want to have something unique,” says Zanin. “They pay, but they want unique pieces.”
He defines this flexibility in design and form as a pillar of his company’s success, and worries that artisanship and attention to detail are being lost on today’s young generations. Zanin notices millennials in office jobs and on computers, with less and less of them choosing industries that have them working with their hands. Still, he does have two young and fresh-out-of-university workers at Arte Veneziana, and he takes it upon himself to show them the way it has been done. “It’s an honour to teach young people this kind of job,” he says. “It’s part of our land, it’s part of our mentality. For us, we must maintain this tradition.”
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