Saturday, 6 August 2011

Lino Tagliapietra, Italian Glass Master at Sunbeam Glass

Lino Tagliapietra was born in Murano in 1934, and has a long career as a maestro in making glass.  Significantly, through his connection with Dale Chihuhly, he fostered the process of sharing the Muranesi glass making skills, until then closely guarded secrets, with the wider world.  Lino taught at Pilchuck in Washington in 1979, and undertook teaching, classes and demonstrations in many parts of the world.

In 1990 Garry Nash and NZSAG arranged for Lino to give a masterclass at Garry's Sunbeam Glass studio in Ponsonby.  I was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit one of the sessions at Garry's invitation.  Lino made a number of pieces during his time here, and I was delighted recently to be able to add one of those to my collection after it was offered on TradeMe.

This dolphin goblet is a classic example of Venetian glass making, but it is signed Lino Tagliapietra NZ 90.  It's made in clear glass, but the eyes are red murrini with white centres.  It's just under 20 cms high.

 After I bought it, I asked Garry and Peter Viesnik, who was NZSAG President in 1990 what they could tell me about it.  Peter replied: 'this was the one goblet Lino made that I really wanted to buy and Danny Keighley beat me to it by asking Lino if he could buy it before they were put up for sale in Garry's workshop! I was very disappointed.  Was it Danny who sold it?'

It was indeed Danny Keighley, but I confess I was not familiar with the name. You live and learn.  Danny was part of the original Sunbeam Cooperative of John Croucher and James Walker.  He has told me he blew glass for some years from the 'Egg Furnace'.  Danny said: 'John Croucher was probably my best guide initially, and we struggled to 'wrench' shapes from glass when we should perhaps have been more fluid in our approach - but we did some good work.  I took on the role around 1980 of touring the country with boxes of mediocre glass vessels blown by everybody and persuading craft shops to take one or two.  Their interest grew, but was minimal initially.'

Danny has told me more as well, but this blog is supposed to be about Lino.  The remarkable thing about that Sunbeam workshop was that not only was Lino there, but also two American master glass makers who had learned with him at Pilchuck, Dante Marioni and Dick Marquis. I was too new to the world of glass to understand then just how significant this was, but as Garry has said the workshop is still talked about today among glass artists, several of whom were greatly influenced by their exposure to these masters.  I have a dolphin goblet Garry made in 1990 directly as a result of that influence.  Sadly it has come apart, so I can't include a photo, but it's still a treasured piece.