Win Glassworking Tools in Memory of Elio Quarisa

Win Glassworking Tools in Memory of Elio Quarisa

Elio Quarisa and Roberto Dona

Maestro Elio Quarisa worked for years at the finest glass factories in Murano. In his "retirement," he taught glass at schools throughout the world. A well-loved instructor at The Studio, Elio inspired hundreds of artists through his works and instruction. After his death in 2010, a scholarship fund was created by Elio's friends and students to support furnace glassworkers who shared his passion for Venetian glassblowing.

In Elio's memory, Roberto Donà, proprieter of Carlo Donà, maker of fine Venetian glassworking %%tools%% and important friend of Elio, has generously donated a set of 14 %%tools%% to The Studio to be presented to an artist who learned from, or was inspired by, Elio. These %%tools%% will help an artist continue Elio's tradition of Venetian glassblowing.

Those interested in participating may submit one entry with their personal information, a statement about how they were influenced by Elio (either in person or by his work), and up to three images of their own work. The images and statements may be added to this page below. The deadline for submissions is December 1st.  Submissions will be reviewed shortly thereafter and the %%tools%% will be presented to the chosen winner.

Special thanks to Roberto Donà for making and donating these %%tools%% in Elio's memory.

Entry to the contest is now closed. View some submissions below, or to see all of the submissions, visit the Remembering Elio page on Flickr.

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Submissions

Alexander Rosenberg
Alexander Rosenberg
Elio Quarisa was the first person I ever saw blowing glass in the Venetian style. Before seeing him work, glass seemed to be an uncontrollable material that just kind of ended up in unplanned blobby shapes. I met Elio when he was demonstrating at San Bernardino Valley College where I was enrolled in a glass-blowing class. The shop was small and crowded and I couldn’t get very close to him, but I saw him making glass objects with skill and grace, using mathematically precise cane-patterns and hot applications to create incredible detail. I knew immediately this was the way I wanted to learn how to work with hot glass. After his demonstration I collected some broken pieces of a discarded vessel and heated them up in attempt to recycle them. To my surprise, Elio was still hanging around the shop and when he saw me working alone (as was customary at the time in that studio), he sat down and helped me finish my piece. I was nervous to work in front of such a skilled craftsman, but he put me at ease quickly, reminding me to “be cool,” that if I moved in a graceful way, that grace would carry over into the work. I felt honored to bring home a vessel that had been shaped by his and my hands together. This workshop helped me make the decision to study glass at RISD when I began studying there as an undergraduate in 2002. I practiced glassblowing intensely and with great frequency, often at odd hours before the studio was officially open or after it had closed for the evening. By my third year of college, I was relatively proficient at glass-making and was awarded a partial scholarship to take a summer course at The Studio at Corning MOG. I chose Great Venetian Goblets, with Elio Quarisa. Elio’s teaching was extremely individualized. He focused on the specific strengths and weakness of each student and coached us while we practiced, encouraging us to try new things in different ways than we were used to. This class was a major technical turning point for me and it was Elio’s criticism that incited the change. One day he approached me when I was practicing with my partner. In his unique combination of gesture, English and Italian, he communicated to me that I was getting to be decent at glassblowing, but unless I changed the way that I was getting in and out of the bench, I would never be able to move fast enough to get much better. He also pointed out that changing this would at first make it quite hard to produce the vessels I had become comfortable with, but over time, I would be able to surpass my previous abilities. He was right. I began standing up and sitting down in the way he suggested, and I promptly began dropping everything I made on the floor when my pipe or punty would collide with the rail of the bench. It was incredibly frustrating but Elio offered only encouragement and I continued to work in this way until I got used to it. Soon, I was making things better than I ever had before. Toward the end of the class, the flameworking instructor came into the studio and saw me working on a delicate clear beaker. He was impressed and went to get Elio to point it out. Elio agreed that it was very well-made and I was flattered to receive the compliment from my teacher. The next day I gave the cup to him. He smiled and put it into the garage. I was confused - I thought maybe he had misunderstood my intention and somehow thought I was asking for a demonstration. He went on with the morning’s demos, and when the cup I had made was sufficiently hot, he began making a delicate goblet stem and foot. He was brought the cup and he attached it to the stem. After retrieving the piece from the annealer the next day, he casually handed it to me, saying something to the effect of, “You gave this glass to me, now I'm giving it back to you.” and that was that. Today I am a full-time glass professor, so I think about Elio often when I am demonstrating the techniques that he once (not so long ago) taught me. In my office at the university is a shelf holding two objects that he and I made together, marking two moments in my life when Elio had made a lasting impression on me.
Amy Schwartz
The thing that impressed me most about Elio was his ability to inspire his students. When he was teaching at The Studio in Corning, he was always with his students, both in class and outside of class. I remember seeing tall Elio surrounded by a group of students, all happily walking together. Elio shared his strong glassblowing technique and his many Venetian-style tricks freely with his students. We are all grateful for the time he spent teaching here at The Studio.
Amy Schwartz
Austin Littenberg
My first introduction to Elio Quarisa was in the summer of 2005 while I was attending a goblet making class with Emilio Santini in The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass. Elio was teaching goblets in the adjacent hotshop at the time, and every opportunity I had, I would go over to watch him work. I was pretty sure at the time that I wanted to learn goblets, especially in the Venetian approach, but I was a lampworker at the time. Seeing him working in the hotshop changed my interest to hot glass in the hotshop on the spot. I started college at Bowling Green State University in the spring of 2007 and we welcomed Elio as a visiting artist, as the glass program did there every year. I was again blown away (pardon the pun) by his work and was introduced to Jeff Mack (currently my manager at the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion). the following year Elio came to visit Bowling Green again and I was by that time at a level where I could lend a hand. Even though I was still a novice in the hotshop, he made me feel like I knew what I was doing and was very encouraging. In the spring of 2009 he visited Bowling Green for the last time. Again I was able to lend a hand while he was working, as well as create a relationship with Jeff Mack based on Venetian work that has continued to this day. While Elio was working, I told him in my best italian, I had been studying the last year in college for this very reason, that I was due to be married in August of that year. Over the course of a few goblets he agreed to make our champagne flutes. That summer the GAS Conference was held in Corning and while walking toward the museum, Elio yelled to me and my soon to be wife to congratulate us again, all be it a little early. The GAS Conference of 2009 was the last time I saw Elio before his passing. Since that last demo I watched and before, I have been studying Venetian glass with Jeff Mack who had directly taken Elio as a mentor and now mentors me. I am sure that I would not be where I am now if it weren't for the generosity of Elio and his kind heartedness in teaching the Venetian techniques to preserve this history that I am now a part of professionally.
Austin Littenberg
Austin Littenberg
Bruce Ferguson
Bruce Ferguson
Bruce Ferguson
I met Elio when taking a class in February 2004. Though Adrianna translated most of the time, the first thing he did when walking into the studio was introduce himself to all of us individually and repeat our names as we introduced ourselves. He could have just started working or laid out the manner in which the class would progress, or left the introductions to his wife. Instead, he chose to put the interpersonal relationship first. That was our first clue that he was there to share, not just make glass. The others in the class were more skilled, so I just hung out rather than jump in and risk messing up a piece. I soon found out that wasn’t the way to get the most out of his class. While the requests were coming for more and more fancy techniques, he had Adrianna call me over to the bench and asked what I would like to see. I told him something basic and simple so I could improve my skills after he left. He started building a simple goblet on the blow pipe and after the transfer to the punty handed it to me and said to finish it. I was so nervous I hit the yoke too hard with the iron and it was a floor model. It didn’t break though, so Elio picked it back up on the punty and gave it back for me to try again. That was my introduction to his “No Problem” attitude and dealing with whatever comes your way. I can think of a lot of teachers who would have never given a klutz another shot much less coaching him along. A couple of years later I took a class from him again and knew to jump in if I wanted to learn. He wasn’t bothered if things weren’t going smoothly, he just made it all work. It was the first time I’d seen a finished goblet, when at one time or another, ALL of the components had been on the floor. It didn’t even matter when the annealer was left too hot and pieces slumped. He’d show us how to bring them back up to temperature and work them all over again (easier said than done – check the inset pic of the curved spring stem). It was during this class that I began to appreciate more what he was experiencing teaching in another country. During one demo he wasn’t quite satisfied with something he’d done and muttered to himself as he went to reheat. There was a student from another class observing who spoke fluent Italian. He responded to Elio and it took a couple of moments for it to register. Elio’s face lit up like a child at a party and he began talking non-stop. Who knew he was such a chatterbox! They talked the rest of the day about everything under the sun, not just glass. It made me realize his passion and joy extended beyond just making glass, but to sharing his knowledge with others. Even if it meant dealing with somewhat of a language barrier. It certainly would have been easier on him to have the students adjust to another language instead of him. He treated that just like the goblet on the floor – No Problem. If the words wouldn’t come, then a gesture or drawing would do the job. I don’t think any of us remember him just for a special technique or a spectacular piece he made. That would be a shame. What he showed us wasn’t just for incorporating into a body of work. It was putting your passion and joy into what you do and sharing with others. It didn’t require a Primo Maestro; it took a really good guy showing how to get the most out of life.
Carina Cheung
Carina Cheung
Carina Cheung
I never fully realized the profound impact that Maestro Elio Quarisa had on my glassblowing career until I found myself sitting next to my teacher the day before he passed away. When I heard that Elio was not doing well in December 2010, I visited him at the hospital. Despite his weak condition, Elio still greeted me with the same light and smile, and we just sat there together as I held both of his hands. It was in that last moment I had with him that I truly understood what I learned from him: love for glass, dedication to teaching, lightness of heart, perseverance, and respect. Perhaps that moment was the passing of the torch, and seeing Elio off has served as an impetus to reassess my own purpose with glass. I met Elio during a tough period in my life, the summer of 2005 at the CMOG workshop, shortly after my grandmother had passed away from lung cancer; I only share this as it was ironically the same path for him. Elio’s zealous energy, love, and playfulness with glass revitalized me quickly, and offered what my soul had been longing for—a passion to work with a magical molten material. It was then that I knew that I wanted to learn more from him firsthand in Murano, as he had learned as a boy in the glass factories. Elio’s love for glass transcended all facets of life as he dedicated his time to impart all his glassblowing knowledge to willing learners. I remember how he took the time to explain and write out all of the Venetian terms for the tools on a large piece of paper. Glass was still so fresh to me, and it was there that my love for Venetian goblet making blossomed and offered me solace. Elio was like a grandfather to us all, being present to mentor everyone in the class. During his demonstrations, it did not matter if the piece was crooked or broken, because he always found a way to fix it. He was never afraid of making a mistake, nor did he ever get upset when something went wrong. He would just shrug it off and would say, “It’s okay.” Elio made a lasting impression on my passion for Venetian glassblowing. In 2006, my determination and hard work granted me the opportunity to work with Elio again as his assistant in Murano, while he was working at the Scuola di Vetro Abate Zanetti. I was always amazed at how he could effortlessly put on an avolio and connect the goblet and stem together, and be willing to accept bits and blown feet from me, an assistant who was still learning. His overwhelming wealth of knowledge was so awe inspiring, it made it seem like anyone could learn how to make fish, dragons, swans, mezzastampo, and reticello goblets with ease. Whenever I make swans or reticello bowls, I recall the lessons, the lightheartedness, and the passion that Elio imparted in me. Elio was a creator and had a unique dialogue with glass. I appreciated his relaxed demeanor in making and in repairing things, and how comfortable he made me feel around glass. The path of a glass maker requires years of dedication, hard work, and practice. Through my continued experiences as an unpaid apprentice in Murano, I have learned that working with glass is more than a reflection of technique; it is an acute awareness of the material and the time that is invested to understand and to perfect the skills. Elio instilled in all of his students that same love for glass, with hopes that we would each create our own stories. I intend to carry on the tradition of Venetian glassmaking in the same caliber of workmanship, with the mutual respect, exchange of ideas, and spontaneity that Elio shared with us all. The set of tools kindly given by Roberto Doná, proprietor of Carlo Doná, on behalf of his friend Elio, will certainly facilitate me in continuing the traditions of Venetian glassblowing. Throughout the years, my focus has largely been put towards building my skills and acquiring new techniques. Now it is time to begin to carve out my own artistic path by investing in the proper tools that will take me to the next level. I still believe that it is not the tools that make the creator, but what the creator can do with the materials at hand. Yet I know that quality tools are essential and will provide me with the long-sought opportunity to initiate the next phase of my own creative research in Venetian glassmaking. I trust that this set of tools will help me to carry on the practice of Venetian glass in hopes of inspiring others, just as Elio has done for me.
Cydney Ferguson-Brey
I met Elio when I was a fledgling glassblower, interning as a tech in Chicago. He was a joy to learn from, endlessly patient. I'll always remember him pulling on his own lips to demonstrate how to properly shape a dolphin's mouth. With his lifetime of training and practice, Elio was the embodiment of the Venetian tradition. His selfless sharing of technique with students was amazing to me, in a profession where so many artists jealously guard the secrets of what they do. As an aspiring professor, I learned so much about how to relate to students from him. As a glass artist, he was always an extraordinary example of humility.
Daniele Fratarcangeli
In 2008 after graduating from college, I flew to Murano and began an apprenticeship at the Abate Zanetti School of Glass. There I apprenticed under the direction of Elena Rosso, Vittorio Ferro, Livio Sereno and Elio Quarisa. I worked for each of these glass masters and learned a great deal about glassblowing. More importantly, I learned about the history of Murano, the Venetian language, and eventually I was able to work for Silvano Signoretto in his factory. Working in the factory was such hard work. We made up to 12 chandeliers a day. I would get up at 5 in the morning and work harder then I had ever worked in my life for 30 euro a day. I would get burnt during production and had to grit my teeth and bare it while putting away chandelier parts. One day when coming home from work on Vapperetto I ran Into Elio who greeted me with a bright smile. He saw the soot on my face the burns on my arms and kind of laughed. He asked how long I planed on staying on Murrano. I told him, “as long as I could.” He told me, “six months here (Murano) and you will make una sacca di soldi for the rest of your life.” His words encouraged me to stick through the hard work. I saw Elio several times after that. He always greeted me with a “Ciao DANIELE” and it is hard for me to imagine returning to Murano and not seeing Elio drinking an espresso at a local bar. The international glass blowing community was so lucky to share in the genies of Elio Quarisa. I now design and fabricate modern chandeliers and teach glassblowing classes to students of all ages at the Fallbrook School of the Arts in San Diego California.
Daniele Fratarcangeli
Daniele Fratarcangeli
David Russell
I had the privilige of studying with Elio more than a few times. The comradery bred in that first class along with the vast information that was brought forth compelled me to study with him more and more in the coming years. Elio had always said how glass had taught him how to live life outside of the shop. Over time while he was teaching and sharing with us, it was us, his students that were learning how a glass master works in and out of the shop and how to shape our trajectory accordingly. When we would gather outside of the studio we would all discuss our lives back home and the things we enjoy apart from glass. It was like a personal, intimate, cultural exchange where Elio was as interested in your origins as you were in his. It was never long before wide eyed students veered the talk back towards his incredible glass history. Factory stories from his childhood all the way through the stories of being caught working for factories in the black after retirement, Elite comes to mind, Elio was enriching us with a dose of culture and technical skill that was unrivaled. Perhaps my greatest and most influential moment with Elio was just before my last class with him and on the way to Corning we ran into each other in the philly airport. I had opened my own hot shop since last I had studied with Elio and was eager to show him my promotional materials for the upcoming Baltimore and Philly shows. With Adrianna and his daughter we all sat down for a meal and begun to discuss my images and body of work. After studying with Elio several times over the past years it was with great pride that I showed him my body of work. That conversation with its compliments and advice still resound with me and rudder me to this day and will stay with me forever. Thank you maestro! And thank you Adrianna and The Studio at Corning.
David Russell
David Russell