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

DH McNabb
When I first met Elio Quarisa, I was quite green or naïve in my glass experience. In the summers between semesters at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky I would take classes at the Studio in Corning to expand what I knew, how I thought and what I made. I am deeply enamored and enchanted with Venetian glass. However, I am an American, a melting pot of travelers who came here to the United States starting in the 1600s. The work I make is set up and approached from what would be a Venetian perspective. I believe in making things new and learning from the past. Elio was someone who showed glass enthusiasts, and makers the past, specifically the golden age of Venetian glass. Dragons and Seahorses – Guggenheim’s and Veronese’s were all part of the dialog that swirls in the Venetian Lagoon. A few years later I took another class with Elio, he had been to Pilchuck and his lore had spread. He was one of the maestro’s at Elite, the legendary goblet firm now defunct on Murano. I remember while taking the class and watching a demo that Beagles, a friend in the class, said to the rest of the class and Eric Meek the teaching assistant “ It wouldn’t surprise me if he took a piece of sheet glass on the marver and bent it”! That stuck with me – regardless of the challenge Elio never gave up. A piece would fall on the floor and he would put it in the garage, a piece would break in annealing and he would be pick it up again and fix it. He never stopped pushing the boundaries or limitations of self and material. What one knows is just the simple beginning. These moments along with others from many other glassmakers have influenced me as a maker and a thinker of glass. I remember the last time I saw Elio, it was on Murano. In February of 2006 Chihuly sent a crew to Finland to work and I was a part of the crew. After the trip a friend and I traveled to Murano to work for a week. On the Island it was my goal to see Elio, as well. We were walking and stopped in one of the many places for a juice down from Venini. As I walked out there was Elio, tall and smiling. We shook hands, had a hug and talked. These are the fading memories I now have of a man who helped so many create beauty with glass. I have now finished my Masters at RISD and am traveling around the country searching for work much as I did a decade ago when I met Elio at the Studio in Corning. In my thesis I came to the conclusion that it is not necessarily about what one can make, but what one can expose, and Elio exposed all of us to a lot.
DH McNabb
DH McNabb
Eric Meek
Elio's greatest lesson for me - Whatever you bring into the shop will manifest itself in your glass. If you approach your work with passion, humility and respect great things will happen.
Eric Meek
Ethan Bond-Watts
Ethan Bond-Watts
Ethan Bond-Watts
Il Maestro Mio Ethan “Eta” Bond-Watts Elio on The Allegory of the Animals “Proud, very proud,” Elio pulls back his shoulders and puffs up his chest. He lowers his chin, “but humble, always humble.” He is modeling the “drago,” the dragon that carries the cup on so many of his goblets. “For the swan,” he continues, “multo delicato,” this time it's in the hands and wrists. He makes two dainty A-OK’s, and tilts them up as he lowers his arms, forming two tiny winglets at his waist. I am amazed at how convincingly a muscular 70-year-old Italian man can go into character as the mythological archetype of femininity and grace. “Please... I show you,” he silently whips an iron out of the pipe warmer. He takes his gather, the light and heat of the furnace make his face glow. Elio on Glass for Everyone “Too expensive,” he looks over the price list accompanying his stunning collection of goblets, candelabra, and sculpture displayed on top of the CMOG Studio’s big belly toploader in HotShop A. “Today... more small, less decoration.” For Elio, that means only one creature, four flowers, and two frilly bits on the decanter. It means a two handle optic stem on his mezzo-stampo goblet. It means only a six-bar cage entrapping the swan on his hipped chalice. As the students, both his and those of his colleagues, quietly buy up his pieces over the next few days, they find that there is a gorgeous piece they can afford, whatever their budget. Even more quietly, he slowly gives away all the little animals he’s made before class, during lunch, whenever there’s a free moment on a bench, to the kids sitting in the bleachers. “It’s nice for everyone to have glass,” he explains to me, “for beauty, for inspiration.” He hands a little snail to a young man who has been hovering over the annealer display for half an hour. “Don’t tell,” he says to the young man, “please, enjoy.” Elio on Seizing Opportunity “For six weeks I watch him make the piece,” Elio remembers, of his experience as a young assistant at Barovier & Toso. “One day, my maestro no show up for work. The boss at the fornace look at the bench and he scratch his head,” Elio shows us what he means. “I go to him and I say, ‘I am young, but I have been assistant on this piece for six weeks. Let me show you how I can make it.’ When my maestro show up the next day for work, the boss say, ‘Elio is making this piece now, this is his bench, now you have a bench over there.’” Elio recounts the story with pride. “I was very nervous, but I showed very relaxed. You must show relaxed, and focus very hard.” Elio on Mistakes and Personal Integrity “You will be in charge of the garage,” Elio’s hand is on my shoulder, his face is uncomfortably close to mine. I don’t know whether it is an Italian difference in the size of the personal bubble, or if he means to convey the importance and intimacy of the critical and unglamorous post he is assigning me. “I’ll do a good job,” I say with a hard swallow. “Don’t let anybody else touch it,” he continues, “it is your responsibility alone.” I nod affirmative. He nods too, and whips around to attend to the day’s preparations. I walk a slow circle around the massive and elaborate annealing garage that Harry Seaman, CMOG’s prodigious shop manager, has recently fabricated to Elio’s specifications. Venturi burner, check, dual chimneys, check, two sets of doors within doors within doors, a chain driven turntable, thermocouples all over the place, check, check, check. “Okay,” I think, “show relaxed and focus very hard.” The obsessive compulsive brain circuitry kicks in, and for the next few days, every thirty seconds I think of the annealer. I wake up under the threadbare sheets of the Days Inn, “drago... what’s the garage temp? Oh yeah, it’s the middle of the night.” At the end of the week, just as I think I have gotten the hang of the garage, I return from dinner to find every door completely closed, my elaborate system of radiation and drafts is undermined. The sailor in my mind’s ear lets loose the worst of his four letter assessments as I run up to check the temperature. *!?#, 1,300 degrees ;*%@, =^&$!!!!!!!! I throw open the doors, and the worst is confirmed. A long day of the maestro’s brilliant work is reduced to a single fused slumber party of birds, dragons, and horses on a bed of wilting flowers. My first reaction is the classic American reaction. “There must be someone I can blame for this!” I race around the studio, “who closed the doors?... Who closed them?...” Luckily no one owns up to it, and I am forced to deal with the situation for what it is, an honest mistake that led to lost glass, with my hand on the tiller. I find the TA, Matt Urban, and bring him up to speed. With Elio gone for the evening, we decide to consult with his dear friends and colleagues Shin-ichi and Kimiake Higuchi, who are teaching pate-de-verre down the hall. “It is just too bad,” Kimiake says. “But someone must take full responsibility this. And you should tell Elio as soon as you can.” “Classic Japanese response,” I think, “funny, my first reaction was just the opposite. Defer, deflect, deny: the three D’s of personal responsibility.” “Of course, you’re right,” I say to Kimiake, “Thank you.” We exchange a little bow, and Matt Urban and I walk back to the hot shop to strategize how we will break the news to our Maestro. We knock on the door of Elio’s hotel room. “Mattyu, Eta,” he greets us with a smile. His room is warm and humid from a hot shower. It smells of European cologne. Elio looks good enough to hop on a private jet. College basketball is humming on the TV, “Please, what’s wrong,” he can read it on our faces right away. “Drago, sleeping,” Matt says. Elio knows what he means right away. For a moment, his head falls with a sigh... Just as quickly, he picks it back up. “Okay, it’s okay. Please, not this long face,” he says to me as he pulls his own face into a frown with his hand. “When I was assistant in Murano, my maestro had thirty goblets in garage, my responsibility, all slump. I look like this,” he grabs my face with both hands. “Tomorrow I tell Harry and tell the class, ‘no one touch the garage but Eta.’ Okay? Okay.” He does. Elio on Confronting Fear “When I was very young in Murano, I would help to prepare the fornace very early in the morning. It was the war, and sometimes the lights would be dark so the airplanes could not see the city.” As Elio recounts his earliest memories, I can’t believe my ignorance of the history. “It was very scary for me,” he continues. “Everything was dark, and there were big shadows from the fornace. But the people around me were very brave, so I was brave too.” Elio on Innovation in Glass “The piece was very beautiful, but it took a very long time,” Elio is describing a giant luminaire he used to make at Barovier & Toso. “One day, I say to the designer, ‘Look, we open from the bottom, and no need to punty. We blow it thin here and no need to trim.’ The designer say ‘fine,’ and now we make three or four more pieces in a day. The boss was very happy. “The glassblower who makes the piece always knows the better way to make the piece. He makes the work, he wants to make it better, faster.” Elio on Travel and Home Elio speaks four languages. Italian, English, French, and Spanish. He can use them all in the same conversation, in the same sentence. “You should travel the world,” he says, “but you should live where you are from. That is your home, your culture. You will never be at home in the same way anywhere else.” Elio on Learning Glass “You learn from your maestros,” Elio says. “You should have many maestros. You take a little bit from here, and a little bit from here, and a little bit from here.” He is picking imaginary berries with his right hand and placing them into his left hand. “And you have all of this, and you have something that is you and your own. That is your style.” Elio on Courtship Elio and I are walking west on Market Street in downtown Corning, toward the setting sun. He is incredulous that I don’t have a girlfriend. “Eta, please. You are young, you should have a girlfriend.” He continues, “when I was young in Venice, the boys, my friends and I, we walk the promenade along the canal like this.” He casually strolls, chest out, hands in his pockets, eyes relaxed. “The girls would walk like this.” He walks the other direction, hands folded in front of him, a little sway in his hips, “and we would pass. If you saw someone you liked, you smile at them. They smile back. The next day, your friend talks to their friend and says, ‘my friend likes your friend. Maybe she likes him too.’ And then you meet, and you walk the canals, and then she is your girlfriend.” “I guess I’m a little shy,” I half laugh, remembering the cool bravado, tight jeans, and slick hair of the gangs of Venetian boys I had seen during my month in Venice the previous winter. “Please, I show you.” He turns toward the window of a little boutique, “You see her? Very beautiful, right?” A gorgeous young woman is cleaning glass on the shelf in the store. “Of course,” not knowing what I am getting into. “Please,” he says, as he opens the door for me. Despite full cardiac arrest, I slink into the store with the Maestro right behind me. We browse for less than a minute before he engages her. “Good afternoon, the glass is very beautiful. I am a glass blower from Italy, this is my assistant, Eta.” He turns to me. “How’ya’doin, good’to’meetchya, beautiful stuff,” I manage to squeak out. Elio continues, “Eta told me the glass is very beautiful, but you are more beautiful. Eta?” looking back to me. “Heh...” I smile awkwardly, I can hear my heart pound in my forehead, “everything is beautiful here,” my face fire engine red at this point. She smiles, and blushes a little too. “Thank you very much,” Elio breaks the silence, “I hope we will see you soon.” “Hopefully,” she says. Elio leads me out the door, my ears ringing. Back on Market Street, I am grateful for the cool air and open sky. I have barely caught my breath when we see three young women approaching from the other direction. Elio nudges me on the arm in a way that I am sure they notice, and know involves them. He tucks his left arm casually into the small of his back, lifting his chest at the same time. It sets him up for a graceful little bow as we move into conversational distance with the young women. “Escus’e me’e,” he says, Italian accent extra thick for the special occasion, “please, do you have the time? Eta, please translate.” “Your speaking english,” I laugh, and turn to our new friends, “do you know what time it is?” “Almost five,” one says. “You guys aren’t from around here, are you.” “I am from Venezia,” Elio’s english back up to speed, “and my friend is from Vermont. We are visitors, glass blowers. Please, what is fun for young people to do in the evening here? For my friend Eta.” The chat is under way. We end up exchanging phone numbers and promises of meeting up later in the week. Elio never lets his posture or smile fade. He says “farewell,” with another little bow, and as we continue past them, strolling west down the promenade, he pulls that left arm out from the small of his back and lets it drop to his side, his watch hanging gracefully from his wrist. Elio on The Future of Glass Elio is like a proud uncle, leafing through the pictures. “Ah,” he says, “very beautiful.” He is flipping through my portfolio and stops on a big, colorful installation of glass swooshes hanging on stainless wires. “The history of glass is Venice,” he says, “but the future of glass... I think it is America.” He continues through the images, “and this one,” he has stopped on filigrana goblets, “just like Murano.” I know he is flattering me and I don’t care. “You are my maestro,” I throw it right back at him. “Just like you taught me.” He hands the folder back to me. “You are my student. And now you will make the glass. And in the future, you will be the teacher and you will have students. You will teach for them like I teach for you. This is how we learn glass in Venice for a thousand years.” He pauses to let it sink in. “Now, it is your turn, in America.” He smiles, with pride, with humility.
Ezra Hunt
Ezra Hunt
Ezra Hunt
The first time I had the privilege of working the Maestro Elio Quarisa was in 2000 at San Bernardino Valley College. I was amazed by the how easy he made it looked when he worked with the glass. His movement were so pure and true. His passion was infectious and he was eager to share the ways of venetian glassblowing. Elio returned to San Bernardino Ca. often over the years and each time I had the chance to work with him on many occasions and the opportunity to assist Elio with lots of goblets. Its because of Elio I have a thing for goblets. Elio taught me a lot about glassblowing and about life. He inspired me to put all my passion, heart, and body to my glass and to cherish every moment in the glass studio like it was my last.
James Pingel
James Pingel
I feel lucky to have met Elio on a few occasions. The first was while taking his Venetian glass techniques class at Abate Zanetti in 2006 which opened my eyes to the possibilities of glass working by a true master. The ease and deliberateness of his motions to shape the glass, fast but not rushed, were amazing and even though he must have made those same goblets thousands of times before he always seemed to enjoy it none the less. He told us to always relax at the bench, sit up with good posture and be gentle with the glass to guide it to the right shape. I felt he had different respect for the glass than us or anyone I had worked with before- it basically was the history of Murano and his own as well. I say this now when thinking how a pained look would come onto his face if one of us abandoned a piece half way though, ditching it into the bucket because we were having trouble instead of trying to finish it though to a final piece. If a piece cracked, he would try to save it. If it dropped off the punty and didn't shatter, he would make the fastest punty I’d ever seen, pick it up, and hand it back to us. One of the students overheated a blown foot which collapsed onto itself making it undeliverable- Elio grabbed a pipe, gathered, blew, and almost magically presented a new foot to the waiting gaffer in what seemed like seconds. He pushed us to never quit, never give up, and always keep focused and working until the end. Decades of working in the glass factories, making thousands of pieces in repetition didn't dull his appreciation for any single piece as I would have thought. In fact, it was the opposite as he seemed to genuinely care about every piece and making sure it got finished and put away safely- not because our skill level allowed us to make anything even close in quality to his, but because I think he felt every bit of molten unformed glass taken from the furnace should be given the chance to fulfill its potential of becoming something better then it started as. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but it’s a feeling I never had in any other class. The last time I saw Elio was autumn of 2010. A small group of us had traveled to Murano to blow glass at Abate Zanetti for a week. Before our studio week began, he and Adriana hosted us on their back patio for way too much wine and snacks while everyone caught up. They were such welcoming and unassuming hosts, making everyone feel truly welcome. We worked in the studio for a week and on the last day they dropped by to say hello and see the progress of some of his former students. As we were still nowhere near his skill level, you may imagine being observed by a true master during his surprise visit while trying to assemble a goblet was not the most relaxing of situations. After observing us for a while, he asked to take the bench not to blow glass but to teach us. He sat and simply rolled a pipe back and forth on the rails, repeating “Relax! No stress.” Sitting up with perfect posture, he rolled the pipe again, shaping the imaginary glass with the tools, “like this… always elegante, always tranquillo. Okay?” I always remember these words when working in the glass studio and often times while I’m not as I think his lesson applies to both the glass studio specifically and life as a whole. Thank you, Elio.
John Volpacchio
John Volpacchio
John Volpacchio
I received an e-mail from a friend in Italy the other day saying that I should come to Murano and open up a glass studio. He said that “things are not good.” Then I thought of Elio and the six hundred year tradition of glass there. I see Elio’s smile, I hear his voice, and I visualize his graceful movements and calm demeanor, even when constructing the most difficult of goblet compositions. I first met Elio through an introduction by Dino Rosin. I was staying with some friends in Vicenza, about an hour away from Venice. Elio and Adriana drove his car to pick me up. They stayed for lunch, and of course the highlight for me was Elio’s lively political debate with my friend’s father. We drove back to Venezia Mestre to take the ferry to Murano. Elio took me to a refurbished monestary where I would live for two months while I worked at the Signoretto Furnaces. Elio visited often, and we would talk about my plans to start a glass program at Salem State University. We even watched the Italian soccer team play in the world cup on T.V. Elio was so excited and alive. His passion for his countrymen was evident as the Azzurri went on to win. Elio was a classical glass artist. Not only was he a master of the material, he was also a true gentleman. Elio could see beyond the surface, and truly understood the essence of one’s soul and work. I took five classes from Elio, mostly at The Studio at Corning. In addition, he visited Salem State twice for one week workshops. One of his proudest moments was when we presented him with the University’s first ever lifetime achievement award in the arts. I was honored to share with the community aspects about all of my experiences with Elio. Elio was not just a mentor to me as a glass artist, but also as a human being. I learned just as much about life from him as I did about glass. I told the crowd the story of how I was down and out, and I was losing most of my money in the stock market crash. Elio advised me to sell, sell, sell, and get out. I did not take his wise advice, and as a result I lost more money. Elio also gave me balanced advice as I was getting divorced, and supported me throughout many difficult times. He told me to take better care of myself, and things would work themselves out. Again he was right on target. The first visit to the University was classic Elio. He impressed everyone with his mastery of the material, and virtuoso style. The elegance and grace of the goblets he created was stunning. His second visit the following year was different. I was frustrated with the sales of my work, and I asked Elio to teach me how to make more money. He was happy to oblige, teaching me a variety of new techniques and forms. We made witches, sailboats, hearts and all kinds of critters. This truly defines Elio’s versatility as a glass maestro. Since then, these items have become my best sellers. This visit also included a four day visit to Josh Simpson’s studio in Western Massachusetts. Elio was excited to be collaborating with one of America’s premier glass artists. They were a dynamic duo, and they created some astronomical pieces. As I drove with Elio for three hours each way, we talked about many subjects in Italian.I saw another side of Elio on this journey There was always wisdom conveyed through the stories he would share with me about his life. I could never imagine moving to France to make thousands of glass baby doll eyes. This must have driven him crazy, but he saw the big picture of survival, and providing for his family. I know that he always wanted to learn and be the best that he could be. This is the true lesson for all of us. I agree with all of the expressions of gratitude and sincerity of others thoughts on how Elio has touched their lives. Elio was a teacher’s teacher. He was a good friend. Elio can never be replicated, but his classes and many students that he inspired will live on. Mille grazie, Elio. You will always be a part of me. Ciao, Giovanni
Jon Goldberg
Jon Goldberg
Jon Goldberg
I do not need these tools, please award them to someone who does. However I do want my experiences with Elio memorialized. A turning point in my artistic development was a class at CMOG with Maestro Elio Quarisa in 2004. Although I learned many techniques during the class, the most important thing gained from Maestro Quarisa was confidence. During a casual conversation at lunchtime during the class, I mentioned that my dream of building a glass studio. Rather than dwelling on the difficulties of such a venture, Maestro Quarisa encouraged me to move forward and build the studio. He then offered to come and teach after the studio was built. This gesture validated what previously had been a pipe dream and was a defining moment in my journey as a glass artist. Spurred on by the courage Maestro Quarisa had given, in 2006 I founded a public-access glassblowing studio, East Falls Glassworks, which has grown to be a focal point of the Philadelphia glass community. The studio continues to be a place where many glass artists create their work and learn from each other. It also makes glass accessible for the greater community through classes and public demonstrations. Maestro Quarisa visited the studio and taught a master class the first year the studio was in operation and twice returned to teach over the next few years.
Jonathan Yao