Every year, the American Glass Art Society holds a conference for glass art enthusiasts and glass artists from around the world. Usually held in the US, this year was one of the few occasions when the conference took place on foreign soil – on the island of Murano, to be more precise! https://www.glassart.org/2018murano.html


Standing in the Venetian lagoon, Murano may not be as well known as its nearby neighbour of Venice – but this small island is a popular glassmaking hub, famous for its artisan glassmakers and traditional techniques. All this made it a very fitting location for this year’s annual American Glass Art Society Conference and one which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting!


The decision to hold this year’s Conference in Italy may well have made things more challenging (not to mention expensive) for the Society’s American members, and for suppliers who would usually have exhibited within the technical display. However, it was a brilliant opportunity for glass artists from Europe and further afield to take part in something which would usually be beyond them.

Open air glass blowing

The Glass Art Conference is a huge event and offers a fairly packed schedule of demonstrations, panel discussions, lectures and plenty more. This year’s program was very full (almost too full – there was so much to choose from, it was hard to know where to start!) and made use of various venues across the island of Murano including a number of its renowned glass factories. Held between the 16th – 19th of May, there were three demonstration sessions each day with a wide range of artists and disciplines to choose from. On top of this came lectures, tours, exhibitions, social events, outdoor demonstrations and of course the need to see the island itself and its glass shops.

Red glass head, Murano 2018

During demonstration times, Murano could seem almost its usual self: between demonstrations and in the later afternoon, it felt like a very large, relaxed gathering of friends and new acquaintances – meeting, exchanging news, eating, drinking. It was great to catch up with old friends from my time spent at summer courses in Bild-Werk in Germany, and as an indication of just how small the world can be, I also met Chris Blade of Cumbria Crystal – yes, 2 Cumbrians involved with glass in one small Venetian island!


Of the many, many demonstrations, some of those which stick in my memory are those by Alain Villechange, who created a stunning borosilicate glass bowl; and Mauro Bonaventura, who made a 3D soft glass latticeworked head. Further highlights included two exhibitions held at the Berengo Studio and Museum, which highlighted both the chandeliers of Murano as well as Illuminated Glass. However, while all the demonstrations and exhibitions were outstanding, just being in Murano, talking and mixing with so many other glass artists was the best thing.