The first time Lilla Tabasso saw works by Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolf in a Harvard Museum catalogue, she burst into tears. The Italian artist was already making flowers out of glass. But she recalls that seeing their blooms “was a shock”.
“I knew then, that I had a long way to go,” says the self-taught glass smith.
During the late 19th century, the Blaschkas created thousands of intricately detailed glass objects representing flora and fauna. The works have shown in museums of natural sciences in America, including the Botanical Museum at Harvard. Just like the Blaschkas, Tabasso’s approach is rooted in science. The artist first studied at the Faculty of Biology at the University in Milan.
“For me, the world of plants is the closest and the most poetic representation of the human world, with its imperfections, its wonder and the cyclical nature of life,” she says.
“I want to represent emotions, like melancholy, passion, death, while underlining that even the most negative feelings are not as bad as we like to think,” she says. “Even in the saddest emotions there is a basis in beauty.”
Tabasso’s detailed works are created in the tradition of 17th century Dutch vanitas still life. “Vanitas is a heightened representation of this thought. I want to capture a very precise moment when death is coming but life still endures, and the result is emotionally beautiful… I think that glass is the right material – strong, but fragile at the same time.”
The Murano Experiment
Tabasso started creating jewellery as a hobby while at university. Initially, she worked with very small glass beads she had bought on a trip to Murano. She had also taken a three-hour lesson in lampworking there. She points out that “apart from that one lesson in 2000, I am entirely self-taught”.
Based in Milan, Tabasso uses glass rods from Murano. She heats these with a blowtorch, making them “as pliable as honey” in a few seconds. Then, using a variety of tools, she manipulates the glass into the required shapes, very occasionally blowing it.
“Murano glass is very delicate in comparison to other types of glass; if it is taken out of the flame for too long, it breaks,” she says. “It’s necessary to work quickly with the pincers and other tools, otherwise it becomes too unstable. The timing has to be perfect at every stage.”
Bouquets That Never Fade
Tabasso says she never makes sketches, instead using real flowers as models. “The first piece that I make is the petal, because I have to find the right colour and shape,” she says.
Assembling all the elements (petals, stem etc.) is the most satisfying part of the process. It requires a delicate hand, and the most difficult “is to obtain the right lightness and the right shape” to bring the entire structure to life.
The glass artist has come a long way since her first work, a little pansy. Some of her life-like glass jewellery flowers have been used by Luisa Beccaria for her Fall/Winter 2017 collection, and her work was recently exhibited as part of Homo Faber, a sprawling cultural exhibition dedicated to the best in European craftsmanship.
See her work at Ca’ Nova di Palazzo Treves in Corte Barozzi, San Marco 2158, 30124 Venezia, Italia
Tel: (+39) 041 520 15 66