PUBLISHED: 4:41 PM on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
A glass adventure
Melting in Murano
Tasha Walen and Lincoln Farabee founders of Basement Studios, a local art glass business, will be the featured artists at the Juneau Artists Gallery on First Friday, July 6th. They will be sharing the stories of their travels in Italy and displaying the fruits of their labor, an extensive selection of glasswork and jewelry. Tasha and Lincoln shared a bit of their story in advance.

It takes a few days and time zones to get from Juneau, Alaska to Murano, Italy. When Tasha and Lincoln arrived on the tiny island, it was well over 100 degrees. They hopped off the vaporetto, the public transportation around the island, and lugged their backpacks down the canal in search of Davide Penso's glass studio. Not really knowing where they were going, they started asking for directions. What they soon found was a highly motivated glass teacher, unlimited inspiration and a community of passionate glass artists.

Courtesy photos
  Lincoln Farabee of Basement Studios in Venice, Italy.
Murano is one of three small islands situated in the lagoon that surrounds Venice. In 1291, all of the glassmaking businesses were ousted from Venice to the island of Murano to protect the main city proper from glass furnace fires. This move also helped to protect their coveted glassmaking secrets. The end result is a quiet island full of proud artisans and a dizzying amount of art glass to explore.

"It was way more than we expected. We lived in an apartment with the teaching assistant, Lucia Pietrobon, over the glass studio. Lucia ended up being our local Venetian guide and social organizer."

"Everyone at the studio was helpful, generous with their knowledge and very funny in that 'I am not really sure what you just said to me' sort of way. During class, we spent a great deal of time laughing and listening to crazy music," said Walen.

Courtesy photos
  A necklace of ivory glass and copper design.
It took two years of planning and scrimping for the Basement Studios glass artist duo to make it to Italy. Neither Tasha nor Lincoln speaks Italian, but they

got by with the common language of glass workers. Their studies lasted a month, which involved every thing from lampworking/torchwork bead making, small scale glass blowing, cold working such as glass grinding, jewelry design work, and an exploration of local glass history.

"Time really flew by. We were working almost 50 hours a week. Davide Penso is really a master of his art. He gave us personal insight into what it is like growing up in a glass working community," Lincoln said.

"We just assumed that everyone in Murano wanted to grow up to be a happy glass artist, when on the contrary, parents use to warn their children that if they did not do well in school, they would end up working the in glass factory!"

Things are changing in Murano. With the influx of Chinese made glass beads and art glass, the Muranese glass artists are being forced to unite and adapt. "In the past, artists were very hushed about their knowledge, but now you can find Italian glass artists teaching all over the world and a few are opening their studios in Murano for teaching," Walen said.

Both artists agree that their Murano studies helped inspire them to look forward for new ideas and to respect the past history of their craft. The couple has been using their new knowledge to create beads and art glass for people to enjoy.

"We would really love to open a large scale glass studio in Juneau, with a glass blowing furnace and multiple torches for classes," said Walen.

"Juneau has the passion for it. That's the dream anyway. We will have to see what the future holds."

Tasha and Lincoln's locally handcrafted glass beads, jewelry designs and fused art glass can be found year round at the Juneau Artist Gallery. They also have a new website:

Walen invites visitors and locals alike to stop by the gallery on Friday, July 6th for First Friday's gallery walk. She and Lincoln will be there with more Italy pictures, new work, and good cheese.