Mosaic Retreat 'A Dream Come True' - by Carole Dobson
Carole and Tessa Rae
After a twenty minute bus ride from the Marco Polo International Airport and a short “vaporetto” ride, I followed the e-mail directions forwarded to me by the ever helpful Valentina, manager of Domus Orsoni. I planned to stay at the Domus, while taking the Orsoni master class in Venice, Italy - a dream come true!
Fondamenta de Canaregio
Following the narrow street along the canal, Fondamenta Canaregio, I turned right along an even narrower street, my wheeled suitcase clattering along the cobbled streets.
Welcome to Domus Orsoni, Venice, Italy
I finally came to the tiniest of signs, handmade in pure mosaic gold which only hinted at the secrets I would find within. Valentina greeted me at the tall front door, ushering me into a breathtaking main floor mosaic art gallery.
The Domus' five bedrooms with full ensuites, dining area and the Orsoni mosaic studio are located on the second floor.
my mosaic bath at the Domus Orsoni
All rooms feature – what else? – custom-designed mosaic baths, furniture and walls, as well as high beamed ceilings, multiple windows and access to an exquisite courtyard, where Mamma Orsoni’s climbing roses have been thriving for decades.
Mamma Orsoni's climbing roses
For the duration of the course (two weeks), we had free run of the entire villa. Six mosaic students from around the world could wander through the gallery in pajamas, enjoy a midnight glass of wine on the terrace, or work 24-7 in the studio.
wisteria at the Orsoni compound
I was transported into another world, where my Calgary driveway would be wider than most Venetian thoroughfares, and where blooming wisteria peeking over a stone wall dating to the gothic period would definitely NOT be found.
Enjoying breakfast on the terrace at Domus Orsoni
Every morning, a continental breakfast and coffee strong enough to make your hair stand on end was served at 8:30 AM.
The Orsoni glass furnace always on
By then, the glass workers were hard at work. The sounds of birds singing intermingled with canal traffic beyond the gates, plus occasional sounds of crashing glass and frequent outbursts of song coming from the men working in the glass furnace hall provided an audio backdrop while we worked in the studio.
Cucco by the smalti colour beam
Our main teacher was Giovanni Cucco, former chief restorer and mosaicist in Italy’s best known landmarks.
Maestro Cucco demonstrates proper glass cutting technique
It took several days to learn that this unassuming and quietly humorous man was a “Cavaliere”, a kind of papal knighthood bestowed upon him by the former Pope John Paul in recognition of his mosaic work in Italy and throughout the world over a thirty year career. Cucco could speak eight languages, but not English!
Vickie working on her mosaic quilt
He would communicate to me in broken French and I would share information with my classmates in English.
Emma using hammer & hardie
Despite language barriers, everyone learned a great deal about art history and Venice in general and mosaic art in particular.
Katie's work in progress
Our routine was broken by frequent walking trips and daily visits by the Maestro Orsoni himself, accompanied by his faithful assistant Antonella.
Maestro Lucio Orsoni with student
Lucio Orsoni would peer critically at the students’ work, hand cupping his chin. A man of few words, he would proclaim: “Not –a – bad”. That was in fact a compliment!
Lucio Orsoni presenting 'Master of Mosaic'
Time flew and fast friendships were made. I completed three “masterpieces” and returned to Calgary with just under 100 kg of luggage – glass is heavy!
Tesse Rae Complete
Carole's fantasy flower prior to grouting
– and memories that will inspire me for a long time. Ciao!
Carole Dobson of Mosaïque Art & Design, lives in Calgary, Alberta.
Carole has a studio at Artpoint Studios and Galleries www.artpoint.ca in Ramsay. Watch the Alberta College of Art & Design Continuing Education catalog for upcoming courses.
You can contact Carole at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mosaic article & photos copyright©2006 Carole Dobson
Mosaic Info - Orsoni Smalti Factory - Venice, Italy
Mosaic Info - The History of Orsoni Smalti Veneziani
Mosaic Classes - Orsoni Master of Mosaico