Venetian craftsmen in the historic island of Murano, which contributes its artistic glass splendors to the world of art and glass production, are shutting down. Venice has served as the hub for fine glassmaking since the 13th century, with all of its trade passed down within families for centuries since ancient Rome.
The production of glassworks on the island has been hit hard by the skyrocketing price of gas, which has forced glassmakers to shut down production for varying periods, Artnet reported.
The glassmakers face permanent shutdown with the continuing energy crisis, which was spurred on by European sanctions on affordable Russian natural gas, and Europe’s embrace of renewable energy.
Speaking to Artnet, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is currently exhibiting his Murano glassworks in Venice, compared the world-class production to “solidified, fluid fire, made possible in a furnace.”
As detailed by the publication, the glass furnaces that operate in Murano require massive amounts of natural gas to function at high consistent temperatures.
For the roughly 100 existing Murano factories, that adds up to about 10 to 11 million cubic meters on a normal year, according to the trade group Consorzio Promovetro Murano. Prices of gas spiked a year ago (even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine), hitting €2.60 per cubic meter ($91 per cubic foot) in July 2022, about a 1,200 percent increase from the normal rate of around €0.20 per cubic meter ($7 per cubic foot) set in September 2021, according to the trade group. Now, the industry is faced with a crisis unlike any other it has experienced since its Roman origins.
“About 80 percent of [Murano glassmakers] have stopped their production, while the rest work with less power … and fewer workers,” said a spokesman from the glassmaker association Consorzio Promovetro Murano, which represents the island’s glassmaking industry.
Compounding the energy crisis is Venice’s recovery from extreme floods in 2019, and a loss of income from tourism due to the Covid pandemic.
“This gas crisis is a severe blow to the Murano furnaces. I don’t know if they will all survive,” said Omar Signoretto, the manager of a glassmaking company on the island to the publication.