The Glassmaker US cover

glass beadsVenice in 1486 is a wealthy, opulent centre for trade. Across the lagoon lies Murano. Time flows differently here — like the glass the island’s maestros spend their lives learning to handle. Women are not meant to work with glass, but Orsola Rosso flouts convention to save her family from ruin.  She works in secret, knowing her creations must be perfect to be accepted by men. But perfection may take a lifetime.

Skipping like a stone through the centuries, we follow Orsola as she hones her craft of Murano and its maestros to the transformation of the city of trade into a city of tourists. Orsola’s glass beads will adorn the necks of empresses and courtesans from Paris to Vienna — but will she ever earn the respect of those closest to her?



A man came up to me after a reading once and said, “You should write about Venetian glass trade beads. There are wonderful stories about them.” He handed me some booklets and disappeared. I glanced briefly at them, then put them on my bookshelves and forgot about them…until years later I was thinking about what I would write next, and his words came back to me. I dug out the booklets and began reading. Once I discovered that Venetian beads were made primarily by women at kitchen tables in their spare time, I knew I would write about them.

In 2020 UNESCO gave glass beads Intangible Cultural Heritage status. These 2 videos — a short one in English, a longer one in French - illustrate the many aspects of beadmaking.

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