John Volpacchio

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    I received an e-mail from a friend in Italy the other day saying that I should come to Murano and open up a glass studio. He said that “things are not good.” Then I thought of Elio and the six hundred year tradition of glass there. I see Elio’s smile, I hear his voice, and I visualize his graceful movements and calm demeanor, even when constructing the most difficult of goblet compositions.
    I first met Elio through an introduction by Dino Rosin. I was staying with some friends in Vicenza, about an hour away from Venice. Elio and Adriana drove his car to pick me up. They stayed for lunch, and of course the highlight for me was Elio’s lively political debate with my friend’s father. We drove back to Venezia Mestre to take the ferry to Murano. Elio took me to a refurbished monestary where I would live for two months while I worked at the Signoretto Furnaces. Elio visited often, and we would talk about my plans to start a glass program at Salem State University. We even watched the Italian soccer team play in the world cup on T.V. Elio was so excited and alive. His passion for his countrymen was evident as the Azzurri went on to win.
    Elio was a classical glass artist. Not only was he a master of the material, he was also a true gentleman. Elio could see beyond the surface, and truly understood the essence of one’s soul and work.
    I took five classes from Elio, mostly at The Studio at Corning. In addition, he visited Salem State twice for one week workshops. One of his proudest moments was when we presented him with the University’s first ever lifetime achievement award in the arts. I was honored to share with the community aspects about all of my experiences with Elio. Elio was not just a mentor to me as a glass artist, but also as a human being. I learned just as much about life from him as I did about glass. I told the crowd the story of how I was down and out, and I was losing most of my money in the stock market crash. Elio advised me to sell, sell, sell, and get out. I did not take his wise advice, and as a result I lost more money. Elio also gave me balanced advice as I was getting divorced, and supported me throughout many difficult times. He told me to take better care of myself, and things would work themselves out. Again he was right on target.
    The first visit to the University was classic Elio. He impressed everyone with his mastery of the material, and virtuoso style. The elegance and grace of the goblets he created was stunning. His second visit the following year was different. I was frustrated with the sales of my work, and I asked Elio to teach me how to make more money. He was happy to oblige, teaching me a variety of new techniques and forms. We made witches, sailboats, hearts and all kinds of critters. This truly defines Elio’s versatility as a glass maestro. Since then, these items have become my best sellers. This visit also included a four day visit to Josh Simpson’s studio in Western Massachusetts. Elio was excited to be collaborating with one of America’s premier glass artists. They were a dynamic duo, and they created some astronomical pieces. As I drove with Elio for three hours each way, we talked about many subjects in Italian.I saw another side of Elio on this journey There was always wisdom conveyed through the stories he would share with me about his life. I could never imagine moving to France to make thousands of glass baby doll eyes. This must have driven him crazy, but he saw the big picture of survival, and providing for his family. I know that he always wanted to learn and be the best that he could be. This is the true lesson for all of us.
    I agree with all of the expressions of gratitude and sincerity of others thoughts on how Elio has touched their lives. Elio was a teacher’s teacher. He was a good friend. Elio can never be replicated, but his classes and many students that he inspired will live on. Mille grazie, Elio. You will always be a part of me.

    Ciao,
    Giovanni

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