I feel lucky to have met Elio on a few occasions. The first was while taking his Venetian glass techniques class at Abate Zanetti in 2006 which opened my eyes to the possibilities of glass working by a true master. The ease and deliberateness of his motions to shape the glass, fast but not rushed, were amazing and even though he must have made those same goblets thousands of times before he always seemed to enjoy it none the less. He told us to always relax at the bench, sit up with good posture and be gentle with the glass to guide it to the right shape. I felt he had different respect for the glass than us or anyone I had worked with before- it basically was the history of Murano and his own as well. I say this now when thinking how a pained look would come onto his face if one of us abandoned a piece half way though, ditching it into the bucket because we were having trouble instead of trying to finish it though to a final piece. If a piece cracked, he would try to save it. If it dropped off the punty and didn't shatter, he would make the fastest punty I’d ever seen, pick it up, and hand it back to us. One of the students overheated a blown foot which collapsed onto itself making it undeliverable- Elio grabbed a pipe, gathered, blew, and almost magically presented a new foot to the waiting gaffer in what seemed like seconds. He pushed us to never quit, never give up, and always keep focused and working until the end. Decades of working in the glass factories, making thousands of pieces in repetition didn't dull his appreciation for any single piece as I would have thought. In fact, it was the opposite as he seemed to genuinely care about every piece and making sure it got finished and put away safely- not because our skill level allowed us to make anything even close in quality to his, but because I think he felt every bit of molten unformed glass taken from the furnace should be given the chance to fulfill its potential of becoming something better then it started as. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but it’s a feeling I never had in any other class.
The last time I saw Elio was autumn of 2010. A small group of us had traveled to Murano to blow glass at Abate Zanetti for a week. Before our studio week began, he and Adriana hosted us on their back patio for way too much wine and snacks while everyone caught up. They were such welcoming and unassuming hosts, making everyone feel truly welcome. We worked in the studio for a week and on the last day they dropped by to say hello and see the progress of some of his former students. As we were still nowhere near his skill level, you may imagine being observed by a true master during his surprise visit while trying to assemble a goblet was not the most relaxing of situations. After observing us for a while, he asked to take the bench not to blow glass but to teach us. He sat and simply rolled a pipe back and forth on the rails, repeating “Relax! No stress.” Sitting up with perfect posture, he rolled the pipe again, shaping the imaginary glass with the tools, “like this… always elegante, always tranquillo. Okay?” I always remember these words when working in the glass studio and often times while I’m not as I think his lesson applies to both the glass studio specifically and life as a whole. Thank you, Elio.