Photos capture memories that tell a story. And it’s the stories behind the photos that give them added meaning. So it is with these photographs from Burano, Italy, the traditional lace-making island in the Venetian Lagoon.
My husband and I were on a three-week self-guided tour of Italy and stopped for several nights in Venice. We had a referral to see the island of Burano, and since acquiring local textiles was one of my take-it-home keepsakes of places we visited, I was eager to go.
The island of Burano, Italy with its traditional lace-making is a favorite destination of tour groups. Access to this island is by water taxi, which is efficient. We bumped shoulders with a huge French tour group as we walked onto the taxi and found our places. It was an adventure and we didn’t have a unique idea about what we wanted to see or do.
At the end of an extensive wander around the island, we passed by this colorful island neighborhood. There wasn’t much room to move around for the right angle, but ultimately I managed to capture this shot without getting into the lagoon.
Our wanderings took us to the lace-making museum and shops. The museum depicted the history of the traditional craft of lace-making which had died out in Europe through the 19th century Napoleonic Wars. In an attempt to put professional lace-makers back to work, Napoleon revived the craft in Europe after the wars by decreeing the Courts would use lace in their ceremonial robes.
Venice became the center of the craft revival, competing with machine-made lace that was developing in the other lace-making centers of Europe. As we wandered through the museum we examined the extensive examples of traditional lace-making that had developed over the centuries and were passed down through the generations.
Today, most of the professional lace-makers are from an older generation. However, due to a revival of interest at the end of the 20th century, and reopening of some of the schools, the craft is recuperating and being taught by professional lace makers to today’s generation of young women. The lace-making school in Burano was closed so we weren’t able to watch young people learning the craft.
We were able to watch one of these talented women making a traditional lace pattern in one of the shops on Burano. Her fingers flew through the intricate stitches, obviously through years of practice. We perused the sample wares and then were invited upstairs to see the end results of many of the traditional styles. I wanted to see the woman’s magic fingers in action, and so as we were leaving the demonstration area, I peaked over her shoulder and took a picture of her hands telling the story of her craft.