The Art of Craft in Venice – Etching
The Art of Craft in Venice – Etching
A young artisan in Venice working hard to stay afloat!
If like me you are really fed up of walking around Venice and seeing the same fake cheap Chinese made masks and junk glass, which is sold for original Murano, but that from Murano it bears only the label, follow me on this trail, in search of real unique local artisans, who carry on an everyday struggle to create original Venetian products, striving to differentiate themselves and to offer high quality articles, all produced in our beautiful city, all handmade.
My mission started quite accidentally when I met Marisa Convento of Venetian Dreams, who was such an inspiration with her passion for her beads and her forgotten craft, that she soon got me thinking I should go and look for more people like her.
So I contacted Marco Jovon of Eredi Jovon, with his amazing hand engraved cameos and discovered so much about this old tradition; following that chat, I decided to go and talk to more local artisans. Soon I will be interviewing Piero Dri of Il Forcolaio Matto and talk to you about Venetian oars and oarlocks and some more local unique artists.
But in this article I want to bring to your attention a very young artist, 100% Venetian and full of energy and determination! She needs all the support she can get, in a city which is crowded with cheap junk and ugly souvenirs.
A few weeks ago, in my search for real Venetian artist/artisans who still work in Venice, producing unique artwork and crafts, I came across Arianna Sautariello of Plum Plum Creations. She is a young Venetian girl who, by using a very old technique for printing called etching, creates amazing printed drawings of our beautiful city. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are other people around the city doing this, but what struck me is that she is so young and really believes in her craft and she is soooo full of passion for her work!
Arianna was born in Venice in 1982 and she attended the Art School of Venice and later the Academy of Fine Arts. She has always loved to draw, paint, print, engrave and create things with her own hands (the artist fire burns in her heart and this comes across as soon as you start talking to her).
Her mom owned a small bookbinding shop in Venice where she created hand made books and artist’s books, and this is where Arianna spent a lot of time learning the secrets of her mother’s craft, thus enriching her own artist experience. Later she supplied many local Venetian craft shops with drawings, watercolors, engravings and prints of different types, all the time giving her personal touch and twist to the products which she supplied.
Then she decided to dedicate herself to the things that she loves, creating and selling her own works, and so the idea of Plum Plum Creations was born: everything she produces is 100% handmade in her home or in her workshop!
And it is no coincidence that “The Art of Craft” is not just a “motto” for her, but a real lifestyle bringing Arianna to filter all the surrounding reality through the eyes of the artist.
But what is Etching?
Etching (in Italian Acquaforte) is a type of printing of drawings, which consists in pouring ink into a metal plate along the grooves which have been obtained using acid on a copper or zinc plate and by putting this plate on a press with a sheet of paper.
This technique was born in the 1400s and its name derives from “aqua-fortis”, meaning nitric acid in Latin, which, in the Middle Ages, was used to engrave ornaments and decorations on weapons and armors. It was often used for the reproduction and spreading of the works of famous artists, at a time when there was still no photography.
Many famous painters were skilled etchers such as Rembrandt and Francisco Goya, who, through the creations made with this technique, stood out against the war and the mistakes of his time. Celebrate etchers of the twentieth century were Pablo Picasso, Giorgio Morandi and Luigi Bartolini.
So, how does Arianna creates her beautiful works of art?
First Arianna prepares her drawing on a piece of paper, then she shines her copper metal plate and covers it with a special wax, an acid-resistant substance, called the etching ground, through which the design is drawn with a sharp tool. The ground is usually a compound of beeswax, bitumen, and resin. With a sharp needle she engraves the metal plate reproducing the original drawing. This procedure exposes the copper which will then be put inside an acid tank. The acid eats away those areas of the plate unprotected by the ground, forming a pattern of recessed lines. Once she removes the plate from the acid, she must rinse it well, wipe it and dry it. Then with a spatula she presses the ink on the plate, making sure it goes well in into the grooves which have been created by the acid. These lines hold the ink. With a slightly hard cloth with some linen oil and magnesium she removes the surplus ink. After she takes off the biggest part of the ink, she uses some newspaper sheets to remove the remaining ink by rubbing it over and over, so she is only left with the ink in the grooves. Then with a little bit of cloth and some magnesium she cleans the borders of any smudges. When the plate is placed in the press and is applied to moist paper, the design transfers to the paper, giving a finished print.
Arianna normally uses “carta fabriano rosa spina”, a typical paper used for this technique, in white or ivory colour.
Originally everyone used copper plates, then later they started to use zinc which is much cheaper, but Arianna still uses the old method.
You can buy Arianna’s etching drawings directly online from her site but she can also create artwork on order, with a minimum of 150 copies (the cost will include the design and preparation of the metal and all the copies).
I am enclosing a little video of all the process (bear with me, I am not a video maker, it is not of very good quality I know, but it does give you the idea of the long work it takes!).
So next time you come to Venice, if you look for an original gift idea, affordable and unique, why don’t you get one of her etching drawings?