Marisa Convento (VE)
The story of Venetian beads is one of the most fascinating in the world, wrapped in magic and African legends. At the time of the booming trades with the Americas and the Far East, and then when colonialism started back in the 18th century, beads were, in fact, a precious trade commodity, used as a coin to trade with local populations, especially in Africa. Thus, having Venice at that time almost the monopoly of the manufacture of glass beads, the profession of “impiraressa” (meaning “bead stringer” in local dialect) became very popular: women were paid to string the tiny beads into bundles for a dual purpose: check they had a regular hole (and therefore that they were not faulty) and transform them into the unit of measure request by the market. A bundle, in fact, was equal up to ½ kilo of trade commodity (with 2 kg, to say, you could buy a slave).
To understand the importance of Venetian beads, we just need to highlight that they are the commodity goods that more have kept intact their value over time and also the ones that are more diffused in the world. The foundations of New York City, to make another, fascinating example, are “built” on Venetian trade beads: before becoming “New York”, the city was, in fact, a small fortified town called New Amsterdam that in 1626 was bought by the Dutch West India Company with chevron beads, in Italian called “rosette” (from the rose flower pattern). The most sought after beads by collectors, traditionally white, red and blue, they got invented by Marietta Barovier right with the scope to suit the colonies’ needs. Today they can still be seen in beautiful tribal necklaces, as shamans and tribal leaders of various areas of Africa wear them as a symbol of power.
It is also said that beads can catalyze the energy of those who wear them, which is why antique necklaces, such as those worn by shamans or used for voodoo rites, are really in demand.
Listening to these, and many other fascinating stories, and seeing Marisa stringing fast her beloved beads, really opens the door to the most exotic fantasies. Marisa’s artworks are even more special as she uses only antique beads (called “conterie” in Venetian) that have stopped to be produced back in the 1980’s, therefore very special, whilst the larger pearls are made, on her exclusive design, by Murano glass artists.
Where: Venice, near Saint Mark square
When: office time
Why: the most renowned “impiraressa”, Venetian bead stringer
How: visit her atelier and book a workshop or ask for her must-haves: the “friulane” shoes, the typically Venetian, hand-made chic velvet mocassins decorated with flowers or corals made of beads (Kate Moss is a fan), or the ultra chic deco-style necklaces or earrings, just perfect as a statement piece on a boho dress