ALESSANDRO MORETTI EXHIBITING AT THE NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR 1965
"MAESTRO ALESSANDRO MORETTI AND HIS GLASS"
Glass has been with us from the beginning of time. "Natural" glass was conceived when the earth churned and spewed steam and molten rock through our planetary crust. The low atmospheric temperatures caused the molten metals or "lava" to cool too rapidly, causing the formation of an uncrystallized substance. This uncrystallized substance would later prove to be an important asset to man and his survival. Our ancestors, probably by chance, discovered that some solids could be reduced to liquids by heating. With discovery came experimentation, and with trial-and-error, came success and valuable findings. By melting combinations of sand, soda, potash, other fluxes, alkalies and borosilicates found in nature, our forerunners found, upon letting the mixture cool, that its composition changed and fused into a wondrous opaque or translucent vitrified mass. With this knowledge, man in an attempt to improve and perfect his finding, added limestone, lead oxide, and boric acid to the glass silica; they added cobalt, copper, manganese, gold and silver, and other trace metals and found the glass would change consistency, clarity, color, weight and strength. Men have been making and experimenting with glass since that fated discovery. It is thought that the first civilized people of antiquity, the men of Mesopotamia, were the first to manipulate the molten silica into crude objects some 2800 years ago. This craft eventually proliferated through the lands of Roman occupation. Under the reign of Emperor Augustus, circa the first century B.C., glass making became an important industry in the Roman Empire. This is evidenced by similar beads, amulets, tear-bottles, small vases and other wares found amid Rome's ruins after its Fall in 476 A.D. Through centuries of creative evolution, artisans have continued to enhance and ameliorate glass for the purpose of affording fresh and up-to-date ornamental and functional items to be used, seen, touched and treasured. The forefathers of glassworking in America were Europeans of Dutch and Polish descent who built the First factory in Jamestown, Virginia in 1608. From their origins, these men carried with them a limited knowledge and expertise in the field of glassmaking. Glass at that time was formed into crude articles that were useful on a day-to-day basis. In that era, little thought was given to beauty, imagination and creativity. However, with glass "coming of age" during the last few decades, visionaries have borrowed the old-world craft of glassmaking and have let their imaginations soar. These contemporary glass artists have revitalized the potential for glass "art". This new group of glassworker has introduced a new consciousness of thoughts, images, uses, opinions, and approaches for the utilization of glass. These modern artists have begun to visualize glass as a source of reflection; an agent that arouses an emotion in the observer; a vision that is capable of being physically seen, sensed and caressed; a motive for responsiveness; an object of action or feeling; and as a thought existing independent of mind. Who among us has not watched in marvel as a glass artisan transmutes a gather of molten glass into a lifelike reproduction right before our eyes. Unlike any other material, glass envelopes the mystical qualities of color, hue, and light. Via mastery of technique and years of practice, old world artisans have caused glass to pleasure our senses with infinite color schemes, light refractions and artistic designs. Sadly, very few artisans remain to carry on the ageless art of glassblowing. This time-honored tradition is quickly becoming extinct. Among a mere handful of old world artisans who brought and shared their legacies from their native Italy to the United states were acclaimed brothers "Maestros Alessandro and Roberto Moretti". Alessandro will share his history with us below in his own native language, which is followed by an English Translation:
IN MEMORY OF ALESSANDRO MORETTI
APRIL 15, 1922 - DECEMBER 3, 1998
"500 anni dopo la nascita di Cristo, I Veneziani anno preso controllo del vetro, e sono diventati I migliori del mondo-- perfesionando compozicioni, agiungendo minerali e sabbia silica. I Veneziani si sono accreditati la' capacita di perfezionare il vetro chiaro-- conosciuto come "cristallo", e piu volte venivano riconosciuti come creatori del vetro colorato, agiungendo minerali and oxidi. Nel' isola di Murano, che era il centro della produzione del vetro Veneziano, I Vetrai erano considerati come reali con certi privilegi, ma in cambio di certi privilegi e titoli, il governo, nel cercare di tenere il segreto del' isola del vetro, confinava I vetrai nel' isola di Murano. Se uno di questi lavoratori lasciava l'isola e andava a praticare l'arte del vetro altrove, veniva condannato a morte per tradimento. Pratica che veniva iniziata dalla Republica Veneta per controllare il monopolio artistico. E stato un periodo che parte di Venezia e stata distrutta dal fuoco, e cosi la Republica a trasferito la lavorazione del vetro nel' isola di Murano, che era nella laguna fuori di Venezia. Con questa decisione, non solo proteggevano Venezia dagli incendi, ma potevano controllare tutta la lavorasione del vetro. Historically, io sono discendente da una famiglia di Moretti derivante per anni dalla lavorasione artistica di Murano, e cosi la decisione e stata prezza da me di diventare uno lavoratore del Vetro e forse un bravo maestro, una cosa difficile. La storia della famiglia Moretti inscritta nel' album d'oro, che e conservato nel famoso Museo di Murano. Mi ricordo quando ero ragazzino, dopo scuola, mi fermavo tante volte a guardare delle finestre dentro alle fabriche ed ero affascinato a guardare lavoratori e maestri del tempo. Anche mio padre era lavoratore e soffiatore, cosi sentivo il desiderio un giorno di imparare il mestiere. Avevo circa 10 anni quando dissi a mia madre che quando ero di eta sarei diventato un bravo maestro. Lei mi incoraggiava nella mia idea. Con la prima guerra mondiale, nel 1914, il vetro a avuto un grande arresto e difficolta fino al 1930. Quando mio padre a ritorno dalla guerra, il lavoro del vetro incomincio a riprendere, ma fino el 1930, i tenpi erano multo difficili. Avevo circa 13 anni quando o chiesto in una piccola fabrica di lavorare come aiutante, e sono stato accetato. Avevo appena finito e graduato la 5 classe elementare. Sono rimasto in questa fabrica per un anno, circa. Facevamo oggetti e sfere opache per la luce e lampadiarie. Ma ero sempre interessato da potere imparare i vetri artistici a mano, e cosi dopo un anno, mi trasferi dalla ditta Seguso, che a quei tempi era rinomata per la finessa di vetri a mano. Dentro cerano i meglio maestri del tempo. Cosi ero fortunato di lavorare veramente con i migliori-- come Artilio Frondi, Aldo Toso e Nino Pavanello. Io sono stato da Seguso fino alla fine della seconda guerra mondiale, circa 8 anni, e dopo sono andato via anche di li. O ricevuto una proposta da trasferirmi da Mazzega, dove la fattoria e grande e si guadagnava meglio. In questa fabrica, sotto la guida del maestro Pavanello finalmente sono arrivato al titolo di covete maestro. Avevo 26 anni. Nel 1950, la fattoria di Venini mi fece una offerta di trasferirmi da loro. Certamente per me fu un grande onore e riconoscimento delle mie capacita, perche e quei tempi era molto rinomata per figurine e vetri colorati e accetai. As a covete maestro, dopo 2 anni da Venini, mi sentivo prigioniero nell'isola di Murano, mi sentivo un grande desiderio di eseguire il vetro col mio stile, cosa difficile a fare sotto l'influenza di altri artisti. O ricevuto proposte di lavoro da altri paesi da eseguire la mia professione all'estero, e una proposta molto interessante lo ricevuta da una compagnia in Johannesburg, South Africa di pionier la prima fattoria di vetro ever in Johannesburg. Dopo averci pensato bene, o scelto la decisione e imbarcato nel 1951. O portato con me tutto quello che sapevo di piu-- l'arte del vetro e sono partito. Dopo il mio arrivo, o incontrato e sposato mia moglie, Lidia, e o avuto una bella vita in South Africa con sucesso e guadagno. Ad ogni modo nel 1955, o ricevuto una proposta di lavoro negli Stati Uniti. Il mio sogno fu sempre di venire negli Stati Uniti e nel 1956 finalmente o accetato l'offerta e mi sono trasferito con mia moglie nel centro della lavorasione del vetro in Huntington, West Virginia. Nel principio, o trovato difficolta con la lingua, ma in Africa avevo imparato abbastanza la lingua Inglese, ma la difficolta magiore per me era la mancanza di aiuto nel mio tipo di lavoro nel vetro a mano. Durante i miei 34 anni in questo paese, sono stato orgolioso del mio compito e lavaro, perche per me i United States e il migliore paese del mondo. Nel 1964-65, io o partecipato alla fiera mondiale di New York dove avevo l'esibizione nel West Virginia Pavilion. Doppo la fierra, sono stato acclamato per il mio artistico talento in craft in musei e gallerie. Io presentamente sono ritirato, ad ogni modo o tenutto l'arte viva per mezzo deimie figlie e la privata e publica collezione. Mia figlia a aiutato questo progetto per la producione di questo documentario e uno dei mei figli continua nel mistiere artistico in Europa. La mia speranza e che per l'avenire non venga dimenticata l'arte e lasciata morire e che continui essere passata ai figli come io lo lasciata a mio figlio, Franco Moretti, che continua la tradizione nel'isola di Murano.
IN MEMORY OF ALESSANDRO MORETTI
APRIL 15, 1922 - DECEMBER 3, 1998
"500 years after the birth of Christ, my Venetian ancestors gained control of the glass industry and became the leaders in the manufacture of glass. The Venetians perfected the glass by adding minerals and pebbles (found in their rivers) to the glass silica. The Venetians were also credited with perfecting clear glass known as "cristallo." Further, they were credited with making the finest coloured glass by adding assorted "oxides" to the silica to achieve colours of extraordinary splendor. On the island of Murano, (which was the glass center of the Venetian industry), glassmakers were considered "royalty," and had certain democratic privileges, but in exchange for such titles and privileges, the government in an attempt to protect the secrets of the glass trade, imprisoned and confined these glassmakers to the Island of Murano. If one of these workmen attempted to leave the island to practice their craft elsewhere, they were condemned to death for treachery. This practice was initiated by the Republic of Venice in order to keep control and monopolize the industry of glassmaking. There was a period when a large part of Venice was destroyed by glasshouses catching on fire. Therefore, Venetian authorities moved all of the glasshouses to the "Island of Murano", which was located on a lagoon outside of Venice. By doing this, the Venetians not only protected Venice from the hazards of fire, but also insured government regulation and State protection. Historically, I come from a long bloodline of Morettis directly related with the glass industry on the Island of Murano. This descendancy prompted me to be a glassworker. The history of the Moretti family is inscribed in "The Gold Book," which is maintained at the famed "Museum of Glass" in Murano. I remember, when I was a small boy, after school, I would always stop at the glasshouses on my way home to gaze into the windows of these factories. I would watch the glassworkers and Maestros of that time work the glass. As my father was also a glassblower, I guess I grew up in the industry and was influenced and fascinated by it. I must have been ten years of age, when I mentioned to my mother that, when I was old enough, I wanted to become a great glass maestro. My mother was very encouraging and prompted me to pursue my goal. With the onslaught of World War I, glass production came to a halt! When my father returned from military service after the war ended, the glass industry sluggishly started making a comeback. I guess I must have been 13 years of age when I applied with a small factory as a helper and they hired me. I had just graduated the 5th grade. This factory produced small blown "objects of utility" and as I got older and more knowledgeable, I became more interested in learning about "artistic" and "ornamental" glass, so when I became of age, I transferred to the acclaimed "Seguso" factory, which specialized in "artistic glass." This factory employed some of the foremost Maestros of that time, and I was fortunate to be able to train with some of its finest "teachers", such as Aldo Toso, Artilio Frondi and Nino Pavanello. A number of years later, I received a proposal to transfer to the "Mazzega" glass factory, along with my Maestro, Nino Pavanello. This factory was larger and more lucrative than the Seguso factory, wherein I had initially been trained. In this factory, under the guidance of "Maestro Pavanello", I finally achieved the coveted title of "Maestro". I was 26 years of age; one of the youngest Maestros ever to receive such a coveted title. In 1950, the historically acclaimed "Venini" artglass factory invited me to join their team of highly specialized artists as their "Maestro of Figurines and Chandeliers". Certainly, it was a great honor--that they recognized my capabilities in the field of coloured glass and figurines and I accepted their offer. As a coveted "Maestro" at the Venini Factory, I became blindly content in Murano... Eventually, I felt "restrained" and began feeling as if I were a prisoner on this island. I wanted to leave Murano in order to pursue my own style of creating artglass. I did not want to be influenced by the ideas of other artists... but it was not that easy... History evidences that Maestros and glass artisans "with too much knowledge" could not leave so easily and after receiving employment opportunities from numerous countries abroad, I found that my Visa had been "blocked". WWII had ended... and I refused to be "restrained" -- they could not hold me here against my will. I found a proposal from an entrepreneur in South Africa to be most interesting, (as I was requested to pioneer the formation of the "first glass factory" ever established in the City of Johannesburg, South Africa). After careful consideration, I chose to accept this offer and my Visa to leave the country was finally approved; I emigrated to this continent in 1951, taking with me the only thing I knew best--the art of glassmaking. Soon after my arrival, I met and eventually married my Genovese wife, Lidia Villa. My wife also had escaped a war-ravaged italy to find a better life abroad. (Her immediate family consisted of her mother, Emilia Villa, who was a WWII medical nurse; her step-father, Armando Corpetti, and my wife's only sister, Tamara Mafalda Villa --who was employed by the Italian/German Embassy as a multi-linguist during WWII; her birth father, Vicenzio Villa, became a young casualty of pneumonia just prior to the onslaught of WWII and died at the tender age of 32. He was an Alpine soldier. With all the unsavory memories behind me, I actually enjoyed my life in South Africa. However, my dream had always been to immigrate to the United States, and in 1956, the opportunity presented itself and I transferred with my wife to the center of glassmaking in West Virginia. Initially, I experienced some difficulty with the language, (even though I did have some experience with the English language in South Africa). However, the greatest difficulty was not the language, but the lack of a suitable helper who was used to my manner of working the glass. In time, I was able to train my co-workers in the art of apprenticeship and the dilemma of a suitable helper was lifted. My co-workers were eager to learn as much as they could of what I had learned as a child in Italy. Then I was blessed with my brother, Roberto, joining me in the United States in 1958. During the last 34 years that I have been in this country, I feel fulfilled with my accomplishments; and I feel that the United States is the most incredible place in the World. In 1964-65, I was invited to participate in the New York World's Fair, where I was honored to exhibit my craft at the "West Virginia Pavillion" sponsored by the Pilgrim Glass Company. After the New York World's Fair, I enjoyed displaying my creations in craft shows and gallery exhibits. (This interview - 1990, prior to Alessandro's demise on December 3, 1998). I want to thank my daughter, Yvonne, for bringing forth the production of this short biography, and my talented eldest son, Franco, who is the last lineal descendant of my familial line, who continues the glass trade in Murano, Italy. My youngest son, Albert chose not to carry on the legacy of glassworks and is successful in the auto repair business.
In closing, my hope is that mankind will not let this millinea old artform "die" and that fathers will continue to preserve this 3000 artform by passing its secrets to their sons, as I have to my eldest son, who continues my legacy on the "Island of Murano".
From the beginning of recorded history, man has sought to express his need to create. But of all the medias available to him, glass, perhaps, is the most complex and the most challenging. Mastery of the art of glassmaking "in its artistic form" is only credited to a mere "few". The legacy of old world artisans far and wide will soon only be a "memory" and documented in historical annals in galleries, museums and libraries, but many of the irreplaceable "secrets" will be lost forever. Alessandro who at the tender age of 13 learned the craft in Murano, Italy was imported over 46 years ago to breathe new life into American Glass as we know it. Alessandro left his diaries to his son, Frank, in Italy upon his death... but it is only a "millimeter of information" that was recorded by hand -- the other secrets went to the "grave". The Morettis came from a lineal descendency of glass artisans dating back seven hundred years and the only direct lineal Moretti still practicing the trade is Alessandro's oldest son, Frank Moretti, who still carries on the trade in Murano, Italy. Alessandro demonstrated his skills at the West Virginia Pavillion of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. His personal works are in the possession of a chosen "few" across the nation; including our past president Jimmy Carter, who was presented with a special honor upon his visit to the Capitol in Charleston, WV c. 1978 and various galleries. Let these guardians of history of millennia take care in preserving what they unknowingly possess, as the history can never be replaced or duplicated.
With the computer age, it appears that interest in the artform is being rediscovered and studied; In a standard of trying to preserve this "dying art" ... it is gaining popularity around the world. "History cannot be lost..." (as the Moretti family has always maintained -- it has to be "embraced and preserved for the future"). Many of Moretti creations remain on exhibit as part of the Lowe Art Museum, Huntington Museum of Art, The Corning Museum of Glass, National American Glass Museum in New Jersey, WheatonArts Museum of American Glass, Millville, NJ, the Smithsonian Institute, among others; documentation is preserved at the Rakow Research Library in New York and the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, WV. Despite, a long list of credits to their names, the Moretti brothers were modest men and expressed a deep seriousness concerning their work. It takes a "lifetime" to discern the art and the knowledge and certainly not everyone can do it. The ingredients are a "genesis", a "melding" of the mind with the hands -- the psyche, past lives, secrets from the past and secrets from past millinnea. The trade is a mystery, and it is best described as "It began with "Lava".
Following are scenes of Maestro Alessandro at work creating his magic and some exemplary pieces of his work -- some designed and executed some 25-35 years ago.
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NOW AVAILABLE: THE FULL STORY OF THE LATE ITALIAN/AMERICAN GLASS MAESTROES ALESSANDRO AND ROBERTO MORETTI ENTITLED, "THE GLASSMEN OF MURANO: BORN OF FIRE" BY AUTHOR YVONNE M. MORETTI; CLICK ON "MORETTI BOOK NOW AVAILABLE" TO LEFT SIDE OF THIS MAIN PAGE FOR DETAILS... SAMPLES OF THE BOOK'S "INSIDE PAGES" CAN BE VIEWED AT AMAZON.COM or BARNES AND NOBLES.COM SITES
THIS SITE IS IN DEDICATION AND IN MEMORY OF THE MORETTI LEGACY: The Late Glass Maestro Roberto Moretti, his surviving wife Giulia Baione Moretti, his daughters, Laura and Sandra Moretti, Grand-daughters Julia Moretti Spurlock; Francesca Moretti Guidobono, Gabriella Moretti Guidobono; The late Lisa Moretti Guidobono (Roberto's daughter); the Late Glass Maestro Alessandro Moretti, his wife Lidia Villa Moretti, son Albert Moretti, daughter Yvonne M. Moretti; son Franco Moretti and his wife Daria Moretti, Grand-daughters Viola and Francesca Moretti; The late Adalgisa Sartori Moretti and the late Umberto Moretti Father and Mother of Alessandro and Roberto Moretti; The Late Alda Moretti and the Late Gina Moretti Vaillati sisters of Alessandro and Roberto Moretti