Thursday, May 13, 2010

Venetian Beadwork

Over the Accademia Bridge and just a little ways from the Church of Santo Stefano in Venice there is a little shop, Le Burle Veneziane in the Piscina San Samuele no. 3436, which sells hand-made beaded jewelry and accessories.

Monica Burcovich is the artist, and she makes some incredible things out of Conteria Veneziana crystals, pearls and tiny glass beads made only on the nearby island of Murano. Taking inspiration from antique Venetian jewelry, Monica keeps this artisan Venetian beadwork technique alive. Every piece she creates is unique and exquisite.

Last year I had the task of finding that perfect graduation gift for my daughter. While on tour with Vima deMarchi Micheli, I told her I was thinking about getting some Italian jewelry to match my daughter's graduation dress - a lovely silk taffeta sleeveless full-length gown in cranberry red. Vima said she knew just the place to find something beautiful and original. She knows her stuff!

Sitting in the display window of the shop on the way in this necklace caught my eye:

I glanced briefly at it thinking "oh look! A perfect colour match. It can't be this easy, I'll have a look around". The shop is tiny but there are many, many beautiful pieces to look at and I had to go around the room a dozen times before I was satisfied that I'd seen everything.

Monica showed us her worktable (located right there in the shop) and the incredibly fine and long needles that she uses to string the beads together. Really the needles look like fine hair they are so thin! How she threads them without going crazy, I don't know!

An added delight to learn was that the owner of the shop, Grazia Leone was a costume designer! There was a period costume on a mannequin in one corner. Designing and producing everything from evening wear, to theatre costumes, carnival costumes and even wedding dresses – Grazia's specialty is styles from the periods between 1500 to 1900. The two ladies' artisan activities go hand in hand very well! As I understand it, the shop is well known as a place to rent costumes for balls during Carnevale.

As we were leaving I asked Monica about the necklace in the window and said that it was the perfect gift I was looking for but as we had only just started our vacation, I wanted to look around a bit. It still seemed too easy, I really had expected this quest to occupy most of the shopping during the trip.

Well two days later on our last day in Venice I still had not found anything to compare. Monica's necklace was made of tiny gold beads with garnet crystals and had a pearl clasp. I could just imagine in laying beautifully on the collarbone of my daughter, perfectly accenting her gown.

On our last afternoon I raced back to the shop to arrive just before Monica was closing for lunch. Closing for lunch in Italy can mean anywhere from 2 hours or the rest of the day depending on the merchant. I told Monica that I couldn't stop thinking about the necklace and that the only thing bothering me was that I'd never be able to find earrings that would go with it. As if it were no trouble at all, she said she could make me some over her lunch break. I explained that I had to leave to go to a farewell dinner at 5:30 pm (it was now 1 pm). She told me not to worry and to come back at 5 pm.

I was back at the shop at 5 pm and Monica was ready with two stunning earrings to match the necklace. I did not have enough cash however and had to have her draw me a map to the closest bank machine where I ran to get more euros and ran back to the shop. It was almost 5:30 pm and I still had to race back to the hotel to meet the group otherwise I'd miss the farewell dinner as I didn't know where we were eating. Sweating profusely now, I tried my best to quickly and correctly express my appreciation for the beauty of her work and say goodbye to Monica. She begged me to email her a picture of my daughter in her dress with the jewelry on which I promised to do and ran out. Gasping I arrived at the meeting point and enthusiastically told everyone that I had the perfect graduation gift.

You can see some of Monica's creations at her website, but only a very few, there is so much more in the shop! There are some more photos at this website along with some pictures of Grazia's costumes.


  1. Oh, lovely graduation gift! Do we get to see a picture of the dress and necklace/earrings, too? I really enjoy learning from your blog. Thank you.

  2. Unfortunately while my daughter loves taking photos, she doesn't like being in photos... she won't give me permission to post her - even though I think she looked lovely.
    Thanks for the compliment!