Glass artist Benjamin Lintell has been a regular at the Byre Gallery since 2019 when he showed his first collection with us in our spring exhibition that year. He's won a huge number of fans both locally and further afield - last year we sold two of his pieces to a collector in Spain. So with a growing international reputation, it's perhaps not surprising that he's no longer based in his home town of Plymouth but is now living and working at the heart of international glass making - the island of Murano in Venice.
It's now nearly six months since he headed off so I thought it was the perfect time to find out how it is all going.
ED:How did you come to be working at Murano?
BL: Back in September of 2020 I was invited to exhibit my Aegean series of vessels at the Venice Glass Week in the under 35s exhibition. During my time there I visited Wave Murano Glass, a glass factory on the famous glass island. From there, the studio's Maestro, Roberto invited me to join the glassblowing team and I arrived to start work in October - less than a month later.
ED: Murano is the real Mecca of the glass blowing world is it as glamorous as it sounds to be working there?
BL: I wouldn't say that it's glamorous by any means! The work is hard and very intense, but as you said it is the Mecca for glassblowing and the skill level is unrivalled over here so I feel very lucky to get to learn from the masters and to be welcomed into their unique culture.
ED: Were you daunted by the history and heritage of glass blowing on Murano?
BL: It was certainly a step up to the big league and that was a little daunting but I was confident in my abilities and thankfully my colleagues have been very supportive in building up my skill level.
ED: Are there differences between glass blowing in the UK and Italy?
BL:There are many differences both in the technique and in the glass itself, but the biggest difference is in how people are introduced into the craft. Where as most new glassblowers in the UK and in other parts of the world come to glass through higher education, this isn't the case in Italy where young people start in manufacturing as an apprentice under a Maestro and learn through doing.
ED: Have you had to learn any new skills?
BL: No new skills specifically, it's more like every aspect of glassblowing is turned up several notches so it's all about perfecting individual techniques, which truly is a life-long endeavour.
ED: What's the high point so far?
BL: Making my own work with the Maestro in my free time.
ED:And the low point?
BL: Having three pieces of one of my new designs explode due to a kiln malfunction.
ED: How often do you find time for making your own work?
BL: Every week I take time to make my work which has been a very interesting process, creating my work in such a new environment - it's a very different experience from my time at Plymouth College of Art.
ED: Any exciting new pieces in the pipeline?
BL: Yes I have a number of bodies of new work that I am currently working on - I'll have them with you at the Byre this summer, assuming there are no more kiln disasters that is!
ED: How is learning Italian going?
BL: It's getting better. Of course we all speak ‘glassblowing’ at the factory so we can always communicate pretty well but its a slow process when you have only a couple hours a day of spare time. Also there is a distinct Venetian dialect with words and phrases that are specific to the area that the rest of Italy would struggle to understand so that is a bit of an added complication.
ED: Obviously COVID has had an impact on how much exploring you’ve been able to do, but have you had time to see much of the country?
BL: I've been lucky enough to be able to explore Venice and the Lagoon at a time when there are literally no people on the streets. It has been amazing and a huge shock to the system when the restrictions started to open up again. I will miss the peace when the tourists return. As for the rest of the country, we are unable to travel outside of the local area due to the restrictions, but I hope to see the mountains some time soon.
ED: What do you miss most about the UK?
BL: My family and my friends mostly. It can feel a bit isolated sometimes but my colleagues have become a second family for me here.
We'll have a new collection of work from Benjamin in the second of our summer exhibitions, 'The Best of Both Worlds,'
which opens on 24th July.