In Venice, the art of lacework was born in the 16th century. It was heavily promoted by the Dogaressa of Venice Morosina Morosini, who was responsible for the opening of the first workshop in Burano, which employed 130 workers. The evolution of this art can be traced through the books of models that were published in Venice and surroundings, by authors including Paganino, Pagan, and Vecellio. It was here that reticello developed into punto in aria, the first true lace, which was stitched alone and not onto a fabric first: the motifs, which were traced on parchment and outlined with thread, were then lain over with a gimp and stitched together with basting stitches. By the 17th century, relief was added to achieve a sumptuous look, such as in gros point de Venise. Around this time, production shifted from homes to workshops in order to meet rising demand; sumptuary laws were passed to attempt to restrain this fashion, with its sky-high prices. The development and diffusion of this craft is documented by marvellous artefacts: from the tiny puntine, used as trimming for men and women’s clothes, religious vestments, and garments; to the linings embellished by exquisite designs. The 17th century was the century of lace, which gained popularity throughout Europe and became a symbol of prestige and social status thanks to its sophistication and elegance. The islands in the Venice lagoon, especially Burano, became hotbeds of lace manufacturing. Neelde lace was predominant in Burano, while the best bobbin lace came Pellestrina, which maintains its primacy to this day. In the 19th and 20th centuries, as fashions changed in step with social and economic development and the rise of more comfortable, functional clothing, lacework experienced a crisis, which was gradually overcome thanks to the Burano School of Lacework.
Currently, the Venice lagoon and its islands, Venice’s hinterland, and many other parts of Veneto host schools and associations that are keeping the tradition of lacework alive through their passionate commitment.
A few are mentioned below:
In Asolo, Laura and Claudia Loredan run the “School of ancient embroideries”, an artisanal workshop where young people can learn this craft.
Mestre hosts the “Club amiche/amici del merletto” association, which aims to create a quality brand that can revive the prestige of Venetian lace and serve as a guarantee for buyers.
Verona hosts Rita Sciamanna’s school and workshop.
Cencenighe, in Belluno province, hosts the “Gruppo merletto agordino”, which aims to revive and pass on the ancient tradition of bobbin lace.