Tuesday December 21, 2010 | by Andrew Page

In Memoriam: Elio Quarisa (January 4, 1936 – December 17, 2010)

FILED UNDER: In Memoriam, News

The late Elio Quarisa would have been 75 in January. photo: lee harris

At a funeral today in Murano, the glass community mourned the loss of Maestro Elio Quarisa, who died last Friday, December 17th, after an extended battle with cancer. Quarisa would have turned 75 on January 4th, 2011.

In his long career he worked at the finest glass factories in Murano, beginning at Barovier Toso, where he started at the age of 9 to help support his family after his father died. (Child labor helped keep the glass industry going during WWII.) Quarisa rose quickly at Barovier Toso, reaching the level of Primo Maestro (Italian for “First Master”). After 27 years with the important glass house, he moved to Seguso Vetri d’Arte, the first of several leading firms where he was a sought-after consultant and technician by some of the top designers.

His love for glass work and his desire to guarantee the Murano glass tradition led him, in his retirement, to teach future generations of those who share this passion, including in the United States at nonprofit glass centers such as Public Glass in San Francisco and Chicago Hot Glass.

According to American glassblower Jeff Mack, studio manager at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion, who attended today’s funeral in Murano, Quarisa spoke often about his love for glass art and how it tied into his Murano roots. Mack says Quarisa wanted to pass on his years of accumulated experience to future generations so this art would not be lost, often referring to the “splendor” and “magic” of glass.

“Elio’s greatest reward was hearing from his students about how he inspired them and affected their lives in a positive way,” Mack told the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet.

At the Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass, Amy Schwartz is working to create the Elio Quarisa Scholarship Fund and is accepting tax-deductible contributions to support intermediate-level furnace-working students who are interested in Italian techniques. “These are basically people who would have or had studied with Elio who want to continue in that tradition,” Schwartz told the Hot Sheet. “The plan is to raise enough money to give away one scholarship per year. It is not an endowment but a scholarship fund.”

In addition, Schwartz said that the Rakow Library at Corning is considering possibly being a repository for Quarisa photos and a larger history of Muranese glassmaking. “Elio had a dream of talking to the maestros and documenting the history before it is all gone,” says Schwartz. “We are talking about how we might make a project like that come through.”

Watch a video of Elio sharing the wealth of his knowledge at a 2009 goblet demonstration at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion where he was assisted by Jeff Mack and Matt Paskiet.


Editor’s Note: To share your own memories and thoughts about the passing of Elio Quarisa, please use the Comments below.


Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.