by Andrew Page
Lino is retiring! For what other 87-year-old would this be a surprise? But Lino is not anyone else. (Disclosure: From 2005-2021, Lino served as a board member of UrbanGlass, the nonprofit art center that publishes Glass.) The news had me remembering a very special moment during the 2018 Glass Art Society conference in Murano. The maestro and I were in a two-story gallery building he had built on the grounds of his historic home along the Fondamenta Serenella. Behind his glass desk, Lino was gesturing with his thick, working-man’s hands. He looked polished, with his white hair expertly trimmed, his eyes sparkling behind his steel designer frames. We spoke about how the world he had traveled for four decades, spreading his passion for glass far and wide, had come here, to the beating heart of glassblowing culture and history, where generations of young garzonetti like Lino had worked their way from youthful assistants into full-fledged maestri, themselves becoming keepers of the closely guarded techniques not taught at any school, but earned on the smoky workshop floor.
In a bold stroke, Lino had broken the unwritten rules when he openly shared his technical understanding of glass with outsiders, starting with a groundbreaking 1979 Pilchuck class. He did it because he is generous by nature, yes, but he was also deeply inspired by the creativity and lack of constraint of his American students. The freedom was intoxicating, and eventually inspired him to leave the glasshouse system to become an independent sculptor. And he paid the price for his openness when, back home, some cursed his name, crossed canal bridges to avoid him, or insulted his family.
But on this day, at a time when Murano’s glass industry was shrinking, when recruiting young apprentices was nearly impossible, the wider world of glass he helped inspire was returning the favor and had come to cheer on this glass mecca. They crowded glasshouse demos, a roving hoard who energized the somnolent island and brightened the sometimes-dejected atmosphere of an industry facing steep challenges.
Lino was late for a lunch date, so asked me to walk with him as we finished up our interview. Moving briskly down cobblestone alleyways, we emerged onto Murano’s Grand Canal, where the line for tickets to his own afternoon demo had gotten so long, it snaked out of a church courtyard and down the Fondamenta dei Vetrai. As we passed, elbows nudged, faces turned, and an audible gasp followed us like an ocean wave of outstretched hands.
Lino being Lino, modest and restrained, nodded back or subtly returned a wave, even high-fiving one lucky guy. I watched this scene unfold—and in his straightening posture, I saw a weight had been lifted. Reedeemed, here on his home turf, where sharing his knowledge of Murano glass culture had cost him, he was, at that moment, swept up in this spontaneous scene of adoration and affirmation. The sight of him walking on air is one I will always treasure. The global glass community Lino had helped create came to his home to offer thanks to the maestro who, ironically, ensured the survival of Murano’s technical secrets by sharing them so freely.