Weekly Photo Challenge – Intricate Burano Lace

Burano, a pastel-painted island in the Venetian lagoon, prides itself on being the oldest centre of needle lace making in the world. Using an embroidered technique the first lace dates back to the 1500s when production took place in houses around the island. Today the industry is in decline as few girls are learning the skills necessary but you can still see many ladies at work in the lace shops around the island. So for this week’s photo challenge I thought we could have a look at some of the intricate designs involved.

A Buranese lady hand stitching a lace fan

A Buranese lady hand stitching an intricate lace fan

Burano legend tells of how mermaids tried to tempt a fisherman while he was out on the water. The man gallantly withstood the temptation of their singing as he was already engaged to a local girl. The Mermaid Queen was so impressed by the man’s faithfulness that she flashed her tail in the water to create a foam that turned into a wedding veil for the fisherman’s fiancé.

Intricate details of a lace fan, Murano, Venice

Intricate details of a lace fan, Murano, Venice

The fisherman presented his beloved with the veil on the day of their wedding. No-one had ever seen anything so delicate and intricate but the young ladies of the island were in such admiration that they set about trying to imitate the veil’s fragility with needle and thread for their own weddings. And so began the lace making industry of Burano.

Each lady does a different type of stitch, Burano lace, Venice

Each lady does a different type of intricate stitch, Burano lace, Venice

Each piece can involve 5 or 6 different ladies as each person concentrates on a single stitch type, even if she knows all the different stitches. The first will set out the basic pattern, the next may do a netting style stitch whilst later relief stitches give the lace a 3D form.

The intricate lace pattern takes 3 months to complete, Burano, Venice

The intricate lace pattern takes 3 months to complete, Burano, Venice

This means that a single fan such as the one shown can take up to 3 months to complete. Yes, 3 months, 12 weeks, a quarter of a year just to make one fan. The work’s intricacy and labour is reflected in the price too. The one pictured would be priced at €5700 for example and no, I didn’t forget a decimal point, that IS five thousand seven hundred euros but the delicacy of the lace is unrivalled.

So next time you’re in Venice don’t forget to take the vaporetto over to Burano to check out the lace makers before they disappear. I’d love to hear about your favourite crafts or hobbies so leave me a comment below and in the meantime keep stitching!

Useful information

For more on the history of Burano lace-making visit the Lace Museum here

An intricate Burano lace fan, €5700, Burano, Venice

An intricate Burano lace fan, €5700, Burano, Venice

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21 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge – Intricate Burano Lace

  1. Thank you so much for linking up to #TheWeeklyPostcard and sharing your story and photos of the lovely lace makers of Burano. I was there in 2013 and saw their intricate work. It is such a shame this is in decline and the young girls are not learning these skills and continuing these beautiful creations.

    • lizbert1 says:

      Thanks for the opportunity to link up Lyn, its always nice to be able to share our work and get the word out about other blogs! And thanks for your lovely comments – I totally agree and I hope that the islanders find a way to keep the art alive for future generations!

  2. Great photos, and a fascinating story about the history and creation of these fans. But — 5700 euros?? Gulp.

    • lizbert1 says:

      I know, I had to look twice too but having seen how long it takes the ladies to make them I could begin to understand the cost! Don’t forget each fan was probably made by 5 or 6 different ladies so each is only getting a portion of the price for their eye-watering art-work. If only I had more money……..!!! :o)

      • But would you ever dare to use it if you had one? What if you dirtied it, or tore it? They are lovely, though.

      • lizbert1 says:

        I think I’d have to frame it and just gaze at its beauty from behind glass as you’re right, I wouldn’t dare use it!!! It would look beautiful on my wall though!! :o)

  3. Wow, so much detail in it, no wonder they want to charge so much.

    • lizbert1 says:

      I know! Each stitch was created by hand as these fans weren’t using a background netting made by machine but were creating everything from hand like a massive embroidery. I could have watched the ladies for hours!!

  4. Fishink says:

    Stunning photos and unrivalled delicacy as you said. Studying in Nottingham (as I did) and knowing that part of the city is called ‘The Lace Market’, they also claim (as do many areas) to creating very early forms of Lace. Fascinating to see and those ladies must have the best (or worst) eyesight in the world, if nothing else ! : ) Great post

    • lizbert1 says:

      Thanks hon! I don’t know how the ladies don’t go blind either but the lady I spoke to didn’t even need glasses and she’d been making lace for over 50 years! Go figure! They’re fantastic artisans and I hope that they find some way to keep the tradition alive! Thanks for popping by! :o)

  5. galanda23 says:

    Unfortunately this beautiful art is getting lost…

    • lizbert1 says:

      I know, its such a shame but I hope they find a way to keep it going! I even asked for lessons but apparently it takes over a year as an apprentice to learn the stitches!!

  6. What a lovely legend behind the intricate Burano lace! That’s one lucky lady to have a mermaid-made veil! I never knew that story but I’ve witnessed the craft while visiting Venice…It’s so incredible the dedication and love that goes into the creation of the beautiful lace…Thank you for sharing this piece of Venetian history with us!
    Buona domenica!
    *Lia

  7. quarksire says:

    incredibly kewl 😎

  8. connier316 says:

    Beautiful, intricate and time consuming work. Most needlework is becoming a lost art as the world spins faster and faster. What a shame.

  9. Sartenada says:

    Awesome post and photos. I love that traditions live!!! In Finland people yet today make:

    Bobbin Lace.

    Happy blogging!

    • lizbert1 says:

      I agree! My Granny taught me to knit and crochet and my Mum taught me to embroider when I was little but those crafts are dying out too. I was never fortunate enough to learn bobbin lace but I do love the end product! Happy blogging to you too – I loved your origami post recently!

  10. Do you know the isle of Murano near Venice?
    It is famous for the production of exquisite glass beads since 1200.
    Read their wanderful history:
    http://www.stravagante-jewelry.com/murano-glass-jewelry-beads-history.html
    Might be worth a mention on your site.
    Marco Piazzalunga
    — writer and historian of Murano glass —

    • lizbert1 says:

      I do, Marco, quite well, as I’ve been over several times whilst living here in Venice over the last year. Its glass making is fantastic and I am planning to do a post on it soon I hope! Thanks for the link, very interesting!

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