We were intrigued by signs advertising “Homo Faber” everywhere. You couldn’t not see them. People were holding cards with the logo at vaporetto (water bus) stops, walls were covered with the sign, and our friends all raved. It was ending in a few days, there was no cost for admission, and a free shuttle would take you to its location at San Giorgio Maggiore Island. The subtitle was “Crafting a more human future.” We weren’t sure exactly what it was, but we knew we had to go, being lovers of crafts.
We made our way to the vaporetto stop and crowded onto the shuttle for the short ride across the Grand Canal. We all got off and headed for the main building. It was wonderful to see so many people interested in spending their day viewing and participating in crafts.
We noticed two exhibits in the program we wanted to be sure to see: “Poetry in Wood” and “Mesmerizing Embroidery.” At first, we didn’t know the exhibits were spread all over the whole island. We asked for these locations, but we didn’t understand the directions, so we just wandered, our usual style, and were rewarded.
One of the first rooms we came to was arranged like a museum. The exhibit that stood out for me was the wall of creepy, paper måché anti-smog masks. I think they were meant to be used; a scary image. They are made of various materials and contain active charcoal. They’re attached to a breathable fabric filter that covers the nose and mouth. Imagine seeing hordes of people, wearing these, and coming at you on the street!
We found “Poetry in Wood” and were impressed with their display: the tiny, polished pill boxes and the letters A, M, O, R, E, made of wood. They cleverly fit together and are inserted into a bigger box. We learned that this was originally a wedding gift. A unique treasure.
In the “Mesmerizing Embroidery” exhibit, two women were busily embroidering lace onto fabrics they were going to use to create beautiful dresses, like the ones shown. I was impressed by the intricate details and how engrossed they were in their work.
At one point we hunted for an elevator, because several exhibits were up a long flight of stairs, hard for us with my rollator walker. When we come to the many stairs over bridges, Gabriana lugs it over her shoulder, while I make my way, holding onto a railing and using my “stick.” Unfortunately, there were no signs for us to follow. A Red Cross worker heard us ask for directions, knew the elevator was not obvious, and came to our rescue. She opened one unmarked door, then another, to reveal our quest, surprising for a public exhibit.
When we got to the Mont Blanc booth, someone approached me and asked if I’d like to write something. I was a bit confused, but sat down. He handed me a succession of four different glorious pens, in increasing nib sizes, to try. The ink flowed beautifully. We later found out that my favorite, the largest, cost more than 6,000 Euros. Here is the page I wrote. As you can see, I got carried away.
We weren’t the only ones examining and enjoying the various pieces. I loved this profile of the woman and the blue vase.
Another of the rooms had interesting videos of artists, their stories, and works. You could either listen with headphones or read subtitles. We chose the quiet version. I watched six and noticed recurring themes. All had been influenced by parents or grandparents, who had introduced them to the joys of their art at early ages. All included them in their process and engaged their help. All grew up in nature, mostly forests. Their work today reflects this, often in workshops just like the ones they grew up in. It was heart-warming to see their continued enthusiasm.
And here is my very favorite: The feather fan guy. We walked up to his area and all these fans, made of peacock and other feathers, took my breath away. I think I surprised him with my exuberant reaction. He had some feathers he was working on, and he suddenly handed one to me. I was thrilled. When I looked for something to put it in, to carry home safely, he handed me a plastic envelope and added some more feathers. He showed us the four drawings he makes for a single fan. Each is a layer which allows you to see a beautiful design, whichever way you hold it. He uses the drawings to find the perfect feathers to create the pattern he intends. He works for a company in Paris, DUVELLEROY, that has made fans for queens since 1827. I could see why. Just being near those fans made me feel regal.
There were only two shuttles scheduled to go back, when we decided to leave, close to 7:00 p.m., so we rushed to try to catch one of them. Again, we were smashed in the waiting area. We looked around at our fellow captives and were surprised to see a familiar face, our new friend, Kris. We had met her a couple of nights before at the art cinema, when we were there with Elisa. She recognized her friend and came to join us. She had also rented Elisa’s apartment, the same one I did in 2010, and also became friends with her. We saw “Singing in the Rain,” with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Old classics are popular here.
At the shuttle stop, she squeezed over to us in the waiting area, and we inched onto the boat together. After we arrived on the other side of the canal, we all decided to stop for a spritz, one of my favorite customs here. As we navigated the narrow streets to Café Alla Bragora, where we used to go every day, we saw hundreds of others, sitting at outdoor tables at cafes along the way, socializing over appetizers, enjoying life in Venice.