A Modern Day Impiraressa

Marisa Convento is a modern impiraressa

Marisa Convento is a modern impiraressa. Photo credit: Evelyn Leveghi

I introduce readers of Italy Explained to Marisa Convento, A Modern-Day Impiraressa.

A Modern-Day Impiraressa

by JoAnn Locktov

Impiraressa.

Now say the word slowly.

Impiraressa.

It rolls off your tongue with images of imperial empresses. In truth, it is the Venetian word for bead-stringer.

Not everything made on Murano was for the immediate pleasure of the aristocracy. The glass blowers also produced the humble bead. The minute perfections of glass needed to be strung before they were packed in crates that were shipped around the world.

This was women’s work. As the men were busy building ships that would conquer east and west, the women sat outside in the fading light and gave linear form to glass no bigger than a seed.

Marisa Convento is a modern impiraressa. She has elevated the status of bead-stringer to the nobility of artisan.

The stringing of beads is a functional requirement. The creation of flowers, embroidery, and adornment is a creative pursuit. If you are curious and book through Italian Stories, Marisa will take you down the rabbit hole of impiraressa legacy.

She wears shoes with leather soles and not insubstantial heels. They click when she walks with the confidence of someone who knows exactly where she is going. We venture to the Castello, in the vicinity of the Arsenale. This is where the impiraressa of Venice worked. This is where they counted out beads, strung on cotton thread with long needles, and gossiped. And when no longer able to feed their children on meager wages, they went on strike.

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