Glassblowing is in Simone Cenedese (49), like many glass artists from Murano, in the blood. “My father started this company, but my grandfather already blew lamps,” says Cenedese, and he shows his showroom full of brightly colored glass lighting. His glass workshop has 24 employees and is specialized in lamps and art objects, modern and traditional. The pastel-colored island of Murano, half an hour by boat from the much busier Venice, has been world-famous for its artistic glass since the thirteenth century. The Doge of Venice presumably decreed in 1291 that all glassblowers had to settle in Murano, in order to avoid fire hazards in Venice and to keep the secrets of glassblowing on one small island. “We need a temperature of 1,400 degrees for the melting, and 1,100 degrees for the finish of our objects,” explains master glassblower Cenedese. The glass artists use gas ovens that burn around the clock, seven days a week. Once a year, during the hottest month of August, the ovens are extinguished for annual maintenance. Tourists visit Murano. Photo Claudia Corrent The showroom of master glassblower Simone Cenedese in Murano. Photo Claudia Corrent Vases in the showroom of master glassblower Simone Cenedese. Photo Claudia Corrent Claudia Corrent for Rnc. the gas crisis of glassmakers in Murano October 2022. Marina e Susanna Sent is a company based in Murano in Fondamenta Serenella, specialized in the creation of glass jewels and in the creation of artistic objects: sculptures made with artisan techniques, from Murrino glass to filigree, glass fusing plates and lamps in vitreous fabric . Quality mark But after the summer, about 70 percent of the glass factories temporarily closed, estimates Luciano Gambaro (57), the chairman of the glassblowing consortium that monitors the quality of Murano’s glass with a quality mark. Murano, an island with four thousand inhabitants, has about 120 glass factories and workshops. Deterred by the gas prices, most entrepreneurs preferred to wait a bit. Those who restarted after the summer break often only did so at half power. So is Simone Cenedese: “Four of my nine ovens have been completely off since the summer.” He pays three times as much for electricity as last year, gas became ten times more expensive. Over the past year, glassblowers in Murano have been able to cope with the sharp rises in energy prices thanks to subsidy support from the Veneto region and from the central government, in Rome. But this summer, that support ended, and Cenedese has been charging its customers a 40 percent price increase ever since. That is not an option for everyone. Cristiano Ferro (53) is director of the family business Effetre Murano, which sells semi-finished products such as glass rods to glass workshops. His company works with smaller margins and mainly relies on the sale of large volumes. Only two of its thirteen ovens are burning, and Ferro has been selling mostly from stock for weeks. With a dejected face, he digs up two gas bills. The price increase is staggering: for consumption during the month of July 2021, the company had to pay 35,000 euros for its gas. For the monthly consumption of July 2022, the gas bill was almost 299,000 euros, or eight and a half times as much. Also read Brussels is bringing an energy price ceiling closer and closer with unprecedented proposals For years Ferro’s company could count on a fixed gas price, but since a year no energy supplier wants to offer it. “On an annual turnover of 3.5 million euros, the increased energy costs without subsidy support would have cost my company 1.2 million euros last year,” says Ferro. “That’s not sustainable, is it? We are the victims of wild speculation.” The glass entrepreneurs in Murano are not happy with the Dutch TTF gas exchange. That marketplace plays an important role in determining gas prices in the EU, and is controversial for being too speculative . The exceptional and temporary price cap for gas that the European Commission is proposing, and which will be discussed at the European summit on Thursday, does not come a day too soon, according to glass entrepreneurs. Such a price ceiling sends an important signal to speculators, says Luciano Gambaro, the chairman of the consortium of glassblowers, ‘because they have been profiting for months from the divisions among European countries and the indecision of the EU’. But according to Ferro, the damage has been done: “Even if prices fall, we end up in a recession.” Roberto Beltrami processes the glass. Photo Claudia Corrent Simone Cenedese blows glass. Photo Claudia Corrent The furnace of Gambaro & Tagliapietra Glass Studio. Photo Claudia Corrent rock music In a hip studio where glassblowers give rock music workshops to foreign tourists, master glassblower Roberto Beltrami (31) says that in this crisis lies a lesson for the future. “A lot of gas ovens in Murano could be a lot more energy efficient,” he shouts, trying to drown out the music. Beltrami studied physics in the US for a while, knowledge that helps him develop more sustainable and energy-efficient ways to blow glass. Many other and older glassblowers are not open to innovation, says Beltrami: “Murano has a lot of tradition, but it also suffers from an old village mentality.” It’s just not there yet, Cristiano Ferro argues. “In the future we may be able to work with a combination of gas and hydrogen, but at the moment gas is still irreplaceable.” Murano is as fragile as its famous glass This is yet another blow to the sector. The 2008 banking crisis caused the US market, which is important to Murano, to collapse. In November 2019, Venice was hit by acqua alta : flood. And a few months later, corona struck. The glass-blowing island has to deal with cheap competition from Asia in the bargain. Murano is as fragile as its famous glass. Also read: Italy is now trying to break free from the entanglement with Moscow Luciano Gambaro, a man who until now spoke loudly and was difficult to interrupt, suddenly falls silent. He stares wistfully at the black and white photos on the wall of his office. There is a photo of his grandmother, traveling in the US. “She traveled the world with her self-designed glass jewelry,” says Gambaro. Further on hangs a framed and yellowed newspaper article from 1934, when his great-grandfather took part in the World’s Fair in Chicago with a delegation of glassblowers. “Gas is like water to us, it is vital. I fervently hope that the tradition does not die out, and that the glass from Murano survives this too.” A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 20, 2022