Behind the sleep story: “The Glass Maker of Murano” 🧿

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
— Rumi

Hi friend!

I loved getting to share my new book with you last week — and to everyone who entered the giveaway, thank you so much for taking part and for sharing your favorite coffee rituals and stories, especially memories with loved ones.

Order your copy here

But last week also held the launch of something that I am truly just as excited to share with you today. My newest Sleep Story for Calm is live, and it’s a special one!

The seed for this story was planted last summer, as I worked on Calm’s series for HBO, A World of Calm. I had the honor of writing two episodes, the first of which was about glass making — specifically Dutch glass maker Bibi Smit.

One section of the episode touched on Venice and the role it’s played in the history of glass, and I was absolutely fascinated by what I learned: that for several hundred years, the city held a monopoly on glass making in the world; that in 1291, all Venetian glass makers were told to move to the island of Murano, to keep their precious trade secrets from escaping; and that these secrets were typically kept between fathers and sons, especially among the glassmaking guilds of the Renaissance.

There seemed to be such an air of mystery and intrigue around glass making at that time, and the researcher/wannabe-detective in me needed to know more. I started to explore the idea of writing a Sleep Story about a glass maker in Renaissance Venice, with a singular question on my mind:

What if I wrote about a glass maker’s daughter?

At first, all I read was that Venetian glass makers were so important, their daughters were allowed to marry the sons of Venice’s “wealthiest and noblest” families, and their children were also considered nobles.

But I couldn’t help imagining a different kind of glass maker’s daughter — surely there had to have been someone who snuck into her father’s workshop, not content to let her brothers have all the fun. I imagined taking a little artistic license and writing about such a woman, who was just as in love with the craft as her male counterparts were.

Then, one fateful Monday morning last October, I stumbled across a short article that blew me away. It said that one of the most renowned artisans in the history of Murano glass, Angelo Barovier, did indeed have five sons, and as was to be expected, they went on to become important glass makers themselves.

But — and this is when my heart began to race — I then read that Angelo also had a daughter. Her name was Marietta, and not only did she learn the family’s trade, she was perhaps the most influential glass maker of them all.

This one brief clue to Marietta’s existence was the spark I didn’t know I’d been looking for — no artistic license would be needed after all!

Within days, I came across a book called A Beautiful Woman in Venice, which tells the stories of 35 women from Venice’s history who aren’t nearly as well known as they should be. Thanks to author Kathleen Ann González’s research, I learned that when Angelo died in 1460, he chose to bequeath his book of secret recipes for making glass not to one of his five sons, but to Marietta. And so did he leave the family’s workshop and furnace to her and her brother Giovanni.

Best of all, Marietta is credited with reviving the lost art of rosetta star beads (as pictured in the above portrait and in my own illustration at the top of this newsletter). And perfectly enough, a gorgeous children’s book was published just last year about Marietta and her lasting creative legacy: A Thousand Glass Flowers, by Evan Turk.

As you might be able to tell, I could easily keep going here! The weeks I spent getting to know Marietta last fall were some of the most fulfilling and inspiring weeks I’ve ever spent as a writer.

But I also want to let you get to know Marietta for yourself in my new Sleep Story, which was beautifully narrated by Italian-American actor Edoardo Ballerini.

What I most want to share with you today is simply the joy I felt while working on this story — joy, but also gratitude and awe, at how every potential detail I wondered about (“What if I wrote about a female glass maker in the Renaissance?”) kept materializing in my research, as though I myself were dreaming the story into being.

Just like Marietta created her rosetta beads by building up layers of molten colored glass, so did this story slowly take shape, layer by fascinating layer — and now, I can’t wait for you to finally meet The Glass Maker of Murano.

Here’s to stories that spark joy,

In case you missed it:

  • If you’d like to listen to my new Sleep Story but aren’t a Calm subscriber, you can sign up for a 30-day complimentary guest pass for the Calm app here.

  • My new book, Stuff Every Coffee Lover Should Know, is out now! And in case you missed last week’s giveaway, I’m giving away five more copies on Instagram this week. Just head over to IG here to enter:

Enter the giveaway here

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