Weave a Real Peace — Fireside Chat Series

Weave a Real Peace (WARP) is an inclusive global network of individuals and organizations who value the social, cultural, historic, artistic, and economic importance of textile arts. A registered nonprofit in the USA, WARP works to improve the quality of life of textile artisans worldwide.

The group offers educational programs about traditional textile artists and related topics; runs programs to support textile artists; and provides information, resources, and technical assistance within the global textile arts community.  

Among other events, each month WARP hosts several Zoom-based meetings that enable members to talk informally and get to know one another. During each of these “Fireside Chats”, one member presents their organization and/or work. For the June 4 and 7 chats, I’ll be discussing Sardinian Arts and the tessitrici artigianali

While a growing number of events are open to the public, the WARP Fireside Chats are members-only events. You can read about the Fireside Chats and other upcoming WARP events here

If you are not already a WARP member, do consider becoming a member — WARP is most certainly a worthwhile organization to join and support!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

Sardinian Travel Special from RAI TV Available in USA

RAI, the Italian state radio and TV network, aired a two-hour special about Sardinia on April 16. The show is available online even within the USA.

As part of the Ulisse (Ulysses) series, the program features footage and a bit of history of select locations around Sardinia — primarily those visited by Ulysses during his epic voyage. Alberto Angelo, RAI’s gracious and beloved host of Italian travel and history shows, narrates Ulisse in Italian — yet if you don’t speak the language, you can watch the show and enjoy the magnificent scenery.

The episode includes a short segment about Sardinia’s protected sea silk (byssus) and weaver Chiara Vigo, the only person who retains the right to collect this rare treasure in Sardegna. 

In the United States, you can watch Ulisse for free on your computer or mobile device after you register for a free RAI account. On your computer, click this link. On your mobile device, download the RAIplay app for your smartphone or tablet. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your free account, then search for “Ulisse” to find the episode about Sardegna. 

June Online Presentation — Sardinian Handwoven Textiles: Exploring a Nearly Lost Art

This event is free. To attend, register on Eventbrite. After you register, you’ll receive the Zoom link and instructions.

See Sardinian handwoven textiles, learn about the handweavers, and understand the relevance of the women’s work and lives in today’s world.

About this event

Explore the indescribable beauty of Sardinian handwoven textiles, see the loving and painstaking artistry of their creation, meet the tessitrici artigianali — the unique women who maintain the tradition of a nearly-lost art— and glimpse just a bit of Sardinia’s majesty in this event with Kelly Manjula Koza, the founder of Sardinian Arts.  

Woven one at a time on looms powered entirely by hand and foot, Sardinian handwoven textiles are technically precise, astonishingly beautiful, and possess an unquantifiable essence that serves as a portal to something we seek yet may not be able to describe.

Kelly will discuss the importance of the handmade, the relevance these women, their weavings, and their traditions have in our modern world, and the anima (spirit) of Sardinian handwoven textiles. Kelly will share portions of her film as well as photos, stories of the weavers, knowledge of the island, and glimpses of her personal textile collection.

Before the event, you are invited to watch Kelly’s documentary I Want to Weave the Weft of Time (free, 29 minutes) as an introduction to what we’ll discuss at the event. See the trailer here and watch the entire film at WeaveWeftofTime.com. Find additional information on SardinianArts.com

The event will be held on Zoom; details will be provided upon registration.

Innovation is Tradition

Given my passion for protecting the art, designs, and rights of individuals and traditions — most especially the Sardinian handweavers — people often erroneously assume I am not in favor of innovation in traditional handweaving. 

This is not true at all! I very much embrace and support innovation in traditional handweaving and elsewhere — so long as the innovation springs from within the artist and their culture. 

Individuals grow, cultures transform themselves, and artistic traditions evolve. An individual weaver’s designs, techniques* and expressions naturally change based upon her own growth, experience and knowledge. Artists share designs, techniques, and ideas within and across cultures. This individual and collective innovation within a culture actively transforms a tradition.

Outside influences do not necessarily foster innovation. A cultural outsider who brings their own design to a traditional weaver and asks them to produce exact copies of the item is looking for labor and production. The outsider who copies a tradition’s artwork and motifs for the outsider’s commercial gain is essentially stealing traditional designs, not fostering innovation. Such activities do not recognize the individual artistry of a weaver or respect traditions of her culture and art.

Respecting a tradition, however, does not mean confining the weavers within that tradition to creating only items identical to those made by their mothers and grandmothers. Understanding this is critical, for outsiders often do have a subtle expectation of how textiles of a particular culture “should” look. This preconception is actually a stereotype projected onto the art and artists within a culture, reflects the limited perception of the outsider, and can consciously or unconsciously limit the expression of a traditional weaver.

The perception and practice of innovation in traditional textiles was discussed by a number of Native American weavers, museum curators, and others during a recent meeting of Weave a Real Peace (WARP). Lily Hope, a Native American artist, teacher, and community facilitator made a statement which seemed to embody what the traditional artists and supporters at the meeting felt: “Innovation is tradition. We can’t impose our ideas of traditional or stifle their [traditional handweavers’] creativity.” 

The artists also discussed the fact that tradition extends past the boundaries of time and place. Porfirio Gutierrez, a traditional Oaxacan sarape weaver who now lives in California, said that tradition is carried in the blood, heart, and being of the weavers, and “the voices of our ancestors speak through textiles.” 

The voices of the ancestors — the stories, histories, love, compassion, and humanity of weavers’ antecedents — are intertwined with those of the contemporary handweavers in modern traditional textiles. These intangible qualities of humanity coalesce with the skill of the handweaver to create the essence of a traditional handwoven textile. This essence is an expression of humanity both contemporary to and greater than a specific time and heart.

Like any artwork, the handwoven textile carries the energy, consciousness, love, and feeling of the weaver. This essence transcends time and space — and is what makes the handmade, the handwoven, inimitable. 

*How a textile is woven (handmade, hand decorated, or mill-made) and the types of dyes and fibers used should be clearly stated on textile labels, as these factors help determine a textile’s price and suitable market. 

~KMK


The word innovation comes from the Latin verb innovare, meaning “to make new.” The word innate stems from a Latin verb innatus, meaning “to be born”. As humans, we have an inborn drive to make ourselves and our lives new. In other words, we innately have the urge to innovate. 

A note about the photo: I snapped this in a historic hotel in Alghero. The handmade wooden shutters and hardware on the building exterior are the traditional window coverings, several centuries old, and maintain the historic integrity of the building. Modernizations have included well-fitting, tightly-latching glass windows on the building interior — an innovation I much appreciated, especially on my first night at the hotel, for there was a terrific thunderstorm, and the shutters were banging wildly outside the latched glass! The glass also permits the light from outside and the beauty of the handmade shutters to grace the room.

Musings on Textile Designs

What I found in this article about Ukrainian embroidery is similar to what I have seen, read, and heard from weavers and textile artists in other cultures — including in the Americas and in Sardinia. I’ve been meaning to write more about designs, and the linked article was a perfect prompt to put here some of what I discuss during presentations. ~ KMK 

Unsurprising similarities exist in the design and motifs of traditional textiles from widely diverse areas of the globe. These similarities can be attributed to several factors, technical and otherwise. 

Design elements are, in part, dependent upon the structure of a loom and fabric. The warp and basic weft of fabric constitute a framework into and upon which other fibers can be added in various combinations, yet the cross-fibers always exist as a defining matrix.* Different types of looms can also dictate what types of patterns and weaves an artist uses. For example, certain hand weaves that are possible on a basic horizontal loom may be impossible or untenable to create on a vertical loom. Likewise, some techniques used on a vertical loom may not be practical for use on horizontal looms. 

As with any technology, weavers using a certain type of loom are likely to develop similar techniques and patterns regardless of the weavers’ physical proximity to one another. Worldwide, traditional cultures are linked to agriculture, nature, and the cosmos energetically as well as symbolically, and designs reflecting and honoring these motifs are common. Cross-cultural trade and innovation spread technology and design, and there’s ample evidence that prehistoric cultures the world over shared art forms, imagery, weaving, and other technology and scientific knowledge often far more advanced than most modern historians care to admit. 

Most of us wonder about the meaning and origin of the symbols we see in textiles. “Tell us about the symbolism of the designs” is one of the most common questions I’m asked when giving presentations, and weavers, embroiderers, artists, and museum curators also hear this question regularly. While we can give some general answers, the true or deeper level of meaning of a symbol may may not always be known or conveyed. In some instances, the ancient meaning of a symbol may have truly been forgotten over time. However, in many cultures, weavers and other artists may not want to share the meaning of their designs, especially with outsiders, because the designs often have deep cultural or personal meaning that’s vulnerable to misuse through cultural appropriation and/or commercial exploitation.

Traditional designs of many cultures often have symbolic and sacred meaning, and these designs are often incorporated into textiles used for protection and rituals. Protective designs and patterns may be woven, embroidered, or dyed on clothing or items worn over the heart, chest, private parts, or other areas of the body. These items are often gender-specific and incorporate designs intended to offer energetic protection and benefits to men and women in traditional roles.

Certain clothing or woven items may be made for specific ceremonies (birth, coming of age, marriage, invoking a particular deity or aspect of nature, blessing crops, death, and so forth) and using such a textile out of context could be disrespectful — or even bring malefic influences. For this reason, weavers and textile artists in some traditions intentionally change the designs they use in textiles that are to be used or sold outside the community.

Of course, there are also traditional designs that may convey other types of meaning, or be purely fanciful. Designs handed down within a family may indicate position or status. Some family or local designs may also be whimsical patterns created and passed along within the locale.

Beyond the surface design obvious on an item of clothing, rug, or other weaving, there’s another key element that makes a handwoven textile special and even sacred: The energy, love, and care the maker puts into the textile as she creates it. This energy is unique to a textile and to the maker. This intangible feeling a handmade textile carries cannot be imparted by the machines that make commercialized textiles. This essence can’t be conveyed by words or photos. This essence is a key part of what traditional handweavers carry forth, even as innovation brings changes to designs and traditions. 

* There are some modern artists who shape or eliminate the warp and basic weft.

Dalla Lana alla Trama (From Wool to Weft), A Short Film about Weaving in Nule

Dalla Lana Alla Trama (From Wool to Weft) is a short documentary made in 2007 about the handweavers, traditions, and related culture of Nule, Sardegna.

The film is available on the YouTube channel of JanasTV and embedded below.

Nule and several of the weavers in the film are also featured on Sardinian Arts — see this page.

Enjoy!

Dalla Lana Alla Trama – storia della tessitura di Nule (2007)
Running Time: 27:27
Produced by the Janas Cultural Association in collaboration with the Town of Nule and the Region of Sardegna
Filmmaker: PJ Gambioli
Original Soundtrack: Stefano Ferrari
Full credits are on the film itself

Dyes in Traditional Handwoven Sardinian Textiles

People often ask about the colors and dyes traditional women handweavers of Sardinia — the tessitrici artigianali — use in their textiles. Weavers and dyers especially want to know specifically how certain colors in the Sardinian textiles are produced. The colors can be subtle or bold; bear the natural hue of wool, linen, or cotton; exhibit beautiful tints derived from natural and vegetable dyestuff; or sometimes even display the firmness of a modern chemical dye.

What I present about Sardinian dyes here and during events is general and never meant to be an exhaustive discussion, for several reasons. Textiles are a key aspect of Sardinian cultural heritage, and the tessitrici artigianali must be the ones to decide if and when to share details about their dyes and dyeing methods, and to present the information, especially outside Sardinia. They’re the holders of the knowledge and expertise, much of which is passed down from one women to another, varies from weaver to weaver, and requires years of study and practice to master.

Within Sardinia, several weavers do offer workshops and presentations about traditional dyes, especially in the towns of Nule and Aggius, where a number of women still dye their own fibers. *

In previous decades and centuries, women of a town would work together to wash, card, spin, dye, and prepare fibers for weaving. This work is incredibly difficult and time-consuming, and the decline of the practice of handweaving means fewer women have the time, means, or help of others to dye fibers by hand. While some handweavers still tint their own fibers, others purchase fibers that have been dyed, usually at a Sardinian mill or dye house.

Many handweavers use a combination hand-dyed and commercially-dyed fibers; either type may be tinted with natural and/or chemical dyes. The choice depends on the weaver’s preference, the colors needed for a particular item or design, and the availability, economics, and practicality of obtaining the fibers the weaver needs. 

Dyeing fibers is an art, especially when using vegetable dyestuff. Just as grapes grown for wine have different characteristics based on the soil, light, and shade of where they are grown, and carry these characteristics into the flavor and body of a wine, the plants used for dyeing have different qualifies based upon where the plants are grown, the amount of light and water they receive, when they are picked, and so forth, and carry this into the color the dyestuff imparts. I have met Sardinian weavers who can discern the subtle difference in dye color created by the same type of plants grown in different areas of the island. In addition, the color varies according to the method of dye preparation as well as the weather, season, temperature, and numerous other factors affecting a particular dye bath.

The natural colors and properties of the fibers typically used in Sardinian textiles — black and white wool, golden linen, and off-white cotton — also affect how a dye’s color ultimately sets into the fibers. These natural fibers may also be left uncolored for weaving: natural black or white wool is used alone, or blended to produce a rich grey, and the golden tones of natural linen and the slightly whiter shades of natural cotton are also commonly used in finished weavings. The subtle variegation typically found in naturally-colored and hand-dyed fibers adds warmth to authentic handwoven textiles, and is considered by many a beautiful hallmark of the handmade. 

Sardinian dyestuffs are similar to those used in other areas of the world. Onion skins, saffron, and daphne are used to create shades of yellow. Walnut husks produce brown. Ivy, buckthorn, and other plant leaves create greens. A special mushroom is used to produce a natural orange. Logwood, introduced to the island a few centuries ago, produces a black deeper and more consistent than the natural black of wool. Kermes, an insect similar to cochineal, produces a prized scarlet red. 

The dyestuffs for purple and lavender, colors long considered to be the exclusive right and signature of royalty because of the difficulty of producing the tints, are abundant in parts of Sardinia — so much so that Scots made trading expeditions to the island in the 1800’s expressly to acquire wool dyed purple and lavender to use in tartans bearing these shades. Pokeweed as well as a certain lichen found in specific areas of the island are used to create the colors.

Interestingly, when I first saw the Sardinian lichen that produces the sought-after lavender tint, I thought the lichen similar to a type that grows on oak trees where I live in the East Bay Area outside San Francisco. I gathered some of the fallen California lichen and prepared it as several of the weavers had instructed me, and then dyed a small amount of cotton cloth and linen fiber, which took on a lavender tint similar to that used in textiles of Aggius.

When I showed the result to a weaver from Aggius — Gabriella Lutzu — she noted subtle differences. I felt her keen discernment of color clearly underscored what we already know: traditional vegetable dyeing is an art, not a science, and that the color produced by any dye batch is due to countless factors, including the source of the dyestuff and the intention, hands, and heart of an artist. 

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

* When travel again becomes more predictable, I’ll be leading tours of Sardinian weaving studios, some of which can include dyeing presentations from weavers, if participants are interested. 

Technology and the Unquantifiable Essence of the Handmade

Textiles have become a commodity, as have clothes, food, and pretty much everything in our lives. In fact, humans and humanity have nearly become a commodity. In the modern Western world, it seems that individuals are not valued or considered except as consumers, granular components of target audiences which large corporations seek to identify as potential buyers of material stuff. 

While I do realize there is a place for industry (green, please), technology (much of which I love), and commercial items, including textiles produced in mills and powerloom shops, we can’t disregard humanity, individual human lives, the human touch, or compassion. Doing so only makes individuals — us — feel lost, disconnected, unloved, and purposeless. In an increasingly technological, commercial world that negates or exploits most human qualities for profit, we need objects made by human hands and with natural materials. I believe our nervous and energetic systems, our bodies, our hands, and our spirits seek, consciously or not, objects that connect us to nature and other humans. 

Living and working in the greater Silicon Valley, I not only experience this myself, but see an increasing number of software engineers, kids who grow up with gizmos everywhere, and older folks who are tired of having their hands on keyboards searching for “something missing”. Humans, the human touch, and human compassion cannot be commoditized or programmed into a gizmo.

Arts, crafts, and handmade objects help fill the gap so many feel — not only in a material sense, but in a greater sense. When a person makes something by hand, their attention, their care, their love for what they are doing, and their unique human touch is infused into what they make. These impart an unquantifiable essence of the handmade into what they make. This essence, this quality, is distinct from yet complements the artistic skill and technical mastery a maker brings to their art. This unquantifiable essence of the handmade is tangible to our nervous and energy systems, and to our spirit — whether we know it or not. 

The unquantifiable essence of the handmade is a great part of what make handmade items and handwoven textiles so valuable, in both tangible and intangible ways. The object, the weaving itself is valuable. The essence of the object is invaluable. We sense this, even if we can’t explain it. And we want handmade items — those we make ourselves, or those we buy from the artists, the craftspeople, the handweavers. 

People and their handwork are not commodities. Both are priceless.

~ KM Koza

The photo shows a detail of one of Eugenia Pinna‘s textiles as she weaves it by hand.

Artists in Their Own Right

I value the tessitrici artigianali, the women handweavers of Sardinia, as artists worthy of respect in their own right — not as producers of other peoples’ designs. 

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that not everyone regards the handweavers in this way. I’ve been contacted by many interior designers and clothing designers that view the Sardinian handweavers merely as potential producers of the designers’ own items. I’ve also been contacted by large companies that see the tessitrici artigianali only as possible sources of Sardinian textiles that can be copied and produced in the corporation’s offshore factories.

Most interior designers seek textile producers to make rugs or other articles fashioned by the interior designer. The designers want the articles produced exactly to their specifications at a low price — a price which is at least doubled, sometimes tripled or quadrupled, for the designer’s profit when selling to their client. The interior designers command an even higher price from their client by stating items are “Handmade in Italy” — even when the articles are not truly handmade, but are made in power-loom shops — and even when the additional profit gained from the “Handmade in Italy” label is not shared equitably with the actual makers, the weavers.*

Clothing designers also seek textiles “Made in Italy” for the increased status and payment the “made in” and “handwoven” labels will bring, yet the designers generally do not want or value the finished integral textile art created by handweavers. Fashion designers merely want low-cost fabric they can use as a component in their own label of bags and clothing, not the beautiful rugs, bags, table runners, and other finished works created by the handweavers.

Similarly, large multi-national fashion houses often seek to “source” fabric and designs from Sardinia. When I’ve questioned the representatives who have contacted me from such corporations, they’ve brazenly confirmed they want Sardinian textiles to copy for corporate-branded items that would be made in corporate-owned mills in Asia, and sold for corporate profit. At least two of the corporate reps have hinted that I would be well paid if I were to provide them with samples they could copy — which I do not. After I refused one corporate rep, he even tried to pose as an independent individual by contacting me from his personal email address to request samples.

As well as having said “No!” to these large corporations, I’ve declined to work with designers and small business owners who have sought to appropriate Sardinian textiles and/or designs for their own profit, and without giving due credit and pay to the handweavers. I don’t support or participate in such activity — it’s not respectful or dharmic (right action).

While individuals and cultures always influence one another, outright intellectual and artistic theft, cultural appropriation, and colonialism have run rampant across the world for centuries. These activities negate cultures and individuals, and have created a social, economic, and ecologic mess across the globe. To steal the designs and heritage of the traditional women weavers of Sardinia for the profit of foreigners is not right. To consider the tessitrici artigianali merely as producers of items that will profit foreigners is also not right. 

The tessitrici artigianali are endowed with an esteemed heritage, possess incredible artistic and design skill, and apply time-honored STEM (Science, Technical, Engineering, and Math) and problem-solving skills in all aspects of their work. The women weavers lovingly and skillfully create textiles of modern and ancient design — art of their own, and art of tradition. The ancient and modern handwoven textiles of Sardinia are museum-quality works of art, created by artists who are invisible to the world primarily because they are women, and also because they are from a small island discounted by the commercial world except as a source of cheap labor or goods. To purloin the art and skills of the tessitrici artigianali for off-shore profit is adharmic — not right.

I firmly believe that to change the world, we must change how we are in the world — and this includes changing how we do business. Respect for one another, for the earth, and for ourselves must be foremost, and we must keep this respect in mind when we act, including in business. This concept is not new; it’s actually rooted in ancient traditions of all lands, including India, the Americas, and Sardinia. In reality, the slowly-growing interest in ethical business is a resurgence, not a new concept. As part of this resurgence, the peoples, arts, culture, heritage, wisdom, tangible riches, and intangible wealth of all lands — including Sardinia — must be recognized and honored. 

The fact that many in the United States do not know about Sardinia and its grand history is no excuse for refusing to learn about, acknowledge, or respect the island’s vast heritage. Sardinia was a key player economically, culturally, scientifically, and politically in Early and Modern European, Byzantine, Roman, Punic, Phoenician, and other time periods. As recently as 1860, The Kingdom of Sardinia extended over a large portion of Continental Europe. Prehistoric Sardinia was as magnificent as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Colombia, and other areas that were once centers of civilizations that are now lost. The architecture, arts, crafts, music, science, and other aspects of Sardinia’s cultural and heritage have been — and still are — overlooked, discounted, and even intentionally destroyed by classic historians and academics. 

The Sardinians are keepers of great gifts. This is especially true of the tessitrici artigianali, who bear the wisdom, traditions, and skills of their art as well as a compassionate manner of curating their work and world. The consideration, attention, and love the women weavers bring to their art and lives is lacking in the world of technology and business. This lack is largely responsible for the sense of “something’s missing” that many people feel. Consider a meal prepared with home-grown ingredients and cooked for beloved family and friends; a shirt made by hand with attention to detail and loving throughs for the person who will wear it; or a handwoven rug carefully, thoughtfully, lovingly made by an artist: The essence of what these give us is unquantifiable and inimitable, even by the best technology. These items are made with care and love, the invisible building blocks of a diverse yet complete humanity.

Our planet and our humanity are being threatened to the point of destruction by greed, hatred, and indifference. Bringing respect, care, and loving attention into our actions and the items we use will help restore our humanity to each one of us. As individuals who live and act with care, attention, and compassion, each of us can help restore humanity to the world.

While it may seem a small thing to respect the traditions, art, and rights of a small group of strong women handweavers in Sardinia — the tessitrici artigianali — we must remember what ancient cultures have long known, and modern science is rediscovering: no one and no thing is small, or independent. We’re all interconnected and interdependent parts of a greater whole, like the individual fibers of a handwoven rug.

~ KM Koza

*I believe interior designers and power loom shops are a perfect match, but the articles made in power loom shops are not truly handmade — they are hand decorated, and calling them handmade only confuses buyers and in the end hurts all weavers and textile producers.

Protecting the Handmade Safeguards the Economy — and More

In my presentations, I always talk about what the term handmade means, discuss the difference between handmade, hand-decorated, and mill-made textiles, and emphasize the importance of establishing and maintaining a classification system to protect the different types of Sardinian textiles.

Currently, there are no formal classifications or protections. This leads to confusion for buyers and encourages unscrupulous foreign businesses to appropriate and copy — steal — Sardinian textile designs and business. Even now, poorly-made textiles are being produced in China and brought into Sardinia, where the cheap imitations are labeled as “Authentic Sardinian” weavings and sold in tourist shops and roadside stands. I find this sad and infuriating.  

Handwoven textiles are a key element of Sardinia’s heritage, and valuing and protecting the handweavers and their art is critical to maintaining the integrity of Sardinian textiles, overall Sardinian heritage, and the island’s economy. The European Union has a classification system to protect traditional foods and wines considered important to Italy’s cultural heritage — green plastic jars of “parmesan cheese” are not the same as rounds of true Parmigiano Reggiano DOP cheese, and the green jar name and labels cannot suggest they are.

A similar textile classification system would help buyers understand what kind of weaving they are purchasing, ensure fair pricing for the different classifications of weavings, and protect Sardinian handweavers, textile producers, and mill owners from having their designs stolen and copied by offshore makers. 

While there’s much to discuss about protecting Sardinian textiles, cultural appropriation, and related issues, I’ll be brief here. In fact, what you’ll read below are excerpts addressing these themes from the Sardinian Arts Statement. You can read the full statement here (anche in Italiano).

In recent years, we have heard too many stories of traditional cultures and their arts that have been appropriated by vendors who are greedy and lack scruples. Stolen designs are used to generate profit for large international conglomerates instead of the communities from which the designs come and items are traditionally produced. 

For the purpose of elevating the esteem and value for their art, Sardinian weavers should be recognized as artists, and their traditional designs should be respected as art of Sardinian origin. Items which incorporate Sardinian designs should be made only by local producers. The protection of Sardinian artists and designs will be advantageous to all the weavers of the island.

In Sardinia, most sellers don’t currently make a distinction between textiles made by hand, powerloom, or mill. In the tourist shops, on the internet, and even in some textile studios, all of these textiles are sold as “traditional” and “traditional handmade”.

Just as the European Union recognizes different classifications of traditional food, it’s important that Sardinian textiles are classified accurately with reference to the method and place in which they are made, and that the public be educated to this regard. In fact, all the classifications have their place and their buyers.

Having discussed and exchanged ideas and opinions with experts over the past years, I think that this system of classification will help buyers understand the classifications of textiles bearing the label “Made in Sardinia”, increase the esteem of all weavers of all the classifications, and protect the weavers in the global economy.

Handmade textiles: Textiles made completely by hand, using looms where all the movements and beating are done only by hand/foot, and not by a hydraulic, electronic, or computerized loom.

Hand-decorated textiles: Textiles made by hydraulic, electronic, or computerized looms, where all the beating is not done by hand/foot. The weavers stops the mechanical beating of the loom to make pibiones and/or add other decoration by hand.

Mill-made textiles: Textiles made in mills, by hydraulic, electronic, and/or computerized looms with minimum human involvement, and often where many similar objects are produced at the same time.

All the levels permit:

  • The use of fibers prepared in mills.
  • The use of a sewing machine, if the use is to make seams/hems after the weaving is cut from the loom and the seams/hems are not decorative.
  • The use of fibers prepared by hand without hydraulic, electronic, or computerized tools can be indicated with the label “Hand-spun fibers”.

All three classifications have their buyers and their place in the market. There is no competition. The difference between the three classifications of textiles is the same as the difference between a painting by a master painter, a limited-edition print of the painting, and a poster.

Truly handwoven Sardinian textiles are a fit for collectors and others who value the highest quality textiles and the work of the women who weave them. Hand-decorated items suit designers who want rapidly-made customized production of their designs or unique items without the cost of a truly handmade item. Mill-made textiles from Sardinia are nicely made, inexpensive, and perfect for everyday use in homes, hotels, and restaurants. 

While what I have written here is specific to Sardinia, I believe that protecting the handmade items and traditional arts of all cultures is necessary to preserve and sustainably build economies, societies, and people across the globe. Yes, technology has its place, but technology and gizmos must be balanced with the handmade in order to preserve and advance our physical and mental health, the health of the nature and societies, and the health of our individual and collective spirits.

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

The photos the cheese and also that of the power loom are from unknown websites; my thanks to the photographers.

© Kelly Manjula Koza unless otherwise noted.