Note from Kelly — I don’t usually post here what I send in newsletters, yet since it’s been a long time, I’m including the newsletter update here.
Far too long, travel tips, and a photo
It’s been far too long since my last newsletter. So much has happened — not all directly related to Sardinia and textiles, but background work and events — and each time I’ve started to prep a newsletter, another event comes. Presentations were delayed as well, with the exception of a few guild talks.
I was in Sardinia in December and January (now so long ago!) for the first time since just before the pandemic (which also now seems long ago). The trip was about re-connecting with my weaving family and friends and being with them for errands and everyday tasks, more than working towards the next film or tour I have in mind.
It was great to chat and catch up, and take weavers on adventures (a distant museum visit, a lunch in the city, visits to relatives, complicated errands, and more) since some don’t often get out of their studios. And yes, new textiles came home with me, and more are being shipped.
Before this, the new corporate work I started last year required intense ramp-up and focus, and immediately after my return from Sardinia that work got really busy, so I postponed the newsletter. (Sardinian Arts is work of my heart; I want the weavers to profit, not myself.)
Just as I was planning dates for Spring presentations, a few things happened that led to an essentially overnight decision (inner guidance!) to move house. While I have for several years been taking steps to move to Sardinia/Milano, the pandemic put a serious bend in my plans, and the move I just made was from Walnut Creek, California, to a city not so distant mile-wise yet a world apart: Santa Clara. As odd as it seems, I know this is a step towards Italy, even though the journey is like navigating the streets of a European city— sometimes you need to start off going in what seems the opposite direction when you’re walking to the basilica, the dome of which you see above the other buildings, because the streets are not always straight.
While I know the move supports the new projects I’ve had in mind for Sardinian Arts, I’m still getting caught up with myself and everyone else. I’ll be lining up some public presentations (in person and online) later this summer and in the fall. My next visit to Sardinia will be in October, and I will certainly write more before then.
Summer travel tips
If you are headed to Sardinia this summer, a few tips:
Of course visit the handweavers listed on Sardinian Arts (see the artists’ individual pages for contact info) and remember to buy items directly from them rather than from the shops, which generally carry factory-made items but sadly market them as “handmade”.
Plan a day to visit Spazio Ilisso, a wonderful museum in Nuoro. They have a special exhibit coming up May through October. I won’t give anything away now but check their website and be sure to go. Ilisso also publishes singularly beautiful books about Sardinia, her arts, and her people; find the books in the museum or order online at their publishing site.
Spend at least a few days in what I feel is the home of my heart — Gallura — at Agriturismo Tuttusoni, where the views, beach, locale, food, and hospitality are fantastic.
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.
The numerous forest fires starting, spreading, and engulfing large areas of California, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and other western states are known to people in the United States not only because of the news, but because the smoke from these fires has at times grown so thick that people complain of headaches and watery eyes in distant states. Huge forest fires have also charred tens of thousands of acres across southern Europe: Greece, Turkey, and Southern Italy have been burning — as has been Sardinia.
Massive forest fires started on the island on July 23, 2021 and by July 26, the initial fires had burned more than 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) across central Sardinia, wiping out homes, farms, crops, and forests, killing or injuring livestock and wildlife, and displacing people and animals.
While the initial fires were quelled, blazes continue to start and burn across the island. The exact number of acres burned is not known, for the fires start and grow so rapidly that accurate fire boundaries can’t always be mapped. The overall damage to forests, wildlife, crops, farm animals, and people won’t be known for some time, and recovery will take years.
While there’s not much news in English about the Sardinian wildfires, I’ve put a few links below, along with links to Italian sites that include photos and videos of key fires. Many of the damaged areas are well known to me, as I have driven the roads and explored the areas.
To help those most affected by the fires, individuals across the island and groups across Italy have started GoFundMe campaigns. Some campaigns have a general focus; others have a specific focus on agriculture, animals, or a particular region. I’ve put several GoFundMe links below, should you care to donate. Of course, prayers and best wishes are helpful and welcome.
List of Fires, Updated Daily
The Sardegna Protezione Civile (Sardinian Civil Protection Agency) website maintains a list of wildfires. The list is updated daily.
This presentation will be September 15, 2021 at 6pm San Francisco time. The event is free, but you must register to attend.
Join me online for this free event to explore the indescribable beauty of Sardinian handwoven textiles, see the loving and painstaking artistry of their creation, meet the tessitrici artigianali — the unique women weavers who maintain the tradition of a nearly-lost art — and glimpse just a bit of Sardinia’s majesty.
I’ll 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. I’ll share portions of my film as well as photos, stories of the weavers and my adventures on the island, and show some of my personal textile collection.
Your phone, your computer keyboard, your desk? What else? Do you even recall?
This morning: What do remember feeling, experiencing, touching?
Your hands: What textures did your hands encounter today? A surface that is scratchy, bumpy, unfamiliar? Or just the predictable smooth metal and glass of a gizmo, surfaces you touch to use but otherwise ignore? Did you notice any feeling in your fingers, or did you merely use your fingers to do things automatically, not focusing on your fingers and what they touched but on the tasks for which your fingers were the unacknowledged tools?
When did you last touch something made by nature, in its natural state?
When did you last bend to collect a pebble from the seashore or kneel to retrieve a fallen leaf on a hiking path? When last did the skin of your bare hand feel the texture, the temperature, the heaviness, the lightness of a tiny treasure?
When did you last wear a woolen sweater knit by an aunt, and run your fingers over the rough strands of the yarn as you rolled the cuff?
When did you last lean back on a wooden chair handmade by an artesian, and rub your palms on the armrests to feel the smoothness?
When did you last think about the hours and days it took to make such an item, contemplating the love and skill put into every stitch of the sweater and every sandpaper-swipe that went into polishing the chair?
When have you even thought of who — or what — made the items you use, the objects you touch each day, all day?
Most of us in today’s tech-focused Western world touch only machine-made items. We don’t generally think much about where or how they were made. The predictability and monotony of what we touch has made us callous (pun intended).
We’ve lost the sense of touch and the sensibility of touch. By dissociating ourselves from what we touch, we constrict ourselves and our world, ultimately disconnecting ourselves from what touches us. The world becomes senseless and spiritless.
Touch is human. We need to pay attention to what we touch, and we need to bring objects from nature and items crafted by loving human hands back into our everyday lives. More than needing objects — faster, sleeker, improved, enhanced objects — we need objects we can truly touch, and we need to be able to sense those objects on more than a superficial level.
Touching, feeling, and contemplating handmade and nature-created objects awakens our own sense of touch, expands our physical and emotional capacity to feel, and helps us connect with our individual and collective spirit.
Each of us and every thing carries an essence, a spirit. The ancients knew this, the mystics know this, and the artists know this. However, most of us forget that each thing and every person contains an essence — if we even knew this to forget it! Moreover, it’s easy to forget this when we forget how to touch. If we’re not aware the surface of what we touch, we can’t feel the deeper essence of what we touch. Everything we touch then seems flat, undifferentiated. We ourselves lose our dimensionality, our essence.
I have often suggested to friends that they keep a special rock, twig, or feather on their desk, and take breaks to consciously feel the item, or even to just hold the item when on calls and in meetings. Similarly, I suggest cultivating and actively using a collection of handmade items, including clothing, rugs, and pottery made by those we know or artisans from local or traditional cultures. These handmade items carry the essence of the maker: the care, consciousness, and love the maker has for their craft permeates each object they makes. This essence is tangible and it touches us — if we allow ourselves to feel it.
This essence of care, consciousness, and love is what we’re missing in the world today, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Making and using handmade items is a tangible way to bring some of this back.
Like much of the world, Italy’s travel regulations are in constant flux due to the pandemic. For the most part, travel to Italy is restricted until July 31, 2021. Only travelers from certain countries (including the United States) can enter.
Currently, all travelers entering Italy must take a Covid test upon arrival and test negative in order to avoid a quarantine. This includes European Union (EU) citizens. Travelers from locations outside the EU must arrive on what are termed “Covid tested flights” and test negative in order to avoid the current 10-day quarantine. Each of the different arrival options requires you to provide and sign documentation attesting your health statements are truthful and that you will adhere to the required protocols.
Covid Tested Flights
Italy permits travelers to enter on Covid tested flights departing from select airports in a handful of countries. Passengers on the Covid tested flights must complete certain paperwork and test negative for Covid before being permitted to enter and travel within Italy without undergoing a 10-day quarantine.
US travelers can book Covid tested flights on Delta or American Airlines. The Covid tested flights depart from New York (JFK) or Atlanta (ATL) and arrive in Milano (MXP) or Roma (FCO). Napoli (NAP) and Venezia (VCE) may be cleared to accept Covid tested flights at some point in the near future.
Travelers arriving on a Covid tested flight must meet these requirements:
Before the trip, provide a completed declaration form stating the reason for the trip, details about your prior travel, flight to Italy, Covid/vaccination status, and so forth (airlines generally provide this form)
If you happen to be going to Sardegna this summer and would like suggestions on where to go and what to do, contact me!
Official information is still incomplete about plans to allow travelers vaccinated against Covid to enter Italy (and Europe) easily and move about freely. As of right now, it seems that vaccinated travelers from EU member states may be able to enter Italy and travel without tests or quarantines after July 1, 2021.
While I had seen articles about vaccinated US citizens being able to enter freely after June 15, as of June 7, 2021, there’s no official information on the Italian websites about this. A digital health certificate (also called a “Green Passport”) confirming vaccination status appears to be close to launching for EU citizens, but there’s no official launch date or information about when such a digital app/Green Passport would be available for US and other non-European travelers.
Helpful Websites and Smartphone Apps
The websites and smartphone apps below are updated on a regular basis. The information on the apps is generally updated more quickly and more frequently than the information on the websites. Find the smartphone apps on The App Store or GooglePlay.
Join me live online for an intimate series of presentations about Sardinian handwoven textiles, the women who maintain nearly-lost weaving traditions, and more!
In this free series, I’ll be sharing my stories, videos, and photos of the women weavers and their distinctive textiles; showing weavings from my own collection; discussing the history and revival of Sardinian handweaving; providing a historical and cultural overview of Sardinia; giving you a photographic tour of the island; answering your questions; and more!
This series starts Saturday January 23, 2021. See the full schedule below.
If you have missed earlier sessions, you can still come to later sessions!
Here’s a good piece from USA Today about the importance of textiles and how their relatively recent commoditization has made us forget how difficult, complex, and time-consuming handweaving and hand-spinning are. The column also touches upon the value of fibers and woven items, not only in themselves, but as components of products and machines that have driven advances in areas from commerce to medicine.
It is only in the past century, and especially in the past generation, that most Americans could forget where cloth comes from. Once so valuable they were stolen from clothes lines and passed down in wills, textile products now occupy only a tiny fraction of household budgets. ~ Virginia Postrel
Would you like to see handwoven Sardinian textiles in your city? Perhaps you’d even like to purchase one, after viewing it and feeling it?
I’m arranging trunk shows, where the textiles will be shown in small groups to those interested in seeing and purchasing them, as well as exhibitions, where textiles will be displayed for some time, and, depending upon the venue and the type of exhibit, may available to purchase.
I will attend the events to discuss the textiles, the artists, and present photos and video clips of the weavers and Sardinia. I can also arrange to show my documentary I Want to Weave the Weft of Time and answer questions at opening nights and related events.
If you’re interested in hosting such an event, or having one in your area, please contact me.
Given the pandemic, I have been offering online presentations at regular intervals. If interest permits, I will arrange in-person or online trunk shows mid-to late 2021. Contact me if you are interested.
Sardinia is an ancient island with a tremendous history. Her artistic heritage, spiritual traditions, natural beauty, and the wisdom and strength of her people are beyond description.
Sardinia’s status as a usually-overlooked, often dismissively-mentioned island has in some ways benefited it, helping preserve her culture, traditions, and even people: many Sardinians live happily and actively into their hundreds.
While rich in so many ways, Sardinia is relatively money-poor. As an autonomous province of Italy, Sardinia has a status similar to that of Puerto Rico’s in the United States, both legislatively and in the minds of the mainland residents. The island’s economic development has long been sustained by various funding initiatives, including those from the Aga Khan and the European Union. Currently, most of Sardinia’s income is generated by the visitors who flock to the island each May to October for the tourist season.
Given the current crisis, the tourist season is likely not to exist in 2020. And while Sardinia’s strict virus containment measures have minimized the number of cases across the island, the same measures are decimating businesses, even those which generally close or reduce services during the off-season.
Like the rest of Italy, the Sardinians are doing all they can to contain the virus—their lockdown is extremely rigorous—to pray and prepare for a tourist season as best they can, and to promote their businesses online. Grassroots business initiatives, as well as those supported by chambers of commerce and tourism offices, abound. And those of us stranieri who love and cherish the island and her people do what we can to help.
So, during this time of global crisis, what can you do from the United States to support Sardinians — including, but certainly not limited to, the wonderful weavers mentioned on these pages?
Here are six ideas.
Buy Sardinian cheese locally
Traditional Sardinian cheese is made from sheep milk, and is considered a treasure of the island. In fact, a few years ago, Sardinia started offering bonds secured by huge rounds of traditional cheese.
All the various types of sheep cheese have their own flavor and history (perhaps we’ll go into this in other articles at later dates). I’ve tried many types of Sardinian cheese, and enjoy them all!
In short, buy and enjoy some Sardinian cheese —and you can do so right where you are.
Trigu’s founder, Jon Brownstein, is American-born yet has lived in Sardinia most of his life and is “dedicated to supporting the artisan and building a mutually beneficial global community around Sardinian culture.” Of course his endeavors mirror mine with Sardinian Arts, and I encourage you to visit his website and purchase a sampler to have delivered to your home!
In addition to Trigu’s offerings, you can find Sardinian Pecorino Romano at by Costco. In most Costcos, I have found the cheese in the gourmet/imported cheese section, which is usually next to the walk-in produce refrigerator.
Buy Sardinian olive oil and related products locally
The olives of Sardinia are exquisite—as are the oils, spreads, and items made by the Sardinian company San Giuliano. I have loved their olive oil and products (especially what I call “black gold”, the black olive spread) even before driving past the San Giuliano orchards and stopping by their headquarters near Alghero, on the island’s northwest coast.
You can find San Giuliano oils, spreads, and even vinegar at a number of San Francisco area grocery stores and chains, thanks to importer Italfoods. I’ve bought San Giuliano items at Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods, and some of the gourmet grocery stores. Treat your tastebuds — and help this Sardinian business — by purchasing some San Giuliano oil and other goodies!
Buy weavings directly from the handweavers featured on Sardinian Arts
View the Meet the Artists section on this site to learn about the handweavers and contact the women directly to buy an item they have already made. The contact information is given for each artist.
While Sardinian Arts does not offer an online catalog for reasons mentioned elsewhere, you can view each weaver’s page and see some of their work in the Meet the Artists area. Links are also given so you can go directly to each weaver’s website or Facebook page to get a feel for the type of weaving they do, and so you can contact the weavers directly.
I have put some hints for contacting the weavers below, and yes, in some cases, I will act as the go-between with you and the weaver.
Ask the weavers for items they have already woven. This enables the women to be paid for artwork they have already lovingly completed . All weavers have a stock of beautiful handmade textiles—signature pieces—in their studios.
Do not ask for custom orders. Custom orders with bespoke designs, colors, fibers, etc. always take a great deal of time to coordinate, and now, with supply chains paused due to the lockdowns across Italy and the world, custom orders may be even more difficult to complete. Additionally, any custom orders from before the lockdown are on looms waiting to be completed, and new custom orders will be waitlisted for some time.
Hints for contacting weavers:
Email the weavers directly to ask if they have an already-made item— a rug, pillowcase, wall hanging, table runner, bag, etc. matching a general description you give. For example, you might ask:
“Do you have any small rugs that are blue and white I can use next to my bed?”
“Do you have any table runners with bird patterns?”
“Do you have any 5 foot x 7 foot rugs in grey and white?”
If you don’t speak or write Italian, you can write your email in English.
Use simple sentences Google Translate can easily decipher.
Clarify the price in either Euros or USD
Remember that the weavers use the metric system, and will convert your measurements to centimeters and meters.
Consider all measurements to be approximate, not to-the-millimeter exact.
Colors may vary from what you see in photos the weavers send. This is due to the nature of photos, computer screens, phone screens, cameras, and lighting as well as the nature of hand-dyed and handwoven textiles.
Realize there may be time delays receiving answers, photos, and the items themselves.
DO pay the weavers now, even though it may be “some time” before your item can be shipped from Italy. Trust me, it’s worth the wait, and the weaver will appreciate your understanding!
Request shipment from DHL, which is traditionally the best shipping service in Europe, and well-known on the island.
Use Transferwise to wire funds to the weaver’s bank, or use Transferwise or PayPal to pay for your item. Some weavers do take credit cards.
And yes, you can contact me if you need more help.
Buy weavings from my personal collection
I have a number of very unique weavings from my personal collection that I will sell to the right buyers.
While I have paid the weavers quite well for their weavings, for each of the few items I sell from my collection, I will give a portion of the sales price directly to the weavers, as I know the additional incoming funds will help them at this critical time. I will use the balance to help sustain my work promoting the weavers and Sardinia.
The items I’m offering from my collection are one-of-a kind museum-quality showpieces: a large linen tablecloth; a wall hanging featured in the exhibit of Sardinian textiles I organized in San Francisco in 2017 (this weaving was also prominently featured in the exhibit publicity and collateral); and one other piece yet to be decided.
Please contact me for more information on the specific pieces available. Please do not contact me if you are interested in getting a collectable treasure “for nothing”.
Plan a vacation to Sardinia
Sardinia is a wonderful place to visit. The best, in my opinion. After the lockdown is over, why not go? You can start dreaming now, and even planning where to go and stay, even if you can’t yet confirm dates and flights.
I’m more than happy to talk with you and offer suggestions and recommendations. Of course, you can also go online and find many resources to help you plan this dream vacation.
Consider a weaving tour or general tour of Sardinia
If you would be interested in participating in a tour of weaving studios, weaving and cultural museums, and/or some of the other treasures of the island, please contact me.
Given the current situation, I can’t yet confirm any dates; I am thinking September or October 2020 will be the earliest I could lead a group if travel restrictions are lifted.
Thanks for considering and taking action on these! ~ KMK