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
I’m thrilled that awareness grows about the handweavers and their art, as this helps build a sustainable future for handweaving and handweavers in Sardinia! I was also happy to learn that the article was in great part inspired by my documentary I Want to Weave the Weft of Time.
As requested, I will be leading tours of artist studios in Sardinia. Of course, given the travel restrictions and complications of 2020 and 2021, the tours have been postponed until borders are open and travelers feel comfortable heading out on new adventures.
Tours will be semi-custom or custom, and include visits to the studios of the tessitriciartigianali featured here, Sardinia’s weaving museum, and time at beautiful beaches, meals at superb restaurants, and visiting other locations within Sardinia.
Having spent a good deal of time in Sardinia and with the weavers, I can show you the island, introduce you to the women, explain the weaving techniques, and translate language and culture in a way that helps you best appreciate and most deeply connect with the weavers, Sardinia, and her culture.
If you’d like to join me in an upcoming tour, please contact me.
When people learn of Sardinian Textiles: An Exhibit of Handwoven Art, held at the Italian Cultural Institute – San Francisco in winter 2017, I’m usually asked a number of questions about organizing and producing the event. The most common questions are:
Will you have another show?
How long did it take to organize the show?
For the sake of answering these questions publicly and recording a bit of history about the event, I’m answering the questions here.
Will you have another show?
Yes, will have another. My plan is to have an exhibit featuring the art of select handweavers with whom I work directly. The exhibit will be held at a private gallery space where textiles will be available for sale. (Due to customs, legal, and other reasons, we were not able to sell textiles at the 2017 event).
How long did it take you to organize the show?
This is the most common of the many questions I’m asked regarding the challenges I encountered putting together the 2017 exhibit of Sardinian handwoven textiles.
Organizing the show took three years.
I conceived the idea of the show at the beginning of 2014, and in October 2014, I first attempted to meet with Baingio Cuccu, the Director of The Sardinian Regional Textile Museum (MURATS) in Samugheo about my proposal. Although Baingio was not able to meet with me at that time, I emailed him in November, and in December of 2014, I met with Paolo Barlera, then Director of the Italian Cultural Institute – San Francisco (IIC-SF) to propose the show. Paolo was enthusiastic, and I began to solidify the groundwork for the exhibit. I presented the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) outlining key aspects and responsibilities of the exhibit to MURATS and the IIC-SF in March of 2015.
Of course, over the next few years, there were many visits to Samugheo, visits to weavers, and meetings with interested parties, as well as volumes of emails, phone calls, press releases, and paperwork, ending only when all textiles were returned to the weavers in Sardinia after the show. (In addition, I organized a related event hosting visiting artist Silvio Betterelli, which is another story entirely!)
Ultimately, several months before the exhibit, Paolo at the IIC-SF was able to obtain official sanction for the event from the Consulate General of Italy and the Region of Sardinia, which was a deeply appreciated level of recognition for the exhibit. The show opened on January 19, 2017 and ran through February 24, 2017.
While the pathway to the exhibit’s opening night certainly presented many challenges, and the timing and elements of the show were ultimately a bit different from what I had initially envisioned, I and many others consider the show was a success. Many people were to thank for their participation; see this page, where I expressed my gratitude to everyone!
While I am not posting every milestone date or key detail of the nearly three-year road to realizing the exhibit, I am posting below the dates of the initial meetings and the MOUs, as they are a bit of history.
Timeline of Key Events
2014 10 18 — Kelly visits MURATS in Samugheo, requesting a meeting with Baingio during her time in Samugheo to discuss her proposal for an exhibit of handwoven Sardinian textiles to be held in San Francisco. Baingio is not available.
2014 11 04 — Kelly emails Baingio at MURATS, expressing her regrets that he was not available to meet during her recent trip to Samugheo, stating she would like to meet with him soon to discuss her proposal. Weaver Isa Frongia talks with Baingio to confirm Kelly’s desire to organize such a show.
2014 11 26 — Baingio replies to Kelly’s email, conveying his regrets that he was not available to meet in person when she was in Samugheo.
2014 12 14 — Kelly emails Paolo at the IIC-SF, requesting a meeting to propose the exhibit of handwoven Sardinian textiles be held at the Italian Cultural Institute – San Francisco.
2014 12 18 — Kelly meets with with Paolo at the IIC in San Francisco to propose the idea of the exhibit; the two meet several times after this and before Kelly’s March 2015 trip to Sardinia.
2015 03 13 — Kelly meets with Baingio at MURATS in Samugheo to discuss the idea for the exhibit and present the MOU to Baingio in person.
2015 03 26 — Kelly emails Paolo the MOU for IIC-SF as well as a copy of the MOU presented to MURATS.
2015 04 to 2017 01 — Kelly makes five trips to Sardinia in addition to working in San Francisco to realize the project.
2017 01 19 — The exhibit opens.
For history’s sake, copies of the key agreements are attached.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the IIC-SF and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MURATS; both were in English and Italian.
Fine handwoven Sardinian textiles are made one at a time by the hands of weavers who put their heart into each row and fiber of every weaving. This care and attention imparts a tangible energy into each weaving — and it’s this indescribable quality of love that makes the textiles so special, even beyond the museum-quality refinement of the craftsmanship apparent in each.
This essence, this quality is rare in the modern world.
I want to honor this uniqueness in the textiles, in the weavers, in you who seek to increase and cultivate these qualities in your life and your home. I want to help you find the right textile and offer you a connection to the integral spirit and beauty found in the traditional Sardinian handweavings.
Push-button online ordering breaks the connections. It commoditizes the weavings, annihilates the presence and individuality of the weavers, and turns you into a nameless consumer.
I don’t want to do that. The beautiful handwoven textiles of Sardinia offer a portal to a connection we all seek, and I honor this. It’s part of what I consider fair trade.
Please contact me if you want to know more and experience the textiles.
All too often across the world, items are classified as “handmade” when they are really not.
When the term “handmade” is used to market items that are not made by hand by an artesian, many problems arise, and the buyer, the artesian, and even the commercial makers of related products suffer. The buyer often pays too much; the artesian earns too little; and the commercial makers have difficulty maintaining quality and production in their home area.
This has been evident in food as well as textiles across the world (when you think of Parmesan cheese, do you think of a heavy round of solid cheese, a bag of shredded cheese, or green can?)
The European Union recognizes different classifications of traditional food to make certain we don’t confuse the green can that has nothing to so with Parma, Italy with the traditional cheese round produced in homes and cheese-making facilities in the Parma region, it’s important that Sardinian textiles are classified accurately with reference to the method and place in which they are made.
The textiles classifications Sardinian Arts uses and maintains are listed below. Any item we offer is accurately classified with integrity according to this system. Kelly personally visits weaving studios, custom shops, and mills to meet owners and verify how textiles are made. We are also working with weavers and others in Sardinia to adhere to this classification system to ensure the integrity of textiles “Made in Sardegna” and ensure the weavers, producers, and artists of Sardinian are treated with respect and that their items are sold in a fair and sustainable manner.
Hand made, Hand-decorated, Mill-made Classifications
The classifications are
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 classifications 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”.
If you have any questions about whether the textiles you are buying are handmade, hand-decorated, or mill-made, please contact me.
I Want to Weave the Weft of Time grew serendipitously from the love of weaving, great appreciation of the women who continue the nearly-lost tradition of hand weaving in Sardinia, and the desire to share the art, lives, and importance of the weavers with the world.
When I first went to meet the weavers, I didn’t have a videocamera with me: I didn’t intend to film, much less make a documentary.
I wanted to meet the women who were Sardinia’s traditional weavers, learn about their particular weaving tradition, and bring a few textiles back to the United States. After meeting several weavers across the island, I called Isa and asked if I could return to Samugheo to video her, Suzanna, and Anna Maria. I had only my iPad — not the video cameras I had used to capture documentary footage for other projects! At most, I thought I would film a few minutes of the women working and make a 10-minute video to demonstrate the process of weaving.
I ended up filming for several hours that day, and then returned to Sardinia after a few months to visit and capture additional footage for what I still thought would be a very short video.
In the interim, Bruna had met the Frongias. While she lives in a town an hour or two away, Bruna by chance came to visit the Frongias the day I returned to Samugheo to film. As Isa prepared lunch, Bruna agreed to tell me the story of how she came to meet the Frongias and start to learn to weave. Her talk was entirely spontaneous, and absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have better scripted what she said: It was also what I felt about the weavers, their art, their lives, and the role they maintain, not just in terms of maintaining an artistic tradition, but in propagating a way of life that many in the modern world seek.
We filmed in the studio, with the kitchen (and the sounds of food preparation) above. Months later, when I showed Bruna the finished film, she told me she had completely forgotten that she talked with me! She also didn’t realize that the film’s title came directly from her statement, “tessere le trame del tempo”. Bruna forgot she had told me of the dream, and thought the title a coincidence!
As I was editing the footage, friend Ruth Mendelson – an amazing composer of wonderful original scores for documentaries — saw the draft, encouraged me, and agreed to compose and record the soundtrack. Ruth’s enthusiasm and support propelled me, and the truly heartfelt, complex tapestry of music she scored for the film perfectly captures the feeling of the women, the complexity of the weavings, and the mix of ancient and modern cultures that are Sardinia. Ruth’s score carries the film to a level that’s truly synergistic, much more than the sum of its parts.
I hope you’re as enchanted and moved watching this as we were making I Want to Weave the Weft of Time. The women have adopted me as family, and the film is truly a work of the heart.