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

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

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.

The Enchanting Elegance of Pibiones

Fine Pibiones Up Close

This is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of this topic. I talk more about this during events, both in-person and online. See the News and Events section or sign up for the mailing list to keep updated!

Pibiones are small raised bumps of thread found on the most distinctive of Sardinian textiles. The name comes from an ancient word for grapes, as pibiones feel like grapes, and grapes and the harvest play a significant part in Sardinian history. 

Touching pibiones is an enchanting experience: Rub your hand over a handwoven textile bearing a pattern created by the pibiones, and your hand feels as if it’s getting a massage. You may even feel you’re playing an instrument that creates a nearly-silent tune, as the pattern and organization of the pibiones are musical in arrangement! Pibiones are practical, as well: They add strength, texture, and design to a textile. 

Weaving a textile with pibiones requires skill, dexterity, and patience. Pibiones are created by winding fibers around a long needle that sits on top of the weft (the foundation threads of a textile). Each pibione is counted and wound by hand, one pibione at a time, one row at a time, matched against a pattern drawn on graph paper. (See pibiones being woven in I Want to Weave the Weft of Time.)

The best pibiones are firm to the touch and remain durable and distinct when the textile is used. To achieve the desired firmness, threads used in the pibiones are often spun a second time before being woven. 

While considered uniquely Sardinian, the pibiones tradition of weaving is today found primarily in the Samugheo, in the center of the island. Aggius and Nule, other Sardinian towns renowned for their handwoven textiles, have different weaving traditions.

To learn more, see other pages on this site, including The Art of Handweaving, watch the documentary I Want to Weave the Weft of Time, and/or attend one of my presentations about Sardinian handweaving. The News and Events area lists upcoming presentations and film screenings. 

Online Presentation: Sardinian Handwoven Textiles: Exploring a Nearly-Lost Art, September 2021

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.

There’s no charge for the event, but you must register ahead of time. Click here to go to Eventbrite and register. You’ll receive confirmation and reminder emails with the Zoom link to the event.

I look forward to seeing you!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

Filmmaker’s Screening: I Want to Weave the Weft of Time, August 2021

Join me for a free online screening of my documentary I Want to Weave the Weft of Time August 18, 2021 (Wednesday) from 6 to 7.30pm (18.00 to 19.30) San Francisco time.

I’ll add filmmaker’s commentary to provide a glimpse of how the film came about, the synchronicity of its making, working with the weavers, the soundtrack’s creation, and more. I’ll also share stories and additional video clips, including outtakes and works in progress, and answer questions.

There’s no charge for the event, but you must register ahead of time. Click here to go to Eventbrite and register. You’ll receive confirmation and reminder emails with the Zoom link to the event.

I look forward to seeing you!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

© Kelly Manjula Koza unless otherwise noted.