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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nule and several of the weavers in the film are also featured on Sardinian Arts — see this page.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The qualities handweavers put into their work are reflected by and emanate from the textiles they make. These qualities are what our modern world lacks, and what we yearn for, even if unknowingly: Attention to detail. Minding the small things. Care. Love.
These qualities remind us that seemingly insignificant individuals and seemingly little things do matter.
Each person, every thing, has a place in the world, and no one and no thing is to be overlooked or discarded.
Each individual person holds a unique spirit intrinsic to their being; this spirit is a necessary component of the greater whole.
Likewise, each single thing has a distinct essence innate to its being; this essence is an indispensable component of the greater whole.
In the grand scale of things, these unique spirits and distinct essences are threads brought together with care, love, and attention to detail, weaving the tapestry of our world so that not one thread is overlooked or discarded.
We hold this all in our hands when we touch a handwoven textile.