Being thankful for textiles: A piece from USA Today

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.

Read the piece: The thread of history: Be thankful that textiles have changed the fabric of living, by Virginia Postrel in USA Today, November 26, 2020.

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

The 2017 Exhibit: Common Questions Answered

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?

and

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. 

Key Agreements

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.

Thanks again to all who helped make the show a success!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza