Protecting the Handmade Safeguards the Economy — and More

In my presentations, I always talk about what the term handmade means, discuss the difference between handmade, hand-decorated, and mill-made textiles, and emphasize the importance of establishing and maintaining a classification system to protect the different types of Sardinian textiles.

Currently, there are no formal classifications or protections. This leads to confusion for buyers and encourages unscrupulous foreign businesses to appropriate and copy — steal — Sardinian textile designs and business. Even now, cheap, poorly-made textiles are being made in China and brought into Sardinia, where the cheap imitations are labeled as “Authentic Sardinian” weavings and sold in tourist shops and roadside stands. I find this sad and infuriating.  

Handwoven textiles are a key element of Sardinia’s heritage, and valuing and protecting the handweavers and their art is critical to maintaining the integrity of Sardinian textiles, overall Sardinian heritage, and the island’s economy. The European Union has a classification system to protect traditional foods and wines considered important to Italy’s cultural heritage — green plastic jars of “parmesan cheese” are not the same as rounds of true Parmigiano Reggiano DOP cheese, and the green jar name and labels cannot suggest they are.

A similar textile classification system would help buyers understand what kind of weaving they are purchasing, ensure fair pricing for the different classifications of weavings, and protect Sardinian handweavers, textile producers, and mill owners from having their designs stolen and copied by offshore makers. 

While there’s much to discuss about protecting Sardinian textiles, cultural appropriation, and related issues, I’ll be brief here. In fact, what you’ll read below are excerpts addressing these themes from the Sardinian Arts Statement. You can read the full statement here (anche in Italiano).

In recent years, we have heard too many stories of traditional cultures and their arts that have been appropriated by vendors who are greedy and lack scruples. Stolen designs are used to generate profit for large international conglomerates instead of the communities from which the designs come and items are traditionally produced. 

For the purpose of elevating the esteem and value for their art, Sardinian weavers should be recognized as artists, and their traditional designs should be respected as art of Sardinian origin. Items which incorporate Sardinian designs should be made only by local producers. The protection of Sardinian artists and designs will be advantageous to all the weavers of the island.

In Sardinia, most sellers don’t currently make a distinction between textiles made by hand, powerloom, or mill. In the tourist shops, on the internet, and even in some textile studios, all of these textiles are sold as “traditional” and “traditional handmade”.

Just as the European Union recognizes different classifications of traditional food, it’s important that Sardinian textiles are classified accurately with reference to the method and place in which they are made, and that the public be educated to this regard. In fact, all the classifications have their place and their buyers.

Having discussed and exchanged ideas and opinions with experts over the past years, I think that this system of classification will help buyers understand the classifications of textiles bearing the label “Made in Sardinia”, increase the esteem of all weavers of all the classifications, and protect the weavers in the global economy.

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 levels 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”.

All three classifications have their buyers and their place in the market. There is no competition. The difference between the three classifications of textiles is the same as the difference between a painting by a master painter, a limited-edition print of the painting, and a poster.

Truly handwoven Sardinian textiles are a fit for collectors and others who value the highest quality textiles and the work of the women who weave them. Hand-decorated items suit designers who want rapidly-made customized production of their designs or unique items without the cost of a truly handmade item. Mill-made textiles from Sardinia are nicely made, inexpensive, and perfect for everyday use in homes, hotels, and restaurants. 

While what I have written here is specific to Sardinia, I believe that protecting the handmade items and traditional arts of all cultures is necessary to preserve and sustainably build economies, societies, and people across the globe. Yes, technology has its place, but technology and gizmos must be balanced with the handmade in order to preserve and advance our physical and mental health, the health of the nature and societies, and the health of our individual and collective spirits.

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

The photos the cheese and also that of the power loom are from unknown websites; my thanks to the photographers.

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. 

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

Handweaving in Aggius, Sardinia: Short Video

Here’s a short video featuring traditional Aggius handweaver Gabriella Lutzu working in her studio L’Albero Padre.

Music: Vivaldi – Concerto in C Major for Oboe and Orchestra andante by Advent Chamber Orchestra is licensed under an Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Downloaded from freemusicarchive.org. 

For more information, see these pages:

This map shows where Aggius is located in Sardinia.

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved

Speaking and Teaching Engagements

Would your weaving guild, craft studio, art class, or group like to learn more about beautiful Sardinian textiles, the amazing women who weave them, and Sardinia itself?

Would you like to have a private screening and question/answer session with the maker of the documentary I Want to Weave the Weft of Time? See additional and/or unpublished video footage and photos of the weavers in the film, and other weavers at work? See and feel the textiles in person (in-person events only)?

I would love to arrange an online presentation for your group at the time of your convenience, or an in-person event in 2022. I’m well-versed in presenting to audiences large and small, both online and in person, and can discuss the weavers, their art, and Sardinia in a way that considers and captivates your group.

Contact me to discuss options and timing.

Online presentations are free for elementary, high school, and home schooling groups during the pandemic.

For online presentations to other groups, I generally request an honorarium based on the type and size of your group. For in-person presentations, I request that your group cover travel expenses.

Thanks to Flavia Loreto for her photo!

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved

Trunk Shows and Exhibitions

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.

Schedule

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.

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved

NY Times’ T Magazine Article Featuring the Frongias

On September 13, 2018, The New York Times’ T Magazine published How Sardinian Weaving Nearly Became a Lost Art, featuring Isa Frongia, Susanna Frongia, and Anna Maria Pirastu.

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.

The direct link to the article is https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/t-magazine/sardinian-weaving-woven-textiles.html.

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

The Indescribable Energy of Beautiful Handwoven Sardinian Textiles

Traditional Textiles Samugheo, Orange + Black

Sardinian Arts doesn’t have push-button online ordering. Here’s why:

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.

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved

Handmade or Hand-decorated?

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”.

Questions?

If you have any questions about whether the textiles you are buying are handmade, hand-decorated, or mill-made, please contact me.

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved

If you would like to copy the textile classifications text to use on your own site or collateral, kindly include this credit and link: “Textile classifications as defined on SardinianArts.com.”

How It Came to Be: The Film “I Want to Weave the Weft of Time”

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.

Visit WeaveWeftofTime.com to see the film!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved