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.

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, poorly-made textiles are being produced 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.

What We’re Missing

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. 

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© 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | Textile, Isa Frongia

This is cross-posted on Tramite.org.

Interconnection

The various traditions and styles of handweaving found across the island of Sardinia have important lessons to teach us, lessons that reach beyond the art and craft of handweaving and into the modern world.

On this Mediterranean island roughly the size of Vermont, the tradition of handweaving is legendary. The weavings of Samugheo are arguably the most distinctive: Pibiones, or small bumps of thread creating a raised design on a textile’s surface, are traditional. The weavings of Nule and Aggius, both towns with strong textile traditions, differ in their design and somewhat in their creation. Each of these towns is respected within Sardinia for its unique style of weaving, yet the motifs and techniques characteristic of each town are echoed in the textiles of distant cultures and countries.

When I present Sardinian textiles outside the island, weavers and collectors sometimes see hints of these similarities. The pibiones of Samugheo somewhat resemble boules created by Acadian weavers. The weavings of Nule often incorporate designs similar to textiles made by Native Americans from the Southwest United States and Mexico. The designs of Aggius resemble motifs found in weavings of Poland and Lithuania. The list continues, as the similarities between textiles of different lands are sometimes more apparent than the similarities of textiles from within different areas of Sardinia.

While it’s interesting to ponder the threads of influence strung between geographic regions and traditional cultures across the globe, what I find more striking is something simple yet too often discounted: Whether we talk of languages, architecture, the arts in general, handweaving specifically, or any aspect of this tapestry we call humanity, the origins, influences, techniques, and motifs are interwoven and interdependent.

And in any textile, not one single thread can be tensed, damaged, or removed without changing the integrity of the textile as a whole.

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© 2021 KM Koza | The photo is a portion of a rug by and © Isa Frongia

Spring 2021 Presentation Series: Sardinian Arts Online

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!

Please register to attend the free sessions.

I look forward to seeing you online!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza, Sardinian Arts’ Founder

PS — Before the events, I very much suggest that you watch I Want to Weave the Weft of Time, my free 30 minute documentary on handweaving in Sardina. You can also find the video directly by going to WeaveWeftofTime.com.

Schedule

Saturdays at 11am Pacific / Noon Mountain / 1pm Central / 2pm Eastern. Each session will last 60-90 minutes.

  • January 23 — Introduction, Background, and Film Highlights with Commentary
  • January 30 — Weaving in Samugheo
  • February 6 — Weaving in Nule
  • February 13 — Weaving in Aggius
  • February 20 — Converging Threads: The Importance of the Handmade, How Weaving Came to Sardinia, the Resurrection, and More
    Please note the dates below have been corrected!
  • February 27 — Sardinian History, Culture, and Arts Beyond Weaving
  • March 6 — Sardinian Tour: Photos and Stories Around the Island
  • March 13 — Questions, Answers, Open House

Certainly Not Small

Small things make a big difference. 

My favorite way to illustrate this stems from design school. Back in a time when we drew straight lines by hand using T-squares, triangles, and Rapidograph pens, we used a simple exercise to demonstrate that absolute care, attention, and precision was necessary in creating the very first to the very last element of a project. 

Think of drawing horizontal lines on a piece of paper to emulate a 8.5″ x 10″ sheet of notebook paper, which generally has about 32 lines. If you were to draw the lines by hand, you would start from the bottom of the page, draw a base line, use that line to align and draw the line above it, and then use the newly-drawn line to align and draw the line above it, continuing this process until all lines on the page are complete. 

If the very first line you drew was off level by 1/32 of an inch — the width of a fine pen nib — your design would be ruined: by the top of the page, after repeating the 1/32 inch error 32 times, your top line would be tilted one inch.

Now think of an architect guiding the construction of a skyscraper a hundred stories high, and the precision with which the foundation must be laid. Consider a handweaver making a bedspread that requires weaving thousands of crosswise weft-fibers, and the careful alignment necessary for the first row, and every row, of fibers. Think of the navigators, mathematicians, and engineers calculating courses for ships traveling oceans, skies, universes, and how the initial degree, minute, and second of direction must be absolutely precise, and then checked and corrected constantly to ensure the ship reaches the intended destination. The tiniest bit of imprecision — or an unseen factor affecting calculations or the project — would drastically change the outcome.*

Simply put, the tiniest detail affects the outcome in ways we can’t imagine. 

This is true within and beyond architecture, construction, navigation, sciences, arts, and crafts. This is true in everything — and for everyone. This is true for presidents, prime ministers, actors, sports figures, scientists, saints, mystics, people of fame — and each and every one of us.

Each one of us affects the whole. And each of our actions affects the whole.

This can be staggering to consider — yet this realization is also a gift, a blessing. 

If each of us, each of our actions, each of our interactions, each of our words affect the whole, affects our world, how do we watch, use, care for our actions, our words, and that which we contribute to our world?

Do we, in our personal spheres and work, act with disregard, condescension, hatred, and anger, spewing toxic dark clouds of negativity that increase with time and distance to create chaos, war, and destruction on a global scale? 

Or do we bring awareness, compassion, love, and care for small things into the tiny moments of our daily lives, filling what we touch with light, harmony, and joy — all of which increase with time and distance to create a world more beautiful, inclusive, harmonious, and supportive that we can perhaps imagine?

When we realize that we’re all connected and that each one of us contributes to the creation of the world we share, I believe we have the responsibility to act upon that realization: to live with love, act with compassion, care for small things, and give attention to the tiny moments of life. 

If the tiny things are cared for, if small acts are done with love and kindness, if we bring joy to our work, if we treat people, animals, plants, nature with compassion — imagine how the results would — will — magnify. 

Can we each play our part, no matter how small it seems, to help the world change for good, beyond what we can imagine?


I think of those so often invisible in our modern world, and what they bring to us. Living and working with care, compassion, love, and awareness are mystics, mothers, artists, and others, including handweavers. 

Women weaving in the hills of Sardinia; rebozo weavers and lace-makers in Oaxaca and Teotihuacan; Native Americans weaving in the Southwestern U.S.A; rug-makers weaving in the Middle East; sari-weavers in India; and others comprising the dwindling numbers of handweavers: All are working with care, focus, and attention, placing and aligning each fiber of every textile they weave. 

Beautiful textiles are the visible, tangible result of the precision and care handweavers bring to their work. 

But what are the invisible, intangible results? 

Perhaps the fragile balance of our world is subtly maintained by the magnified effect of the order, precision, care, and love the handweavers bring to their work. 

Who’s to say otherwise?

*Professor Edward Lorenz famously discussed how small acts — the change of a single variable in a set of conditions — would be magnified over time and distance and thus change outcomes. This has become known as the “butterfly effect”, simply stated as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could cause a typhoon on the other side of the world. 

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© 2020 KM Koza

This piece is also posted on Tramite.org.

Seven Reasons Sardinia is a Healthy Place to Go for a Post-Lockdown Vacation

Why is Sardinia a great place to vacation after you emerge from lockdown?

Beyond the usual reasons people flock to Sardinia for vacations — the natural beauty of the island, with its indescribable mountains, sea, and beaches; the incredible food, hospitality, and people; the unique traditions, arts, and culture; the warm, strong, intrepid people; and so much more about which I write elsewhere — there are seven health-related reasons is this relatively unknown island in the Mediterranean a perfect place to go for a post-lockdown vacation.

I’ll try to keep my descriptions brief!

Sardinia’s Legacy of Health and Longevity

Sardinia has one of the highest percentages of centurions in the world. Many Sardinians live happily, healthfully, and actively into their 100s. This is due to many factors, from an isolated genetic pool to the next factors mentioned — all of which contribute to the health of Sardinians — and their visitors!

Sardinia’s Food

The food in Sardinia is locally grown and prepared in traditional ways. While you may recognize the names of some of the dishes and their ingredients, the freshness, purity (forget the terms genetically-modified and factory-farmed), and care put into food means that what you eat — cheese from Sardinian sheep and goats; island-raised meat, wheat, pasta, seafood, vegetables, wine, and more — taste nothing like what you expect, or may have ever tasted. 

My consistent experience of Sardinian food is that it’s delicious, and it makes my body (and tastebuds) happy — even when I eat things I would not/do not eat in the States. 

The quality of the food and the love put into its raising, cultivation, and preparation is undoubtedly one of the key factors to the longevity and health of Sardinians — and you’ll be eating this same food while you’re on the island. 

Sardinia’s Nature

Sardinian air is pure and carries the scent of whatever is in bloom at the season — the intoxicating scent of mirtillo is most associated with the island. If you are close enough to the sea, you’ll smell the Mediterranean; in the central part of the island; the air carries the clarity of the mountains, the high plains, or the valleys. 

The mountains across the island range from hills similar to those in coastal California to peaks like those found in Colorado, all packed into an area the size of Vermont. The sun is Mediterranean, beautiful and bold, often shining, yet not exhausting and brutal — even fair-skinned, blue-eyed people such as myself tan rather than burn when in Sardinia.

The Sardinian sea is beautiful beyond compare, and the beaches are pristine. Dozens if not hundreds of Sardinian beaches meet rigid quality, sustainability, and cleanliness standards required of the Bandiera Blu designation.

There’s more to Sardinia’s nature and outdoors than mountains, sun, sea, and beaches — but I promised to keep this article brief! The natural beauty and purity of the island most certainly contribute to the health of Sardinians — and those of us who visit. 

The Sardinian Way of Life

Sardinians love their island, one another, food, life, and living. They don’t hurry the minutes, hours, tasks, or pleasures of life. This is evident in everything they make and do, from their arts and festivals to their food and hospitality — and in their health and happiness. An unhurried life in which meals are prepared with love, eaten with family and friends, and the work one pursues is done with careful attention certainly contributes to the health and longevity of Sardinians — and influences our own for the better when we visit the island.

The Sardinian Mentality

The Sardinian mentality both manifests in and contributes to the Sardinian lifestyle. On one hand strong, stoic, and private, Sardinians are also warm, welcoming, and humorous. Patient, steadfast, and determined — sometimes called testardi, hard-headed — the Sardinians have maintained their ancient cultures, traditions, and ecosystems through centuries while still allowing select modern advantages to enhance their lives. Strength and persistence permeate Sardinia and are tangible in the nature, land, and lives of Sardinians — and rub off on those of us who visit.

Sardinia’s Isolation

As an island, Sardinia has been protected by the natural borders of the sea throughout history. While the island has been invaded at times by warring nations, the invaders have never persisted, and Sardinia has never really considered itself “conquered”. Even now, Sardinia is an independent region of Italy, much like Puerto Rico is to the United States. 

This isolation has protected the cultures of Sardinia — rather ironically, a mix of cultures associated with peoples who invaded or were invaded by Sardinia — as well as the gene pool within the island from outside influences that could weaken the social or physical health of the island and her people. 

During the pandemic, the island was relatively easy to isolate. Lockdown rules were very strictly enforced, both for residents and for those attempting to visit the island before and during the lockdown. The Polizia turned away planes and ferries full of visitors attempting to relocate to their second houses at the start of the lockdown and ticketed any locals violating isolation rules. The lockdown was so successful that Sardinia had relatively few cases of the virus. This has been good news to the Sardinians, as they wanted to ensure island would be be virus-free and support a 2020 tourist season — not just for the health of the Sardinian economy, but for the well-being of the visitors seeking relief from months of isolation.

Sardinia’s Sanitization Practices and Regulations

Even before the government issued regulations stating the regulations for restaurants, stores, beaches, hotels, and agriturismi (working farms that offer guest accommodations and restaurants serving their own home-made regional specialities), the proprietors were working to ensure facilities were cleaned and sanitized; staff would be trained in increased hygienic measures, and methods to maintain social distancing would be instituted. 

In addition, Sardinian government officials anticipate a tourist entry plan that will require visitors to obtain a “health passport”, a document that certifies each person entering Sardinia tests negative for the Cornavirus. The testing and health passport/certificate will eliminate any requirement for quarantine for incoming visitors.

The tourist’s cost for taking the test will reimbursed by giving them coupons for free or reduced-cost services, such as hotel stays, entry to museums, tourist attractions, and so forth.

These measures are an extension of the care and graciousness Sardinian hosts extend for their guests’ comfort, enjoyment, safety, and health.

Summary

All in all, if you want to take a healthful vacation to restore yourself in body, mind, and spirit, my recommendation is that you visit Sardinia. I’ve spent much time on the island, and could write much more than I have above — but you need to feel it for yourself. 

Here’s What YOU Can Do When You Visit

When you go to Sardinia, follow these guidelines for your own health, the health of others, and to be a conscientious traveler!

  • Before you go, maintain your health! Don’t even start your trip when ill, if you recently recovered from being ill, or you think you might be on the verge of becoming ill.
  • When traveling to Sardinia, maintain high preventative and cautionary health measures. Follow all airline, hotel, and other travel partner regulations. Wear masks, wash hands, don’t touch unnecessary objects, sanitize, dispose of trash responsibly, and so forth. 
  • When in Sardinia, follow all airport, hotel, restaurant, cafe, beach, travel, and local regulations. Be gracious when you’re stopped for spot-checks or asked to adhere to local regulations, health or otherwise. If you feel like you’re becoming ill, talk with your hosts, who can direct you to the local health providers and help you undertake any necessary testing and self-isolation. And remember that everyone, hosts and visitors alike, are working together to maintain health for everyone!
  • In general, travel with openness, patience, and a sense of adventure. Remember that as a visitor, you probably won’t know local customs, so listen, watch, and educate yourself a bit about Sardinia before you go and while you are there so you can experience and enjoy more of the island. 

I believe an open, positive mind supports a traveler, and most certainly supports our immune system and mental and physical health. Bring these qualities with you to Sardinia, and experience what the island offers in terms of health — and more!

© 2013 – 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | All Rights Reserved

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