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I've finally got my gryphons home from Perugia!

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My beautiful, burgundy gryphons are finally gamboling across a hallway wall in my apartment, two months after I brought them home from Italy. I bought this beautiful textile from the delightful Marta Brozzetti, who had woven the entire six-foot long piece by hand on a rather historic loom in a deconsecrated church in Perugia.

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This piece feels precious to me because of its subtle beauty, the detail, the creativity, and the tradition of the Brozzetti women, as well as the long tradition of Umbrian textiles. The depiction of the gryphons, which Marta had based on historic textiles, is significant to me because these mythical beasts are one of the symbols of the city of Perugia, a city I've fallen in love with.

The inscription woven into the design translates roughly as "only through the difficulties (of life) do we reach the stars," according the fellow blogger Mary Thomas Tacconi, who turned me on to Marta's work. It might also be a motto for Marta who is struggling to keep alive the family textile business that her great-grandmother Guiditta Brozzetti founded in 1921.

I'm not a big shopper -- I don't enjoy it very much. But I've been bringing home more and more pieces from Italy because the beauty of the handiwork found in so many Italian products amazes me. The attention to detail that goes into so many things prepared in Italy, from a simple cappuccino or a beautifully wrapped box of pastries, to such handwoven textiles fills me with awe and a desire to bring a bit of that attitude into my life.


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Marta, who trained as an architect, is very dynamic and struggling to keep alive a style of art/craftsmanship that is being crowded out by inexpensive, machinery produced textiles, often imported from Asia. Certainly, those products have their place.

But when I bought this piece, which is actually a cotton table runner, and after I met Marta, I felt that it had so much more meaning and value. I see it as art, and so I had it professionally stretched and mounted to better display Marta's work. (I also bought a couple of Marta's gorgeous little handwoven potpourri bags which Mary filled with her own lavender from Bevagna.)

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While I was staying in Perugia, I dropped by the Guiditta Brozzetti atelier, a deconsecrated church in the university neighborhood. I was charmed by Marta, who downed tools to give me a tour of her workshop and spend an hour or so explaining the weaving process and how she came to take over her family's business.

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Working with quality cottons, linens and silks, Marta creates her own patterns, based on documented, historic Umbrian designs that she studies in such august locations as Perugia's National Gallery of Umbria.

Marta, who employs a couple of other weavers, produces a significant array of textiles, from bedroom drapes and bedspreads, table runners, christening bibs, sachets, pillow slips, tray covers, drapes, and tapestries.

It can't be easy. Take her workshop, in a near-1,000 year old former church. Of course, there is wonderful symbolism in the women of Guiditta Brozzetti carrying on the tradition of the former San Francesco delle Donne, which was given in 1252 to nuns by the Franciscans. But the former church must be drafty and impossible to heat in winter.

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And it's a tough business. My 200-euro table runner likely took Marta 20 hours to weave. Clearly, this is a labour of love, as receiving roughly 10-euro per hour makes for difficult economics. When the elderly looms break down, Marta must find ways to repair it herself, since the Milano company that originally constructed the looms has long been out of business.

I hope she is able to succeed, and I know that someday, I'll be returning to Guiditta Brozzetti for more textiles.

Comments (19)

Mindy:

Oh Sandra, I LOVE your gryphons! It looks amazing on your wall and I am so moved by your story of Marta and her hard work. What a joy it would be to have a job that you are so passionate about!! (I love her yellow cell phone resting on top of her spools of thread. Old tradition combined with today's new technology). :-)

I may have to steal your idea and buy something similar in the Bologna area (although I'm sure I'll find nothing as lovely as yours). I have wall space in need of something Italian!

Your posts always inspire!

ciao,
Mindy

What a beautiful post this is! And I love your art work. :)

sandrac:

Thank you both so much!

Mindy, the textile idea is practical (for a traveler) as well as beautiful! It was so easy to just roll up the table-runner in a paper bag and jam it in my suitcase. Very lightweight and portable.

I bought a smaller table-runner from Alessandra in Cortona last year, which I actually use as a runner. It's very nice, but not at all the same class as this kind of hand-made piece of art. (I mean no offense to Alessandra, here!)

Now, I'm going to be scrimping for the rest of the winter to save some euros for my next trip to Italy -- but it's so worth it!

I love the runner and how you placed it in the hall. It is beautiful work. That is so cool that you have supported her in your trips. Are you in contact with her? I think it would be really nice to show her how you are displaying her work and your write up.

Marta (not the weaver)

Sandra - thw work looks brilliant on your wall. They did a great job with the framing (or should we say 'mounting'?) The piece's story is wonderful as well and only adds to the enjoyment.

Ahhhhhh Italy!

Just gorgeous! You really got some wonderful art on this trip.

I also love the runner and how you are displaying it and agree that you should make sure Marta gets to see your blog post. Great photos and wonderful write up.

That is such a wonderful work of art. It looks just perfect on that wall!

What an inspiring post. If (when) I ever get to that part of Italy, I want to visit her and buy something too.

sandrac:

Thanks Jerry, I think the back story really does enhance its appeal!

Marta and Girasoli, you're making a good point. Perhaps I will send this on to Marta Brozzetti -- her atelier keeps a mailing list and asks for comments, so that might be the place.

Thanks Chiocciola, I feel really fortunate to have found beautiful things that have some meaning for me.

Annie, I hope you get to visit Umbria sometime soon. The art really is spectacular, frescos everywhere! It'll be good research for our book.

VickyP:

What a great post. You're very selective about what you bring back from your trips, and I like that a lot. Each item has a story and a life of its own; and surrounding yourself with them in your home is very pleasurable indeed!

sandrac:

Thanks Vicky, that's exactly how I feel!

jgk:

Your gryphons look so beautiful on the wall.
Well done!

Gwen:

Hey, Babe, just got around to catching up on your blog on a lazy Saturday morning -- your gryphon weaving is stunning, I must say. I can't imagine a better wall for it -- can hardly wait to see your place, hopefully this spring, G.G. and Mum allowing. I simply adore the ceramic piece you got for me, and your set is spectacular. I have just one quibble -- "I'm not much of a shopper...." ??? PUH-LEEZE!

sandrac:

Thanks so much, Jan! I am enjoying them.

Gwen, I'm so glad you like your ceramic serving spoon -- and my gryphons. Hope you can come and visit them soon (and that GG and your Mom are doing well!)
And I maintain that I am NOT a big shopper. Well, not that big a shopper.....

Absolutely gorgeous and I loved the story!

I bought a runner in Burano that I'll be using as a runner but my two new Berber small rugs from my recent trip are not meant to go on the floor, they'll be mounted on the wall.

sandrac:

Welcome home, Maria! I'll be interested in hearing more about all of your travels.

And maybe some photos of your new rugs? So often, these kinds of textiles really are works of art and warrant appropriate treatment!

anne:

Gasp! How gorgeous this is, no wonder you couldn't resist! I love the inscription too: "to the stars through difficulties", what a wonderful path to follow.

Marvellous post, so full of detail and personal touch. Thanks for sharing this image and story!

Hello Sandra,

It is so nice to see how beautifully you "framed" this lovely tapestry. It IS stunning. Have you notified Marta of your posting? She would be so pleased.

I am back in touch by email now as we are with our daughter in PA in a winter wonderland of snow and ice: looks like diamonds everywhere.

ALL the best,
Mary

sandrac:

Anne, thanks! I'm really enjoying having something this beautiful around the house.

Mary, it's so nice to hear from you! I hadn't sent this to Marta and perhaps I should -- I'm not sure she would remember me, but I did so enjoy meeting her.

I have a company email address on her business card, maybe I should send a link there and hope that she sees it.

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