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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.