ArtAndes Blog

What handcraft in Italy & Peru have in common

Posted April 15, 2014 @ 7:04am | by Melanie

I was very fortunate to go to Italy recently. Amongst the many highlights was a visit to the Antico Setificio Florentino Silk Factory in Florence. I had a photocopied section of the Florence section of the book The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Vicuña Coat and I was tracking down the makers of the silk lining of this vicuña coat. My initial interest in the book was the Vicuña fiber, due to my close connection to the animal in Peru, but the book was really more about the incredible art of Handcraft and as well the loss of it.
The Antico Setificio dates back to the 1750's. The place is full of the original wooden looms and there is also a warping wheel designed by Leonardo de Vinci, the last of it's kind still in use. The raw silk comes from Brazil, a world leader in silk production. The silk fabric they produce is the finest in the world.
In 2010 the business was nearly closed and the building demolished to make way for something new, they could no longer compete with the mass production from China. A local Florence native, Stefano Ricci, rescued the business and they concentrated their focus on high end & small yardage production, something the Chinese are not experienced with! "The finest weaving only advances 3" an hour" said the manager, it's too fine for industrial looms. Makes me proud of the ArtAndes weavers fineness, at 1" an hour!
Antico Setificio is planning on starting a weaving school soon. I sure have some things in common with these folks. I'd love to see Maximo Laura teaching there, he would be an excellent fit in the arts capital of ancient times. Keeping the craft alive! 



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