Interview with Maria Giovanna Varagona, co-owner and founder of the “La Tela” atelier and museum in Macerata.
When did you start in this business?
We started in 1986. After we met, and saw that we had an interest (or weaving) in common, we decided to create a business project and set up a company, the workshop “La Tela di Ginesi e Varagona”.
What is your training background?
Patrizia Ginesi, my friend and colleague, got her Diploma at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Macerata, and so was interested in the artistic side of this experience.
After finishing my studies in social work, I (Maria Giovanna Varagona) started working in therapeutic and rehabilitation communities, grasping the importance of knowing how to do things as an occasion to re-form one’s being. Weaving has been a move in this direction.
A country oriented towards the future must have the desire to protect its own historical memory, for the benefit of the territory.
In weaving, do you feel as though you are bound to the culture of your territory?
The weaving procedure called “liccetti”, which we use, represents the typical, authoritative weaving tradition in the territory. In fact, it was developed in the Umbria/Marches area in particular, ever since the beginning of the XIV century. This methodology enables us to produce decorative motifs in series. Once upon a time they were used to embellish liturgical vestments and altar-cloths, with their typical blue turquoise/blue ornamentation on the edges. The importance of the “liccetti” procedure rests in the transferability of the entire programme, a practice that has made it possible to preserve the heddling of the age-old design outside the frame, unchanged. The frames from the beginning of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century – which are the ones we work on – paradoxically represent an ingenious innovation in the field of artistic weaving, because of the sustainability of production times in relation to the quality/price ratio. We believe that, in our sector, the goal is the education and expression of one’s own creative, productive – and above all cultural – aims … a country oriented towards the future must have the desire to protect its own historical memory, for the benefit of the territory.
Besides production, what else do you do?
Periodically, we organize courses of weaving by hand, with various types of looms used at each level of the course, from the basic to the professional level. We also have a little “green room” for potential demonstrations of natural dyeing. We also have connections with museum systems, the provincial system in Macerata and the regional network in the Marches, so in putting our interactive laboratory experience to use, we host cultural tourism.
What are the prospects for art professions in today’s globalised society?
It is necessary to challenge the processes of globalisation by balancing technological progress with respect for tradition, appealing to the special historical memory of our territory, putting it forward as an original, creative, educational and economic project. The Maestro d’arte, in today’s world of globalised communication, represents a challenge and a message of hope, an added value without which any model of production could never succeed. Today, prospects are perhaps better than twenty years ago, when we started out on this route, because now more than ever, we notice the widespread necessity of once again taking possession of the roots that identify us as part of history. Globalisation is a useful and important process only in the measure in which it takes action with respect for each and every cultural identity. 6. You are part of the project The Marches: Excellence in Craftsmanship (“Marche eccellenza artigiana”) promoted by the Region of The Marches in order to valorise, promote and protect the traditions of the territory. Do you consider it an important initiative? We think it is an important initiative to re-launch and protect artistic and traditional craftsmanship, aiming for high quality and – above all – making it recognizable. And so we are included in tourist and economic circuits in the territory as a firm whose character is deeply rooted in local culture, but that can also stand on an artistic level with the innovative needs of the contemporary world.
What passions inspire and motivate you?
The goal we reached a few months ago, with the opening of the regional museum of weaving (Museo Regionale della Tessitura), was a source of great satisfaction. Ever since we started out in this activity, our philosophy has been translated into reclaiming tradition (with a liccetti weaving) and into attention to the materials used: many looms are original and the materials are natural.
Do you have assistants? How do young people live this profession?
We have assistants, but since we have trained skilled, autonomous people in the sector for so many years, on various levels of competence, if we need help, we know who to go to. Of course, on an institutional level, if those who make the laws were really aware of the profound value that characteristic, traditional artistic craftsmanship represents for a Nation that is running the risk of losing its identity, they would probably realize how it is different from any other small or medium-sized undertaking, and there would be more opportunities for young people, who – as we know from experience – show a great deal of interest in this sector.
What do you see as the greatest difficulties or hardships in your sector?
The greatest difficulty for us is educational. Often, people do not perceive quality; they do not know what the production processes are that lead to evident differences in the prices of different products, nor are they informed as to whether they are in compliance with eco- and equo-sustainable principles. They are not sensitive to how much there is that can save energy … very often, they are in a hurry, and do not stop to think – they are not educated to choose …