Maria Vittoria Ovidi Pazzaglia, President of the association Bolsena Ricama, has intervied for the Cologni Foundation Mr. Giuseppe Parolo, an itinerant master weaver: he creates his own looms with his hands, in small dimensions, and brings them along during his trips to Italy and abroad.
He really loves giving lessons to children, because, as he says, "they are careful observers and they ask a lot of questions".
How was your passion for "the loom" born?
I was born in Legnano, in the province of Milan, to a family with deep roots in the textiles field. At the beginning of the twentieth century, my grandfather on my father's side had a firm that manufactured combs for weaving and sold textiles accessories.
My father was a recognized weaving technician who was known all over Italy: he was the one who handed on down the passion for this career, teaching me to work on an old Jacquard hand loom ever since I was a boy. In 1974 I moved to Ascoli Piceno for my job: there I was director of a modern textile mill for over twenty years, after having trained all the personnel. Now, at retirement age, I have restored on old loom, and as a hobby I produce ancient fabrics for towels, damask fabrics, brocades, scarves, curtains, Tuscan folk fabrics. I prefer to use linen, cotton and wool yarn.
So who are your "Great Masters"?
First of all, my father, Costantino Parolo, and then professor Ermanno Oldrini.
You have spoken to me about one of your experiences in Latin America: would you like to tell us about it?
When the time came to retire, I thought of passing on my experience in the field of weaving in the poor villages of Ecuador and Colombia, though a project of sericulture, "Red Andina de la Seda", promoted by the Italian-Latin American Institute (IILA - Istituto Italo Latino Americano).
Between 2004 and 2006, I went to Latin America various times: to Penipe in Ecuador, a poor village on the slopes of the volcano Tunguraua, where I held a basic weaving course; in Cuenca (always in Ecuador) I organized a training course for weavers from Perù, Colombia and Ecuador; at the University of AZUAY, I held theoretical-practical lessons on weaving for teachers.
In 2006 in Penipe, I was able to check on the progress my female students of two years before had made. At Puerto Quito, in the Andes, and at Zumbi (on the edges of the Amazonian forest) I followed a sericulture project through its complete cycle: spinning, dying, weaving. No one had ever arrived there to teach these peoples the art of weaving. In July 2006, I finished my Colombia experience, at Buga, in a job-training school with twelve pupils, always getting good results. I thoroughly share in the goals of the IILA, which are to organize small, well-equipped workshops that allow the people to produce and sell textile products in their country.
What do you hope for in the future in your career and for textiles in general?
I am making efforts to revive the weaving tradition in Ascoli Piceno, taking into account that here, in the past, production took place on hand looms using ten rope heddles and combs with bamboo teeth. These fabrics, which started out humble, were then decorated with wonderful lace – it, too, made exclusively by hand. This precious art must not be forgotten, but must be valorised and promoted – here in Ascoli as in Legnano. In my little workshop, schoolgirls often come to see the loom and I tell them about the history of weaving, also using old manuscripts.
While we're on the subject of manuscripts, don't you also have a collection of very old books? What are they about?
The manuscripts that you see are Professor Mario Loris's, when I attended the two-year course in weaving at the Regio Istituto Tecnico Vittorio Emanuele II in Bergamo.
These notebooks, written in a very special, beautiful handwriting and in China ink, are fitted out with over two hundred fabric samples with their respective technical specification sheets.
There are fabrics of all kinds: canvas, twill, satin, reps barré, reversible cloth, flotté work, damask and lancé fabrics, Gobelin, English-turn gauze. The fabric samples, produced with yarn dyed in skeins even though they are over one hundred years old, have not faded even a tiny bit: all of this proves how good the dyers were at that time. These manuscripts were given to my father as a gift by Professor Mario Loris, as he was one of Loris's favourite students in the years 1923-26 at the Istituto Superiore Industriale Cardinal Ferrari in Gallarate.
You undoubtedly have a legacy that, in the textile sector, still has many things to say: what future do you wish to see for it?
The future gives cause for worry. Some schools of weaving have closed their doors because of the lack of enrolment, and those that are still in operation have classes with very few pupils in them, which is why there will be very few technicians who can spread the art of weaving in the future. In any event, yours truly, who at present is seventy-three years old, feels like he still has a lot to do and a lot to give to people who love this magnificent art.