Born in Perugia in 1971, Marta Cucchia graduated in Interior design and architecture at Milan's Istituto Europeo di Design (IED). As a great weaving Master, she is the heir to a family tradition encompassing four generations.
The Giuditta Brozzetti Atelier has its roots in the early 20th century. What is its story?
The story of weaving in Umbria sinks its roots in ancient times: the so-called “tovaglie perugine” (Perugian altar-cloths) were a real strength inside the hand-weaving tradition in medieval Perugia, they were used as altar-cloths in central Italy churches and appeared in paintings by Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti, Giotto, Ghirlandaio, up to Leonardo da Vinci.
During World War I, Giuditta Brozzetti, the headmistress of Perugia's primary schools, discovered, while surveying the countryside schools, the ancient weaving tradition which had survived within the land's rural houses.
From then onwards, she became a skilled connoisseur of those fabrics and picked up the very best among them to sell them in town, thus creating a source of income and emancipation for the countrywomen.
In 1921, she started her adventure by opening the handweaving atelier where she reproduced the traditional Umbrian cloths and some of the finest damasks from the past.
The atelier used, and still uses nowadays, the traditional four-heddle pedal handlooms to create the countryside “rural fabrics” and the “ jacquard” looms for damasks and Perugian altar-cloths.
In 1957, Eleonora, Giuditta's daughter, took over the handweaving atelier and enhanced the business.
For years, her daughter Clara, a lover of history and iconography, worked with her studying and faithfully reproducing the Perugian altar-cloths. In 1995, the fourth generation, namely me, became part of the management of the Giuditta Brozzetti” handweaving atelier.
When did you realise weaving was your business? Did anyone prompt you to walk this path?
In 1993, my mother was nearly compelled to shut down the atelier which she had carried forward for years thanks to her determination and passion. On that occasion, I realised that no-one in my family knew how to use the ancient looms in the atelier, so I thought it was high time for me to learn more about them. In the summer of 1993, after completing the IED's exams, I approached this ancient art which totally enraptured me! In 1994, I completed my degree and came back to Perugia where, along with my mother, we re-started the business as a cooperative in 1995
What are the characteristics of your atelier?
In our atelier we create fabrics inspired by the glorious Umbrian textile tradition by using original medieval as well as 19th century techniques. We are now the last handweaving atelier producing exact replicas of the renowned “Perugian altar-cloths”.
Your atelier is an evocative, fascinating place: a former monastery in the heart of Umbria, the Church of San Francesco delle Donne. Did you choose this location for any special reason?
The 14th-century church named San Francesco delle Donne was deconsecrated in the 19th century and used ever since as an industrial building, until my father, after several ups and downs, managed to buy it. So, my mother was the third-generation businesswoman of the atelier and her husband owned this wonderful building. They conceived the idea of moving the atelier into the former church, and I finalised the project in 1996.
Weaving is carried out with over 200 year-old looms. Do you think it is possible to merge tradition and innovation in your job?
I always believed and maintained that planning and manual skills can create a great combination, fostering not only good design, but also practical manual dexterity, a characteristic of the great Italian savoir-faire. Thanks to Fondazione Cologni, I was able to confirm this on the occasion of the Doppia Firma project in 2017, in a collaboration with Federico Pepe.
What is your relationship with the territory? In what way and how far can it influence your creations?
Our production is strictly connected to the Umbrian local cultural context, where hand-weaving tradition harks back to ancient times and the techniques in use afford boundless variations.
What is your source of inspiration?
My inspiration draws on paintings, art works and nature itself. Sometimes, simply on works produced 80 years ago in my atelier, which we reinterpret and re-read in a contemporary key, trying to bring a touch of modernity within an age-old tradition.
Design concept and realisation. How do they combine in your work?
Studying design certainly influenced me a lot in my approach to methodology. I deal with each new piece as if it were an architectural design concept, assessing proportions and style combinations during the project design stage. Later, I deal with colours, which are only roughly developed during the design stage, experimenting with novel combinations on a case-by-case basis.
Is there any moment you remember with a special emotion?
What I really appreciate in this job is the fresh enthusiasm and joy that come with each new project, so you never feel tired of it! It is impossible for me to remember one specific moment, except maybe being photographed by great artists (such as Steve McCurry), or receiving groups of tourists who are moved at the sight of the way we create our fabrics (and this is one of the things I like best). Then, I will never forget the huge gratification I felt when I was awarded your MAM-Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere!
You are an artisan, a businesswoman, and a teacher. Is there any suggestion you would like to offer the young people who aim at approaching the world of craftsmanship and art works?
The craftsman's work is a harsh reality, but it is also a way of making your dreams come true. What you need is nearly obsessive passion, great determination and endless stubbornness.