Weaving in Sardinia
The art of weaving in Sardinia has remote origins, closely linked to the island’s pastoral economy. Working with the loom is an exclusively feminine occupation, which has supplemented family incomes for centuries. Carpets, blankets, chest-covers and saddle-bags make up the staple production, but tapestries and ornamental oxen collars used in celebratory processions are also manufactured. And all these articles, whether destined for daily use or whit a decorative and ritualistic function, are created by the same ancient technique – on the hand-loom.
It would, however, be unfair to consider weaving as merely a means to make ends meet in the context of a subsistence economy.
It is, rather, an exceptional achievement of artistic expression.
Above all, this is a collective expression. The design schemes, the range of colours, the materials employed and the symbolic elements, notwithstanding theirs variegated arrangements, provide Sardinian’s woven artefacts whit their own unmistakable identity.
Yet this expressivity is also personalized. Indeed it would be difficult for a loom-workers to forgo her own interpretative originality and personal, creative contribution.
So, that within the context of similar style-patterns and technical procedures, the various local traditions enjoy a gradual but continuous enrichment.
The designs are principally naturalistic in content and inspiration: birds, deers, horses, flowers. All elements which reflect the surrounding landscape and environment? Yet their aim is never figurative. Instead, these representations are transformed into geometric designs which sublimate materiality. Or else they are enriched by fantastical additions, capable of expressing that mythological nether-time, towards which Sardinian’s collective imagination is projected. Horses will become unicorns; hens grow phantasmagorical tail-feathers; dragons compete for ground with proud huntsmen armed whit swords amongst a galaxy of corn-ears and Technicolor floral explosions.
These are the recurring motifs, not only in sa mostra (a carpet’s ‘picture’), but also on others artefacts. The effect is of ten somewhat rough or coarse, not just because of the raw-ish wool employed but also on account of the severity of the overall visual effect. Even the most delicate of floral stylizations or the most graceful of geometrical designs are austere in tone, theirs flavour of then well-nigh barbaric. In accordance whit the character of a people whose history has been troubled, whose lands are harsh, and whose habits are strict. This then is the anthropological framework, inside which Sardinia’s weaving tradition is to be set. This is also why these highly original hand-made articles exert such an evocative hold.