One of the last Loom makers – for the art of weaving


Where can you learn the art of weaving? One place is on the banks of Brenta river, in an old house built from pieces of brick and smoothing stones shaped by waterflows, there is a fabulous school where people can learn the secret of traditional handmade looms – especially Jacquard looms and the art of weaving.

Brenta is the river that connects the Dolomites Alps with Venice and this area was traditionally known for production of silk, luxury textiles and precious clothes, it had its own ‘silk way’. Venice was the longest lived “democratic” Republic (it was an elected oligarchy) and for 800 years its fleets dominated the merchant sea roads and its traders walked the long Silk Road to China. Marco Polo was the first western man to “see” and write a book about China.

The secret of silk arrived to Venice from Constantinople and Sicily and in this area for centuries the artof weaving luxury textile and clothes was one of the pillars of the local economy. The importance of mulberry trees was so strong that there was a law: who cut a mulberry tree was relieved of one eye. In Venice the corporation of textile workers was one of the most important, so excellent that at a certain point the corporation of Velvet workers was established. By the 16th century Venice was worldwide renowned in luxury textiles for its double and triple height silk velvet.

With this background, it should not be a surprise that 45 years ago a 15 years old boy from Cartigliano was attracted by the local tradition and became dedicated to the creation of handmade looms and the art of weaving. His name is Ilario Tartaglia.

Ilario’s enthusiasm for the art of weaving came from reading the history of Mahatma Gandhi and his creation of khadi, the handmade woven cotton clothing that represented so much the cry for Indian independence.

Ilario studied textile technology and engineering in Milan and then chose to take care of antique textiles. He became passionate about the design and manufacture of handlooms and machines such as “tiralicci” machines, and he may be the last survivor capable of manufacturing multi-layered textiles and both designing and producing the complex looms.

In the past, many a young lady would sit at a loom and make the textiles for her glory box. Now professionals from around the world are seeking to study and relearn this craft. Ilario’s latest request comes from New York for a set of elegant curtains, of complex design, but facile for this master of the loom.

For anyone enthused by the artisanal pleasure of creating their own handmade weavings and even brocade or velvet, of learning the art of weaving, there is no better start than to attend one of Ilario’s courses, hear his words on the history, techniques and equipment designs, and practice the set-up and weaving on a hand loom.

Then become part of the rebirth of a great handcraft, the art of weaving.

(This article is reproduced under licence from Energitismo Limited)