At the foot of the imposing stairs of the Can Vivot mansion, hidden in one of the dozens of narrow streets that wind through the old town of Palma, Nilda Callañaupa weaves on a loom. The colored threads form a cascade that intertwine at the bottom of her waist loom, the traditional one from the Cuzco region of Peru. After hours of work, blankets, ponchos, bags and cushions come out of the loom that she holds leaning on her waist. “We have a very special textile tradition in techniques, uses and colors from ancient times. In the Andes of Peru we practice this type of weaving, much more now, despite the fact that the industrial fabric has advanced a lot”, explains this Peruvian artisan, who directs the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco with the mission of rescuing textiles in communion with the weavers’ associations in the area. They mainly use alpaca and sheep wool, which they dye with flowers, leaves, stems, lichens or mealybugs.
The fiber, the heart and universal starting point of the fabrics, is this year the central axis on which Xtant revolves, the global meeting of heritage crafts that, for the third consecutive year, is held in Mallorca (this edition, on Wednesday 10 to Saturday May 13). An appointment that comes accompanied by a series of conferences, which deal with everything from ancestral fibers to the rebirth of this material in art, and various experiences to get to know corners of the Balearic island through gastronomy, botany or local crafts. .
A total of 53 artisans from 25 countries also participate in the traditional craft market set up in the courtyard of the majestic Can Vivot manor house. “The fiber for this year was perfect as a motto, not only for the textile part, but for touching the sensitive part of the human being, especially with all the conversation that is taking place about artificial intelligence and what the future is,” he explains. Kavita Parmar, event organizer and textile expert together with Marcella Echavarria.
Aina Cañellas and Ramón Cobo work at the origin of the fiber. With a century-old family tradition of sheep farmers, Cobo created the Wool Dreamers project four years ago in the town of Mota del Cuervo (Cuenca). Its objective: to revalue and disseminate the benefits of wool through sustainable markets. An initiative in which it works with farmers from all over Spain such as Cañellas, president of the Mallorquina Red Sheep Farmers Association, an endangered species, characteristic for its sand tone, of which only 3,000 specimens remain worldwide. . Wool Dreamers acts as a bridge between the field and the final consumer, processing and treating the wool with economically and environmentally sustainable bases. “We continue to dedicate ourselves to the same thing that our grandparents did, shearing, sorting the fleeces, washing, carding and spinning,” says Cobo. The change lies in the fact that they offer the wool yarn to artisans and sustainable fashion brands that give value to this product and that comply with fair prices throughout the value chain. “There is no other fiber like wool in terms of its virtues, it is a matter of taking advantage of it,” says Cañellas.
The wool of Awassi sheep, native to the Middle East, is what the artist Adrián Pepe uses in his tapestries. Pepe works with the sheep herders in Lebanon, where he collects the wool that he uses in the huge tapestries that he later exhibits and sells all over the world. An interest that he believes came to him through religion, because he believes that in order to understand Christian fables “you have to understand the profession of the pastor.” After spending three years in an embroidery studio, he began experimenting with wool and felting, “considered the first process of textile creation.” He faces, he says, a “very long” process when it comes to creating and treating the wool, separating it from the oils, combing it and subjecting it to friction and temperature processes. The result is huge tapestries with different textures and the ocher that he finds in the area’s caves as the only pigment, the same that the region’s shepherds continue to use to mark their sheep.
At the Can Vivot exhibition, the rattan sculptures by Aurelie Hoegy, a French art designer who has brought some samples of the creations she makes in her Parisian workshop, attract attention. This artisan works on the movement of natural fibers and is dedicated solely to rattan, a wicker-like fiber native to Indonesia, with which she creates huge commissioned sculptures, some of which are exhibited in the permanent collection of the Pompidou Museum in Paris. “I found the rattan in its wild state, spread out on the ground. It is a fiber that you can find long and malleable to work with, ”explains Hoegy, who travels to Indonesia a couple of times a year, where she learns the ways of working the material from local artisans. “I love this job because this fiber is very wild, you can tell her what to do, but she also guides you, she moves by herself.”
With the fibers obtained from agave plants and the sansevieria, also known as lengua de vaca, the designer Ángela Damman makes her creations. She works with artisans from Mexico who are specialists in different disciplines, such as crochet, with whom he collaborates to carry out the final creations. “We have a farm where we grow the plants, we remove the fibers from the leaves, and we paint it in all colors with natural dyes,” he points out. In the exhibition in Palma, she exhibits a curious hammock with agave fringes and a support made of sansevieria. His designs later travel around the world in the form of chairs, cushions, art for walls, rugs or bags. “The process is laborious, but the fiber is strong,” he points out. For the organizer Kavita Parmar, this year’s exhibition is a small range of the enormous diversity of fibers that exist in the world, including in Mallorca, where flax and hemp grew abundantly in the 12th century. “They are super-sustainable fibers that barely need water. Why can’t we think of these local resources as future answers for sustainability?” she muses.