WEAVING THE FUTURE ON ANCIENT WARPS: ASSUNTA PERILLI

Assunta Perilli weaving / courtesy Alberto Fasciani

Italiano (Italian)

I met Assunta Perilli about three years ago. I arrived in Campotosto, an village in Abruzzo (or what remained of it after the seismic events) overlooking the lake of the same name in the midst of mountains of moving beauty and I found her weaving in her workshop, a wooden house in the middle of a sea of rubble. Since then I have often met her narrated in the pages of national and international magazines, on TV programs, in author’s documentary movies. And despite this, if you want to buy – for example – one of her creations you always have to hike up there, because you – she says – don’t need the scarf I have woven, but for this territory your visit makes the difference.

 

Among her many projects there are also two forays into contemporary art: in fact she is the one who weaves the works of Fabrizio Berardi for “Sine qua non” a fiber art exhibition set up in Amatrice two years after the earthquake in Central Italy and, in the same year , realizes the textile inserts inspired by the “azzaccaratore” (tradionally loom-woven bands that Abruzzo women once used to shorten long skirts when they went to the fields) for some works in Susanna Cati’s “Nomadic Nature” exhibition. 

I took advantage of her new “made in Campotosto” project to let me tell something more about her and her work.

Assunta Perilli / SINE QUA NON, textile works by Fabrizio Berardi, woven by Assunta Perilli

SINE QUA NON, Contemporary Fiber Art in Amatrice, Fabrizio Berardi / works woven by Assunta Perilli (detail)

Not even earthquakes – and I stress more than one – have convinced you to leave Campotosto, let alone stop weaving. Rather, just shortly after the last seismic events, you got into fast gear, quickly conveying, through your work as a weaver, your attention also to the difficulties that your territory was facing. One of the projects you collaborated on was the creation of a footwear line with Alberto Fasciani, an Italian brand with an international flair. How did the idea of ​​declining traditional weaving with contemporary fields such as fashion come about?

Physically housed in one of the most remote places in the L’Aquila Apennines, the shop actually weaves multiple relationships and collaborates with all those craftsmanship that have territory and sustainability at heart.

For more than 10 years I have been collaborating with two weavers and several seamstresses and pattern makers united by a basic thought that allows us to work while having fun.

We do not work on commission and we do not weave cushions, carpets and blankets that we leave to all the other good weavers in Italy to do.

Our fun spills over into the creation of clothing and accessories and home textiles.

All unique pieces that guarantee an exclusivity that is always linked in some way to my territory, the Monti della Laga.

Clothing naturally also includes footwear; so when Alberto Fasciani offered the few businesses left in town the opportunity to sponsor them through a promotional campaign for his collections set here and promoted through all media, I proposed a collaboration.

At first he had some perplexities claiming that the shoes that have an excellent market are in leather but he agreed to try to create some models if I had woven something ad hoc.

So I made cotton warp and weft fabrics in natural dyed hemp and hand-spun linen. And so the shoes of the Campotosto Project were born.

Courtesy Alberto Fasciani / FOOTWEAR FROM THE CAMPOTOSTO PROJECT

Courtesy Alberto Fasciani / FOOTWEAR FROM THE CAMPOTOSTO PROJECT

Always close and particularly attached to the territory of Campotosto and its people, the footwear entrepreneur has set the promotional campaign for the 2018 collection in these places. The aim of this project was to convey the reality of this magical and wounded land through the company’s communication channels.

Stay and weave. So you became – for a long time – THE garrison in the area. Is this the reason why your creations cannot be purchased online?

Yes, and not only are they not bought with a click but they have no other point of sale. This is the deal I made with this place.

In reality this is a decision taken for a long time together with all the other collaborators in the shop. A unique garment, especially when it comes to clothing, is not easy to sell since there are many elements that must match for the buyer (color, size, model and price), components that need to be verified and measured (and all occurrence changed) in place.

I think of these fabrics as having a “soul” and as such I like to treat and transmit them personally.

You are an archaeologist lent to weaving. You wanted to make yourself a skirt, you ended up rebuilding a gigantic ancient loom and for twenty years the grandmothers of the town first transmitted to you the technical skills (or as we would say today the know-how), then entrusting you with a whole wealth of knowledge that goes from traditions popular up to local legends and – last but not least – family textile heirlooms. Pieces of history and stories (some remained and alas lost under the rubble) that finally made you a weaver lent to “ethnography”. And now? What happens next?

Now I continue to “have fun” by always arranging new collaborations and keeping the most tried close to me.

All these investigations made in the field leave me an indissoluble mark from what surrounds me: we do not make cushions and carpets, for example, because they are a typology of artifacts not contemplated in the mountain tradition; instead we make many pieces of clothing because they are indispensable for self-subsistence as are bags and saddlebags, hats and capes.

The only piece that is almost unchanged and continuously replicated is the “sparrone” (the kitchen towel), which has become a symbol of the shop because it was my first woven canvas (and here today jealously guarded).

Assunta Perilli weaving / courtesy Alberto Fasciani

Assunta Perilli weaving / courtesy Alberto Fasciani

The earthquakes, the depopulation, the reconstruction that does not start, the long winters with the snow that isolate you, the pandemic that keeps away even the tourists … what is the secret to resist, resist, resist weaving behind the loom?

Resisting gives me the idea of ​​an effort or a forcing; in reality this is not the case. Sometimes this isolation stimulates in me so many ideas, sometimes it even closes my eyes and so in the wake of this fluctuating mood I produce masterpieces or failures … even if I almost never decide it.

I admit the last period of the pandemic was very heavy for me too. Used to leaving from time to time to recharge myself with ideas and stimuli, the stasis has bent me a bit.

However, it was also a period of reflection and reorganization of the shop. Unintentionally beautiful and important collaborations were born that I hardly noticed the passage of the last month … luckily

And now a new project that once again combines traditional weaving and fashion. Can you tell me more about it?

Most of my collaborations are always born by chance. A Campotostar proverb says “meglia ‘na ncontratura che 100 poste fatte” (better a chance than a project)

And so it happened for this latest project with Erica Del Fio, an artisan of bags from Valdarno, whom I met when she came with my cousin Simona to Campotosto to spend a week after a winter closed at home for Covid. Her passion for leather goods and bags led her to work for a long time for big Italian brands until, five years ago, she created her own brand of bags and accessories that she creates with particular fabrics and through unusual processes that she searches in Italy and abroad.

Fascinated by the ancient loom, by artisan yarns, by natural dyes, she proposed me a collaboration to produce unique handmade pieces that combine in a fashion accessory with the history, culture and values ​​of a territory

“I wanted to tell this anomalous May with a fabric and I warped the white of the snow still on the crest of the Monti della Laga, the green of the lake, the brown of the wet earth. Many of us fell in love with it. Erica wanted to reweave it too … so the first seeds of a beautiful project sprout. We called them Daffodil and Narcissus because from the window of the room where they were born you could see a boundless meadow. ” (Warp and weft in cotton, viscose and lurex, 2 heddles processing)