What do the Celts, Vikings and Japanese have in common? It may surprise you, but they have all recently set their sights on… Biella!
Yes, you heard that right, Biella, the Italian town world-famous for its yarn and home to a fascinating handicraft studio where valuable threads such as linen, silk cashmere, alpaca, angora and mohair are woven by hand. The studio belongs to Alessandra Salino, a.k.a BleuPom, a long-time friend of No Serial Number.
While I photograph handlooms of all shapes and sizes in her studio, I discover that this is a place where ancient and international techniques are interwoven and, once again, I learn that when traditions and cultures are mixed together, the best results occur.
Indeed, Alessandra, aside from taking advantage of her thirty years’ worth of experience as a textile designer in local companies, has begun opening herself up to other cultures; to the Japanese, the Celts and even… the Vikings.
This first group, the Japanese, who for centuries handed down their refined textile techniques to new generations, have conquered large swathes of her studio, advancing every day as they take up even more space under the guise of pieces of fabric, tops, skirts and trousers dyed in the shibori style.
As the name suggests (shibori means to twist, to tighten and to squash), this ancient technique from the Land of the Rising Sun is used to create very precise dyeing patterns on textiles. The fabrics are tied, folded and crumpled – manipulated however one likes, and then dipped into a dye bath. It is even better if the dye is natural, made from flowers, fruit or leaves.
And in fact, if you look randomly around Alessandra’s studio, beyond the many shibori textiles and items of clothing, you will also see big glass vats full of coloured liquids and threads soaking for days. “I started getting interested in shibori a few months ago” Alessandra tells me. “I find it very intriguing and so I want to continue experimenting with this technique.”
We shut the door on Japan and continue our patrol of BleuPom studio. Alessandra opens a drawer and delicately places some wool scarves on the table… and suddenly we are surrounded by another ancient culture, this time from Europe.
“These are my Celtic scarves” explains Alessandra. Spun with strictly natural wool dyed with madder, these scarves have something mysterious and magical about them; Alessandra decided to weave a Celtic rune, ancient fortune telling symbols used by the ancient culture, on each one. The word “rune” means “a whispered secret”, and therefore each one has its own mysterious meaning which Alessandra has indicated on the tag on each scarf. An almost “mystical” gift…
We end our journey through space and time with the Celts and now it is… his turn!
Before leaving home the editor of No Serial Number, sent me a strange text message; “I saw that Alessandra has made this… find out what it is!”
I had to meet and photograph this mysterious character known as… the Viking!
“Who is the Viking?” I ask Alessandra shortly after stepping off the train. As she laughs, amused, she explains to me that the infamous Viking is none other than a very special vertical loom that she invented and took to a Viking fair in Biella a few days earlier.
To fit in with the theme, she took an old late nineteenth century ladder that belonged to her grandfather, its rungs were turned into fake beams onto which the threads were woven. On this special loom she decided only to use natural brown and black coloured wool native to the Biella region, woven together to form an old-fashioned, long, thin and most importantly, crude, rug, as only a Viking would know how…
At the fair, her loom was a success; everyone stopped to watch her weaving, and asked questions. And as for me, I was just happy to have satisfied the curiosity of my editor!
Text and photos by Eletta Revelli
BleuPom Design & Fabric
You can talk to No Serial Number Magazine too. Join our Twitter conversation (#noserialnumber) as we talk to eco artisans and designers changing the way we think about our lifestyle choices. You can also share your views and keep up to date with our latest articles by joining the newsletter or following us on Facebook.