Salvaging Fabrics so That They Can Be Reused, in Direct Opposition to Throw Away Society
A passion for fabric and natural printing: the alchemy of these two together can bring unexpected results.
If this passion for fabric manifests itself in the salvaging of fabrics that have been abandoned for decades on the shelves of a thrift store, then the result will certainly be unique.
Behind this is an incurable illness; between buying something old or something new, I will always prefer to buy something old. Is this because of my curiosity? Concern for the future? A sadness in seeing treasures disappear? Because I loathe the thought of the past being tossed onto a heap? It is most likely a combination of all these things that brings me to browse the chaotic shelves of thrift stores and vintage markets stalls, emerging with fabric finds and the satisfaction of being the one to ‘save it’.
Among these treasures, you can find entire packages of ‘cloths’ or ‘rags’ which were found stashed in the back of grandmothers’ old wardrobes, discarded in the fifties for the more practical disposable sanitary towels.
These were first promoted with difficulty in Germany and the United States (by Hartmann and Johnson & Johnson respectively up to the end of the 1800s); the sanitary towel really began to catch on in the 1920s thanks to the British brand Kotex , erasing uncomfortable and antiquated washable ‘nappies’ in just thirty years. It is from the salvage of some of these rags – rectangles of woven fabric, made from either linen or cotton and characterised by their frayed edges, that accompanied the somewhat difficult life of women up until at least the first half of the last century – that this story is born.
A story that would have been impossible without the collaboration of Michela, also known as Rosso di Robbia, friend and adventure companion (particularly when it comes to visiting small markets!), but above all an eco-printing expert, or, as we prefer to call her, an expert in natural fabric printing.
It is here that the alchemy is revealed: the fabric – entrusted to Rosso di Robbia‘s expertise, along with a selection of leaves found during my adventures across the Navelli Plateau, where I live – takes on a new role, thus beginning a second life as simple centrepieces with delightful prints of plants on them. They could just as easily become tablecloths, runners or curtains in a house inspired by nature…
The photo gallery shows some rags with darker prints (this is achieved by using iron supports onto which the fabric is wrapped and then cooked) and others with lighter prints (created by using wood supports).
For the darker prints we used leaves from the turkey oak, silver maple, field maple, rose bushes and chestnut trees, arranged in various combinations including experimenting with placing them on top of each other. For the lighter prints we used daisybushes and coreopsis flowers and Japanese maple and rose leaves.
The result is that entirely natural shapes, scents and colours are brought indoors and onto the table. It allows us to continuously surround ourselves with nature and the beauty of objects that were made by hand – both yesterday (woven by an unknown woman in the early 20th century) and today (Michela’s printing which turns flowers and leaves into magnificent ‘natural prints’)! As is my habit – in my capacity as editor for noserialnumber.com – I translate all this into words, that, accompanied by photos taken by our photographer Elia, gives me a sense of having contributed to saving a small piece of the past, understandably abandoned in haste for a disposable philosophy but one that, alas, has put, and continues to put, severe pressure on the world! The idea of salvaging and recycling makes the thought of the pollution caused by the undeniable progress in this area a little less painful, as we wait for solutions that will allow us to progress without causing destruction.
Text by Rosa Rossi
Translation by Fuschia Hutton