Giuditta Bronzetti and the church of fabrics

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The last hand weaving workshop in Italy in the oldest Franciscan church in Perugia, which is a laboratory and museum at the same time. An art workshop, where every single object has a story to tell. Here time is rediscovered, to reveal beauty and then show it, as it is, simple and great.

In the deconsecrated temple of San Francesco delle Donne , the medieval and Renaissance textile tradition of Umbria re-emerges every day from a patient intertwining of history and high craftsmanship, on large wooden looms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries .
And among the wide mullioned windows that illuminate the nave, young women still throw the shuttle, as the Benedictine nuns did eight centuries ago.

In 1925 in San Francisco Women settled the ceramics factory “La Salamandra”, famous for its “avant-garde”, which had left, as a sign of its passage, a surprising chimney. The important company, which hosted the best artists in the sector, renovated the church tower and also restored the original roof of the convent. The leitmotif of women’s work characterizes this special place. And so it does not seem accidental that since 1996 the Giuditta Brozzetti laboratory has been following the path started centuries ago by the Benedictine nuns. Visiting the laboratory is like taking a journey through time. The atelier is located in via Berardi 5, in the Porta Sant’Angelo district, within the fourteenth-century walls.

The passion of Giuditta Bronzetti

The Judith laboratory realizes artistic fabrics “tailored” for four generations. They are manufactured in linen, cotton, silk, cashmere blend and laminate. Curtains and bedspreads , tapestries and table cloths catch the eye as do the centerpieces, table covers, cushions and lampshades scattered all around . Between colors and decorations, the visitor is almost immersed in an ancestral artisan memory. Marta Cucchia , the founder’s great-granddaughter, still teaches, upon request, the forgotten art of hand weaving. But thanks to unprecedented color combinations and imaginative style contaminations, it offers an eclectic line of exclusive and personalized pieces.

Mother of five children, in the years of the First World War, she was appointed director of the elementary schools of Perugia. To inspect the schools, he rode in a carriage along the narrow streets of the villages and along the farmyards of the farmsteads. Intrigued by the rhythmic noise of the looms that came from inside the peasant houses, she discovered the world that changed her life. He then began to collect the most beautiful fabrics to take them to the city. The work of the poor families of the Perugia countryside were exhibited and sold along Corso Vannucci, in the beautiful windows of the permanent market of the “Italian Decorative Arts”. After the war, when the men returned from the front, Giuditta resigned from her position as director, enrolled in the Register of Artisans and in 1921 opened a hand-weaving workshop in the central via Baglioni, where the damasks of the past were reproduced and the traditional Perugian tablecloths .

The “schoolchildren” who attended the workshop, according to a medieval heritage, to learn the trade paid by paying small sums or offering symbolic gifts on the occasion of Christmas or Easter. In those same years, not far away, a sister of Giuditta, Margherita Casini Lastrucci , opened one of the best tailors in Perugia.

The rustic fabrics were not produced in the workshop created by Giuditta but were born directly in the homes of the weavers, with the aid of traditional manual pedal looms with four heddles. Often, the whole family participated in the work intended for the atelier. The artisan workshop came to employ about twenty people.

Clara Baldelli Bombelli Cucchia , great-granddaughter of Giuditta Brozzetti, engaged through a careful and passionate study in safeguarding the glorious artisan tradition, transformed the
individual firm into a cooperative company and proposed to the municipality of Perugia to recover the thirteenth-century church of San Francesco delle Donne.

The fabric is woman

The workers led by Marta Cucchia and her mother Clara Baldelli Bombelli , with heald looms still make “rustic” fabrics of the Umbrian folk tradition. With jacquard looms (patented by Vincenzi in 1836) damasks and plain weaves in cotton, linen and silk blend are woven. And thanks to an original seventeenth-century loom, it was possible to recover a technique of which the memory had been lost : the weaving called Fiamma di Perugia . Unique and indestructible artistic fabrics that have some original features. The hallmark of the laboratory, almost a trademark, is the Trina , a light and transparent fabric invented by Giuditta Brozzetti, especially suitable for making tablecloths and curtains: it has small geometric designs in the shape of a rhombus with an openwork effect reminiscent of a lace.

This is how Giuditta, the Italian heroine of the fabric, is remembered:

“She immediately made a sketch and then calmly finished the details, sitting on a folding stool that she always carried with her, along with a pad of paper and pencils from which she never separated ”