Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at “Textiles and Settlement: From the Plains Space to Cyber Space,” Textile Society of America 12th Biennial Symposium, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 6-9, 2010. Copyright 2010 Textile Society of America


Velvet is a luxury cloth. Fashioned into garments, it dresses the elite. In interiors, it covers walls and upholsters furniture. Its sumptuous display denotes status, power, privilege and wealth. For the past twenty-eight years, my research and art has focused on learning its traditions and handweaving practice.

Besides studying textile archives, I have more importantly visited the few remaining ateliers and have interviewed the artisans to learned about their training, methods and activities.

How do they control the tension of the pile warp?
How do they prevent crushing the woven velvet while it is on the loom?
How do they cut the pile loops?
How do they control the pattern and design?
How does the choice of ground weave effect the cloth?
How were they trained and how do they train?

My research has taken me to seven countries (Italy, France, England, Japan, China, Turkey and Uzbekistan) where I have found 16 ateliers that still weave velvet. About thirty-five silk velvet weavers remain.

My quest started at the Foundation Lisio in Florence, Italy where I worked with Vittorio Rettori on manual Jacquard handlooms. Other Italian ateliers are Gaggioli and Cordani in Zoagli, and Rubelli and Bevilacqua in Venice. In Lyon, France are Agnes Alauzet of the Maison des Canuts, Prelle and Tassanari et Chatel; in England, only Richard John Humphries; in Japan Kunikazu Ito and Eikichi Higuchi; in China, the Suzhou Silk Museum; in Turkey the Dokuma Fabrikasi; and in Uzbekistan, Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov and Fazlitdin Dadajonov make ikat velvet.