textile structures
textile design
research on textile techniques

my collections

my library

personal history



I started weaving in 1968, when I was 23, after a long trip to Sweden and Finland. In 1961-1962 I studied in New York with Lily Blumenau, then in summer 1962 I was at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine, as an assistant in that weaving workshop/studio. In 1962-1963 I studied with Trude Guermonprez at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, and I worked for some time with Jack Lenor Larsen in New York. Back in Italy, I lived in Milan, Naples and then again in Milan, and I taught weaving both in schools and to teachers in courses organized by the unions to train them in setting up free educational activities for pupils of various age levels. In the 1970s I took some summer courses in England with Ann Sutton. In 1968 I settled in Milan for good and I started my own studio, Studio di Tessitura Paola Besana, a workshop and center for research, production and teaching.


I think that a thorough knowledge of all textile structures, even the most elementary ones, and their history can lead to their creative use with original variations and developments. Since only recently and in few schools in Italy is weaving taught as a form of art and creative research, I’ve always put teaching at the forefront of my activity, with full-time courses and seminars in my studio on a score of different topics. Interconnection between courses is something I’ve always tried to achieve, in order to offer programs that could gradually and systematically develop both technical and designing abilities in weaving, and a sense of the aesthetic and communicative values of textiles. Over several years my studio offered also a professional two-year course. I gave professional courses for institutions in various parts of Italy and in Switzerland, and I also taught for several years at the Istituto Europeo del Design in Milan e in Cagliari. For all my courses I provide detailed course notes and my library is open to students for consultation. See Teaching







What interests me most in weaving is its three-dimensional aspect, and I’m always striving to exploit the structural and expressive possibilities given by the contrast and combination of weaves, materials and colors. A piece of cloth can become a three-dimensional object, by exploiting the layers in double weave, which can open up in space and become a sculpture. In my research on the backstrap loom I use continuous warps, sometimes knotted ones, to create forms without beginning or end, in a personal re-interpretation of ancient techniques that are dying out. See Textile Structures


Alongside my main activity as an artist and researcher, I’ve also been a designer and producer in interior decoration, fashion and industrial textile design. In the 1970-1990s, together with my then associates Paola Bonfante and Lalla Ranza, I designed and wove costumes for a production of Wagner’s Parsifal at La Scala Theater in Milan, 680 wall-hangings for the cabins of the Costa Classica holiday cruiser and four large wall-hangings for the lounges of Costa Romantica, as well as numerous collections of handbags for American, Japanese and Italian customers, textile furnishings for private clients, two small yearly fashion collections presented in our studio, and several collections of handbags and textile accessories for US, Japanese and Italian clients. See Textile Design


I’m fascinated by the structural aspect of all textile forms, not just the woven ones. I’m interested in lace, sprang, four-selvedge weaving, scaffolded weaving. I attended courses on lace and embroidery recognition with Tessy Schoenholzer Nichols. I traveled in Europe, Syria, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia (with Ed Franquemont), where I was able to see, photograph and try out many ethnic weaving techniques and collect artefacts and ethnic looms. In 2001-2002, together with a group of students, I studied and reconstructed the looms I had bought in South America, and designed modern textiles using Andean techniques (see Collana senza capo né coda). My collection of textile structures and objects, put together over the years, goes from mason’s wire sieves to delicate needle lace and bobbin lace and samples for all the techniques I teach. I have also collected and catalogued a textile library of over 1,500 titles, which is open to students and researchers on appointment. See Research on textile techniques

Distrazione lombarda, 5ème Biennale Internationale de la Tapisserie, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Una strada lunga, 3rd Triennale Tkaniny Unikatowej Łódź, Poland, 1978.
Tre entità, 6th Triennale Tkaniny Unikatowej Łódź, Poland, 1978.
Kite, donated to the Museo del tessuto, Chieri, Italy.
Diagonale 91, donated to the Museo del tessuto, Chieri, Italy.
Solo Exhibition, Villa Piazzo, Pettinengo (Biella), Italy, 2010.

Quel chiodo fisso, Vetrina 133, Archivio Crispolti Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy, 2011.

  Exhibitions and gifts to museums - download PDF here

  2015 - Fiber Art, Museo del Costume e del tessuto, Spoleto
  2015 - Off Loom II. Fiber Art – Arte fuori dal telaio, Istituto Centrale per la Demoetnoantropologia - Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari, Roma
  2014 - TDM7 – IL DESIGN ITALIANO OLTRE LA CRISI. Autarchia, austerità, autoproduzione, Triennale di Milano, Milano
  2013 - Tra terra e mare, intrecci di Canapa e bisso, Villa Piazzo, Pettinengo (Biella)
  2013 - Donne in bottega, Palazzo Morando, Milano
  2012 - Arte, Canapa, Design, Champorcher, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Courmayeur
  2011 - Vetrina Ripetta 133 dell’Archivio Crispolti Arte Contemporanea, Roma
  2010 - Personale a Villa Piazzo, Pettinengo (Biella)
  2007 - Diagonale 91, donato al Museo del Tessile, Chieri (Torino)
  2004 - Miniartextil, Como
  2002 - Miniartextil, Como
  2002 - Filo lungo Filo..., Villaggio Leumann, Torino
  2000 - Kite, donato al Museo del Tessile di Chieri (Torino)
  2000 - Un’idea per nove teste a Cilestre – i colori della natura – lana soppravvissana,
Rocca Varano, Camerino (Macerata)
  2000 - Off Loom I. Fiber Art – Arte fuori dal telaio, San Michele a Ripa, Roma
  1999 - Cannabis textilis, Mostra di tessitura artistica, Centro permanente dell'Artigianato
artistico, Rocca Varano, Camerino (Macerata)
  1998 - Trame d'Autore, Biennale d'Arte Tessile, Palazzo Opesso, Chieri
  1998 - Cannabis Textilis, Museo della Civiltà Contadina di San Marino di Bentivoglio,
  1998 - Miniartextil, Como
  1996 - Lo spazio in-tessuto, con Paola Bonfante e Lalla Ranza, Villa del Castello
Visconteo, Trezzo sull'Adda (Milano)
  1991 -
Miniartextil, Como
  1991 - Mini Tessili Fibre - Carta - Metalli, Galleria il Punto, Genova
  1990 - personale con Paola Bonfante al Teatro Litta, Milano
  1989 - Bagni di Colore, presso Arte Spazio Centro Culturale San Fedele,
  1988 - Trame nello Spazio, Villa Franchetti, Treviso
  1988 - 6th International Triennale of Tapestry, Łódź, Polonia
  1987 - Il Medium Tessile, ex chiesa di San Francesco, Pordenone
  1985 -
Texture 85-86, allo Showroom Agorà, San Giovanni Lupatoto, Verona
  1984 - Showroom Abaco, Como
  1983 - Arazzo - Filo - Tessitura, collettiva del World Craft Council di Milano, Rotonda della
Besana, Milano (organizzata dal Comune di Milano)
  1980 - Mostra Operatori Tessili, Fiorenzuola di Focara (organizzata dal Comune di
  1980 - Gli arazzi nell'arte contemporanea, Palazzo d'Accursio, Bologna (organizzata dal
Comune di Bologna)
  1980 - M.I.A., Sezione Artigianato ed Arte, Palazzo Reale, Monza
  1979 - con Paola Bonfante alla Galleria Tiberi, di Orvieto
  1979 - Tessitura - storia - tradizioni - didattica - ricerca, Centro delle Arti e tradizioni
Popolari, di Città di Castello
  1978 - invitata alla 3ª Triennale Tkaniny, Łódź, Polonia
  1977 - personale al Centro Tellino di Cultura, Teglio, (Valtellina)
  1976 - personale allo Showroom Rossi di Albizzate, Milano
  1976 - personale alla Biennale dell'Accademia di Cultura e Arte "Renato Colombo",
Serravalle Sesia (Vercelli)
  1976 - Galleria Solferino, Milano
  1974 - Galleria “Le Métier d’Art”, Milano
  1973 - Artists-Craftsmen in Europe, British Craft Centre, Londra, Inghilterra
  1972 - Woven Structures, Camden Arts Centre di Londra, Inghilterra
  1971 - Galleria Zacheta, Varsavia, Polonia, organizzata dal Ministero
della Cultura e Belle Arti
  1971 - 5ª Biennale Internationale de la Tapisserie, Losanna, Svizzera