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.


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 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 


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 almost 2.000 titles, which is open to students and researchers on appointment. See  Research 

Exhibitions and gifts to museums

2019 - Tramanda, Palazzo Opesso, Chieri
2017 - Piccolo Formato - Fiber Art Italiana, Gallery Il Punto, Palazzo Cicala, Genoa
2017 - Intrecci del Novecento, Arazzi e Tappeti di Manifatture Italiane, Triennale di Milano, Milan
2017 - The King and I, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai
2016 - Ho visto un Re, Palazzo Reale, Milan
2016 - W. Women in Italian Design, Triennale Design Museum, 9th Edition
2015 - Made in Loco, Foundation Le Costantine, Uggiano la Chiesa
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, Rome
2014 - TDM7 – IL DESIGN ITALIANO OLTRE LA CRISI. Autarchia, austerità, autoproduzione, Triennale di Milano, Milan
2013 - Tra terra e mare, intrecci di Canapa e bisso, Villa Piazzo, Pettinengo (Biella)
2013 - Donne in bottega, Palazzo Morando, Milan
2012 - Arte, Canapa, Design, Champorcher, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Courmayeur
2011 - solo exhibition, Vetrina Ripetta 133 dell’Archivio Crispolti Arte Contemporanea, Rome
2010 - Solo exhibition, Villa Piazzo, Pettinengo (Biella)
2007 - Diagonale 91, gifted to Museo del Tessile, Chieri (Turin)
2004 - Miniartextil, Como
2002 - Miniartextil, Como
2002 - Filo lungo Filo..., Villaggio Leumann, Turin
2000 - Kite, gifted to Museo del Tessile di Chieri (Turin)
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, Rome
1999 - Cannabis textilis, Centro permanente dell'Artigianato artistico, Rocca Varano, Camerino (Macerata)
1998 - Trame d'Autore, Biennale of Weaving Arts, Palazzo Opesso, Chieri
1998 - Cannabis Textilis, Museo della Civiltà Contadina di San Marino di Bentivoglio, (Bologna)
1998 - Miniartextil, Como

1996 - Lo spazio in-tessuto, with Paola Bonfante and Lalla Ranza, Villa del Castello Visconteo, Trezzo sull'Adda (Milan)
1991-1995 - Miniartextil, Como
1991 - Mini Tessili Fibre - Carta - Metalli, Gallery il Punto, Genoa
1990 - exhibition with Paola Bonfante, Teatro Litta, Milan
1989 - Bagni di Colore, Arte Spazio Centro Culturale San Fedele, Milan
1988 - Trame nello Spazio, Villa Franchetti, Treviso
1988 - 6th International Triennale of Tapestry, Łódź, Poland
1987 - Il Medium Tessile, former San Francesco church, Pordenone
1985-1986 - Texture 85-86, Showroom Agorà, San Giovanni Lupatoto, Verona
1984 - Showroom Abaco, Como
1983 - Arazzo - Filo - Tessitura, World Craft Council Milano, Rotonda della Besana, Milan (organized by the Municipality of Milan)
1980 - Mostra Operatori Tessili, Fiorenzuola di Focara (organized by the Municipality of Pesaro)
1980 - Gli arazzi nell'arte contemporanea, Palazzo d'Accursio, Bologna (organized by the Municipality of Bologna)
1980 - M.I.A., Sezione Artigianato ed Arte, Palazzo Reale, Monza
1979 - exhibition with Paola Bonfante, Galleria Tiberi, Orvieto
1979 - Tessitura - storia - tradizioni - didattica - ricerca, Centro delle Arti e tradizioni Popolari, City of Castello
1978 - invited to 3a Triennale Tkaniny, Łódź, Poland
1977 - solo exhibition at Centro Tellino di Cultura, Teglio, (Valtellina)
1976 - solo exhibition at Showroom Rossi di Albizzate, Milan
1976 - solo exhibition at Biennale dell'Accademia di Cultura e Arte "Renato Colombo", Serravalle Sesia (Vercelli)
1976 - Gallery Solferino, Milan
1974 - Gallery Le Métier d’Art, Milan
1973 - Artists-Craftsmen in Europe, British Craft Centre, London
1972 - Woven Structures, Camden Arts Centre, London
1971 - Gallery Zacheta, Warsaw, Poland, organized by the Ministry of Culture and Arts
1971 - 5th International Biennale of Tapestry, Lausanne, Switzerland

5th International Biennale of Tapestry, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1971

Distrazione lombarda

3a Triennale Tkaniny Unikatowej Łódź, Poland, 1978

Tre entità

Tre entità (photo: Giacomo Artale)

6a Triennale Tkaniny Unikatowej Łódź, Poland, 1988

Una strada lunga

Kite, gifted to Museo del Tessile di Chieri, 2000

Diagonale 91, gifted to Museo del Tessile di Chieri, 2007

Solo exhibition at Villa Piazzo, Pettinengo (Biella), 2010

Stendardi per Trude, 1979

Distrazione lombarda, 1971

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

Intrecci del Novecento. Arazzi e tappeti di artisti e manifatture italiane Triennale di Milano, 2017