Catarina Riccabona is a loom weaver, working with natural materials such as linen, hemp and alpaca producing intricately woven throws, cushions and textile art.
Since graduating from Textiles at Central Saint Martins, Catarina has gone on to develop her interest in sustainability, heavily influencing her creative approach.
Drawing inspiration from tribal textiles, vintage grain bags and linen towels, each of Catarina Riccabona’s pieces are hand woven on a traditional loom from her studio in South East London.
Catarina Riccabona is a hand weaver, working with natural materials such as linen, hemp and alpaca, producing intricately woven throws and textile art. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins, where she studied Textiles, she has gone on to develop her interest in sustainability, heavily influencing her creative approach. Drawing inspiration from tribal textiles, vintage grain bags and linen towels, each of Catarina’s pieces are hand woven on a traditional loom from her studio in South East London.
Each of Catarina’s pieces are highly individual, characterised by the slight irregularities typical of handmade objects. Her approach is intuitive, with the design often forming spontaneously while sitting at the loom. Hand-weaving offers flexibility and allows the use of ‘complicated’ materials such as knotted cut-off yarns. Catarina makes full use of these freedoms througout the process, producing work of such quality and texture that can only be achieved by handweaving. For her, this is one of the most fascinating and rewarding motivations for making.
1. What motivates you to make?
For me being a maker is not just a profession but a way of life. The overarching motivation is to do something meaningful. I want my work, what I put out into the world, to be made responsibly and with minimal impact on the planet. My day-to-day motivation is the joy of spending time in the studio, looking at and feeling materials, using hands and eyes to make decisions. It is rewarding to create something new from scratch by going through the elaborate process of setting up the loom and weaving each piece by hand. I love what I do, but this does not mean that it is always easy. There are (of course) boring, difficult, tiring and frustrating bits, but ultimately every time I finish a piece that I am happy with, it feels like a little triumph and makes all the hours of work well worth it.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
Moving through the world with my eyes open is key. Not all observations happen consciously, and some go back to earlier times. As a child I would look with great fascination at vintage kilims in my parents’ home and in a friend’s house. I would notice certain fabrics in my mum’s wardrobe. At 19, when living in Rome for a year, I admired the nuances of the terracotta painted, weathered façades.
Studying textile design interestingly did not lead me into industry but nurtured my interest in the physical process of handweaving. No surprise then, that the anonymous hand-weavers from around the globe (and often from the past) are my real design heroes. I feel particularly drawn to the aesthetic of vintage African textiles, for instance from the Karun Thakar collection. I admire the hand-made character, the intricate and inventive techniques, the plant-dyed colours, the irregularities of hand-spun yarn. As a maker I feel a strong connection to the materials I use. I try not to waste any yarns but re-incorporate off-cuts.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I studied textile design at Central Saint Martins. That’s when I started to weave. As is the case with most skills in life, best results come from practice. Weaving regularly gives me a fluency and a vocabulary of ideas that build the backbone of my work.
Different weave structures have different effects on the appearance of colour. For me this is one of the most fascinating and rewarding features to explore in hand-weaving. Unlike industrial weaving, where everything needs to be pre-planned and standardised, hand-weaving offers flexibility and allows the use of ‘complicated’ materials such as knotted cut-off yarns. I make use of all these characteristics. When I start a piece, I often don’t know what it will look like finished, apart from certain parameters I determine when setting up the loom. I work at the loom in an improvised, spontaneous and intuitive manner thereby creating and executing ideas at the same time. Each resulting piece is a unique arrangement of elements and a new composition.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
It’s tricky to single out one instance. What makes me feel really good and proud is when I think of who I have had the pleasure to work with over the years, both in terms of clients as well as the stockists who represent my work such as The New Craftsmen. It feels incredible when someone whose work I admire recommends my work or commissions me to weave something for them. It is a huge compliment when renowned architects and interior designers include my work in their projects and creative vision. That makes me see my work in a new way. Similarly, I regard it as a great seal of approval to be represented by selected specialist galleries who provide the perfect context for my work.
5. What is your dream project?
Again, a bit difficult to pin down. I love what I do, so my dream is simply to be able to continue to explore aesthetic and creative possibilities through hand-weaving and see where it takes me. I still enjoy making throws so much, as well as my slightly newer direction: wall hangings. With these in particular I feel there is much to be discovered, and I just want to weave through all my ideas and put them out into the world. Working on a larger scale has always felt exciting; maybe this could be pushed further, for instance, in architectural collaborations and installations. When the right time has come, I’d also love to do a public commission.
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