One of the things I wanted to do while traveling through the Emilia Romagna region of Italy was to meet local artisans who were keeping centuries-old traditional crafts alive in a modern age. From the terracotta pan makers Maurizio and Rosella in Montetiffi to mosaic artists Luca and Arianna in Ravenna, Italy.
Upon walking into the modest-sized two room shop, you’re immediately struck by the Braghittoni’s unique designs etched across neatly folded linen cloth – stylish illustrations of aquatic animals as well as silhouettes of roosters, twirling vines and flowers alongside illustrations of rural life like grapes, pottery, pine cones, and other flora.
The smell of rust wafts through the air amidst a vibrant sea of fabric hanging from above, lightly flowing in the afternoon breeze. Using a wooden stamp with designs carved into it and another wooden mallet to beat the stamp onto the linen cloth, I watched this traditional craft come alive in a matter of minutes.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how this style of traditional textile making in Romagna originated but it was certainly inspired by silk presses which were imported from India by the English. Around the first few decades of the 19th century, the art of handprinting on cloth developed in the rural lowlands of Romagna and their signature patterns of grape vines, decorative flowers, and stalks of straw emerged.
Roberta took over the printing shop from the Ferroni family which had been printing since 1975 right in the heart of Cesenatico. Together with Italian designer Tinin Mantegazza, they designed a series of stamps which featured fish, whales, flowers, and various other animal like elephants, kittens, and crocodiles.
The wooden printing moulds used to make their stamps were carved out of pear tree wood which is easy to carve, and the base rust color used to make the initial stamps are made from iron oxide.
Most of the colors they produce besides rust brown include dark blue green, grey, and violet. I got to try my hand at making a printed linen by tapping the mould lightly into a paste-like batter that had been mixed from oxidized rust shavings, vinegar, and wheat flour, and transfering it onto a swatch of linen cloth.
Once the imprint was “perfectly” made, the cloth was washed in lye – an alkaline solution that reacts with the chemicals in the dye to make sure they stick permanently. The fabrics are then washed, ironed, and sewn into whatever products they’re inspired to create.
Stamperia Braghittoni sells a variety of handprinted products from bathroom and bedroom linens to kitchen supplies as well as clothes for babies and children, all stamped in their signature style. They are part of Associazione Stampatori Tele Romagnole – a collective which represents only a handful (10) of traditional textile artisans in the Emilia Romagna region still keeping the art and tradition alive by hand.
I felt honored to have not only tried my hand at one of their stamp printing methods myself, but also to bring home one of their traditional handcrafted aprons as a gift. You can check out more photos from Roberta’s textile workshop in my Cesenatico image bank.
Stamperia Braghittoni – Via Fiorentini, 55, Cesenatico FC, Italy | Phone:+39 0547 80377