Marta Cucchia’s workshop is in Perugia’s oldest Franciscan church, and amongst its soaring stone walls she meets Federico Pepe, in from Milan to discuss their joint project. As she shows him the giant antique looms, she explains the process. “We use paper boards perforated with a hammer as our pattern guides, weaving 25 centimeters of fabric each day,” she says. Pepe watches as she demonstrates. She sends the shuttle through the taut strings and pulls a wood bar toward her. Back and forth, she interlaces the warp and weft. “I’ve created handmade rugs before, but this process dates back centuries,” says Pepe. “It’s a strange feeling: you can sense a different rhythm in the work.” He also gets a better sense of what’s possible in the time they have. When he gets back to Milan, he sends her some 200 pattern ideas. But only a few turn out to be feasible, so he designs a new one.
“It’s the pattern you see on metal surfaces that stop you from slipping,” he says. Its cross-hatch seems to suggest weaving, a new take on an ancient craft. Most important, Cucchia can translate it into a pattern guide, and is able to start weaving. “I like the cross-fertilization that we are creating with the materials, the shapes and the ideas,” says Cucchia. “This encounter has been really interesting for me.” Meanwhile, Pepe is very open to continuing their collaboration. “She deserves to develop new techniques and new ideas to catch up with the future,” he says. “I want others to understand the value of what she does.”