Chiara Vigo: The Last Woman Who Makes Sea Silk

Chiara Vigo is a thread back into our human history in a couple of ways. She is the last person who knows how to harvest material from clams and spin it into precious and beautiful Byssus a silky fabric that glows in the sun and has been cherished since ancient Egypt.  She is also a last remnant of the Jewish Phoenician culture in Italy.

She dives to harvest, prepares the threads and weaves–all with a reverence for nature that is precious to us in the 21st Century…

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“You have to be respectful to the place you live in. You are just passing by, these places are here to stay. And the sea has its own soul and you have to ask for permission to get a piece of it,” she says.

Her chant, which mixes ancient Sardinian dialect and Hebrew, echoes off the rocks.

“I pray for what has been and what will be,” she says.

Here is a link to the full article at BBC online.. written by Max Paradiso with photos by Andrea Pasquali.

www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33691781

Here is the beginning of the article:

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Silk is usually made from the cocoons spun by silkworms – but there is another, much rarer, cloth known as sea silk or byssus, which comes from a clam. Chiara Vigo is thought to be the only person left who can harvest it, spin it and make it shine like gold.

Villagers stare as I knock on the door of Chiara Vigo’s studio, otherwise known as the Museum of Byssus, on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco. One sign on the door says: “Haste doesn’t live here.” Another adds: “In this room nothing is for sale.”

Vigo is sitting in a far corner of the room surrounded by yarns and canvasses, holding hands with a young woman whose eyes are full of tears. She caresses her and braids a bracelet while staring intensely at the girl.

Then she hums a song with her eyes closed and fixes the bracelet on the girl’s wrist. She reaches for the window and opens the shades to let the sunlight in and instantly the dark brown bracelet starts to gleam.

The girl is flabbergasted but this is no magic….

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