From yarn through dyeing to weaving itself, Wnoozow is a revolution in textile manufacturing. With respect for tradition and the vision of more sustainable production of fabrics, the past meets the future in the studio. With Daniela Danielis, the founder of Wnoozow, we talked about directions that Czech and Slovak textile could be heading.
What has led you to work with textile?
I found my way to textile through my choice of high school, where I studied Traditional Textile Processing with a focus on gobelins. As a fifteen-year-old, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to keep creating gobelins in the future, I needed to acquire some theoretical knowledge first. I then studied Ethics and Aesthetics and linked the two together through my work with textile. The decision to return to textile afterward was a practical one but today I know that if I hadn’t made that change, I would never have experienced the spiritual connection to my work if I remained in a purely theoretical and scientific field.
You decided to establish a textile factory in Čadca. Why there?
There already was a big factory in Čadca which focused on cotton yarn processing. Its owner Igor Kameništiak had two historical Jacquard Looms dating back to 1906 which were brought to Slovakia from France by the brothers Tibergi. They effectively established the cotton textile industry in western Slovakia when they taught Slovaks the craft with the help of French weavers.
We are now gradually restoring the looms, and we have already started a new weft (thread woven into the base) on one of them. It is a lengthy process, I have been working on adjusting that particular loom for six months now with the help of a former employee of the Čadca factory Anastázia Sčurová and technologists Karol and Peter Baník from a former Trenčín factory. We are a strong team, which motivates me to venture out of the comfort of my Prague atelier.
We have to keep in mind that if we manage to pique the interest of the market it could be a big milestone in the textile industry. We already know we could get our hands on more pieces of similar equipment as well as the knowledge and skills of experts. Whether or not this comes into fruition all depends on our economic strength. We are currently filing for grants, searching for collaborators and market. Meanwhile, we are learning to weave and we lead workshops in order to be able to start production when the time comes.
What is your view on the future of textile manufacturing in Slovakia?
We are currently experiencing a generational exchange and it is very important to be aware of this and face it with a degree of responsibility, to learn from the experience of the previous generation and draw from that experience. Essential information about technology and material could be forever lost otherwise. We of the younger generation pursuing this trade wish to prevent that from happening.
Although we may never get back to the prosperity of the industry and trade as it was in the years between 1920 and 2010, we can try to find our own, new ways of handling textile which is more in sync with our time whilst also being more mindful than our parents’ generation of what we leave behind. It is essential that we know how to grow high-quality fiber, how to recognize high-quality material, and how to weave high-quality gobelins.
Could you talk us through the gobelin weaving process from its very beginning?
We produce gobelins only at our atelier in Prague which currently houses several weavers and interns. Apart from gobelins, we also create tapestries, the difference being that tapestry is an umbrella term for hanging woven textile art and gobelin is one specialized branch of it with its distinct weaving technique and particular criteria in material selection.
The weaving process is currently not manufactured, we work on everything within our team. To make sure the material we use is of the best possible quality, our fleece is sourced from Czech farms and is being processed in Slovakia. Any other materials are selected depending on the envisioned character of the final product.
We spin the yarn on a spinning wheel which provides us with infinite options in what kind of yarn we end up with. We then use predominantly natural dyes to dye the yarn, making sure we use the most environmentally friendly options with any synthetic dyes. We like to experiment in our atelier and often use fibers that are already dyed to create our very own hues. We have been developing and refining our own technique. All this preparation is a beautiful play of creativity and it takes about half the time we spend on the actual weaving.
Weaving itself can be quite a meditative work but it is still important to keep the creativity flow. Every weft is drawn with care, thread after thread, and it is the small details that make up the final product. Once the tapestry is finished, it is cut off (from the base). Inspired by French workshops which invite special guests to do that, we had our last piece cut off by Marketa Vinglerová, the deputy head and curator of modern textile collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.
What projects or collaborations have helped you grow the most as a creative?
My very first job for Nehera helped me realize what hard work really is. I learned how important it is to pay attention to technical detail – especially so with handmade items when you aim for quality comparable to a machine-made product, which is extremely challenging. Today we are able to create fabrics that technically tick all the boxes. We keep developing and adjusting our looms, often only millimeters at a time to make the weaving process more effective.
Another important project for me which made a big influence on how our process developed was creating a series of four tapestries for Martin Lukáč. We got the job very early on and those tapestries now reflect how we evolved and in a short time adapted to a new technique required for that particular job. We have just finished our work on a gobelin in collaboration with Lucie Jindrák Skřívánková, which is another work of ours that helped us get closer to the heart of the craft. These three projects have really been a springing board for us in terms of tapestry, gobelin, and fabric making.
You lead a course in Textile Craft at the Scholastika College in Prague. What are some of the areas students learn about?
I am very thankful to Scholastika as these courses on crafts and weaving are slowly disappearing, being replaced by one course, Textile Design, which is beginning to be problematic and threatens the survival of the craft. Scholastika also offers art courses to the public and even offers the option to learn how to spin yarn on a spinning wheel. The school recognizes the importance of craft in this day and age. I had the opportunity to put together an entire 16-hour-long course where we can delve deep into textile properties with the students. The course consists of four blocks: the first one focuses on natural versus synthetic fiber. We learn about their properties – for example about why viscose fibers creak – and examine them under microscopes. The students are also taught about the technical aspects of the craft like spinning yarn, flax fiber breaking, and weaving.
In another block, the students become textile technologists so that they can then become textile artists. They can weave their own chair coverings for example – it is important that they feel free to go wherever their creativity takes them. The students also learn practical skills such as how to really examine and get to know the contents of their wardrobe as well as how to buy fabric based on feel only. The course is not only constructed to prepare them for further studies but also to help them acquire craft skills.
Translated by Slavomíra Nemčíková