Susana Almuina is a Washington-based sculptor with a degree in Fiber Arts, who has roots in the Ribeira Sacra area of northwest Spain. Her current work is inspired by tracing the steps of her father´s journey from a small hamlet in Spain to the American continent, and her exploration of her own Galician heritage. In June 2012 Susana visited Anna Champeney Estudio Textil in north Spain, a specialist hand-weaving studio not far from her ancestral village, to learn more about felpa gallega, the traditional, regional pile fabric technique.
What drew you to the felpa technique?
When I discovered the technique through Anna Champeney´s weave studio and the work she had done to research, revive and develop the traditional technique I realised that it represented for me a kind of link between my ancestors and myself. I knew that one of my aunts and my grandmother wove and I had also inherited textiles from my family and in amongst these pieces I found felpa textiles. I was intreagued and wanted to learn more. Listening to Anna talking about felpa textiles, the way they were made and used and the importance they had in Galcian culture I realised that the technique would be lost if it wasn´t for people like Anna working to preserve it and adapt it. I also found the felpa technique produced simply beautiful textiles and I wanted to know how to weave them for myself. So I took the opportunity of taking a course with Anna.
So how does it feel finally weaving these textiles yourself?
It opens up the possibility of using the technique for different applications. It is a challenge to incorporate the technique in some way as a sculptor, but I would really love to do so.
As a sculptor with a Fiber Arts background you work not only with materials and techniques but also with concepts. So what kind of resonance does felpa represent for you as an artist?
From what I have learned from Anna, I gather that hand-weaving in Galicia was often work undertaken by farming women in the winter months and this makes me connect with the lives of my family and ancestors in Galicia. It is a textile which also helps me to understand the cocooning need that people feel.
You already have experience in loom weaving so how does the technique feel to you?
Well, it´s not difficult to learn, but like anything, it is a challenge to do well. But the technique has so many possibilities in terms of colour and design. The other challenge is the time it takes to weave , being a manually manipulated technique on the loom.
Susana Almuina´s website
Do you want to learn felpa? Contact Anna Champeney´s studio in northwest Spain about residential tuition and courses