Yesterday I was watching a video I had made to a craftswoman at a local festival. She was there, in his little booth, with her works of art in plain sight. Linen. Old and new. Pieces of cloth on which the hand passes over and listen to the sound, before choosing which one to put your wooden mold on.

I do not the name of this lady. I remember I was enchanted by her movements and the sound of the mallet, the instrument with which she imparted regular and accurate shots on that piece of wood carved and covered with ink, laid on the canvas for a moment before.

Traditonal hand made printing on cloth

Today we talk about hands and their sound. Hands gesturing moving the air, hands working using tools to make things, to create objects that perhaps will be part of our daily lives. Today we speak of the hands of craftsmen. We met Elena. She also uses her hands. And print on canvas. The classic Romagna printing. What you see on Grandma tablecloths on the tables of the typical restaurants of our region.


romagna tradition cloth printing

When I enter in her workshop, I am struck by the perfume of old and clean. What you breathe when even a tablecloth has not been used and still has the smell of the original yarn. And then the colors, better the color. The rust. No, not brown. Just rust. Perhaps because it was originally done just using iron powder.


cloth romagna

Before chatting with Elena, I wander through the shelves full of molds piled on each other, with an order that is unknown to me. I take a few photos. And I leave room for my curiosity. I wonder where they came from, those pieces of wood and who have inscribed them. Not many in Romagna still print with this technique. It ‘s a job tied to tradition. Once printed fabrics were a must. People used to put them in the brides outfits but also on oxen, those giant white cows that pulled the plow in the fields, but also the charriot, maybe on festive days. Here, there were covered by sheets printed by hand.


romagna forlì cesena

Working with hand on cloth: the art of Elena Balsamini

Hand printing is still handmade here. No automatic machines. Elena pulls out an orange bucket and begins to mix a brown cream that looks like chocolate. Slowly. There can be no lumps, otherwise the printing is bad. From the bucket comes out a sour smell. It’s vinegar, the substance used to fix the color. Then she takes a spatula and begins to draw the color on a plane support. Spread a whole with a roller so that the color has the same consistency and thickness and then takes the mold and rolls it over. Once, two, and then three, until the color is not well absorbed.


And then slowly the mold rests on the canvas.

The sound of the gavel punctuates a gesture that takes place in this way always in the time. The pressure, tilt, well-tended and smooth strokes are the conditions sine qua non for the work will turn out well.

Elena raises the mold and verification. A smile appears on his face. But on the canvas appears a decoration. Brown, rust-colored indeed. This has no sound, just goes admired.



Writer and Travel Blogger. Strolls around Romagna with her little sheep. Curious about life and history!

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