Chiara Vigo and the ancient secrets of byssus
Chiara Vigo is one of the last byssus weavers in the world. She describes herself as a “master of ancient weaving”, because her hands move at the rhythm of a traditional craftsmanship that dates back to the Assyrian-Babylonian culture.
In 2005, she opened the Museum of Byssus in Sant’Antioco.
Egyptians, Jews, Cretans, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans were all well versed in the art of weaving this “marine silk”, made up of the fine, transparent filaments secreted by the ‘Pinna nobilis’. The latter, commonly known as pen shell, is the largest bivalve mollusk in the Mediterranean – growing to 1.5 meter in height! It lives in the seas south of Sardinia, but is now threatened by extinction.
Vigo is well aware of the long process that leads to the production of byssus. This wonderful, noble fiber entails many complex operations: carding, desalination, rest in fresh water, immersion in lemon juice, filtering in a mix of fifteen algae… finally, the finished product is ready for her. She weaves on an ancient loom, creating works that are currently showcased in many museums across Europe, including the one in Sant’Antioco that she founded, of course – where she is happy to share her extraordinary and noble craft with everyone..