The peaceful revolution

June 02, 2023

Lucy Upward talks about her experiences at Xtant, which took place in Palma de Mallorca in May

The third edition of Xtant took place in Palma de Mallorca in May, bringing together a tribe of sixty international artists, master craftspeople and designers alongside a large number of visitors from across the globe. Lucy Upward attended to discover more about the message behind the textile gathering.

Event organiser Kavita Parmar on her birthday at the show

Opening Xtant 2023 with a tour of the central Can Vivot display, event organiser Kavita Parmar gave a speech including the following: ‘There are a lot of us who still believe that there is knowledge in the indigenous people that we can learn from. The best way to spread knowledge is through beauty. Xtant is nothing but a celebration of that. We bring humans from all over the world. You will not find a single individual here who is not doing the most brave act, doing projects that make no financial sense, but doing it because they are passionate about it. This becomes like a bit of a support group, where we all go “I am a textile addict and I don’t know why I am doing what I’m doing but I continue to do it
because it fills me up”.’

Nilda Callañaupa Álvarez at the loom

As the perfect introduction to the Xtant experience, it was insight into the passion that drives the event forward, from the organisers, to the sixty artists, master craftspeople and designers involved, to the volunteers helping, to all the visitors who made their way to Mallorca in May. It is a convergence of diverse people from all over the world, from different industries. The common ground was not only an obsession with textiles but also a heart and mind open to new people, new ideas and new ways of thinking about how we create in a world saturated with mass-produced goods. Xtant celebrates a growing global movement to preserve heritage crafts and localised textile production.

Shamji Vankar Vishram Valji surrounded by his textiles

Fifteen years ago Kavita Parma, with a history in the fashion industry, began her IOU Project as an antidote to the fashion world’s cheap race to the bottom. Lifestyle specialist and textile curator Marcella Echavarria founded SURevolution with Donna Karan back in in 2005, a project to take a look at responsible consumption. On a mission to make a difference, these two formidable ladies created the concept of a global textile gathering in 2018. It became Texto 2020 held in Mexico. Xtant came into existence the following year during a pandemic. But the show has weathered the restrictions of Covid-19 pretty well, its third edition in Palma de Mallorca having just taken place on 9–13 May with a record
number of attendees.

Angela Dammans stunning sculptural hammock at Can Vivot

My last visit to Mallorca was as a teenager, a week-long beach crawl around the island with sun-seeking writ large on the agenda. While I did eat breakfast every morning against a stunning beach backdrop, for Xtant 2023, Mallorca revealed itself as an island with many
hidden or not-so-hidden treasures beyond the beach holiday vibe.

The government had given Xtant the use of three beautiful patios in Palma for the event. With its origins dating back to the 14th century, the beautiful Mallorcan manor house Can Vivot was the central location, home to the Art & Artisan Gallery plus talks during the five-day event. Keeping the midday sun and some rain off our heads was a beautiful embroidered cloth by RaasLeela, which took several months for attendees of Xtant to make.

Rosana Escobar talking about her work

Parmar’s opening speech on day one was preceded by a tour of the gallery. Sadly my review here cannot do justice to the full scope of work on show and the true creativity and unerring passion behind it, but I will offer my highlights and hope to be able to introduce more of the makers in depth in the next issues of COVER.

Isabel Infante textile

This year’s event was subtitled ‘Fibra’, which was reflected in the goods on show—home textiles, clothing, jewellery, decorative pieces—made of heritage fibres. Rosana Escobar, a Colombian artist based in Berlin, showed us some of her unusual fibre pieces made of fique, a plant native to her home country; Adrian Pepe (see COVER 64) introduced his creative process and his ochre-dyed felted panels like welcoming golden suns; and Shamji Vankar Vishram Valji from Kutch told the story of a journey into creative weaving. Marcella Echavarria introduced Juan Manuel Marcilla from Castilla La Manch–and his giant basketwoven fish—as one of the last men with the skills to do this type of weaving.
The Gallery was also home to the intricate work of Gujarat design studio Morii, the cotton and sisal handwoven pieces of Isabel Infante (see COVER 66), Daniel Costa’s weavings that combine materials such as wool and nettle (see COVER 57), Ana Lamata’s exquisite woven hats, Bogolan mud cloths by Atelier Autodidacts Anti-Algorithms, and new Morocco-based rug brand, Atelier Talasin.

Textile by Daniel Costa

This is without mentioning the jawdropping work of Angela Damman, whose fibre hammocks had an amazing presence in the Can Vivot space, the covetable fibre furniture designs of Aurélie Hoegy, and the mesmerising wearable art pieces of Indian brand Ka-Sha (yes, I bought one). There is just too much to mention!

The market at Can Vivot with a woven fish by Juan Manuel Marcilla

As a journalist visiting for the first time, I got to dive into various aspects of the Xtant
agenda. I took part in some of the enriching ‘3 Day Fibre Program’. Each day began with movement and breathing exercises followed by talks and demonstrations. Day one opened with a workshop at the serene Open Studio 79 space, run by weaver Tatiana Sarasa, who told us of her journey into sourcing Mallorcan wool. We met many different fibres including mint and rose. It always comes back to the fibre, the seed, the farmer.

We got to meet the inspirational Juhi Pandey, who works with the Centre of Excellence for Khadi developing the production of traditional fabric in the more remote areas of India. The group also got to talk about the art process with Spanish creative Regina Dejiménez; we knitted with our arms with Maria Azcárate and made a giant 3D weaving in a public shopping space on Passeig del Born.

Event organiser Marcella Echavarria holding a textile by Remigio Mesta

Parmar—who now does consultancy work for brands like Nike and Levi’s—led much of the three-day programme. Her discussion about ‘scale’ being always the fly in the ointment of ethical production touched many of us in the group. And that is her aim, to inspire the individual. Of the many workshops on offer I tried ‘Indian Tie Dye Bandhani’ with master dyer Abduljabbar Mohammadhussa Khatri from Sidr Textiles in Open Studio 79, a wonderful four hours spent meditatively stitching, dyeing and talking textiles.

Textiles by Morii Design

An article could be written on each of the talks. It was a real pleasure to listen to indigenous Quechua weaver from Peru Nilda Callañaupa talk about founding the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, Li Edelkoort present her new book Proud South, and Daniel Costa and Juhi Pandey discuss ‘Honoring Ancient Fibres’. Costa opened with ‘I started with rugs because for me the first textile is a rug.’ In terms of installations, LLanatura’s inspiring project to recover the intrinsic value of Mallorcan wool with artist collaborations was good to learn about at Can Balaguer.

Looking up at the sky at Can Balaguer

During my five-day stay in Palma, Mallorca emerged as a place where inspiring work under the title of craft is being undertaken. When I discovered the island’s ambitions to become a global leader in sustainable tourism, Xtant’s chosen home made even more sense. At the show, I not only connected with many inspiring individuals, but the event’s real worth for me was its highlighting of all the courageous people working globally to keep heritage crafts alive. It is easy to believe all is lost, but now I have hundreds of new projects to write about. ‘I am a textile addict and I will be back for more.’

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