April 30th, 2007
Located at 4 Via Bartolini, the Florence silk factory and showroom of Antico Setificio Fiorentino (Antique Florentine Silk Factory) is a lovely little time capsule. Everything about it: The buildings, the interiors, the patterns, the fabrics, even the profusely blooming wisteria growing up the wall has the look of unstudied perfection. Here is the place where they still weave silk fabrics by hand on wooden looms, just as they did at the height of the Renaissance.
In fact, a visit to the Uffizi gallery down the street to study the paintings of the masters can also be a study of the silk damasks, brocades and the iridescent ermisino that clothe and adorn the painting’s subjects and participants and are painted with exquisite detail.
Alison and I visited the Antico Setificio on my recent Italy trip to get some inspiration for some of the designs for wall finishes we will be doing in her studio in San Bartolo on our October group trip. We will be doing one room with a combination of plasters and metallic waxes to replicate the look textural/smooth damasks that the factory creates (and that sell for upwards of $400/yd.) Another high-ceilinged room will have a deep frieze that resembles a valance similar in look to some of their custom fabrications for canopy beds that feature elaborate banding and trims. The factory is located in the Oltrarno area of Florence, close to many of the other artisan workshops. They welcome visitors here. You just have to ring the bell. If you can’t visit in person, there is a richly illustrated book available (sold only through them) and it’s photographs are featured here.