We are pleased to announce the exhibition where our installation of NATURAL DYE will be shown.

Sustainable Thinking_Museo Salvatore FerragamoENG

Sustainable Thinking eng



We are working for a new installation for the exhibition at the Ferragamo museum in Firenze. We are dying with the plants hundreds of silkworms from all over the world, some bred and other savages like the Tussah cocoons, the Cricula cocoons and the Ceranchia cocoons. We are waiting for you all at Firenze April the 11.

“Mappa”: just a little piece of cloth

“Mappe” for Momogusa Galerie in Japan

Tazuko and I have known each other for several years and shared a passion, for linen yarns first of all, and also for all bast fibres, which remind us of their grassy origins and hence their vegetable nature.

We also share a need to weave very simple objects in which the attraction of their ordinariness and the subtle pleasure of observing their almost invisible details and differences take the place of what for others is the lure of creativity and the exploration of the eccentric.

When I visit flea markets I’m regularly attracted not by bed linen full of lace and embroidery but rather by small, often worn and patched pieces of fabric, and my haggling with the stall owners is invariably difficult and at the same time bizarre, because they naturally hasten to show me their best and therefore more expensive items, while I keep rummaging in their boxes in search of spoiled fabrics, trying at the same time not to show too much enthusiasm which would make the vendors suspicious. I generally tell them I cannot afford better quality fabrics and must make do with more modest artefacts, but when I’m back home and free to give vent to my feelings, I am fascinated by their time-worn appearance and even by their folds, because they let me guess the curious shapes of the wardrobes or drawers that once guarded them.

I explore those woven pieces rejoycing in finding stains, holes, darnings, torn threads and flaws that reflect the struggle between the material itself and its shaper.

In Italian these small woven pieces are called “canovaccio”, “cencio” or “mappatella”, all words that define a simple, all-purpose square of fabric.

In classic antiquity “mappa” was a cloth, generally made of linen, that was used to cover the dining table in front of a guest. It was not provided by the host, and it was brought by guest himself. It was also used to gather and carry medicinal herbs, as a head kerchief, as a towel to mop one’s face, as an apron that could be folded into a pocket, or even as container in which to carry home the left-overs of a meal or the food for a picnic, and a checquered “mappina” is often seen covering picnic baskets in many European paintings over the ages.

With the coming of Christianity “mappe” (both as napkins and table cloths) entered the liturgy as elements of purity, covering the hands that handle sacred objects and the altars, problably as a reminder of the Last Supper.

During the Roman empire “mappa” was also the name given to books and edicts written on cloth rolls, as well as the topographical representations used by agronomists.

Still more generally and figuratively, we also call “mappe” the representations of mental spaces (graphic representations of thought processes) or conceptual ones (graphic representations of relations between several concepts).

The geographical and figurative meanings of the word “mappa” are those still used in Italian, while the ancient meaning of a piece of cloth has only survived in Naples, where the diminutive “mappina” is the cloth square used to dry dishes, in the rest of Italy more usually called “canovaccio” or “cencio”.

The word “canovaccio”, which derives from the fact that it is mostly made of “canapa”, hemp, indicates not only a robust kitchen cloth and a type of material used in embroidery, but also the outline of a play in which actors are free to improvise, a succinct description of the general plot and the various scenes that was common in “commedia dell’arte”.

The many meanings of this small square of fabric as a simple, humble artefact with practical uses, as a symbol of holy purity, as a guideline for actors and as a tool to find one’s way when travelling, and at the same time the coincidence with the equally widespread use of the Japanese “furoshiki” or “koromo tsutsumi” seemed to us a powerfully inspiring theme tying our two distant cultures.

For several years Taz and I have been discussing and trying to represent a certain poignant idea of purity and innocence that strikes us when contemplating these small squares of fabric in which grace, poetry and careful handywork have been considered worthy of being preserved as reliquies by many women of past times.

My personal research is strongly linked to the time-worn and faded appearance of the artefacts I have been collecting, and that is the aesthetic aspect I strive to reproduce in my work, almost, I might say, an attempt at perfecting imperfection.

In order to achieve that I use elementary tools even when I could easily obtain more sophisticated ones and my work takes an estremely long time which surely would be considered sheer folly in a world in which time is money.

It is with this feeling of privilege that we present our work at the Momogusa Gallery.

Sissi Castellano, 2018


“Cencio” is the Florentine word to indicate a small and simple piece of fabric for many uses.

This “cencio” is old with a traditional design and colors, very used in the past. Often the “cencio” were cleverly mended and not always choosing the invisible mode.

These are my “cencio” in linen, cotton and hemp, where the mending becomes the occasion for a small decorative and color note, naturally natural.


The “cencio” in Florentine (which is also the most authentic Italian language, but also “mappatella” in Neapolitan) is a piece of cloth used for various uses related to simple daily life: as a tablecloth improvised and to collect lunch by going to work in the fields; as a feminine and masculine headgear; to garnish a dress that is a little too bare, especially if pinned with a clasp. But also to dry your hands and face.
Completely handmade up to a hundred years ago, they were part of the women’s wedding trousseau in Italy.

This will be the theme of the next exhibition at Galerie Momogusa in Japan for me and Taz.

Handspun hemp and flax, natural dye with madder, indigo and rust.


blue and bright red, added to the natural color, are the classic colors of these small textiles; rust is the typical “poor” color used in central Italy to adorn the household linen.