When Concha Salguero, project coordinator for Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza, called me in 2014 to propose that I design a merino wool product from the Extremaduran pastureland, I did not hesitate to accept. At that time I had been designing interior fabrics for years, but I hadn’t approached it from a sustainability perspective, and it was at that moment that I realized that this dimension was missing in my work. I saw the need to go beyond simply designing for designing, and using local sheep wool to combat climate change seemed very interesting to me.
Concha introduced me to the Cabello-Bravo sheep breeders in Extremadura, an enterprising livestock farm which is always looking for new paths. We share the desire to restore the value and prestige that Extremaduran merino wool had historically, and avoid it ending up as simply a by-product for export at low prices, as has been the norm for the last few decades.
I had the freedom to chose the product, the manufacturing, the process, the place….and the Cabello-Bravo farm offered the first kilos of wool for this emerging project.
The design of blankets seemed to me the obvious choice, being a simple, functional and useful product. I had to take care of managing the whole process, from washing and combing the wool, through the spinning and weaving, to fulling and finishing the borders. At first, as it only involved a few kilos of wool, it took me a long time to find factories willing to produce for me in such small quantities, but luckily I ended up finding them, all of them run by people who took an interest in my project. Then followed a long journey of research and learning about the quality of yarn and weaving. After hundreds of experiments with the looms we eventually reached the blanket as the final product.
I chose the Jacquard technique, because it offers great freedom of design, without being limited to the traditional stripes and squares. In addition, it enables the blankets to be made in a reversible, two-sided fabric. The looms are computer controlled, and any type of drawing can be made. Thus, I create my designs digitally from my workshop in Cuacos de Yuste and later send them to the factory. This is, let´s say, the “modern” part of the project. The rest of the process, that is the washing and fulling, is still done very much in the traditional way, which impresses me a lot. I love this combination of modern technology with ancient methods, because it is innovative, or as they would say in Trashumancia y Naturaleza, it is “retro-innovative”, combining modernity and tradition to respond to the challenges and needs of our current daily life. That this combination is part of the “raison d’être” of my blankets serves as an enormous stimulus to continue working.
With the wool of these Merino sheep I make clothing of and extraordinary quality