Thread of Life: Maria Sigma | Woven Textiles

Maria Sigma | Woven Textiles is an award-winning textile brand specialising in hand-woven textiles for interiors based in London. 

I combine traditional weaving techniques with a contemporary approach, focusing on raw natural materials and texture. Inspired by my Greek heritage and by the colour palette of the British landscape, in combination with a love for math and craftsmanship, I make vibrant, but minimal, contemporary textiles that creatively interpret long-established traditional craft techniques and styles. Creating beautiful textiles through ‘zero waste’ design principles, I employ high-quality and sustainable natural fibres (British wool), all key to the philosophy of my work.

Weaving is my way of putting the everyday chaos in order and making something honest and beautiful out of it.


Textiles as a Medium

My fascination with textiles all started during my first degree in Athens which was in Conservation of Art Works and I was specialized in Textile Conservation. Through my studies, which were very practice and science based, I had the opportunity to come across exceptional textile historical pieces and get in depth knowledge on different techniques of textile making and fibers.

I liked weaving from the first time, so I went on a did a seminar course at the Historical Weaving Centre in Athens were I learned how to weave on a frame loom.

I fell in love with the mathematical aspect of it in combination with the creative one, it was a new way of ‘drawing’.

I was drawing a lot in the past, especially with colour paste on fabric using my fingers. So in 2010, I decided to come in London and do a second degree in Textile Design, specialised in hand-weaving at Chelsea College. During my degree here in London and after having the basic knowledge of how to use a dobby loom and basic weave structures, I discovered how much more I was enjoy playing with texture.

It magically made sense why I was using my fingers to draw instead of a brush – it was all about texture! Then gradually I started removing colour and focusing on texture. Not only because it is much more sustainable to use undyed yarns and matches with my ‘zero waste’ philosophy, but also because it was challenging for me to aim to make something beautiful with totally different rules. With a lack of colour. Or, at least, what I thought colour was all about, until then.  

After graduation I received the Cockpit Arts | ‘Clothworkers’ Foundation Award for two years (2015 & 2016) where I enjoyed the provision of studio space and business support and I started setting up my own Textile Design business as a professional weaver under the label ‘Maria Sigma | Woven Textiles’. In 2017 I achieved investment support from The Prince’s Trust and Virgin Start-Up Scheme and with their support I invested in a new floor Dobby loom and officially launched as Maria Sigma | Woven Textiles

What I love about weaving

…is the process. I really enjoy designing, planning and organizing everything in the smallest detail – weaving requires to be very proactive, because of the loom’s limitation. You need to calculate and plan everything in advance (patterns, colours, materials, length, width, waste, shrinking loss, even the mistakes!) And during the actual weaving you go along with the plan, which I find very meditating and relaxing.

It’s like driving in a nice highway in the countryside on a sunny day.

Of course there is always room left to improvise, but somehow you have to pre-plan that as well! And then, of course, there is the joy of completing the piece, but this doesn’t quite compete with the joy of making. It feels like cooking a complicated meal. If you like cooking, you enjoy the process and then you hope someone else will enjoy and love its outcome too.  

When it comes to designing and weaving, Ι prefer the process. Of course there is always room left improvise, but somehow you have to pre-plan that as well! 

ALCYONY (OF THE SKY)

And then, of course, there is the joy of completing the piece, but this doesn’t quite compete with the joy of making. It feels like cooking a complicated meal. If you like cooking, you enjoy the process and then you hope someone else will enjoy its outcome too.  


Aspiration

My vision is to have a sustainable creative craft-based business. In the next two years I aspire setting up my own weaving studio/showroom and space for workshops. My goal is to sell one-off pieces through small high-end boutique shops and galleries, and collaborate with interior design studios for bespoke commissioned work. Among my plans is to collaborate with furniture makers and create together a series of upholstered handmade furniture.  


Inspiration & Motivation

By emphasizing the raw quality of the materials and texture and removing any superfluous elements, my work pays close attention to usability and aims at producing high-quality luxurious interior products designed to become timeless heirlooms. 

I strongly believe that the importance of weaving should be highlighted, as it is constantly present, yet often unnoticed. Fabrics reside in our everyday life and inhabit almost every corner of a household; they create a boundary between us and nature, the culture of the body and the external world. They contribute in creating a sense of something familiar and beloved.

The determinant role textiles play in our life, the power of colour, or the lack there of, the achievement of high aesthetics through simplicity and the use of natural and sustainable materials, are my sources of inspiration and motivation.

This is reflected in my work, which can be considered as the application of my approach to weaving and textiles creation. 


The meaning & making of home 

Apart from homes being closely associated with family and the private space, as well as social life, home is often described as an expression of the self and the notion of identity, in combination with culture and social status. It is in our so-called ‘homes’ where we tend to build our lives’ most intimate structure, in terms of the organization and furnishing of the space in which we live. The ways we function are linked to the ways in which we make ourselves feel ‘at home’. In other words, our residence is where we live, but our home is how we live. A house can, therefore, be a home but home can also be something more than a house. The boundaries of a home are not necessarily confined to the walls of the dwelling. Home is a place, but it is also a space inhabited by people, families, and the objects that belong to them.

Home is the key location in which a spiritual unity is formed between humans and things.  

Hirami Ottoman_Commission by Susie Atkinson for Beaverbrook Country Club

As a weaver interested in creating textiles for domestic spaces, I am deeply interested in the importance of the term ‘home’ and its implications in humans’ everyday lives. I am particularly interested in the ways people conceptualise ‘home’, interact with and within it, and create attachment relations to it. In addition, being Greek myself and living away from my ‘home country’, I believe that objects from home – in the sense of objects with emotional significance to a person by virtue of some sort of personal attachment to them due to their place within the household and family history- brought and placed within a new environment away from home, recreate the sense of feeling at home no matter the place. 

The objects in a home are more than ‘things’; they are a collection of materials invested with memories and meaning, an expression of self and identity. Home objects are what makes a house a home (Hecht in Miller, 2001; Lawrence, 1987). 

Textiles play a great role into making us feel ‘at home’. It only takes a glance to our surroundings to realize how many of the most mundane things around us are made out of fabric: obviously our clothes, which like a second skin mediate between our body and nature, but almost everywhere else on floors, tables, beds, windows. Where we eat, where we sleep, where we sit, a boundary between us and nature, between the culture of the body and the world around us, a sense of the familiar and the beloved.

Textiles, high cultural samples, either show to our community who we are or separate us from it; they give to the individual an identity (‘the power of fashion’); enrich the personal identity or give a collective one (uniforms of any kind). In any case, they always indicate our position in society. It’s the most private and simultaneously the most public. Flags, wipes, Islamic hijab, or men’s ties consist whole worlds of semiotics, indicating ideology and desires, actual or not. The real and the symbolic were always tied to the preparation and the creation of textiles. 
    

The symbolic side of textiles is linked historically with issues of enormous importance to the people, as the great metaphor of life and death, found in the Greek mythology, where the three Fates spin the destiny and cut the thread of life. It was believed that the thread of life was spanned twice during one’s lifetime, firstly at the birth and secondly at the marriage, as they were the two most important events in a human’s life. 

Passed on from one generation to another, textile heirlooms become narrative objects of great sentimental value, which encompass a particular sense of belonging: feeling at home

   Everyday mundane objects, such as textiles, acquire a unique identity once personalised, as they embody their owner’s memories, experiences and feelings. They arouse four out of five senses (touch, smell, sight, hearing) and become memory-evoking devices. In this way, home textiles stop being a simple array of ‘things’, and become living entities with a unique ‘story to tell’. These attributes enrich the feeling at home, to such an extent, that textiles can be solidified as the predominant element of what turns a house into a home. 


Exhibit: Opening Narratives

Maria Sigma at MAKE Hauser & Wirth Somerset Gallery

Make’s inaugural exhibition entitled ‘Opening Narratives’ is a celebration of seven makers working with wood, ceramics, textiles and metal. With the resurgence of interest in craft skills, the landscape of making is changing and with it a dynamic generation of young makers with a shared passion for knowledge, process and materials has come to the fore. The makers exhibited possess an intimate understanding of their material and whether working with methods rooted in tradition or employing new techniques, materiality and process go hand-in-hand. The exhibition reflects the new visibility and significance of making and the re-evaluation of the crafted object, whilst bringing together seven makers with work of exceptional creativity and substance.

ARIADNE (OF THE SEA) 

Ariadne (/ˌæriˈædni/; Greek: Ἀριάδνη; Latin: Ariadne) is an ancient Greek Mythology heroine, daughter of Pasiphaë and the Cretan king Minos. As per Homer’s Odyssey, she felt in love with the Athenian hero Theseus and, with a thread or glittering jewels, helped him escape the Labyrinth after he slew the Minotaur, a beast half bull and half man that Minos kept in the Labyrinth.

Materials: natural undyed British wool, natural undyed linen, natural undyed recycled cotton& dyed British lambswool (Aegean Blue details)
Dimensions: 145 x 98 cm
One of a kind piece made with a woolen warp and a linen/cotton/wool weft in a textured lace-style distorted diamond, following the ‘zero waste’ philosophy.

HESTIA -Double Cloth

Hestia (/ˈhɛstiə/; Greek: Ἑστία) is an ancient Greek virgin goddess of the hearth, fireside, architecture, and the right ordering of domesticity, the family, the home.
Hestia’s name means “hearth, fireplace, altar”, stemming from the same root as the English verbal form was (PIE*h
2wes- “to live, dwell, pass the night”). It thus refers to the oikos, the household, house, or family.
Materials: natural undyed British wool, natural undyed linen, natural undyed jute, natural undyed recycled cotton & dyed British lambswool (Aegean Blue details)
Dimensions: 85 x 160 cm
One of a kind piece made with two woolen warps and a linen/jute/cotton weft, in plain weave creating a tube format and following the ‘zero waste’ philoshophy.

ALCYONE (OF THE SKY)

Alcyone (/ælˈsaɪəˌni/; Ancient Greek: Ἁλκυόνη, Halkyónē ), designated Eta Tauri, is a multiple star system in the constellation of Taurus. The name Alcyone originates with Greek mythology; Alcyone (derived from alkyon αλκυων “kingfisher”) in Greek mythology, was the name of one of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. When her husband died in a shipwreck, Alcyone threw herself into the sea whereupon the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds (kingfishers). When Alcyone made her nest on the beach, waves threatened to destroy it. Aeolus restrained his winds and kept them calm during seven days in each year, so she could lay her eggs. These became known as the “halcyon days,” when storms do not occur. Today, the term is used to denote a past period that is being remembered for being happy and/or successful.

Materials: natural undyed British wool, dyed British lambswool (Aegean Blue details)
Dimensions: 60 x 165 cm
One of a kind piece made with a woolen warp and weft in a textured ‘broken’ twill, following the ‘zero waste’ philosophy.

Frame Weaving Workshops

There are two upcoming workshops which will be hosted by the brand new STRAW and friends Concept Store at Columbia Road Flower Market on Thursday 13th of December 2018 at 6pm and by the lovely HAND Cafe on Victory Parade in East Village E20 on Sunday 16th of December 2018 at 3pm.

Click here for more information and to register.


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