A Dialogue About Crafts at Le Vigan

16 December 2015

Last November, between the 12 and the 14th, took place the Eco-Dialogues, an environmental and humanist popular university in rural areas in Le Vigan, in the Cévennes, France. This year, the series of conferences and seminars revolved around the theme Know-How (R)evolutions. I was a part of the Friday professional encounter entitled “Wool, silk, linen, hemp and new fibers, from traditions of the past to present innovations.” Marie Thérèse Chaupin, President of the ATELIER-Laines européennes (European textile organization in charge of liaison, innovation, exchange and research around the wool) explained the difficulties of wool production in France and stressed about the benefit in using natural fibers. Christine Browaeys, engineer and consultant at T3Nel, shared her expertise in textile innovation and the vast potential of new fibers. In the evening, Marc Bayard, scientific advisor for the cultural development at the Mobilier National, was there to present the realistic utopia of the Slow Made movement that intends to restore the value of quality and time in handmade production— in the arts and crafts in particular.

The talk on Saturday focused on the topic of wool. Julien Buchert, agropastoral project manager in the Cevennes National Park, shared his commitment to farmers. Accompanied by Marie Thérèse Chaupin, he detailed the various stages of wool processing, explaining for example that each animal has up to a dozen types of wool on his fleece. This meeting proved to be really exciting, rich in experience sharing. A group of sheep farmers from the area told the difficulties encountered in the appreciation of the farm animals. Meat is obviously their main source of income. However they expressed their concern about finding the right opportunities to value their quality wool. Creative initiatives offer promising opportunities for this unique and precious material, whose local history dates back to 7000 BC during Gaul time. Different products in wool have been developed: skeins and balls, cotton lined wool duvets, and knitted accessories… The Mobilier National has also shown interest for this local wool. The institution launched trials that would integrate this material in the making of tapestries and carpets for public commissions, which will eventually decorate the Elysee Palace and the French ministries.

Everyone was welcome to share their point of view, from farmers, engineers, spinners, to designers and craftsmen. In these open discussion, one could feel a genuine and engaging desire to rebuild the wool industry of the region. With these positive and useful talks, this Eco-Dialogues edition has planted the seeds of a necessary and essential rehabilitation and promotion of the local textile heritage.

Magali An