Handicraft in Sesia Valley:
for centuries Valsesia has been a land poor in means but rich in natural resources such as wood, stone, water and above-all, its inhabitant’s creativity. Centuries of self-sufficiency and ingenuity handed down to an important handcraft today, and ranges from decorations on utensils and homes, to clothing and the precious lace called “puncett”. Today, experienced hands guard and protect these arts and produce products that aptly represents the modern culture of “know-how”, whose roots are deeply set in ancient knowledge.
Craft in Valsesia can be described as decidedly artistic, thanks to talent and creativity, the sons of tradition which originated in the 15 th century on the site of the Sacred Mount of Varallo.
Here, alongside great artists, worked a considerable number of joiners, smiths, glaziers, sculptors and plasterers who succeeded in passing on their skill from generation to generation, making this imaginative work a feature of the Valsesian personality, as conformed by don Luigi Ravelli in his famous “Guide to Valsesia”.
In the 19 th century, the value of craftwork was recognised, partially due to the formation of bodies such as the Society for the Encouragement of the Study of Design in Valsesia and the Barolo School , with the laboratory of wooden sculpture, driven by the desire to train young people.
The Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso, founded in 1859, is still involved in the defence and enhancement of typical Valsesian crafts. The SOMS runs the Bottega dell’Artigianato, a sales outlet selling local products, based in Varallo, which guarantees the authenticity of the products made and ensures that the traditional techniques, including Valsesian “puncetto” and Valsesian “scapin”, carving, terracotta and pyrography are passed on, organising special courses.
THE MASTERS OF THE TRADITION
Ernesto- Wooden Objects
He say that "Nowadays they call it a hobby, but to me it is only a great passion.”
Annette- Valsesian Scapin
The “Scapin Valsesiano” has antique origins which started with the first Walser settlements.
Paola Mondo- Tailoring
Certainly, clothing is not a philosophy but the outfit can also tell much about the person.
Walserbuteja- Artistic wood
Walserbuteja is a point of contact to the wooden culture where you can find and buy the work.
Giuliana - Puncetto
The "Puncetto" or small stitch was invented by the women who patiently stitch this precious lace.
Silvano - Antiques
The Demarchi laboratory is managed by the same family for generations.
- The cup of Alagna
- The Valsesian "scapin"
The origins are not known, but its use must have entered Alagna in a relatively recent past and now it's an integral part of its tradition.
Placed on the heads of newborns, the men continue to wear it throughout their whole lives. Made entirely by hand and knit by the Alagnese women who pass the designs and techniques on to their daughters. Its characteristic three point pattern makes it unique and unmistakable. This particularity is essentially motivated by its practicality, that is, to protect the ears and forehead from the harsh winters with inspiration from evocative, imaginary legends. There are a variety of colours and styles, without any particular obligation, the only one, which connected it to the male domain has been severed
The Valsesian scapin (schokka in the Walser language, scapino o scapini in italian) is one of the handcrafted products that better represents Valsesia. It was made entirely by hand with cut-offs of recycled material and hemp rope and for centuries it has been the style of shoe worn by the Valsesian people. The traditional style from Alagna, older with respect to the more elegant one produced in Valsesia, has a square toe, refined with a flat bow, and inherited from an older style which had two side strips to adapt the scapin (shoe) to the foot (auroschokkini). Once only made in black or brown, today many other colours are produced and often made elegant with embroidery and coloured ribbons and represent a product par excellence in step with fashion.
The origins of Puncetto are still a topic of discussion today, but for certain in Valsesia and particularly in Valle Vogna, there has been fundamental stages in its history. It is also found in other zones of the alpine arch and the common opinion is that it was created as a connecting stitch to join strips of hemp sheets together. Thus, from the primordial”small stitch” made knot upon knot, the precious and much sought-after lace was created and inserted gracefully onto female clothing. Often found on blouses as finishing touches to necklines, cuff and sleeve decorations, on aprons and underwear. The more ancient Walser “puncett” is characterised by many closely stitched designs and can still be seen on blouses today, in place of the collar with a rounded shape that follows the natural line of the neck. In the more modern clothing versions it is often found on the shirt, with a more squared shape and light designs. This embroidery style based on a repetition of geometric shapes has evolved and modified with time, following fashion and fantasy and the originality of the proud and jealous “puncett” creators, who continue to pass on this antique art from generation to generation.