In southern Italy, treasure-like laces have been created and handed down in families since the 15th century
She is 74 years old and her creations, from Tricase (Lecce), have traveled around the world. Marilena Sparasci is one of the last guardians of the 15th-century style of bobbin lace originated in Southern Italy, the Tombolo. Today she has a 39-year-old partner to who she is teaching everything, but her dream is to open a Tombolo academy.
“Only for tears of happiness.” These are the words that Sparasci has always embroidered onto the handkerchiefs she prepared for brides. However, in July, she was the one to shed tears of happiness when her creations were at the center of attention on the catwalk in Lecce’s Piazza Duomo with Dior’s 2021 Cruise collection. Thanks to the event, millions of people all over the world rediscovered the wonderful art of the Tombolo which she is so devoted to conserving with the wisdom of her hands. “When she was a child, she used to go to the famous ‘mescie’ (the old embroiderers), her mother sent her there in the summer but she hated the Tombolo”. She began appreciating it later on, and she totally dedicated herself to it. Talking about her is Marco Fersino Ribeiro Amorim, Sparasci’s partner in ‘Ribeiro art – Fili d’arte’. From the moment they met in Tricase, he began learning from her. And she began entrusting him with the fundamental task of making the tombolo survive, handing it down to future generations. Their common goal is to create a Tombolo academy, “a dream that Marilena has had for twenty years.” Because they want to prevent this important tradition from becoming extinct due to the meticulous complexity of its application process.
Behind the Tombolo there is ingenuity and creativity, there are hands that move with precision, fingers that sew without hesitation, and eyes fixed for hours on a single detail
The traditional lace technique was conceived in southern Italy in the 15th century before spreading throughout Europe in the 16th century. Indeed, the tombolo is one of the many excellent expressions of Italian art. Extremely delicate, its embellishments that exude opulence require lengthy production times. Behind the Tombolo there is ingenuity and creativity, there are hands that move with precision, fingers that sew without hesitation, and eyes fixed for hours on a single detail. For centuries, unique handkerchiefs have been embroidered and gifted for special occasions. The artifacts were considered precious jewels to be kept in a safe. While, larger works, like linen, tablecloths, and curtains use to be the protagonists of the girls’ trousseaus. And the possession of such an embroidery became a real treasure to hand down from generation to generation, almost a form of investment. Moreover, the Tombolo was used, and Sparisci still uses it, to create religious theme paintings. Today, the art of Tombolo is still very much appreciated by admirers and lovers of beauty.
Ilona Catani Scarlett