Rita Bargna was born in 1942 in Como, but has almost always lived and worked in Cantù. She learned the art of bobbin lace from her mother at the age of 5, and then cultivated for over sixty years the passion for this discipline, both as a collector and as a creator of more than one hundred unique pieces. Rita Bargna is also proactive in teaching bobbin lace, and has directed some schools for the transmission of this noble and ancient art. In 1999 she founded and still presides over the Associazione Merletti d'Arte di Cantù.
Tell us your story. When and how did you start making lace?
The art of lace has been present in the area of Cantù since time immemorial and is therefore closely linked to the culture of its inhabitants. My mom and her three sisters were lacemakers. I started to learn the first notions from my mom, from the age of five; then I continued as a self-taught: it was a natural path. Despite being busy with my profession, I have cultivated for over seventy years the passion for this discipline, as the maker of unique pieces, as a teacher, as a collector and promoter of lace and embroidery. I developed a new point, "Mosaic Point," which I run without a drawing.
Cantù lace is made by weaving cotton, linen or silk threads, which are wrapped on bobbins. The braid is worked following a design fixed on the bobbin with pins.
My dream would be to see a very ambitious safeguard project realized: a museum of lace and embroidery in Cantù.
How many lace pieces have you made so far? Do you have a collection?
Currently my production encompasses about 300 pieces. In the mid-1970s, after a trip abroad, I also started studying and collecting lace from other countries: Switzerland, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Malta... It is a collection of more than 3,000 pieces of black and white veils, borders, vestments and sacred furnishings for the liturgy, tablecloths, handkerchiefs and sheets with lace and embroidery, a production that extends from the 17the century to the present day. The collection also includes drawings, books, yarns and ancient tools.
What are the characteristics of Cantù lace?
Cantù lace is made by weaving cotton, linen or silk threads, which are wrapped on bobbins. The braid is worked following a design fixed on the bobbin with pins. Moving the bobbins in different ways creates multiple points. At the Cantù School of Art, established in 1882, they catalogued more than 150 points. Since 1940 the most used are "Mochetta", "Mimosa", "Venice", "Rosaline" and the bottom points.
Is there a work you cherish particularly? Why?
I’m very fond of all the artifacts in my collection. The work I realized to which I am particularly linked is the reproduction in lace of the Gospel Cover by Ariberto da Intimiano. The original is located at the Museo del Duomo in Milan. I executed this artifact in 2006/2007 for the anniversary of the consecration of the Basilica of St. Vincent in Galliano (Cantù) by the one who would later become Archbishop of Milan, Ariberto da Intimiano. This artifact is very complex, three-dimensional, worked with very thin cotton thread. It took almost a year to complete.
What does it mean for you to be MAM?
It was an immense pleasure and honor to receive this important award dedicated to the Italian excellence in crafts. I am pleased that attention is paid to the talent and know-how of our masters, bearers of Made in Italy in the world.
What does winning the Europa Nostra Prize mean to you?
I am honored to have received this prestigious award unexpectedly. I hope to have passed on my passion and to have made people aware of the high value of the artifacts made by women from centuries past to the present day.
How can new generations approach lace?
To bring new generations closer to the art of lace, from 1985 to 1999 I chaired the School of Lace of Capiago Intimiano and I founded in 1999 and presided until 2018 the Art Lace Association of Cantù, which organized numerous exhibitions, lace courses and made a dozen publications.
What’s your dream for lace?
My dream would be to see a very ambitious safeguard project realized: a museum of lace and embroidery in Cantù. A place where to keep and exhibit artifacts made in Cantù and beyond, masterpieces inherited from our ancestors, so that future generations can enjoy this enormous wealth.