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“Teixidors Needs Magic Because it’s a Delicate Balance”

21 January, 2014

Teixidors

The sound of pieces of wood continually clacking together. They seem to stop, but then obstinately continue on their course. There are a lot of them and they all move in time to the warp yarns that are interlaced with them, under the eye of the operator of each loom on the premises. We are entering the Teixidors workshop.

Looms and people with learning difficulties have been here for three decades, breathing life into “deliciously imperfect” – as the folk at Teixidors call them – homewear textiles and fashion accessories.

“Artisanally made textile pieces are not uniform, but full of nuances that reflect the characteristics of the tool that made them and the individuality of each weaver,” says Juan Ruiz, who founded the company together with Marta Ribas and with whom we discuss its present and future, always under the premise that for Teixidors, “profit is a consequence, not a goal”.

Why did you set up Teixidors?

To provide work for people with learning difficulties.

And why with wooden looms? 

Because it is a production tool with great added value and primarily because it also has a therapeutic value that is just as great or even greater.

The Teixidors workshop is located in a bay covering 1,500 sq metres which previously belonged to Miquel Gil.

Yes, they used to make stockings here but the firm closed in 1973 as a result of a change in trends. They had the best facilities in the province and were known as the crème de la crème of textile makers because the temperature and humidity conditions were excellent for the workers and unusual for a textile factory, but they were necessary in order to work with stockings.

And you opened the first Teixidors workshop here 10 years later, in 1983.

Yes, although it isn’t a continuation of anything. We established the firm to support  people with different abilities who could work with a loom.

It’s a very complex trade, weaving with wooden looms.

Yes, it is. It requires a great deal of intelligence! The advantage is that the whole of the process can be broken down greatly and the people involved can give you constant feedback.

What do you mean?

The weavers can see how the final product is coming along at all times. They can check what they are doing.

Who decided to undertake this project?

My wife, Marta Ribas. It came about for reasons of social consciousness; she’s a social worker and is very talented at working with her hands. She was keen to joint two aspects in one: a therapeutic component and creativity. This was a concept that didn’t exist here then. She had taken part in many psychotherapy workshops and saw it was important to unite creativity and a therapeutic function with work that would bring in revenue.

But mainly creativity, wouldn’t you say?

Yes, because the act of creating has huge therapeutic value. A woollen blanket becomes a piece of art full of nuances that reflect the individuality of each weaver.

How do you train the employees?

They require more support than a person without a disability and it must be individualised support!

What does having this work mean to them?

That’s a difficult question and any answer could give you the idea that we hold the key to making extraordinary things. I can only say that it is the process and form of working which, although I couldn’t tell you why, produces something extraordinary. Especially because people with learning difficulties find work here. It completely changes their take on life; it changes every aspect of their lives!

How many people do you have working the looms?

We have thirty-three people and for most of them this has been their first and only job.

Artisanal weaving isn’t the only unusual aspect to the company. You also prioritise sustainability and traceability in processes.

We were only ever going to do this project if it was sustainable and ecological. We find providers who can assure the traceability and sustainability of the production processes.

And how do you do that?

We listen to the people around us and try to ensure that relationships are founded on joint responsibility and equality. A commitment to responsible consumption is another part of our project.

What role does the necessary factor of profit play in your company?

Valuing profit and economic efficiency alone isn’t what we are about. Here we prioritise personal fulfilment and the inclusion of weavers who, you must remember, aren’t the best on the market.  

You have two of your own sales points; the women’s accessories collection has been around for a year and the company is expanding on international markets. You don’t stop. What is your goal?

To keep going! Growth and profit are a consequence of this goal. For example, we started out with six people on staff and now there are 42. There is also room for the workshop to grow, because we have 16 looms being used from a total of 22, giving us capacity to grow both in terms of machinery and because we can work in shifts.

And will you?

We’re not ruling it out, but the market has to continue to grow.

Do you run marketing campaigns to woo customers?

Yes and the reason why we are still going is that we deliberately set out to woo the market. Today we export 60% of our production, whereas eight years ago it was just 10%. But competition is tough because we now sell to almost all of Europe, the US, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan. Plus there are smaller sales volumes in other countries. However, we are particularly happy to be in Paris and New York, where big sales can be made. We have thrown our hat entirely into the international ring.

Why?

Because many of our local customers have disappeared and because we don’t have the financial capacity to be both here and abroad. Teixidors’ financial structure is weak by nature.

But you are still forging ahead, growing and in many ways going against the sector flow. You represent a magical balance in an adverse context…

Yes, that’s the word. We play by the same rules as everyone else but we want to do things differently. So Teixidors needs magic because it’s a delicate balance.

There are many messages behind a Teixidors piece of fabric. From a communication viewpoint is it hard to convey all of these characteristics to the customer?

Very hard! When we are taken out of context in sales points it’s much harder to convey everything there is behind the firm’s products, starting with our manual production! That’s why it is so important to have our own store, where we can explain who we are, what we do and so the public can discover the entire catalogue. This is a top-of-the-range space that could be in Paris, Hong Kong or New York.

 

To check this out, we leave Teixidors and make a brief visit to Matèria, the showroom store the firm set up for selling and showcasing its designs. “This is a conceptual space and a good source of information for Teixidors where we ask our customers what we can offer them. We have all of our products exhibited here in the way we want, to show them off in a balanced fashion so that our customers can see what we are about,” explains Beatriz Askanazy, the manager and designer of Matèria, who is a huge fan of the company’s fabrics, colours and philosophy.

 

Teixidors

Espai Matèria

Rector Ubach, 47. Barcelona

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