Without light there is no colour
Barbara Sansoni is an artist, writer and designer. She founded Barefoot, a company of rural handweavers in Sri Lanka some thirty years ago and is the Chairperson and chief designer of Barefoot Pvt. Ltd. Her textile designs are characterised by their colours and simple rectilinear forms. Born in Sri Lanka, she currently lives between Colombo, Cambridge, England and Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. She has exhibited her drawings and woven panels in Asia, Europe and North America.
Barbara Sansoni is an artist, writer and designer. Born in Sri Lanka, she currently lives between Colombo, Cambridge, England and Atlanta, Georgia in the USA.
She is best known for her textile designs, handwoven panels and individual pieces made through Barefoot, the company of rural handweavers in Sri Lanka she founded some thirty years ago. Sansoni is the Chairperson and chief designer of Barefoot Pvt. Ltd. She also draws, paints and writes, is passionate about architecture and has several publications to her name. In 1970 she won the J D Rockefeller Travel Award, travelling for two years to 14 countries to study textiles and wooden buildings.
As she states: ‘I painted and drew all my life … and indeed I had a husband and two children before I ever thought about being interested in weaving.’ The landscape, horizons, seasons, light and colours of Sri Lanka saturated her artistic sensibility, influencing the tones and themes of her early paintings and drawings. A moment of revelation was when snorkelling over coral with tropical fish and a cloud passed over. The shatteringly brilliant colours turned into tones of grey and she learned that without light there is no colour.
Thus, when she moved into weaving, she made it a rule that ‘when weft crosses warp, it must be without ever creating grey, beige or any tone of ash from the original pure hues.’ Barbara Sansoni has dedicated herself to colour. ‘The investigation of colour, to be able to manipulate it and articulate it in non-representational form, to give great distance, height, foreground, light, flickering shade and light without greying or dulling the colours, has been almost a lifetime’s preoccupation.’
She was asked to design for weaving on handlooms and did so with a commitment that no weaver should ever make anything which was careless, ugly or even mundane. Her interest was in the conception and creative process, setting up the warp and designing the weft but not the actual execution of the weaving. To better understand the chemical formulas, she trained in dying in Switzerland and works with master dyer, Jeremy Marjan, using yarns dyed to her specification.
Barefoot has five weaving centres in Sri Lanka, run by the weavers themselves. They use designs by Sansoni and others in the small design team. Her designs derive from an early interest in form and geometry which emerged in her early paintings, abstracted compositions of the native flora and fauna of Sri Lanka. As she says, ‘I have always been concerned with geometry, and known that weaving is the ancestor of brickwork patterning, so I became fascinated with … constructing hangings with woven pieces.’ Sansoni’s work for Barefoot is characterised by its colours and simple rectilinear forms.
Barbara Sansoni has exhibited woven hangings, handwoven textiles and panels, drawings and paintings in numerous exhibitions in Asia, Europe and North America. Many of these have been in England, particularly Cambridge where she lives for part of the year. In 2002, her work was part of the ‘Crafty Thoughts’ exhibition of contemporary Sri Lankan artists and makers in Liverpool. She has made several commissioned pieces for public spaces and churches.
Sansoni is also passionate about architecture and has published two books on the subject, ‘Viharas and Verandahs’ and ‘Architecture of an Island’. She has written a number of articles and essays on different subjects. In 2002 she published her first children’s book, ‘Missy Fu and Tikkiri Banda’.
Barbara Sansoni is an artist, writer and designer. She founded Barefoot, a company of rural handweavers in Sri Lanka some thirty years ago. She is the Chairperson and chief designer of Barefoot Pvt. Ltd. Born in Sri Lanka, she currently lives between Colombo, Cambridge, England and Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. She has exhibited her drawings and woven panels in Asia, Europe and North America.
SOLO EXHIBITIONS (Selected)
Exhibition / Installation,
2004 Barefoot Gallery, Colombo, woven hangings
2002 Liverpool, UK, woven hangings
2001 Cambridge, UK, woven hangings
1999 Broughton House Gallery, Cambridge, UK, handwoven panels
1998 Broughton House Gallery, Cambridge, UK
1997 Broughton House Gallery, Cambridge, UK
1995 Broughton House Gallery, Cambridge, UK
1991 ´Faces, Races and Architectural Devices´, Colombo, Sri Lanka, watercolours, pen and ink drawings.
1991 British Council, Colombo, Sri Lanka, woven panels
1978 British Council, London, handwoven textiles
1969 Ceylon Tea Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark, handwoven textiles
1966 Ceylon Tea Centre, London, handwoven textiles
DRAWINGS AND WRITINGS (selected)
2003 ´Press with the toes in the Grass´, publ. Barefoot Pvt Ltd
2002 ´Missy Fu and Tikkiri Banda´, children´s book, publ. Barefoot (Pvt) Ltd
1998 ´Architecture of an Island´, text by Dr R B Lewcock, 96 illustrated drawings, publ. Barefoot (Pvt) Ltd
1978 ´Vihares and Verandas´, drawings by Barbara Sansoni and text by Dr R B Lewcock. As a result two grants received from UNESCO and The Asia Foundation to do measured drawings of the buildings.
1996 Sri Lanka, altar cloth for Pope´s visit to Sri Lanka
1985 Singapore Airport, 12 banners for CIAS Lounge
1984 Bank of Ceylon, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 56 banners for new bank HQ
1983 St Botolphus Church, UK, altar cloth and vestments
1984 Sri Lanka Presidential Award for exports
1974-75 ILO Textile Advisor in St Lucia, West Indies, as part of Caribbean craft project
1970 Guest of British Council in England to meet leading British craftspeople
1970 JD Rockefeller III Travel Award: visited 14 countries to study craft and folk art for two years
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(19 July 02 - 09 September 02)
Barbara Sansoni´s textile design company website