Sardinian Family Works To Preserve Ancient Craft

Jul 7, 2015

More than 150 artists from around the world will gather this weekend at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. It has generated more than $20 million dollars in sales since it launched 12 years ago - and most of that money goes home with the artists. Those funds often support entire communities and help build schools, health clinics and homes. The money also helps revive ancient crafts in that are in danger of dying out.

Andrea Usai
Credit Folk Art Alliance

Andrea Usai is from Italy. He’s with an organization called Kokku, which makes filigree jewelry.


Usai: We come from Sardinia. It's just off the coast of Italy in front of Rome. The filigree, it's been rooted in Sardinia for the last 4,000 years. The Phoenicians, they arrived to Sardinia and they conquered the whole Mediterranean area and brought this fantastic skill. The tradition has been cultivated and kept alive for so many generations that it has become a very strong part of our cultural background. Only lately we have noticed a big trend of artists stopping to do the traditional filigree and this is because the market has become so very tough.


In Sardinia, in last the few years a lot of filigree that is found on the main high streets is actually not coming from Sardinia itself and it's all mass-produced and at prices obviously that are sometimes unbeatable. And that's a very big danger and that's what has been threatening my family's — and everybody's families' — in Sardinia jobs. A lot of it is made in China


Filigree ring by Kokku
Credit Folk Art Alliance

I've always grown up with the filigree in my family and I never thought of this as being something in danger until my uncle actually said at one point that he was going to stop himself. That's the moment when I and my wife felt the need to actually keep these traditions alive and make sure I will be able to pass it to new generations and these traditions will stay rooted in Sardinia for many years to come. I stopped my career and went back to my roots


The challenge was always to be able to transmit how important this art is for us and make the other understand what is behind it. In particular, through organizations like the Folk Art Alliance we've been to reach new markets and in fact last year – our first year in Santa Fe-- it represented for us nearly 50 percent of our turnover for the year and it was extremely motivating, not only for us but also for the community that lives behind our jewelry. For my uncle it's been a second life.


Thanks to the possibility of reaching new markets and so on the energy is reborn and I'm pretty sure that new generations will live to carry on this and our aim in the future, and my uncle's dreams, has always been to actually start a filigree school in Sardinia for future generations and carry on these fantastic traditions.