Teixidors not only creates beautiful woven items but also has a great story behind the company. Based outside of Barcelona, Spain, it is an impressive organisation with two main goals, to help people with learning difficulties and to make the highest quality textiles possible from the finest natural materials. The company, a not-for-profit organisation, is thirty years old this year and appears to be achieving both goals.
We found the story behind the company incredibly inspiring and so decided to dig a little deeper. For the last thirty years it has been on a mission to dramatically change the lives of those that work there by providing social and professional integration to people with learning difficulties. It offers stable employment and income to people otherwise at risk of social exclusion and at the same time the manual process of weaving, which is at the centre of the business, provides them with mental and physical therapy.
Teixidors is a company with a social vocation but it is also a company with a philosophy of focusing on creating beautiful unique items. The cashmere throws, merino wool blankets and linen bedspreads are made by searching for the best raw materials and then using traditional techniques and processes and relying on the skills of the artisans to weave them. By choosing to use methods from a time long past in order to help people, Teixidors have revived the beauty, quality and artistic talent of craftsmanship that many wish was evident in more modern day products. The Teixidors project may sound like a romantic utopia but it is very much a stunning reality. We recently interviewed Sofia Agerberth, the Export Manager for Teixidors and learnt a lot more about the company, its history and ethos. Here is the interview.
What does the word “Teixidors” actually mean? Teixidors means “weavers” in Catalan.
What is the history of Teixidors and why was it started? The company was started in 1983 by Juan Ruiz and Marta Ribas, a husband and wife team. Prior to starting Teixidors, Marta was a social worker specialising in psychiatry, and working with people with learning difficulties. Juan was a technical engineer in the textiles industry. Marta wanted to find a therapeutic process for people with learning difficulties and discovered that the process of weaving did just that. The traditional technique of weaving using wooden looms driven by the hands and feet of the weavers helps both physically, as it requires constant exercise of psychomotor coordination and also mentally, due to the concentration required.
Having discovered the therapeutic benefits of weaving, Juan and Marta moved to Terrassa (just outside Bercelona) to setup Teixidors. At the time, Terassa was known as the centre for the textiles industry, although now Teixidors is the only textiles company left. They started the business in 1983 but it took them five years to set it up. Marta and Juan both learnt to weave and they also wanted to understand the whole process of weaving. It started with just a few guys, one of whom is still with the business today. The looms were very expensive to import so they built the wooden looms themselves by hand, which took quite a while as they are very complex. They made five looms initially and then little by little they have added looms over the years, we now have twenty two.
Please can you tell us about the people who work at Teixidors? There are forty two people in total, twelve support staff and thirty people with learning difficulties. We also have a psychologist who comes once a week and a social worker who is here everyday to provide any help and support required. The social worker can also deal with any concerns and questions the families of the workers might have.
The people have a wide range of learning difficulties, some have greater difficulties than others but they are all taught to weave. The training process takes five years and when they have passed each person gets a certificate as an artisan, which is very important, as they have then earned a professional qualification.
There are many people here that without this job would not have any social integration in society and so they would just be sat at home without anything to do. We have one team member who could not communicate before he came here, he could not speak. He had basically been been at home with his family all of his life and nobody thought that he could integrate socially or do anything. Now, whilst he still finds it difficult, he can communicate and he sits with a smile all day and shakes everyone’s hand when he goes to lunch.
“It is really amazing to see the change that Teixidors has made to these people’s lives. It is a very special place.”
How do people come to find out about Teixidors and get jobs here? The company is very well known in Barcelona and across Spain, as a social project it has received a lot press and we have won some awards so people know about us and contact us. Unfortunately, due to the limited space we have in our workshop, we have not been able to take anybody on in a few years. However, the council have been helping us recently with financing for a new space and so we are going to be able to move to a larger workshop later in the year. We hope to be able to take on more people following the move.
I assume you have to compete with companies manufacturing their products on modern computerised machines, does the fact you use traditional productions techniques make it difficult to compete with those companies? We do not have an issue competing with other companies because our clients know our items are handmade and see their quality. People buying the product do not compare Teixidors with something that is machine made.
The fact that the end product is a hand woven piece makes it so much more valuable, you can see that each piece is unique and appreciate the precision and skill required by the weavers. People know they are buying something that is timeless.
People buy them first for the touch and feel and the quality and then when people know the story behind it and the people behind it, their passion for the products grows even more. They search specifically for Teixidors.
How do you go about sourcing the materials to make your products? A lot of work has gone into sourcing the best materials we can find and also building relationships with our suppliers. The yak is sourced from Mongolia where we have been working with “Veterinarians Without Borders”. We source our linen from Belgium and we get our cashmere through an Italian company that sources it from Tibet. This is the best quality cashmere that can be found, a lot of cashmere you find is mixed with something else, diluting its quality but this cashmere is certified as 100% pure. As you can see on our video, the ecological merino wool is sourced from a farm high in the Pyrenees in France where a couple called Manu and Corinne have a small farm with 2000 sheep. Teixidors get all the wool from their farm, they don’t supply anyone else, no one really knew about them before but now people are contacting them from all over the world. Luckily we have built a very good relationship with them and they know the story behind Teixidors and so they decided they would only supply us. Their wool is very special and each year the wool gets better.
What is the design inspiration behind your products? Antonia is the lady who looks after the design and I also help with parts of it. We try to keep the design simple. Traditionally we have used natural colours but now we are starting to use a few brighter colours. We have spent a long time looking at various colours and how they match together and we keep an eye on what is going on in various different industries but we make sure we are not picking colours that are going to go in and out of fashion. This is important when we are creating pieces that are timeless.
As the Export Manager for Teixidors, what does a typical day consist of for you? My days are extremely varied. I am constantly in close contact with our clients, which I think is another factor that helps differentiate Teixidors, as this helps us to understand the client and their style so that we can help them with their selection. We also do special projects with our clients and so I spend quite a lot of time working on these projects. Plus, I have to travel a lot, this year I have got trips to Paris, New York, Boston and Chicago to name a few. This is a great part of my job as I am really interested in the design world and like understanding and experiencing the different cultures and styles in different countries. What works in some countries doesn’t work in other countries. Scandinavians like bright colours but as you head further south the colours get lighter. The Germans seem to really like the ecological merino wool where as the Italians really like cashmere. I am also hoping to visit Japan at some point as we have just started selling out there, it has taken a long time but they really like the cashmere products.
What is your favourite Teixidor product? Sisteron or Jazz.
Last place you went on holiday? I recently had a long weekend in Bilbao, we had some amazing food and visited the Guggenheim, which was fantastic.
If you could move anywhere tomorrow, where would it be? I would be really interested in seeing what Japan was like. Also, I would love to spend some time in Vancouver.
What are your passions outside of work? Travelling, experiencing different cultures and food and also meeting people. I really enjoy reading too.
What is your favourite food? Well, I am a massive fish person but I have recently discovered that I might have an allergy to fish! I am hoping it is just salmon but I am not sure yet. Otherwise, I really enjoy Japanese and Thai food.
Red wine or white wine? Normally I would say white wine but after my recent trip to Bilbao, I am tempted to say red. So, maybe both!
What music are you listening to at the moment? I recently watched the documentary film “Searching for Sugar Man” about two fans trying to find out whether the rumoured death of an American musician, Sixto Rodriguez, was true or not. The music in the film was amazing so I would go with Sixto Rodriguez.
What is your favourite film? At the moment I would also say “Searching for Sugar Man”, it was such a good film.