Paola Besana is a weaver, designer and textile artist, as well as a student of textile structures and ethnic looms. Throughout her life she has pursued a thorough knowledge of fabrics, fibres, different techniques of production, popular, ethnographical and cultivated textile traditions and the most up-to-date tendencies in design.
She began to weave in 1958, at the age of twenty-three, after a long journey through Sweden and Finland. She studied under Lily Blumenau in New York, and then in Maine, and under Trude Guermonprez at the California College of Arts and Crafts. Returning to Italy, she opened the Studio di Tessitura Paola Besana in Milan in 1968: a workshop and centre for research, production and teaching. In the mid-seventies, Paola Bonfante and Lalla Ranza worked with her. Together they designed fabrics in Alcantara for FIAT and made costumes for Wagner’s Parsifal at La Scala, 680 variable tapestry multiples for the cabins of the Costa Classica cruise ship and large tapestries for the saloons of the Costa Romantica, along with collections of bags for the USA, Japan and Italy.
Since 1997 she has carried on the business on her own, cutting down on commercial production and intensifying her study, research and artistic production. Her work has been shown in dozens of joint and solo exhibitions in Italy and abroad, at venues such as the Triennale, Palazzo Morando and Palazzo Reale in Milan and the Camden Arts Centre in London. She teaches courses of ‘textile and woven object design’ for artisans and fashion designers and vocational courses at institutions in several regions of Italy and in Switzerland, as well as having taught for several years at the IED in Milan and Cagliari. She has made journeys for the purpose of study all over Europe and to Syria, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, in order to see numerous primitive weaving techniques at first-hand and try them out, as well as to collect ethnic artefacts and looms. Her collection is now very large and in her library she has assembled and catalogued over 2,000 volumes on the art of weaving.