Textile designer Cecilia Frittelli uses traditional processes and vintage handlooms to create beautiful clothing and accessories from her studio in Saratoga's Beekman Arts District.
For Cecilia Frittelli, one half of the duo behind Frittelli & Lockwood Textile Design, the loom becomes an extension of her body as she weaves. She’s able to enter a state where her hands and feet can take over, allowing her mind to wander to thoughts of her next great design, whether that’s a scarf, poncho or custom piece.
Color and pattern are key for this expert weaver, who says she lets the yarn tell her what it should become, and then simply obliges. She and husband Richard Lockwood, who married in 1984, fell in love with weaving shortly after falling for each other. Their love story took them from the garment district of New York City to boutiques and galleries on the Upper West Side, then north to the Adirondacks, and ultimately to Saratoga Springs to raise their family.
Read on to learn more about Cecilia, her process and her inspiration.
In your own words, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a textile designer, so I design woven cloth for apparel and accessories, but my husband, Richard, does more menswear and I tend to do more womenswear. We work on vintage handlooms using a very traditional process, although we design very contemporary clothing. We try to be eco-friendly whenever we can and we consistently reuse our scraps to make fragmented garments. We also work with locally-sourced materials, and try to use local wool, for example, whenever we can. Our business is vertical—from the supplies we purchase to the design to the finished product, it’s all done right here, at our studio in Saratoga Springs.
Tell us about how you got started. Are you self-taught or professionally-trained?
I went to Skidmore and although I wasn’t an art student, I took a lot of art classes because I took to art in an almost natural way. Then after Skidmore, I worked as a sample weaver for a few years in the garment industry down in New York City. I was one of the designers in a firm that’s no longer around, unfortunately, located on Seventh Avenue. We designed plaids and dresscloths, and made interesting woven fabrics like checks and houndstooths that designers would come in and buy. But really, it was mostly on the job training—I had the basics, and understood the visuals from my time studying art as a student, but I learned the business side of things from the garment center.
At about the same time, I started acquiring some looms and making little accessories which I sold in boutiques and galleries in the Upper West Side. My husband had grown up in Sturbridge, Massachusetts working in textile mills as a teenager, and was making a living as a school teacher. He was very into the mechanics of the loom and started designing neck ties which helped launch us into the market, and we sort of just grew from there. After ten years in Manhattan, my husband and I moved way upstate into the Adirondacks to raise our family and build our business.
Tell us about your process.
We source yarns from all over, but if we can keep it American-woven, we do—and if we can keep it to New England, even better. But as a rule, we source our yarns and they decide what they want to be, although we play with color and weave effect. We also look to the trends to see what the colors and the patterns are for the season and then we take it from there and make small samples. Then we go to tradeshows and buyers will look at our line and decide what they want to purchase, and that really informs what we focus on for the rest of the year.
What inspires you, in terms of your craft?
I really love sitting at the loom, just feeling like I’m part of the machine. There’s something very zen-like about getting into a pattern and doing it over and over again because once your hands and legs learn the pattern you just kind of go from there. To be honest, after the first yard it gets kind of tedious so I’m always thinking ahead, thinking about the next project. It’s all math so you have to work out the numbers before you sit down at the loom and although you can make changes as you go, you can’t just start over. Once it’s on the loom it’s kind of a done deal.
Has Saratoga always been home?
Saratoga has been very much a piece of my heart for many years. I graduated from Skidmore in 1980, but I chose Skidmore because I really loved Saratoga. When my husband and I lived in New York City, we would go backpacking in the Adirondacks and ended up moving there because we loved it so much. But then once our kids started school, we decided it was probably the right time to make the move to more of a town environment and so we ended up in Greenfield. We got involved with the arts district there and rented a space, before buying the building we’re in now in 2007.
But Saratoga has always been extremely important to me. It’s a gateway to the wilds of the Adirondacks, but also to New York City and there’s so much to do here. It’s great for young families and it’s also great for older families because it fills the bill for a lot of different age groups.
What’s next for you and your business?
We just found out that we got into the Smithsonian Craft Show down in Washington, D.C. this spring for the second year in a row. It’s very competitive, with more than 2,000 applications for just 120 spots, so the pressure’s on to create some great new things. But in terms of products, I think we’ll be working more with linen, which is not the easiest yarn to work with because it has so much structure, and we may also be adding some hemp.