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Elisa Zonta, textile conservator since 2006. Italy



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Imagine we don’t’ know anything about it… can you describe your profession?

I am a textile conservator. The purpose of my work is to extend the life of an artistic/ancient textile artefact, so that they can continue to transmit their value and culture to the next generations. To do this I repair damaged objects: historic dresses, embroidery, tapestries, archaeological textiles, sacred vestments and so on.

What materials do you use?

I mostly use silk fabrics and threads, which I personally die in my laboratory. I can also use wool, cotton and linen. My everyday tools are surgical curved needles, surgical scissors and little tweezers.

Who is you “ideal client’s profile?

My company works mostly for museums and cultural institutions. Our clients may be everyone who have fabrics and textile items that need to be preserved. 

You chose to be a craftsman. How did this decision appear to be an evidence to you?

I am a strange case because I decided to become a restorer during a school trip to the Uffizi museum in Florence. I was eight years old. All my following choises were made to reach my goal.

Would you define your job a passion? What is the best moment you had in your job?

My work is also a passion. Every so often historic object comes through the conservation lab that stimulates questions and challenges, and these objects are often complex, always interesting to work on. Solve the challenge and be able to preserve these objects for future generations is very satisfying. The best moment is the end of the conservation process when we compare the pictures before the treatment and we realize that the artefact has reached a new life.

What role do “talent”, “know-how” and “creativity” play in your profession?

“Talent” is connected to the capacity to finish the job processes in a short time. “Know-how” is connected to the personal experience. We are three business partners and each one has a different specialization. Working in team offers the opportunity to share ideas, different skills and different experiences. Each one learns something from the other. “Creativity” is important for finding solutions to conservative problems that are always new, different and specific for every singular artefact.

And what about innovation, what are the changes since you started? Do you use new materials, tools, processes, marketing. What’s the impact of innovation on your performances? How could your profession be more innovative?

We mainly use traditional methods and natural materials, such as silk threads and fabrics to restore the textiles, but there are also new methods with synthetic materials like thermoplastic resins, synthetic fabrics and threads. Under that point of view, we can say textile conservation can profit from every new textile innovation, such as for example the invention of Gore-tex® and Kevlar®. We’ve promoted our company on our web site, writing articles and attending conservation conferences. We recently began promoting our activities also on social networks.

Where and how long did you train before you were ready for creating your business? Imagine that you want to invite young generations to choose your profession, what would be your message to them?

Me and my colleagues attended an important conservation school in Italy that has a lot of practical subjects. During the school years we worked on real historic objects that needed conservation cures and we tried a lot of conservation treatments. After I graduated I began to work as a freelance for other companies, and after some years I became a member of Consorzio Tela di Penelope, my present enterprise. To be a restorer requires dedication and passion. At the beginning there is little profit, but it is a work that can give a lot of satisfaction.

In Conclusion, describe a meaningful experience or a personal reflection that you would like to share with us and explain why.

It’s very important to preserve the objects of the past, they tell us the story of our culture, of artistic and technological knowledge. Now textile conservation receives less funds than painting or sculpture conservation and I think it is a pity because a lot of cities or countries owe their past success to the production or the trade of precious fabrics.


To know more about this craftsman, see her profile

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