The last surviving sea silk seamstress
Byssus, or sea silk, is one of the most coveted materials in the world – but after more than 1,000 years in the same matrilineal family tree, this ancient thread may soon unravel.
“My grandmother wove in me a tapestry that was impossible to unwind,” Vigo said. “Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to the sea, just as those who have come before me.”
Like the 23 women before her, Vigo has never made a penny from her work. She is bound by a sacred ‘Sea Oath’ that maintains that byssus should never be bought or sold.
Instead, Vigo explained that the only way to receive byssus is as a gift. […]
“Byssus doesn’t belong to me, but to everyone,” Vigo asserted. “Selling it would be like trying to profit from the sun or the tides.”
More recently, a Japanese businessman approached Vigo with an offer to purchase her most famous piece, ‘The Lion of Women’, for €2.5 million. It took Vigo four years to stitch the glimmering 45x45cm design with her fingernails, and she dedicated it to women everywhere.
“I told him, ‘Absolutely not’,” she declared. “The women of the world are not for sale.”