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 Ganutell history title bar

The Maltese word Ganutell comes in many different spellings: some writers refer to this craft as "Ganutil" or "Ganitill".

All these words are derived from the Italian "Canutiglia", which means a thin spiral "thread" Typical ganutell wires made of different wires and spun together to form a rope, which is then used to make artificial flowers and embroidery.

You can see the old arrangements in churches around the Island of Malta, especially during the parish feasts when the churches are decorated up to the hilt with precious art collected over the years. However, people had not really noticed the work that goes into making Ganutell and this beautiful craft nearly died out.

Recently, the Ministry of Culture decided to try to re-awaken Ganutell flower interest in Ganutell and I have been very lucky to attend a variety of courses over the last 10 months or so. There are some very good teachers scattered all over the Island but please keep in mind that I am not a teacher, only a hobbyist.

These pages are for information purposes only and will not include patterns for individual flowers. There are at least four instruction books written in Maltese currently on the market, and my intention is not to teach Ganutell but to inform people who don't know what it is, and to guide them towards other sources of Ganutell flowerinformation. As my site keeps growing, I hope to be able to add new things that are coming on the local market, which people interested in learning this craft might find of interest.

I will also insert the odd photo of my work as samples to give you an idea of what you can do!

Ganutell flowers are nowadays used for the Christmas Crib and the Holy Statuettes people put in their windows according to the feast of the Christmas Bambin under glass dome moment. The Jesus in the crib, or the statuette, would be in the centre surrounded by a variety of flowers of all kinds. These too were generally kept under a glass dome.

As the renowned Maltese Historian, Guido Lanfranco* wrote in "Decorative Flowers Through The Ages":

"The richest and the most appreciated are flower mounts in this technique, provided they are correctly and expertly made and mounted. Different individuals usually specialise in the different construction phases, as those who design and prepare the wire framework, those who wind up the threads on their frames and incorporate various coloured glass beads, sequins and other accessory materials, and finally those who mount the units into compact compositions, with the addition of chenille, fillers and supports, to be placed in alabaster or silver vases."

Experienced workers in this craft correctly used to call the thin, silver Ganutell flower or gold, spiral, expandable wires, kanutilja, from the Italian canutiglio or cannutiglio and the Spanish Canutillo, which refer to the pipe-like appearance of the spiral before extension.

Silver or some other suitable wire is inserted into the hollow of the spiral, tube-like wire, and shaped into a leaf or petal, and silk or other fine threads are wound on the framework and kept in place by the spaces in the stretched spiral.

We refer to this work as Ganutell or Ganutil craft; using the words Granutell or Granutil is incorrect. In Ganutell flower mounts one can find leaves and petals which do not involve the use of the canutiglia or Wheat ear in ganutell spiral wire, and although they form part of the whole composition, they are not Ganutell work, but an accessory made from non-spiral wires on their own or twisted with coloured thread, preferably on a hand spindle.

Beginners commence with this latter technique as it is simpler than having to fill up frames with thread, and there are too many who appear to stop at this stage and produce tiaras and small hand bouquets for weddings and other occasions.

Although there are now many learning Ganutel, only relatively few have the real inclination and artistic qualities to reach an excellent standard of technique and proper presentation of Ganutell mounts.

As Guido also says in "Treasures of Malta, Vol IV, No.3, p.35:

"... in the case of paintings, silverware and other decorative art, artificial flowers were to be found either in the homes of rich households, organisations, churches and palaces, all capable of paying for the work which was nearly always made to order and by hand."

(*Guido Lanfranco is a writer on local and natural history and folklore.)

Information taken from the book
Xoghol u Snajja tà L-Imghoddi by
Guzè Galea

During the 18th and 19th century, in the quiet of the convents, nuns used to pray and contemplate all through their lives.

Ganutell flower However, in some convents there used to be groups of nuns doing very intricate and beautiful creations with threads, wires and cloths to create items, mostly to decorate their churches, with embroidery, sewing and Ganutell. The latter is work which takes a lot of patience and practice before one can learn the proper art of making it.

In those days, the most beautiful ornaments consisted of bouquets of flowers, which were used to decorate sideboards in hallways and sitting rooms and the altars of churches. The flowers were not made of silk or plastic; these wonderful creations were made of very fine silk threads spun together with the thinnest of gold or silver wires and then decorated with tiny fragments of glass, seed pearls, sequins or any tiny bead the nuns could find.

The canutiglia was the item most used. This was a hollow wire made ofGanutell orchid strands of gold or silver in the shape of a spring but never thicker than a piece of string.

These groups of nuns were all specialised in their own art. Each group had a "Constructor" who would draw the design to the right scale and mark in the colours. She would draw the flowers, leafs, buds and, where necessary, the wheat and grapes. These Constructors, who required very good eyesight for this fine work, would insert the wire thread into the canutiglia to hold its shape and wind the wire into the bends and shapes required. In this manner, they would form the shape of the border, frame or mould of the flowers or petals.

The other nuns in the group were the "Composers" who would start filling in the empty space within the canutiglia shape with the various coloured silk threads depending on the colour scheme chosen.

Ganutell flowers in frameThe smaller flowers would be worked with the silk being threaded from one side to the other of the border of the petal. When the flowers were larger, they would make bigger petals and fold and shape them round the smaller ones to imitate the natural flower as closely as possible.

The stamens, the centre, and the pistils of the flower were made of a variety of beads and fancy wires, and using three of the same small petals joined together made the buds.

There were times when the nuns would decorate the entire bouquet by adding a butterfly, the wings of which were the most difficult to make. These were formed and made in the same manner as the leaves with Ganutell hair combthe addition of sequins and rhinestones. The butterfly's head would consist of a pearl whilst its body would be made of chenille. Its legs and would be made of canutiglia. Sometimes pieces of lametta (what today we would call bouillon or farfalla) would be inserted in the spaces between the flowers and leaves. These are strips of fancy beading wire that is faceted to create reflections in the arrangements.Ganutell hair comb

The workers would then start tying together the prepared flowers, leaves and whatever else the bouquet consists of, to give it the shape it would finally have. The whole thing was then placed under a glass dome to prevent the flowers from fading and getting dirty.

At other times, once all the flowers were ready, they would tie them with wire into small bunches of various sizes and would use the larger ones to decorate the altars of the church. These bouquets would be placed on wooden stands that were hand-painted and gilded. The smaller bouquets would be placed under the glass domes and put on a sideboard on each side of the gilded ornate clock, which used to be kept under a glass dome as well!Ganutell hair comb

The bouquets were sometimes displayed in china vases that were also ornately gilded. Nowadays these are very rare and are being sold from private collections, mostly in auctions as items of value.


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