Centuries-old Spanish tapestry factory saved from bankruptcy

Thu Oct 13, 2016 9:01am EDT
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By Amanda Calvo

MADRID (Reuters) - A centuries-old tapestry factory in Spain has come back from the brink of bankruptcy after an injection of public money, a debt restructuring plan and its biggest order in 200 years - a German commission for dozens of tapestries.

The turnaround of the 296-year-old Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid is a rare bright spot for Spanish companies facing insolvency. Nearly 50,000 businesses have entered administration since the start of the country's economic downturn in 2008.

The market for hand-woven tapestries and rugs plummeted during Spain's financial crisis, with key clients like the government crippled by spending cuts.

Just one square meter costs thousands of euros and months of skilled work to weave, depending on the amount of silk, wool and gold and silver thread used in a process that has barely changed since the 18th century.

From shelves of wool to workers weaving by hand and a designer working on a pattern, a Reuters photographic essay captures the process at reut.rs/2dmwfav

Twenty years ago the factory changed status from private business to foundation in the hope of preserving the craft. But years of losses pushed it close to going into administration last year.

"It was now or never," said Maria Pardo, a Madrid city council official who announced, together with the regional government and the Ministry of Culture, an increase in annual subsidies to 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) next year from 900,000 euros this year. Prior to 2015, the factory barely received any public money.

The cash enabled the factory, which restores historical pieces as well as taking on new orders, to cover delayed salary payments. A restructuring of bank debt and a focus on international sales have also helped turn around the business.   Continued...

Skeins are stocked at the Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid, Spain, October 7, 2016. Picture taken October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera