Increased industrialization and the realization that factory output would displace not only people but also tradition skills became a growing concern for many in the 19th century. There was the sense of a great impending loss of fine craftsmanship and Culture. This was not the singular preserve of William Morris and John Ruskin in England - but spread wherever mechanization appeared to be supplanting the judicious hand. In England lace-making was continually being revived at places such as Honiton and Coniston.
In Italy, the Bolognese founded Ars Aemilia (Emilio-Romagna is the region centred upon Bologna) in 1898. It was a society to promote decorative arts - not just lace-making - under the leadership of the architect Alfonso Rubbiani and Count Francesco Cavazza. In 1899 the lace and embroidery sector was inaugurated by the Countess Cavazza which would sell works through a co-operative shop.
Its main purpose, like other such revivalist lace-making projects, was to provide a subsidiary income for out-of-work women - women who had brought into the family a much needed secondary income, particularly for families who were occupied with seasonal agrarian work.
Hand in hand with this went Rubbiani's movement to return to and recreate the medievalism that had been lost in the Age of the Enlightenment - like the Arts and Crafts, Puginism and Art Nouveau movements in other parts of Europe. In fact, so strongly linked with these movements was Rubbiani's Ars Aemilia, that it was called Stile Liberty after the famous London shop Libertys which specialized in selling arts and crafts items.
In the Palazzo Pepoli in Bologna is a wonderful display and video guide to the Ars Aemilia movement - which flourishes to this day. Click here for more details.