I love felt, no really, I LOVE it! We're not talking those crappy polyester squares you buy from craft shops either, we're talking beautiful hand felted objects made from 100% wool. Felt is made using moisture, friction and heat - this causes the fibres to shrink and interlock...ever had a wool jumper end up in the washing machine by accident? I'm a tactile creature and love handling felt objects - like cosey slippers and those little felted beads in colours that look good enough to pop into your mouth. What is it about felt that is so darn appealing?
This recent trip to the USA has me running into all sorts of felt exhibitions. The first one was at The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.
The exhibition is held in is a huge mansion with a stunning garden. They showcased the ways in which felt is made: I liked the Mongolian felters - they drag rolls of wool prepared for the felting process behind a horse to get the friction needed for the fulling process! There were also amazing fashion pieces (dresses formed with no sewing - just felted), furniture that looked like the felt was draping like silk, and a conservatory completely covered on the inside in huge net curtains with hand felted motifs all over them (process called Nuno). My favourite pieces were the 'urchin-poufs' by Christien Meindertsma that were knitted with dyed, felted New Zealand wool - each pouf contains the wool from one entire sheep! Apparently you receive an identity card with details and a photo of your ewe!
The second exhibit on my felt fantasia trip of America was better than I could have hoped for! The Fabric Workshop and Museum is listed in the top 10 museums of Philadelphia but not one that most people have heard of. The artist Triton Lowe had only one piece on show...it was on the 6th floor...my friend and I got hushed into a small elevator with the attendant...the doors opened and we stood with mouths agape...I didn't realise they meant THE ENTIRE 6th floor!
Mocha (as he is called - Mocha Dick), is a Sperm whale of 52 feet and is made from industrial felt, cut out using a pattern and 'stitched' together using long zippers. This whale dress then covers an inflatable balloon (of sorts) which was also designed by Lowe. The barnacles are also felt pieces that have been stitched on. There was no touching, no photos - sure thing (lucky there were two of us - one to keep the attendant busy while I snuck a few snaps (top picture is from this artblog)!