Lights and Shadows

Text from the catalog for the exhibition “Fashioning Felt”

Switzerland’s Switzerland’s Ursula Suter makes highly dimensional pieces employ-ing this process within the parameters of true felting. Her technique is also closely related to forms of stitched-resist practiced in Japan and western Africa (figs. 12a-d). Suter begins with gossamer sheets of wool batting. With a needle and thread, she gently pleats, tucks, or ruches them in a series of parallel folds. Each fold is covered with a thin plastic strip and lightly stitched in place. When she proceeds to the wetting and agitation, no area is spared from shrinkage, but the raised area in the plastic strip felts only to itself, not to the background. When the felting is complete, the ridges stand off the surface in a variety of forms (figs. 13-15). In some cases, a cobweb-like layer of silk fibers is laid over the surface before felting, creating an effect similar to Persian lamb.

Nuno is the Japanese Word for cloth, and nuno felting refers to the technique of felting through an existing fabric substrate. In the early 1990s, several artists, including Patricia Sparks and Polly Stirling, experimented with the concept. The term, coined by Stirling’s assistant, Sachiko Kotaka, stuck. Attempting to create sheer, lightweight felts, they began using wool sparingly, coaxing the fibers through a sheer woven fabric, such as silk Chiffon. They found that, if the weave was sufficiently open, the wool fibers would migrate through the woven fabric, creating a new type of material. This innovation had a major impact not only an felt making as a craft, but also an the uses for felt, as it allowed the creation of sheer textiles suitable for window treatments or soft, draping fabrics for fashion.

Place: New York (USA)
Museum: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Opening party: March 5th 2009
Exhibition: March 6th until September 9th 2009

My contribution to the exhibition “Fashioning Felt” is the result of several experiments titled “new surface-structures”.
I worked with different materials (wool and silk) in my own techniques of structuring surfaces.