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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Craftistas in the media

    Don't know if this is the right forum, but I thought it was the best fit (feel free to move me moderator Queens).

    Saw this article and thought, hey, we really need a thread about craftspeople in the media - not just ones from this site (although, that's awesome!) but also other people who are totally makin it, DIY style.

    Let me know if you think this is a good idea.

    Now, on with the article that inspired me:

    In Her Hands, Felt Is Fashionable from the NY Times Online (membership required)

    Article text (since many of you might not be members of the NY times):

    Published: September 8, 2005
    Spannum, the Netherlands

    CLAUDY JONGSTRA, a Dutch textile designer who works in felt, used to spend her free time beekeeping. "If you stay very calm," she said one afternoon last month, her green eyes saucer-wide, "you can handle the bees with your bare hands."

    Ms. Jongstra, 42, now runs a thriving design practice that keeps her in the countryside but leaves no time for harvesting honey: she tends 150 sheep, and shears their coats for felt. The flock grazes on rented plots near Ms. Jongstra's house in Friesland, an agrarian province in the northern Netherlands a few hours' drive from Amsterdam.

    Felt, a utilitarian material made of wool fibers that interlock as they are rubbed together, has been around for millenniums. In the hands of Ms. Jongstra, who adds elements like silk and oxidized metallic organza to her creations, felt has found a new life. Michael Maharam, an owner of the Maharam textile company, which will sell a new line of Ms. Jongstra's work in the fall, likens her felt to "utter simplicity brought to the most opulent level - a substantial form of luxury, derived from the material itself, not painted on."

    Ms. Jongstra seems poised to take her place as the latest in a series of Dutch designers whose work has attracted ample attention in recent years, a list that includes Hella Jongerius and Tord Boontje.

    In the past decade, Ms. Jongstra has conjured over 600 felt recipes with materials as diverse as raw cashmere, rag linen, camel and yak fur, curly locks from the messy-haired Wensleydale sheep and occasional bits of straw that such animals pick up while grazing. These unusual combinations have attracted the attention of the art world; her felts are used as wall hangings in buildings by architects like Steven Holl and Rem Koolhaas.

    Murray Moss, of the SoHo design store Moss, is playing host to Ms. Jongstra's first solo exhibition in the United States, "Never Felt Before!" It opens to the public tomorrow.

    Despite Ms. Jongstra's growing popularity, her modest property, encompassing the house, a yard and two felt-making studios, remains a rural idyll that occupies one scant acre and overlooks farmlands at the edge of the village of Spannum, population 300. Bordering her backyard is an irrigation ditch, reachable by a tiny dock where her 5-year-old son, Eabel, sometimes plays. Her second son, Jesk, is a year old.

    Astrid Noom, a 30-year-old textile designer who has worked for Ms. Jongstra for eight years, was in the smaller of the two studios in July, laying wispy tufts of merino wool over a gleaming layer of raw silk. Working row by row like a slow dot-matrix printer, she will produce cream-colored wall hangings for the official residence of the prime minister in The Hague.

    Ms. Noom held up three swatches of shaggy wool in saturated primary colors, which are samples for Ms. Jongstra's exhibition at Moss. "Who's afraid of red, yellow and blue?" Ms. Noom said, a reference to the 1966 painting with the same colors by Barnett Newman. Mr. Moss has decided to limit the palette at the exhibition to four or five colors "rather than overwhelm the audience with the ability she has to do hundreds of different felts."

    For Ms. Jongstra, making felt is magical. "You have wool fiber, soapy water and friction, and in a few seconds you have a textile," she said about the ancient technique of felt-making. Her felts are brashly textured with fleece fragments that look almost as raw as a sheep's back, sometimes patterned with contrasts between matte wools and glossy silks, sometimes transparent and always less fragile than they appear.

    Ms. Jongstra's felt-making operation is very much a cottage industry as well as a family affair; it includes her partner, Claudia Busson, and one of Ms. Jongstra's brothers, Roger (Gedi) Jongstra. The six staff members wander in and out of the house when they are not in the studio. Another office in Amsterdam is used mainly for meetings. Ms. Busson, who runs a gilt-framing business, sometimes herds sheep.

    Felt first enthralled Ms. Jongstra in the mid-1990's. After earning a degree in fashion at Utrecht School of the Arts, she worked briefly for a small clothing company. "I was very unhappy designing for a market that is so anonymous," she said. "It's also stupid - 10 collections a year, and this waste of fabrics with every collection. I couldn't."

    After seeing a show about the history of felt at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, in the Netherlands, which described the origins of felt in the Middle East and its use in high-technology office environments, Ms. Jongstra quit her job and started experimenting with it. Unlike fashion designs, Ms. Jongstra said, "Felt is ancient and highly durable." Nomads in Kyrgyzstan use it to cover the frames of their yurts, or tents, she said.

    But recreating the felt of old was not for Ms. Jongstra. She wanted to explore the textural possibilities and contrasts within a material that could be "very raw but also very glamorous." With glamour in mind, in 1996 she went to the Paris office of John Galliano, then the chief designer at Givenchy, who promptly ordered about 11 yards of a block-patterned felt set into shiny organza for that year's fall-winter collection.

    In the same period, Ms. Jongstra busied herself making theater costumes in the Netherlands and peddling them to designers in London. Trisha Biggar, a costume designer for many Hollywood movies, saw Ms. Jongstra's felts from a Dutch production of "The Tempest" and hired her to make the Jedi costumes for the 1999 film "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace."

    The increased demand came at a price: while rubbing so much felt for the Jedis, Ms. Jongstra and her staff developed blisters on their hands. With help from engineers, however, she developed a hand-held tool - she calls it a robot with feelings - that mimics the applied friction that gives her felt a hand-made quality.

    Mr. Moss says the appeal of Ms. Jongstra's work is that each piece is a one-off, a product of random series production. It is a quality that is particularly appealing in a technological age, Mr. Moss believes, because Ms. Jongstra's special rubbing machine duplicates "technology while reintroducing the hand."

    Despite increasing demand for her work, Ms. Jongstra wants to control her company's output "so we can give the work our own handwriting," she said. Besides, her small flock - mostly Drenthe Heath sheep with rougher wool, and six soft and fluffy Schoonebeeks - is limited.

    With limited production and handcrafting, the Maharam line, which is made entirely in Spannum from Ms. Jongstra's sheep, won't be sold by the yard. The individual pieces, called hides, measure about 4 feet by 8 feet, and will sell at retail for about $4,000 each. Shifting to factory production of her felts was out of the question, Mr. Maharam said, because that would "sap all the life from it."


    I'm gonna try to link to the photo, but it might not work:


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  3. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    denver, colorado
    I definitely think it's a good idea to share this type of thing... it's inspiring!

    Jongstra seems awesome - I'd love to see some of her work, do you have any links or pictures of her finished felts? I'll try googling her name. Thanks for the article and if you see more, do post or link.


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