Fabric, Architecture and Felt – a softening of space



Over the last few years a lack of studio space and technical resources has meant that I have been producing small textile samples.  Now, with the opportunity to produce textiles on a larger scale I have started to consider how big could my work be?  Why limit myself? Subsequently, I have started to investigate textiles designed specifically for large spaces, public and private.  What attracts me to the notion of making large-scale pieces is the opportunity to bring something theatrical to a space as well as creating an interior texture.

I have started to consider how textiles on a vast scale could soften a space, offer a sense of movement and tactility.  There are many contemporary textile designers who have been commissioned to provide these elements to public spaces.  I am particularly captivated by Dutch designer Claudy Jongstra 

Public Library felt wall, Amsterdam.


To me this felt wall is like a fabric intervention, it defines the space and is the accent that draws your focus. I actually have an emotional reaction to this work.  It’s so surprising to see wool in what could be considered as a harsh environment – i.e. the clean, geometric lines of the building. I really love that combination of a  sophisticated modern interior teamed with this ancient material.  Felt has such resonance as the 1st fabric humans created.   I’m interested in the way that the textile has become the wall rather than just being draped. The way the felt appears to be alive. As Lisa White comments in her piece for Interview View magazine “the felt fabrics seem to come straight from the back of the beast, others are worked with a finesse that makes them a statement in raw elegance”

How brilliant to be able to climb the stairs of the library and touch the wall at the same time. Will people do that?  Will the wall survive or end up in tatters?  


wall close-up



The wool Jongstra uses comes from her own herd of 200 sheep – a Dutch rare breed. She dyes the wool with natural plant dyes also grown by herself in her own herbarium.  So not only has she created stunning designs but she also has created a holistic and sustainable way of working.  

Here are some more examples of her work because I admire it so much

Felt wall, private house in Amersfoort, NL


It might be important to say at this point that I spent much of the last year making felt. I do enjoy the process, it’s extremely ‘earthy’ and satsifying to construct your own fabric.  I am now considering whether I want to re-visit it as a material.

and here Jongstra has created feather-light felt curtains:

Felt curtains


Another designer who works with felt, but in a very different way is Anne Kyyro Quinn.

Manipulated felt wall, office in Hanover Square, London


In the book ‘Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge” by Bradley Quinn, Kyyro Quinn states:

‘working in an architectural way enables me to take natural fabrics in new directions, it’s so exciting when you discover how much more they can do’

For her felt created warmer and intimate environments while absorbing sound as well.  She has taken a traditional material and transformed into a product of the now.

Another Dutch designer, Petra Blaisse, works with architects and urban planners to create site-specific pieces.  Bradley Quinn [Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge] describes the work of Blaisse’s studio,Inside Outside, “their implementations have been described as ‘warm’, elegant’ ‘sensual’ and ‘female’ – a direct contrast to descriptions such as ‘static’, ‘male’ or even ‘cold’ that often characterize contemporary architecture. Her works are not intended to make architecture more feminine but to introduce soft forms that harmonize with the architect’s ambition to make buildings more fluid, labile and interactive.”


Hand-tied curtain, Casa de musica petra, Porto, Portugal


[This picture isn’t really doing justice of the work. This is a detail of a project for the Casa de Musica in Porto by architect Rem Koolhas. Blaisse was commissioned to provide the music hall with filtering curtains. They are constructed using torn pieces of voile in 4in bands which are then handtied to string netting.]

While Blaisse states: ‘Textiles can connect many forms of human experience therefore they have emotional and cultural significance for almost everyone today. Time, fashions and environments create experiences, while textiles represent a global language of memory and emotions. These sensations are amplified by our textiles; because they are often large scale, they augment their effects. The textiles make almost everyone want to touch, smell and feel the fabrics, irrespective of their nationality, ethnic background or age.. Apart from factors such as acoustics, lighting and climatic control, our curtains, carpets and wall- and ceiling-finishes play a part in the experience of a room, consciously and sucbconsciously, physically and psychologically’.

The notions that these designers are exploring – interactivity, softening of space, creating warmer more inviting spaces – are things which resonate with me and which I wish to explore in my work. I am not certain how you position yourself as a designer of large scale work but it’s an area I need to explore.


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