Marcel Wanders


Today I’m pondering what Marcel Wanders has to say about the ‘new’.  

designers have: “..shown ourselves to be revolutionary, we try to be evolutionary. Durability has always been key in my wor, and I believe that the ecological challenges that face us today are psychological. If people don’t like something, they throw it away becuase it doesn’t satisfy their need for newness any more., this is because we have made the new so important in our culture. We must start to make the old as valuable as the new in the popular imagination.”  [1000 Interior details for the home, ed by Ian and Geraldine Rudge]

How do we do this??

 – he’s the architect of the Openbare Bibliohteek Amsterdam where Claudy Jongstra’s felt wall is.

Jo Coenen Interview

and his website

A selection of links to people and organisations.

Kate Fletcher

Design studio and consultancy for ecologically sustainable fashion and textiles.

Sustainable Textiles article

Eco Textile News

ICIS Resources

Textiles Environment Design – research at Chelsea School of Art. Great website full of resources and facts.

Just discovered that the Droog Design collective did a Go Slow demonstration at the 2004 International Furniture Fair in Milan.  

Most things seem to be pointing towards the Netherlands at the moment..I feel a research trip coming on…

Visited the Taking Time: Craft and The Slow Revolution exhibition at Birmingham Art Gallery 2.1.10.  

Exhibit: Rebecca Earley, Transfer Printed shirt, Top 100 Project


The introduction to the exhibition in the catalogue reads as follows:

the exhibition ‘considers how contemporary craft making practices embrace similar values and philosophies to those supported by the Slow Movement. Both think through where things are made and by whom and engage in ideas of provenance – being immersed in a rich narrative of human experience. Asking us to slow down, perhaps not literally but certainly philosophically, and to reflect on other and perhaps more thoughtful ways of doing things.’ 

I think the reason why I am drawn to the Slow Design/Craft revolution is because I’m aware that we’re living in a time when there is increasing debate about our current lifestyles becoming unsustainable in economic and environmental terms. Perhaps through the work that I create I can contribute to a wave of new thought around making and design.  I’m not keen on labels or pigeon-holing myself but I can’t ignore the concerns I have about what kind of designer I want to be.  So I guess I’m searching for my own code of ethics that I can use to anchor my practice. One thing is clear for me, I’m not a luddite! I don’t want to project an anti-machine stance. I am not attempting to return to a medieval style of working.  

This is my attempt to map out how the Slow Movement philosophy might apply to what I’m doing and intend to do.

Is time important? Does slow mean better?  This is one of the questions raised on the exhibition blog. Is work created over time more successful, allowing the ideas to ferment and be perfected?  Yes I believe so. I am not literally a slow worker. I’m actually a fast worker and I like to produce a lot work, it’s the way I work through ideas.  

Provenance/traceability – this I think is important and interesting.  If I produce a roll of upholstery fabric, I would like it’s manufacturing history to be transparent. The source of the fibre etc.. it feels important to create a practice that feels local?  Perhaps even working with local fibre suppliers e.g. wool

Sustainability – using where possible sustainable fabrics and materials.

Handcrafted – perhaps there will be a handcrafted element to the work.  Perhaps there will be limited editions with an emphasis on creating heirlooms rather than throw-away furnishings.


'Plight' by Joseph Beuys, 1985


It’s impossible to explore designers using felt in architectural contexts without discussing Joseph Beuys.  In the book ‘Filz, Arts, Crafts and Design’ ed Katharina Thomas states:

one might be tempted to ask whether the rediscovery of a material which long before Joseph Beuys declared it a symbol of warmth, life, cosiness and security has anything to do with the increasing coldness that is seeping into our social fabric.’   

In an interview conducted by William Furlong on the occasion of the ‘Plight’ exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay gallery, Joseph Beuys explains how the installation came about. If you click on this link you will be taken to the full transcript.

It all started as a joke, being related to the difficulties that the gallery was in when the very noisy reconstruction of the building behind Anthony’s wall was taking place. The reconstruction of buildings close by will remain for the near future. Anthony, who was despairing, asked me if it would not be better to go away from this place. I told him that I did not think that was necessary and I said, you have to stand it for a while. The place is good and the connections from this gallery to the other galleries are okay so there is no reason to move just because there is a noise for, say, two years perhaps. So then I made a joke and said I can easily make a kind of muffling sculpture. I had the idea of a muffling sculpture with felt and also to make it as a big exhibition – that was a joke. Then we forgot about it and didn’t speak of it any more. Then only three weeks before I received a letter from Judy Adam, Anthony’s assistant, and she mentioned earnestly that it would be interesting to make a third installation with this kind of meaning – insulation from outside influences such as danger, noise, or temperature or whatever. Then I decided to make this piece, so I developed this kind of installation…..The show includes my most beloved and most powerful material, that is felt.’

he goes on to explain the effect of being in the space:

“You have a kind of acoustic effect, because everything is muffled down. Then there is the effect of warmness. As soon as there are more than twenty people in the room the temperature will rise immediately. Then there is the sound as an element muffling away the noise and the sound. So this concert hall – I could also call it a concert hall – muffles down the sounds almost to zero. And to express this the grand piano is inside with a score on it. There are lines for notations on this blackboard but there are no notes. There is nothing on it, and instead of this there is a fever thermometer on it to stress that the warm quality is the most important quality for me and is a very important criterion for the quality of sculpture. One person will feel more this kind of accommodation of warmth and other people will find it sucks away the sound. Other people will feel, let’s say, even becoming oppressed, because there is also a negative aspect in the original idea and isolation. The negative side is the padded cell, which is a kind of torture thing.”


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.

Came across this article online today – Interiors Built to Last. The article is all about the Slow Movement in terms of furniture and interior decoration.