Exhibition Review: Fashioning Felt

My colleague, Jennifer Holley (formerly of the Brooklyn Museum was kind enough to write an exhibition review for WT of  “Fashioning Felt” (on view through September 7, 2009). Jennifer has a good deal (and variety) of experience at institutions including not only the Brooklyn Museum, but also at the FIDM Museum in los Angeles, The FIDM Library in San Francisco, as well as at Conde Naste and F.I.T. And now, on to her review:

Recently, I made the trip from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side to the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum to have a private tour of Fashioning Felt, led by Sarah Scaturro, Textile Conservator at the museum. Organized and curated by Susan Brown, the Assistant Curator of Textiles, the exhibit shows the versatility of handmade and industrial felt.

Located on the main floor, the show fills two rooms, a hallway and the Conservatory. The objects filling the space range from furniture, to jewelry, carpets, and clothes. A simple fabric made from applying heat and pressure, it is mind boggling what the designers have been able to produce. From the humble Mongolian carpet to the technological chair or felt wall, the exhibition shows the wide variety of the fabric and its many uses. Perhaps one of my favorite pieces is this felt chair, by Louise Campbell, which has been dipped, hardening the flexible felt fabric, making it suitable for living room furniture. I am still somewhat skeptical that this modern arts and crafts piece is sturdy enough for heavy lounging, but I was assured that it could hold a maximum amount of weight.

Designed by Louise Campbell (Danish, b. 1970), manufactured by Hay Denmark. Designed 2001, launched 2005

As for fashion, designers such as Christine Birkle, Andrea Zittel and Yeohlee Tang have been chosen. Each works with the fabric in a different way, creating a completely different look, as you can see in the pictures below.

Designed by Christine Birkle. Manufactured by Hut Up. Germany, Winter 2007-2008. Wool and cotton

Designed by Yeohlee Tang. USA, Fall, 2007. Wool

Designed and made by Andrea Zittel. USA, 2002. Wool and two metal skirt pins

While the fashion, jewelry, carpets, couches and chairs were all individually beautiful, my favorite place was the Conservatory, which has been masked in felt creations by the designer Janice Arnold, creating her interpretation of the Palace Yurt, which you can see in this video. Unlike any other area in the exhibit, here you are allowed to sit on felt cushions and actually touch the felt hangings. A tranquil and serene room, it is hard to leave, as the sun peers through the wool felted with silk, and the outside garden sounds are muffled by the density of the fabric.

The show closes with three videos, demonstrating the different production methods. I was amazed by the Mongolians, as they sheered the sheep, laid out the wool, wet it, rolled it and then had a camel drag the roll across the field to apply the needed pressure. While I thought the carpets to be breathtaking before, seeing the elaborate process only enhaced their beauty and worth. An example of the final product of this ancient process can be seen in the image below.

Made by the Uzbek people, northern Afghanistan, mid 20th century

Hopefully this show will travel after it closes on September 7, 2009 so more can enjoy the wonders of felt! Be sure to take a look at the blog as well for more videos and insider information on Fashioning Felt.

Thanks to Jennifer for this great review. Also note, that Amazon will be carrying the book.

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  • Worn Through » Review: Model As Muse
    July 15, 2009 - 10:53 am

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