Friday, February 27, 2009

Felted Wool Sculptures - Stephanie Metz

Needle felting is mostly a craft making technique; a smaller scale of how industrial wool felt is produced. In industrial production thousands of felting needles mat wool into a flat, uniform and dense fabric. This same technique can be done by hand with one needle creating diferent forms or three-dimensional objects. The technique is labourious and usually one where you are sure to get your fingers pinned over and over by the felting needles which are long, barbed and extremely sharp as to allow the fibers to mix and bond.

Felted Wool sculptures made by needle felting is the latest work of Stephanie Metz, a northern bay californian artist. Her skill at this technique stems out of a talent that has been worked out and developed by practice. Different media have been approached in her training and experience; printmaking, painting (fossil studies, landscape, citylandscape), figure drawing and sculpture.

Teddy Bear Natural History, Overbred Animals and Animal Studies are the titles of these Felted Wool series of works. A certain death smell is presented yet the nature of the material makes it ambigious and contradictory; the senses and the mind get puzzled while confronted with these cozie aberrations of nature.

Danger, mutations and overbreed animals along with teddy bear skulls are portrayed in Metz´s anatomical studies. Wool itself a natural fiber grown from sheep holds some of the mystery of this uneasiness; as abnormal or deformed fauna are created out of animal hair and not a petrified material like marble, stone or bronce. Solid yet pourous and slightly furry these figurative and realistic representations appear as classic anatomical studies and traditional sculptures that while preserving some of the correct proportions and beauty notions challenge those same notions by presenting them in abnormal transformations of excess or lack.

Teddy Bear Natural History confronts the image of childhood and death. Death itself can be played with and understood of as a natural process present even in the imaginary life of a stuffed toy. This particular work shares some lines along with the current japanese boom of deathly but cute dolls and toys but also brings out a relationship with the stuffed animals kept for conservation in museums, getting them so close as to bring out a sense of uneasiness with the teddy bear toys used in everyday life by kids; deprived of their own cycles and treated as petrified animals for play presenting themselves as normality, security and immortality. Metz presents them as bones; the end of their life cycle as petrified stuffed creatures.

While appealing to the senses the pieces confront your tactile instict with the realization of the subjects as freak, awkard and contrary to life. Whether abnormal cycles of nature or genetic mutations produced synthethically one is confronted with natures order of things shifted and therefore our own order of things along with our role and participation within nature.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

HIROCOLEDGE by Takahashi Hiroko + Interview A New Tradition that Blends into Modern Times by PingMag

"HIROCOLEDGE is a product brand directed by an artist, Takahashi Hiroko."
Kimonos one of the most traditional japanesse garments which is still commonly used. For Hiroko her approach intends to bridge with tradtion as a starting point; from a culture which is important to notice she belongs to and she grew up with. "The beginning of a new tradition", she states were kimonos since ancient times have had as signature of patterns, be they sewn, embroidered or dyed. By learning clothing and dyeing techniques, Hiroko developed her product brand.
New patterns; circles and dots, all graphic and with a pop look in them. The graphic approach for Hiroko is where she found the possibility of actualizing a design already embeded in the japanese culture for more than a hundred years. She calls it a meeting point where the Japan that she lives today, present-day meets Japan in the past while launching itself to the future; this she calls it her main strength. The ability to stamp her art work with an actual signature. The importance of tradition in her work is carefully balanced and most respect to the traditional techniques and craftsmen that have left this legacy is accounted for making her work come out of history and not detached from it.

HIROCOLEDGE: A New Tradition that Blends into Modern Times by PingMag

I know that you are involved in diverse creative
activities, but what exactly do you define your title as?

At the moment, I call myself an “artist” so that people can perceive me in a broader and freer sense, but to be honest, I haven’t been able to find a title that is right for me. I don’t differentiate my works of art and products as separate things; I approach them equally as different means of conveying my message.
So tell us about your brand, HIROCOLEDGE.

I see HIROCOLEDGE as an artistic activity. I want people to touch, feel, and enjoy works of art just as they do with products. I suppose they are both means of conveying the backgrounds of making things.

Items from HIROCOLEDGE have particularly striking modernistic patterns, but is there anything you are particular about when it comes to the patterns?

As you may know, there are patterns that were created especially for Yuzen dyeing, so in the old days unique Japanese patterns must have developed hand in hand with the craftsmanship. But even though dyeing skills have evolved, the development of patterns has stopped. I suppose the fact that the kimono is no longer the everyday wear of Japanese people is part of the reason, but in nature, I feel that patterns that reflect the era should continue to evolve together with the skills. At the moment, I am challenging myself by seeing how much originality I can express with the minimum elements of black and white, circles and straight lines, and the shape of the traditional kimono. In this era of expressions with freedom, I’m making it a point to limit the available elements, and aiming to make things in a lean way that reflects the times. Because it’s a flat garment with large surface area, there should be lots of things I can do with it.

That’s a wonderful aspiration. I hear that you frequently visit many regional factories. What is your opinion on the materials and manufacturing skills?

Regarding the materials and skills, I think there are things that you can change, things that you cannot change, and things that you mustn’t change, but I always consult my craftsmen during the process. When I draw an initial rough sketch, I first show it to them, and then we consider the available options together. Design comes after that, but it’s not unusual to be told, “I think we can do it, but I’ve never done it before.” However, challenges might lead to a new step, so I do make tough requests to the craftsmen from time to time.

Can you give us an example of a work that was born out of the challenge and the efforts of the craftsmen?

I once designed a Nishijin obi in simple black and white, but weaving usually causes the colors of the crossing threads to blend into each other. So it was extremely difficult to show pure black and pristine white, but the craftsman kindly stopped all his other work and spent almost 3 months experimenting with techniques, and the obi was completed after much trial and error. When it was finished, I heard that many people in Nishijin came to have a look at it, which was unprecedented at the time.

The craftsman must have been happy with his new discovery too.

Yes, the sense of accomplishment was especially big for both of us, so there is a special attachment to it. The craftsman is really happy whenever this obi is introduced at various occasions.

Incidentally, the movement of rediscovering Japanese traditions and bringing them back in a new form is increasing considerably. How do you feel about such trends from an objective point of view?

Personally, I am also included in such trends, but I find that breaking down fixed concepts while preserving the areas that shouldn’t be changed is an extremely important thing. For example, I often see collaborations by students and traditional craftsmen, but the works produced from there seem to be heavily influenced by classical patterns. By that I mean that many people are too influenced by the past; it seems like they are mired in it.

I don’t exactly feel that my design is consciously Japanese, but I’m really happy whenever foreign people who look at my work say that my pattern is Japanese, because I think it’s natural that a pattern made by a Japanese artist should feel Japanese. That’s perhaps why some people say that my kimonos blend naturally into the modernistic spaces of today’s Japan.

I feel that today’s design is expected to provide substance. If you become too conscious of the superficial elements in your pursuit for a Japanese design, then it often becomes an awkward design. But if you have a better understanding of the roots of manufacturing and the backgrounds of how that item came to be born, then it should give you a different picture. I think Japanese items that fit into these modern times will then be created more naturally.
And finally, what is the message that you are trying to convey through HIROCOLEDGE?

I want to make things in such a way that everyone involved in the item, including the people making it and the people using it, will all be happy. There is an underlying presence of history, skills, craftsmanship, and tools for everything, but it’s naturally quite difficult to sense such things. And if you think about the global environment, now is an era where unnecessary things shouldn’t be produced at all. That’s why as a creator I want to convey such messages, while cherishing the process at the same time. And by sensing such things, I think the feeling of treasuring something will come to the user too. But that doesn’t mean that the background of making things is the sole paramount factor either. After all, the impact of the appearance is crucial, as it won’t even be picked up if it can’t attract people’s attention. Because we live in an era with a lot of products, I want to make things that would make people want to pass it down to others in the future.

Designer of HIROCOLEDGE, Hiroko Takahashi.

With so much passion for your creative activity, you must have a great relationship with your craftsmen.

Yes, many of the craftsmen that I work with come from the same generation. They have great skills as professionals, but compared to older craftsmen approaching their 80s they still lack in experience. But young craftsmen kindly feel that we are going to grow together. I share the same feeling, and hope to increase our experiences together.

Hiroko, thank you very much for your time today. We look forward to seeing your collaborative partnership with the craftsmen give birth to many more wonderful Japanese works!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Miyake and Japanese Tradition

By Alan Kennedy a specialist in historic Asian costume and textiles.

What is Japanese in Miyake's work, and why has its "Eastern" component been so well received in the West? The designer understands and appreciates the strengths of Japan's traditions, and is equally aware of how and when to translate that knowledge beyond Japan' borders. The pervasiveness of indigo, for instance, in traditional Japanese folk dress and textiles served as an influence in Miyake's earliest clothing collections. The blue of our ubiquitous blue jeans was originally derived from the same dye source.

In its outlines, the T-shaped kimono can be called an elongated forerunner of our T-shirt. It is simple in construction, being formed of rectangular sections of cloth sewn side to side, which make up the sleeves and body of the garment. In his early handkerchief dresses (1970) Miyake did the same, but instead shifted the orientation of the seams from the vertical to the diagonal.

The relationship between the wearer's body and the traditional kimono is another reference that can be seen in much of Miyake's clothing. Unlike occidental dress, which tends to follow the body's contours through the use of bias cutting, padding and an overall tight fit, the kimono disguises the body's specific shape, and instead suggests the body's movements in the way the voluminous sleeves sway and the long trailing hem sweeps as the wearer moves. Miyake's clothes, which have also been worn by dancers in performances, do not usually hug the body, but move with it in interesting ways.

Because the cut of the kimono is so simple, Japanese textile artisans and designers focused their attention on the fabric itself and its surface decoration. The weight and texture of the cloth used for kimono conveys a wide range of tactile and visual sensations. The designs created by dyeing, weaving, embroidery and applied metal foils can be startling in their dynamic and asymmetric patterning.

An understanding of textile fibers, both natural and synthetic, and of fabrics, both handwoven and traditionally dyed, as well as high-tech textiles that are not woven at all, is one of the most remarkable aspects of Miyake's work. Multi-directional pleating, garments encased in metallic skins, multicolored feltlike clothing "collaged" together from irregularly shaped pieces of cloth, and dresses with large sections that are selectively shrunk represent some of the textile-conscious directions that Miyake has taken in recent years.

A Miyake design doesn't correspond to a particular fashion season, current look or social tendency. His clothes are difficult to put in any chronological order by those who are unfamiliar with his work. One of the more refreshing aspects of Issey Miyake as a fashion designer (a designation he dislikes) is that he does not participate in the seasonal trends involving the selective exposure, exaggeration, or emphasis of a particular part of the female anatomy. This is not to imply that bare skin and transparency are absent from his design vocabulary, but rather that such factors do not drive his design statements. Many of his clothes (as is the case with the kimono) can be worn by women of all ages, shapes and sizes.

The distinction between art and design was not relevant in traditional Japan. Painters worked on kimono, textile designers might also be potters. A hierarchy of fine and applied arts did not exist. An event such as the tea ceremony included a single painting or calligraphic work, ceramics as tea bowls, textiles as wrappers for tea utensils, a flower arrangement and specially-made edibles, all set in a carefully designed space. Perhaps it is this approach that facilitates Miyake's collaborations with artists and his periodic appearances in art museums.;col1

by Louise Mitchell, Curator, International Decorative Arts and Design

Issey Miyake (born 1938), whose name is perhaps the most well known in the west, established the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo in 1970 after serving an apprenticeship in Europe and New York. Along with his interest in utilising aspects of Japanese folk culture and traditional textiles, Miyake’s preoccupation during the 1970s was the development of a garment that was reduced to its simplest elements. Drawing on the tradition of the kimono he produced garments he called ‘a piece of cloth’ (A-POC), which were, essentially, square or rectangular in shape with sleeves attached, garments that could be wrapped and draped around the body.

Over the years, Miyake has collaborated with weavers, artists and poets, choreographers and photographers as part of his exploration of what clothes can do and be made from. In the mid 1980s he staged a series of exhibitions aimed at exploring the relationship between the body’s form and the garment. Entitled Bodyworks, the exhibition contained installations of moulded plastic bustiers (a corset-like garment) with sci-fi connotations, and rattan and bamboo bustiers reminiscent of samurai armour. While these sculptural creations were more at home in a museum or art gallery, Miyake’s innovative pleated clothes, developed in the 1990s, have realised his aim of creating practical, modern clothes that are beyond trends. Similarly, his current preoccupation, A-POC, a long tube of stretch fabric that doesn’t require any sewing and is cut by the customer without wasting any material, shows an ongoing commitment to progressive design.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Berlin; Katja Hettler, industrial designer and Jula Tullman, architect founded redmaloo.
Redmaloo developed after Hettler and Tullman won an award for a foldable laptop sleeve inspired in the japanese kimonos.

At first they used kimono fabrics printed in japanese motifs, but when red maloo came to life the fabric was changed to colorful 3 mm felt. With this change of material the concept became stronger without the need of the printed japanese patterns as reference or even the kimono, the design works and felt allowed much more simplicity which was probably also embeded in the original idea.

The images look like graphics or plans but with extreme simplicity. There is nothing to add or nothing to remove. They strive for being "minimal, traditional and modern at the same time".

The modern German meets traditional Japan in an object made out with the minimum processes; minimal cutting and sewing.
Lets say with reserve that this meeting is not very deep and more or less quite formal, like a marketing slogan or and aesthetic catchy phrase.

The unfolding of your computer might become a whole ritual in itself, the unwrapping of a present.
But more than the Japan reference the design works; making one forget if there is somehow something deeper in the reference of the kimono, as wearing one, or getting dress in one as this might mean something completely different from wrapping your computer for practical and aesthetical reasons. However it would be interesting to deepen the differences between the ritual in wrapping your body, with that of wrapping your tools or even the extension of yourself which is your Apple computer. As for the modern and the handmade, some will complain the handmade cannot be modern (read previous entries on modernism) or is it just an aesthetic statement without substance?

The laptop sleeves are beautiful and well solved as the design makes the most of the qualities of the material.

There are other accesories; all for the different Apple gadgets and they match perfectly well the Apple aesthetic. Colors, simplicity, functionality, clean. I would say they got inspiration from Apple more than from kimonos. The iphone cases are not that interesting but they still are colorful.
Also would like to know what maloo means if something?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Angelika Klose Hats

Angelika´s hats are constructed from flat materials a difference from those formed in the traditional way of hat making.

Her range of materials is varied from fabrics, ribbons or cords made from cotton, silk, wool, sinamay, plastic, fake fur and woven steel thread.

Experimentation with the materials, as well as skill and respect for the craft make her work have a unique quality. Her designs and solutions are multiple, beautiful and very honest; letting the material speak for itself.

From the small quantities to the one off a kind pieces. Klose´s hats are simple, yet the designs are smart, intuitive and without excess.

Each hat embodies an untold story; it unfolds, maybe in imaginary tales.

Angelika Klose, was born in Germany, works in the UK and has been making costumes for the last five years for the Shakespear Festival at the Rosenburg Castle in Austria.

excerpt from Making a Slow Revolution

taking time: craft and the Slow Movement - Project Summary taken from

Slowness is also associated with craft skills: skill which is acquired over time, cannot be rushed and is intuitively learned. Many makers today aredeveloping critical positions in response to our consumer behaviour; questioning modes of production through new processes, looking at issues of stewardship and sustainability, as well ascollective making and reworking everyday objects.

Craftspace is collaborating with the maker and academic Helen Carnac to develop the research, exhibition and its related events programme.

Check the blog at to join in with the latest discussions about what SLOW means in current society. Also keep checking to see the latest podcasts from Russell Martin’s ‘Analogue’ project, which will explore people’s reactions to SLOW.

The slow movement is a cultural shift towards slowing down life’s pace. It is not organised and controlled by a singular organisation. A principal characteristic of the Slow Movement is that is propounded, and its momentum maintained, by individuals that constitute the expanding community of Slow.


An Ongoing Conversation between Andy Horn and Helen Carnac

The review emphasises that the debate about the nature of production and of consumption continues to be central to the identity and discussion of craft. It is its very unresolved state that provides an opportunity to continue to debate its many arguments and positions, and in the context of our project and blog, enables us to provide a mirror to wider national and global concerns about the changing nature of society, consumerism, sustainability and the competition of cheap skilled production and design and to which the slow movement is one response. It is surprising how long the shadow of William Morris – referenced in the article – falls.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Claudia Schulz Hats

Felt has been used forever to make hats, as it can be molded and shaped by using moisture, heat and pressure; nothing new in the horizon.

The mad hatter we see, we would like a little madder, a little bolder.

Black Clutch Bag & Hat stands out from the rest of the work, maybe so as it is a bag and not a hat and an interesting piece that makes the most of the material and also can be used as a hat.

Schulz inspiration was taken from the 20´s she states, the designs get overcrowded with ornaments and buttons, yet the formula remains mostly unchanged (except in Robin and Black Clutch Bag & Hat)

The shape is beautiful and its the most simple one, for Schulz
it is the contour or profile of the pieces where the hatter tries to make the difference. Though not completeley sure that is enough.

The connection with the material and the historical connection is unknown. Is it just a matter of shape and form? then our answers are incomplete and our project a mere formal exercise.

The Robyn hat an interesting piece yet conventional, the craft is all but fine but the details could improve the quality of the whole.

As for the reference well Robin Hood is a legend that can be found as early as the 15th or 16th century so bit to early for the 20´s; unless its Douglas Fairbanks, in which case why not Dártagnan.

Images work even if the design or the concept is not that strong. Attitude is there. And well, one needs attitude in order to wear a hat.

On Felt


Most fabrics are woven, meaning they are constructed on a loom and have interlocking warp (the thread or fiber that is strung lengthwise on the loom) and weft (the thread that cuts across the warp fiber andinterlocks with it) fibers that create a flat piece of fabric. Felt is a dense, non-woven fabric and without any warp or weft. Instead, felted fabric is made from matted and compressed fibers or fur with no apparent system of threads. Felt is produced as these fibers and/or fur are pressed together using heat, moisture, and pressure. Felt is generally composed of wool that is mixed with a synthetic in order to create sturdy, resilient felt for craft or industrial use. However, some felt is made wholly from synthetic fibers.

Felt may vary in width, length, color, or thickness depending on its intended application. This matted material is particularly useful for padding and lining as it is dense and can be very thick. Furthermore, since the fabric is not woven the edges may be cut without fear of threads becoming loose and the fiber unraveling. Felted fibers generally take dye well and craft felt is available in a multitude of colors while industrial-grade felt is generally left in its natural state. In fact, felt is used in a wide variety of applications both within the residential and industrial contexts. Felt is used in air fresheners, children's bulletin boards, craft kits, holiday costumes and decorations, stamp pads, within appliances, gaskets, as a clothing stiffener or liner, and it can be used as a cushion, to provide pads for polishing apparatus, or as a sealant in industrial machinery.


Felt may be the oldest fabric known to man, and there are many references to felt in ancient writings. Since felt is not woven and does not require a loom for its production, ancient man made it rather easily. Some of the earliest felt remains were found in the frozen tombs of nomadic horsemen in the Siberian Tlai mountains and date to around 700 B.C. These tribes made clothing, saddles, and tents from felt because it was strong and resistant to wet and snowy weather. Legend has it that during the Middle Ages St. Clement, who was to become the fourth bishop of Rome, was a wandering monk who happened upon the process of making felt by accident. It is said he stuffed his sandals with tow (shortflax or linen fibers) in order to make them more comfortable. St. Clement discovered that the combination of moisture from perspiration and ground dampness coupled with pressure from his feet matted these tow fibers together and produced a cloth. After becoming bishop he set up groups of workers to develop felting operations. St. Clement became the patron saint for hat makers, who extensively utilize felt to this day.

Today, hats are associated with felt, but it is generally presumed that all felt is made of wool. Originally, early hat-making felt was produced using animal fur (generally beaver fur). The fur was matted with other fibers—including wool—using heat, pressure, and moisture. The finest hats were of beaver, and men's fine hats were often referred to as beavers. Beaver felt hats were made in the late Middle Ages and were much coveted. However, by the end of the fourteenth century many hat makers produced them in the Low Countries thus driving down the price.

The North American continent was home to many of the beaver skins used in European hat makers' creations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. North American Indians' second-hand skins,replete with perspiration, felted most successfully and were in extraordinary demand for hat making in both the New and Old Worlds. The beaver hat was surpassed in popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century by the black silk hat, sometimes finished to resemble beaver and referred to as beaver-finished silk.

The steps included in making felt have changed little over time. Felted fabric is produced using heat, moisture, and pressure to mat and interlock the fibers. In the Middle Ages the hat maker separated the fur from the hide by hand and applied pressure and warm water to the fabric to shrink it manually. While machinery is used today to accomplish many of these tasks, the processing requirements remain unchanged. One exception is that until the late nineteenth century mercury was used in the processing of felt for hat making. Mercury was discovered to have debilitating effects on the hatter causing a type of poisoning that led to tremors, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms. The term mad hatter is associated with the hat maker because of the psychosis that stemmed from the mercury poisoning. Hats of wool felt remain quite popular and are primarily worn in the winter months.

The use of felt has enlarged over the past century. Crafts enthusiasts use it for all types of projects. Many teachers find it to be an easy fabric for children to handle because once it is cut the edges do notunravel as do woven fabrics. Industrial applications for felt have burgeoned, and felt is found in cars as well as production machinery.

Raw Materials

Felt is produced from wool, which grips and mats easily, and a synthetic fiber that gives the felt someresilience and longevity. Typical fiber combinations for felt include wool and polyester or wool andnylon. Synthetics cannot be turned into felt by themselves but can be felted if they combine with wool.

Other raw materials used in the production of wool include steam, utilized during the stage in which the material is reduced in width and length and made thicker. Also, a weak sulfuric acid mixture is used in the thickening process. Soda ash (sodium chloride) is utilized to neutralize the sulfuric acid.

The Manufacturing


1. Since some felts use more than one type of fiber, the fibers must be mixed and blended together before any processing begins. To do this, the raw fibers are put into an opener with a big cylinder studded with steel nails that combine the fibers into a mass.
2. Next, these blended fibers must be carded. Carding machines are huge cylinders that mat the fibers into a web. Hopper-feeders allow a specific weight of fiber to pass into the cylinder in order to create a standardized web. The fibers in the web are pulled by the wires, or carded, so that they are parallel to one another.
3. Generally, at least two carding machines are used in the manufacturing process, each refining the web as it creates a new one. A transporter moves one web from the first carding machine to a second. The web is then fed into the second machine. This second carder generates a new web that is thicker and fully carded.
4. At the end of the second carding, a comb removes the carded web from the machine and rolls it up. There are two ways to remove the web from the machine: a cross-lapper may be used in which the web is perpendicularly rolled up, or across the direction of the fibers; or a vlamir may be utilized, in which the web is rolled parallel to the direction of the fibers.
5. Next, several different webs are combined to create one thick web. Four rolls of web are rolled up but are layered so that their fibers alternate in direction based on the way the webs were rolled, either cross-lapped or rolled using a vlamir. These four rolls are considered a standard single roll, sometimes referred to as a batt. This batt is considered a standard roll of material. Batts are layered in order to create different thicknesses of felt.
6. The batts of felted material must be hardened or matted together in order to create thick, densely-felted material. The first step in this process is subjecting the batts to heat and moisture. In order to do so, the batts are passed through a steam table.
7. Now, the separate batts must be matted together and shrunk in length and width in order to create a dense felt. These batts must be subjected to heat, moisture, and pressure in order to be matted densely. First, the wetted batts are fed into a plate-hardener that shrinks the width of the fabric. The plate-hardener consists of a large, square flat bed with a large plate that drops down over the batts of wet, hot batts, exerting pressure on the material and compressing it. At the same time, the plate-hardener oscillates from edge to edge, further matting the fiber to a specific width.
8. Next, the batts are fed into a fuller or fulling machine, which shrinks the length to a specific measurement. As it shrinks, the felt becomes more dense. The batts are fed through a set of upper and lower steel rollers that are covered with hard rubber or plastic and are molded with treads much like a car tire, enabling them to move across the batts. The felt is continuously wetted with a hot water and sulfuric-acid solution. The upper rollers remain stationary as the lower rollers are moved upwards to put pressure on the fabric and push it against the upper rollers. All of the rollers, both upper and lower, move together forward and backward. The pressure, the acid, the hot water, and the movement causes the batts to shrink in length, making the felt even more dense. For example, a single piece of felt that is 38 yd (34.7 m) long may come out of the fuller at only 30 yd (27.4 m) in length.
9. The wet felt has sulfuric acid residue and must be neutralized. To do so, the felt is run through neutralizing tanks filled with a soda ash and warm water solution. This process is carefully timed so that specific yard lengths and widths are in for an exact amount of time.
10. The neutralized felt is then run through a re fulling machine in which heavy rollers run over the surface of the fabric one last time to smooth out any irregularities.
11. If felts are to be dyed, the wet pieces are taken to a dye vat. Some industrial grades are not dyed but go directly to drying.
12. Some companies simply roll up the wet felt and send it to a centrifugal dryer that spins out the water. Others have huge dryers in which the felt is pinned in place on a dryer bed. Felt can also be open-air dried by either being hung or stretched out on a floor in a drying room.
13. Once dry, some companies press or iron the felt to ensure consistent thickness. Some manufacturers use this ironing to make dense felts even more dense as ironing can shrink it slightly.
14. The finishing step includes placing the felt on a gaging table in which the edges of the felt are neatly trimmed. The piece is now ready for packing, labeling, and shipping.


felt1 (fĕlt)
1. A fabric of matted, compressed animal fibers, such as wool or fur, sometimes mixed with vegetable or synthetic fibers.
2. A material resembling this fabric.
2. Something made of this fabric.

Made of, relating to, or resembling felt.

v., felt·ed, felt·ing,
1. To make into felt.
2. To cover with felt.
3. To press or mat (something) together.

To become like felt; mat together.

felty felt'y adj.
felt2 (fĕlt)
Past tense and past participle of feel.

Excerpts of Kevin Murray lecture on Object of Labor publication

Taken from

Lecture to the Chicago Institute of Art 3 October 2007 as part of a series associated with the Object of Labor publication by Kevin Murray

. . . Rather than learning to make things ourselves, we have taken the ‘smart' option of outsourcing those specialised tasks to a largely invisible working class in Asia.
. . .

What's left to Western countries like Australia and the US are the information industries, such as design, entertainment and business. These enable much greater interconnectivity than the specialisations required in manufacturing. However, this is only possible in the context of a greater global specialisation whereby whole countries are dedicated to particular kinds of production.
. . .

Collaboration does represent an important frontier of craft production, as western artists and designers are increasingly commissioning work from traditional artisans. This genre of world craft certainly has its dangers, as it lends itself to a kind of exoticism that does not seriously value the contribution of makers. However, world craft does have the potential to sustain traditions and cultures. The challenge now is to strengthen this emergent genre with critical examination. To be sustained beyond fashion it needs to deal with the spectres of primitivism and missionary values. If it can proof itself to be a genuinely liberating practice, then world craft augers well for constructive dialogue between first and third worlds. This will not happen spontaneously. It requires much care and critical self-reflection.

Bruno Latour: We Have Never Been Modern

Taken from written by Robert Cook

We have never been modern is the first of Latour's books that I have read. While familiar with the name, and possessing a working knowledge of where his practice is located – somewhere around and between science studies, the philosophy of science, anthropology and sociology (the indeterminateness of this is, in part, the subject of his book)—he was outside the glamorous mainstream of French thought as it filtered through backwoods like Australia. Given that Latour is mostly antagonistic to what we know as French structural and post-structural philosophy (who he argues, rightly, has been too rigidly focused on the social in isolation from the material), it is no surprise he was not widely popular when our Antipodean embrace of French thinking's meaning over matter shtick was at its apogee. It was, therefore, in the spirit of belated intellectual expansiveness that I tackled this short book. It definitely won't be the last I read of his work.

But when I say tackled , I mean it: it was a struggle; this book was incredibly difficult to read. Ten pages per sitting was more than enough. This was not to do with unnecessarily dense or abstruse prose, but because of the originality (to me) of his argument and its formal structure. Within these pages is evidence of a mind who is re-thinking our orthodox assumptions of modernity and all that goes along with that (and there is so much). And this re-thinking kept gathering mass and momentum like a snowball barreling down an Alpine peak. As such, there were no moments to breathe and take in the view, to recap. Nonetheless, the mass and force of Latour's words—that feels, appropriately, like physics made literary—adds up to a fine rhetorical essay style1. There were times when it felt like it was a highly intellectual version of spoken word poetry. And its velocity was taking me places I hadn't thought possible. That was precisely its difficulty for me, that of so rapidly shedding after the other, the lines of narrative that we in the arts use as lazy shorthand each and every day of our working lives were being turned over and around.

The title is jolt enough: We have never been modern. Latour gets to that radical statement with a reflection on the condition of his own profession – ‘whatever label we use, we are always attempting to retie the Gordian knot by crisscrossing, as often as we have to, the divide that separates exact knowledge and the exercise of power – let us say nature and culture' (Latour 1993: 3). It is a form of science-studies that does more than simply socially contextualise science, or ‘sciencify' social forces. By focusing on the notion of networks, it seeks to move in and out and across all disciplines to discover their interconnectedness. Yet there is something in the way that our modern constitution has been devised that makes this forever difficult: it is because we have separated out nature and culture. The worlds of the laboratory and the worlds of ideology are fundamentally divided. This divide is the basis for our modernity.

To examine this idea, and its historical roots, Latour looks at Shapin and Schaffer's (1985) study of Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle's mid-seventeenth century constructions of science and politics. For verification of what was a scientific fact, Hobbes appealed to a single, abstract, social power, while Boyle appealed to observation of natural events (as fashioned in the lab). This difference was the basis for a split between the social and the natural that formed the base of modernity. Importantly for Latour, Shapin and Schaffer hone in on the significance of Boyle's air-pump apparatus within this separation, noting that social truth is actually indivisible from the material basis of scientific experimentation. From this Latour is able to argue that the separation of nature and culture, is a fiction, that there exist many quasi-objects and hybrids that sit between both, it is just that we have so defined our world as to delimit any real view of them. As he writes: ‘As soon as one outlines the symmetrical space and thereby re-establishes the common understanding that organizes the separation of natural and political powers, one ceases to be modern' (Latour 1993: 13).

The realization of this has many effects, one of which is to allow is for anthropology to ‘come back from the tropics', and start its work on ourselves. It is to see the networks that tie the natural and the cultural together. This is no mere professional border expansionism though. Instead, it is about how we currently live—indifferent to nature (because we are somehow above it), caught in the endgames of post modern disenchantment, and the left-over compulsion to push forward with avant-garde novelties as we wait for the next big thing that will bind us and give our lives and cultural practices meaning.

This is, of course, the most glib of summaries, missing all the compelling nuances of Latour's vision and program. It must stand as shorthand, however, so we can at least touch on the obvious question within this journal: how might Latour's propositions apply to craft? Very, very generally, it could be that by employing a kind of complex anthropology—instead of the usual bright and eager journalistic boosterism that dominates most writing and that fails to consider the real connections between stuff and context—we might start to see how craft functions as a hybrid object between nature and culture. Through this we might determine the ways that craft itself has never been modern, that it has always been at the cusp of the undoing of the modern, and at the start of something else; it is just that our idea of what constitutes the modern is prey to the blind-spots that the separation of nature and culture have caused, so we have never even noticed this. Or if we have intuited it, we have not understood its potentially radical significance2. Indeed, the fact that craft deals with matter and its possibilities and limits in a sometimes tense relationship to the exhibition context (dominated by art and its own ways of negotiating the nature-culture divide) may make it the ideal case-study for anyone wanting to push Latour's ideas by analyzing the ‘exact knowledge' of the studio in concert with the ideologies of the exhibition space and market-place and literary discourse.

It is quite possible that these ideas have already been the subject of several dozen PhDs already. Yet even if this is the case, they have not managed to make their way to our broader consciousness, which is why Latour seems so difficult; we are used to bracketing off the material from the ideological, even in the practices that most bring them together. What Latour offers, therefore, is the possibility of a new language and new techniques of inquiry to guide and bring together making and thinking. Who knows maybe this language may make craft writing relevant to makers, as well as make making relevant to thinkers, from a range of fields. It will not be easy, but it is (coincidentally?) perfectly in-keeping with what this journal is about.


1The reason for this might be explained when he writes ‘Nietzsche said that the big problems were like cold baths: you have to get out as fast as you got in' (Latour 1993: 12)

2Perhaps this is more the case. Broadly, craft writing has not struggled to move from matter to ideology, but has found it hard to move back again and complete the circle in any rigorous way. This is because the social pole is still the most valued. You can almost feel the relief when the studio is left behind for the peaks of interpretative speculation and discursive contextualisation. I am as guilty of this approach as anyone.


Bruno Latour We Have Never Been Modern (translated by Catherine Porter) Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993

Shapin, Steven and Schaffer, Simon Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the experimental life , Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, 1985

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hard Graft

Austrian based, previously called Class Working Heroes who started the business selling at Etsy.

The former site is all about the image that probably evolved from their previous name, hard working, hard graft which according to their website means hard manual labour; not far from Working
Class Heroes and all products are designed to protect and carry all your technological gadgets. Hard labour protecting your working tools? Working class not elite but for the common mortals, not classy design, or trendy just working class and paying in euros.

Printing presses it seems, appear all over the web site, as felt is originally used in etching and printing. But the process in which the brand name is emmbedded into leather is somehow similar. The brand name is never lost and always present embeded in leather details always somewhere in each piece.

The details and quality looks superb in the images and as advertised the felt they use is imported from Germany, one of the places that holds one of the best qualities of felt, leather comes from Italy and also Germany. It seems though its market maybe in America, but this affirmation is uncertain as all prices are in euros which makes them a bit expensive.

The designs are very clean, simple and repetitive. Their use of materials is very sober and the designs are only slight variations of themselves making available any a size to fit any mac´s gadgets from laptops to ipods including i phone.

In their message they sell high quality and their message is strong, there is no big secret or big idea. Their motto is "you lose what you don´t hold" whether it means hard work or not am not sure.

Their answer to this relies in the simplicity of a fold as the answer to all and how to repeat that with grace over and over again while making you believe in the labour of repetition. The question is who's labour are we looking at? And where and who are the hands that craft? Handmade, suddenly the word itself is arouses unknown suspicion. German hand labour it says.

Carga Bags

Mauro Biancci founder and designer launched Carga Bags two years ago. His new designs are out and already being blogged all over.

Biancci designs are aimed at men he states; by underlying a method of assembly instead of stitching or sewing which is usually the case with handbags, bags, briefcases or workbags. Implying that his designs are gendered, these sexists bags are fabricated and assembled with aluminium pop rivets, details in leather and hardware fixtures all available at a leather workshop. Where maybe the process of design might have started.

The designs are clean and the details very well taken care, they look strong and sturdy; all bags are serial numbered making awareness of their craft mode of production: in small quantities and in a local argentinian leather workshop.

Industrial wool felt and leather are treated equally in the design, of course each material responds to its own inherent qualities but leather fails to form structure as is the case with the industrial wool felt. It is all about the thickness.

The price range seems high as probably what one is being charged with is the design or the sexism?

Smart and carefully crafted not only in the result but all the way from the argentinian proud stating that for Biancci "a good design needs no explanation". Which leaves us wondering as to why state a design as male gendered if this needs no explanation at all.

The new bags look improved and yes, to me they look somehow a bit more femenine. Of course this might just be a mere coincidence.