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expose

01 Softly faded chiffon gown with pleated chiffon bodice.

02 Late 40s pastel coloured gown with a sequin embroidered bodice and frothy skirt made of many layers of soft tulle. Both from a selection at RetroStuff-etc. Ribbon belt, model’s own.

Tinsel and tatters

WHO NEEDS NEW GOWNS AND FAIRY GODMOTHERS? INDEPENDENT CINDERELLAS SHOULD HEAD TO THE BALL IN VINTAGE FINERY

Photography by Victor Yuan Fashion styling by Joan Campbell selv edge.or g

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.Hannah Shaw lMode

Delicate, ethereal and prettily imperfect, vintage dresses make a statement. Softly faded, even slightly damaged they speak of higher aims than simply grabbing the spotlight. They demonstrate an ability to appreciate the feel of an old piece of fabric whether it be silk, rayon, georgette, satin, lame, crepe or even artificial silk... they all drape beautifully and move with the body.

The vintage dress aficionado would never be eclipsed at the Christmas Party by colleagues bedecked in high street sequins and spangles; she shines in a truely unique way. She is also wise to the transitory charms of the cheap copy. Well-known high street brands have all tried to emulate the vintage look but the concept is diluted when you see the same garment hanging on a rail

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concept

The thin red line FELT IS TAKING CENTRE STAGE: ARTIST JEANETTE SENDLER HAS HELPED PLACE IT THERE

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Longing for home s e l v e d g e . o r g

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FRITZ VON DER SCHULENBURG HAS TAKEN A DILAPIDATED WELSH LONG-HOUSE

AND CREATED A STUNNING RUSTIC RETREAT

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Many of us have on occasion felt the need to ‘get away’, a compulsive urge to flee the stress and pressure of all that the city and work entails, to disappear to a rural idyll of our own creation and there to breathe in deeply of everything restorative that nature has to offer.

While that choice of escape is as varied as our individual lifestyles, it is apparent that in increasing numbers we are looking for solitude. Not necessarily a complete abandonment to nature but a closer identification with it – a chance to exchange the cheek by jowl city environment for a few moments shielded from evidence of other human habitation.

During a photographic career which has already spanned nearly thirty years, one could be forgiven for assuming that Fritz von der Schulenburg has probably been there, done most things and has a trunk load of T-shirts to prove it. Yet, despite photographing some of the most beautiful, inspirational and decorated interiors of the world, the places to which he has been personally drawn share an architectural simplicity and have a unique sense of place in common.

Country retreats tend to be located in areas already discovered or fr equented by friends and relatives. The Welsh long-house overlooking the English Marches on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains which was to become Fritz’s next project is an exception. Its location reflected his passion for a landscape of mountains, with a wilderness above and an intimate valley beneath. Solitude beckoned in its inimitable way.

Wrapped in a fold of hills high above a beautiful valley, the house remains hidden from view until almost the last few metres of a track which winds its way up from the valley floor, through flocks of hill sheep who collect in pockets along the rutted route and endanger further the precipitous and slow ascent. Protected from the prevailing wind by a ring of closely-planted trees and demarcated by a gentle stream which falls noisily down a ravine at one edge of the property, the original buildings consisted of a small two-storey cottage, a barn and a stable all in a row, with two small additional farm buildings across a muddy yard.

An old brass bed in an upstairs room of the cottage, and a collection of mildewed bibles and other religious pamphlets, many in Welsh, piled neatly on a windowsill, were all that remained of the old farmer who had once tended the hardy flocks on the hill. In an uncanny resemblance to Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill, two brothers with farms in the valley inherited the property and the surrounding countryside and carry on their uncle’ s former livelihood. They have both taken an active interest in the transformation of the collection of stone buildings that Fritz persuaded them to sell.

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excerpt selv edge.org

Tracking down felt

A LOVE STORY BETWEEN DREAM AND SPACE AGES

An extract from felt, art, crafts and design

Mysterious things fascinate, the unexpected surprises and sound facts convince anyone who undertakes to follow up the success story of a material which, in our latitudes, has probably spent most of its existence ‘under someone’s thumb’.

By the 1960s Josef Beuys had made it the star of his installations. It is currently conquering the catwalks and design shrines of metropolises world-wide – wherever naturalness and the vitality of sound craftsmanship are again occupying centre-stage.

The mystique of its archaic y et ultramodern range of qualities is both astounding and enchanting. It emerges from a legendary nomadic past, bringing with it all the properties which will make it the material of the early third millennium. Let us introduce i t: felt.

Fibre, flock, fleece. Felt is more than the sum of its parts. Using felt creates a fantastic room climate. Felt has a direct effect on anyone looking at it and an even stronger one on those who touch it at least once. Felt is a visual, kinaesthetic and emotional experience; one can experience and feel its immediacy.

Every artist who makes felt professionally is convinced that the process of felting, which often takes days, puts a lot of his/her own attitudes and personality into it; a trace of apotropaic magic is left in the air.

In fact felt is not just a highly appreciated material, valued for practical and ecological reasons. Its invisible powers are also historically documented: when Genghis Khan summoned up the Mongol hordes to ride to battle, felt was a material with magic properties. With its firmness and density, felt protected warriors in battle. Those who had once been Roman slaves donned felt caps to show that they were freedmen as a symbol of a life henceforth to be led in freedom. Scorpions, tarantulas and snakes avoid felt – a phenomenon which has made felt so serviceable for nomads in the past and many a traveller nowadays.

How it came into being: serendipity? The origins of felt are intertwined with the stuff of legend: when God placed pairs of all the earth’s animals under Noah’s protection, Noah gave some thought to making the journey into uncertainty more comfortable for man and beast since he r ealised how hard the bare planking of the ark’s deck was. He decided to cover the entire deck with sheep’s wool. After both people and animals had survived the deluge for all of forty days and nights in these cramped quarters, lying down, stamping about and sweating, what had been light, fluffy soft wool had become a single piece of firm yet flexible material – felt!

Or: In Persia Solomon’s son stamped in rage on a fleece of wool because he had not succeeded in making a carpet; he also wet it with bitter tears of desperation. By the time his rage was spent, he discovered t hat he was standing on waterproof felt.

Its history: protection and warmth down through time. Felt is probably the earliest textile made by man. Historically documented, felt accompanied humankind from the earliest centuries before Christ and is highly likely to have done so even before that. In 1929 two Russian archaeologists found felt objects in the necropolises of Pazyrik in Siberia.

The people of Altai practised elaborate burial customs and funeral rites which strongly resembled those of the Scythians, to whom they were closely related. Like ritual objects and badges of rank, objects used in daily life, like saddle blankets, wall hangings, appliqués on clothing, socks for both men and women, were made of this so thoroughly practical and versatile material.

Felt afforded the nomads of the Central Asian steppes protection and adorned them like jewellery. Thence it spread to Europe, probably via Hungary. The earliest representation of felting is in a wall painting on the outside of the Verecundus workshop in Pompeii. Felt products have been known and made in the northern European countries since time immemorial. From cradle to grave, a material for kings and commoners, felt has gone its way through geographical space and time, faithfully accompanying humankind.

The first encounter: a key experience in sensuousness. I see fiber as the basic element constructing the organic world on our planet. It is from fiber that all living organisms are built – the tissues of plants and ourselves. We are fibrous structures. Handling fiber, we handle mystery. (M. Abakanowicz).

In 1983 I slept in a Mongolian ger (yurt) for the first time. I experienced it as being one with myself and nature, absolute balance both inside and outside. I was cosily contained within the circle of the yurt and protected by the special properties of felt. Felt insulates and stores warmth. Felt upholsters and polishes. Felt absorbs, like all wool, up to 30% humidity without feeling damp. Felt is water-repellent for a long time and is impervious to wind. Even today Mongolian nomads live in gers, as I have seen on my various journeys through Mongolia.

Totally cosy comfort. Its particular properties have always made felt useful in many areas in which people live and are actively doing something. For instance it is used as a material for making coats, jackets, hats, shoes and bags, carpets and cushions; there are even wardrobes and curtains made of felt. It is also just as suited for use as a healthful organic b uilding material as it is a material with a will of its own from which artists can bring forth their dreams and visions.

Its appeal and the spell it casts, however, are on a different plane: felt is a piece of living nature w hich has retained its true character for thousands of years. It represents total cosy comfort. You want to touch it; you have to touch it, sniff it, lie down on it, take it in with all your senses and simply enjoy it. In so doing,

you become aware that something wild and elemental is concealed in it, the memory of camp-fires, wild riders and outdoor living. It embodies patterns, ways of life and traditions which are stored in our collective memory and whose zest for living and power is still as strong as when the nomads first invented it.

Making it: water, wool and hard work. Its properties are not all that attach everyone who lets him/herself in for closer contact to felt and its history and distinctiveness, with its unique primal and sensuous qualities. There i s also the way felters follow a primal rhythm and rite in making felt, whose basic elements are water, wool and hard work, elements on which felting is still based today.

Stages of a transformation. Depending on what one wants to felt, one selects a particular wool from one or many breeds of sheep. The wool is carded (combed) or left as flock, if possible retaining some of its natural lanolin, and is used either in any of its many natural colours or is dyed.

The wool fibres are laid down precisely next to each other on a reed mat. The number of layers depends on the thickness of felt desired. Consequently it is just as possible to make materials that are only millimetres thick as it is to produce carpets centimetres thick. The thinner the felt, the more precision called for in working it.

The whole thing is sprinkled with hot water. The mat is rolled, together with the damp,

steaming wool, round an inner core and tied up to form a roll resembling a rolled-up carpet. Now begins the rhythmic work of fulling. Depending on how big the roll is, it is beaten with the arms or trodden with the feet of one person alone or several together. The fulling process never varies yet, the more skilful and experienced the felter and depending on his/her cultural background, the signatures that emerge are diverse.

Movement and continual piecing together are part and parcel of felt.

The techniques of felting have become more sophisticated. Every felter has his/her own tricks, secrets, recipes and methods of working. Felt has long since made the leap from being a practical everyday object to carrying an aesthetic idea; designers and object artists known worldwide work with this material.

By now felt has even become part of the curricula of universities and academies.

Felt has become definitively modern. As a real nomad, however, it naturally will not just settle there in one place but will continue its successful journey on into the future. ••• Sabine Heck and Katharina Thomas

Selvedge readers can buy Felt (translated from the original German) for the special price of £18 from the Antique Collectors Club, p&p free within the UK. To order please call T: 01394 389977 and quote Selvedge.

Denise Bettelyoun, Hands, Felt Panel Picture, 70 x 89cm, 1999.

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Contents

REGULARS

04 bias / contributors Letters from the editor and comments from our contributors.

05 correspond / enquire We welcome your questions, comments and criticism.

06 inform / inspire / insight Four pages of news, trends and novel ideas.

12 expose Fashion for the festive season has a faded charm.

18 concept Jeanette Sendler is helping to bring felt in from the cold.

22 project The Scottish Borders have a proud textile history. We look at tweed, tartan and the construction of a regional identity.

52 collect They were in danger of being lost but Athene English has put Welsh blankets back on the map.

56 cohabit Built to last and able to withstand the severest winter, we take shelter in Fritz von der Schulenburg’s Welsh long-house.

FEATURES

30 Highland fling Tweed is weaving its spell over shoppers this winter.

32 Glasgow We capture the essence of this city of culture.

48 Anne Kyyro Quinn Ian Wilson uncovers the structure behind her sculptural textiles.

66 The felt slipper We step into this cosy Finnish footwear.

68 Makiko Minagawa’s Haat collection for Issey Miyake fuses craft and industry in beautiful modern textiles.

72 Kenzo Has nomadic new designer Antonio Marras found a home at last?

76 Tracking down felt An extract from a truly feel-good book.

93 Stockists Where to find us.

97 Subscription offer The perfect gift idea this Christmas.

60 destination Vancouver: cultural contrasts are the order of the day.

64 anecdote Stocking filler: a warming tale of how hosiery began.

78 connect Sara Berner softens her wry observations and melancholy point of view with bittersweet humour.

81 coming next It’s going to be a happy New Year; January brings the celebration issue.

82 quintessence Design duo Belle and Bunty tell us what they will be buying for each other this Christmas.

84 read Reviews of the latest books that speak volumes.

86 view Critiques of the latest shows.

94 divulge / declare / disclose International listings and previews.

PINBOARD

36 Attention to detail A little decoration goes a long way.

37 Final Presentation Sophisticated new ways to wrap gifts.

38 On the fringe We take a look at tassels.

40 Decorative detail Embroidered and thread buttons of the 18th century.

42 cachet One, two, buckle my shoe, we dip a toe in the history of buckles.

43 All the trimmings Specialist shop V V Rouleux reinvented ribbons.

44 Tiddley pom The humble bobble is back on top.

46 Buttons This most reliable of fastenings has a flamboyant side.

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