Felt isn’t something you would normally associate with fashion. It’s a product found stacked high in the isles of Spotlight and comes in plain primary colours that look a little lifeless on the shelf. But Grace Wood, a textile designer from NSW, is changing all of that, with her dreamy, floating, felted designs, which instill in you a lingering sense of calm.
Her creations jump out from pages of magazines, come alive in museums, and sit perfectly on the people who are lucky enough to own clothing made from her fabric.
She is revolutionising what we commonly think of when someone says the word felt.
Wood grew up in Blayney in the NSW Central Tablelands, in a fruit orchard with her parents and her two younger sisters. Going on to study a Bachelor of Design at COFA in NSW, she first discovered felt in the pages of a magazine in a dental surgery. Her aunt, a textile artist, taught her the basics of creating the fabric, when Wood was recuperating from surgery.
“The energy and focus required for felting took me out of my head and into my hands and acted as a kind of creative therapy. There was something about it that really resonated with me and I really believe it helped my healing process,” Wood explains.
For many artists, it is much a part of the physical process of creating their work, that drives them, and for Wood this is no exception. The healing therapy of making felt she experienced in her earlier years is still alive in many ways, in her love for physically creating felt, everything washing the fleece, to carding, to laying out the layers of wool, to wetting down the fibres and agitating them, allows her to feel connected to the textiles she creates.
“There is something very freeing about the process of felting – it is slow, can be quite meditative and I often think of it as painting with fibre. There is a sense of surrender to it, of letting go of control, and accepting that the outcome may not be exactly what you envisioned but that it might be even better. It teaches that there is beauty in imperfection, which is a really exciting notion to me,” Wood says. (Post continues after gallery.)
One of the main influences that guided Wood from felting when recovering from surgery, to owning her own business specialising in creating the fabric, was an internship she completed at Studio Claudy Jongstra in the Netherlands in 2013.
During her time there she not only gained tactile experience of installing works, repairing and restoring tapestries, spinning and creating hairpin lace, and learning natural dying techniques, but she was also exposed to the business side of running a small creative company.
“That internship changed the way I thought about my life as a designer or artist. Claudy engaged in her practice with a strong set of principles guiding her decisions and processes. She is very real and very much herself, and her example allowed me to believe that I could run a business my own way, in a way that felt honest and true to myself. This idea informs the way I run my studio now. My priority as a designer or artist is to always keep moving forward. I am always looking for new challenges, projects and opportunities to collaborate with others who inspire me,” Wood explains.
Running a business in her own way, for Wood, is a conscious approach to the production of felt, everything about her process is sustainable. It is important to her that nothing she makes will end up in landfill, and not be able to break down. She sources wool from her parents farm, which is just North of Bathurst, to make each individual creation.
“It is handmade, slow, uses natural, renewable and biodegradable materials, and I employ natural dyeing techniques to colour fibres where required. The fact that I became interested in felting to begin with is just a really happy coincidence though the seeds for some kind of sustainable creativity had long since been sewn, and having the luxury of using wool from the farm adds to the holistic aspect of the whole process,” Wood explains.
Wood has a product line, including beautiful scarves, bed covers, and cushions, and on top of this, she also stretches herself artistically by working on other creative projects.
“It is exciting to begin working on something completely new. That’s when I am way out of my comfort zone and all the obligatory artistic self-doubt steps in to keep you very humble. I like putting myself back in that position regularly, because I think comfort in art equates to creative death,”
One such project includes her collaboration with Sean Tran, of menswear label Shhorn. Wood is currently creating samples for their latest collection.
“He is an extremely talented self-taught fashion designer with an architecture background, and I have been truly inspired by his passion and avant-garde approach to fashion and design. He commissioned me to make some felt for his first collection ‘Residue’ FW16 and I was just so thrilled with the result,” she explains.
As well as this, Wood is busy with commissioned work, a group exhibition with in the Blue Mountains, and an essay contribution to a book on craft by a Melbourne University professor of architecture as well as developing her own line.
Mamamia’s art endeavour, the Voulez-Vous Project celebrates artists, designers, illustrators and creators. Our aim: to help the internet become a slightly more beautiful, captivating, or thought-provoking place by making art accessible. Click here to see all the previous Voulez-Vous posts.
Do you know an artist (or are YOU an artist) who creates beautiful or thought-provoking work and whom you think should be featured on Mamamia’s Voulez-Vous Project? Send an email to [email protected].
Want more bright and fun pattern inspiration? Check out Mamamia TV’s print nail art tutorial below…