Set to open to the public on Feb. 11, Felt Decoded is a tactile and visual exploration of art and science with a step-by-step material study that shows an intimate perspective of wool as nature’s technology, demonstrating why wool is intrinsic to the practice of making handmade felt.
“We are witnessing an increase in traditional handcrafts making a comeback in modern art,” said Woolmark Co. managing director Stuart McCullough. “Natural, versatile, innovative and above all luxurious, wool and particularly felt continue to be used in modern ways while paying tribute to the fiber’s traditional roots. From a wool felt coat or hat, through to felt lamp shades, upholstery and other interior products, the fiber’s versatility is endless.”
Artist Janice Arnold’s exhibition runs from lacy wisps of wool to rocklike slabs, showing wool felt’s extremes.
“It is an extraordinary material with humble origins that has been an integral part of human life for millennia, yet few people understand the complexity of wool as a fiber, the felt-making process or felt’s diversity in form and function,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s Felt DeCoded demonstrates a fusion between traditional processes and a modern aesthetic, offering visitors the opportunity to learn, explore and engage with wool and felt in its crafted visual art form and as a raw fiber.
The exhibition features many new works, including a large-scale immersive installation titled “Cave of Memories,” a piece referencing ancient memories of a collective nomadic past and serving as a visual memoir of Arnold’s recent years care-giving her elder parents.
Another exhibition highlight, hung from the museum’s 24-foot ceiling, is “Monster Felt.” which was created with the help of the Central Washington community of Tieton. It was made with 65 pounds of regional wool and alpaca fibers that were laid down, saturated with water and felted by members of the community, who were invited to walk and dance on top of the wool to start the felting process. The piece was then dried, rolled up and kept for a year. Over the course of three years, volunteers and community members would hold events involving the Monster Felt. Participants would dance on, kick and roll the wool until the fibers became strong felt.
After three years of community effort overseen by Arnold, the Monster Felt is believed to be the largest piece of contemporary hand-made felt in the world made in the traditional nomadic way.
Complementing Arnold’s sculptural textile works are elements that range from acoustic wall panels to a multilayered felted coffee table; “Nesting Instinct,” a wool and mohair stool created in collaboration with TESC Furniture Studio; Arnold’s “Stratigraphic Bench” comprised of rocklike slabs of regionally sourced wool; “Felt Pelt Cow Chair,” and a section of “Woven Wall,” a site-specific permanent installation at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut restaurant at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
Nearly 400 square feet of exhibition space is dedicated to the interactive Science of Wool Lab. Making the world of wool accessible, visitors will be encouraged to explore Petri dishes filled with samples of fibers and fabrics via a monitor and ProScope to analyze felt fibers.
Woolmark Co. is a subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation, a not-for-profit enterprise owned by more than 24,000 wool growers that invests in research, development and marketing along the worldwide supply chain for Australian wool.
The Museum of Craft and Design is San Francisco’s only museum devoted exclusively to modern and contemporary craft and design. It is located at 2569 Third Street at the American Industrial Center.