Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Brief History and Description of Nuno Felt

Lately I've been exploring the art of Nuno Felting. At first I was planning on just featuring some artists and their work and maybe do a little playing around of my own, but the more I read and study this technique, the more I want to slow down and take a little more time. This is a relatively new art form and it seems to be quickly gaining popularity, but rather than jump to the finished product, I'd like to start at the beginning.

Most of the information I'll be sharing today comes form Christine White's book,
Uniquely Felt. This is one of the authors that Monica Durazo of Pump House Studio recommended and I'm grateful to her for that. Uniquely Felt is a superb resource for anyone who loves felt. Not only does it thoroughly cover numerous techniques and projects, but it's full of the kind of pointers that can only come from an experienced artist. You will also find featured artists, where to find materials, history and definitions of terms. I found myself even devouring the sections where I have a fair amount of experience. The second I started to skim, I'd realize I was missing some juicy tidbit and slow back down or go over the section again. Now that's a good book!

"Felted fabric is thought to predate woven or spun fabric. Among the oldest examples of felt are 3,500 -year-old hats found in Scandinavia..." It's not hard to imagine the use or almost necessity of felt in colder climates, but nuno felt was developed with just the opposite in mind. "When Polly Stirling codeveloped nuno felt with her assistant Sachiko Kotaka, her intention was to create a cooler, wearable felt for the warm climate of Australia, where she lives part-time." For me, that was a big draw too. Sixteen months ago I moved from northern VA to the suberbs of Phoenix. Here I am in the Valley of the Sun with a studio full of wool. Nuno felt seems like the answer to my prayers!

"Polly is amazed and pleased by nuno's explosion in popularity, but she is reluctant to take credit: '
I think it was a natural evolution of the material. It makes sense that we reinvent the way we use felt now that we don't need it for shelter or protection as in ancient times." I also love that Polly says, "Communicating with other felters is good, but the important thing is to work on your own and play with no rules in your head." Learning through doing is my favorite method. I almost feel like I'm breaking one of my own rules by spending so much time with this book, but I really do like to know the history behind things. I'm not sure when the history buff in me emerged, but I think she's here to stay.

Nuno is Japanese for fabric or cloth." It's the word that became associated with this technique during the collaboration of Stirling and Kotaka. "Today they are widely credited with popularizing the technique, although northern Europeans developed a similar technique about a decade earlier. Their term 'laminated felting' is preferrred by some feltmakers, since Nuno is also the name of a textile design company in Japan."

"To create nuno felt, very small amounts of wool are layered on a pre-existing fabric, usually silk or cotton. During the felting process, the wool fibers migrate through the weave of the cloth and entangle, pulling the cloth along with them as they shrink. The result is a fully integrated and highly textural fabric..... Nuno...gathers in all directions rather than just one, making the fabric appear bubbled. ..... Nuno felting strips things down to the bare bones, making use of wool's alchemic power even when using so very few fibers. When we experience the total transformation of so few bits of wool on cloth, somehow the power of the process is more starkly revealed to us. ..... nuno felt is also very practical as a wearable fabric. It is incredibly lightweight and drapes the body beautifully. Not only is it gorgeous, but it also completely takes people off guard when they hear how it's created."

Well I think this is as much a book review as a history or definition of nuno felt. I bought my copy from Amazon, but it can be found all over. Part of my weekend plan is to pick up a few materials that I don't have laying around the house so that I can start exploring nuno felt. I've also decided not to read too much more into the book until after I've done some playing of my own. I really don't like to enter a process with preconceived expectations. I want to experience for myself how the wool interacts with the cloth and the personality different fibers lend to the undertaking.

Today's source:
Uniquely Felt by Christine White


kim* said...

pictures, i need to see pictures of it! lol i dont know what you are talking about i need visuals while type words lol

Jenn said...

Hi kim*, I don't know what happened! LOL! Normally I'm a picture crazed blogger, but I promise, if you scroll down just a little, you'll see some great nuno felt! There's more on the way too! Thanks for stopping by my blog!!!

Devin said...

Your blog and etsy shop looks amazing:0) You have a amazing talent with felt:0)

Jenn said...

OK, I just found about 5 typos in this post. ACK! I made the corrections, but I apologize to anyone who had to suffer through them.

Delight Worthyn said...

This was a great posting,informative and nice to look at.I love the ethereal quality of Nuno.