Spring 2016 / A nice writeup by editor Malin Lonnberg...
"Sagarika Sundaram has a lot going on. The young designer’s first two rug collections, for Floor_Story and Tiipoi, debuted London Design Festival last year, she is busy mastering every technique from weaving to felting, carding to dyeing, and is about to join textile artist Claudy Jongstra in Friesland in the Netherlands. All in addition to her day job in brand/UX strategy. ‘Life is long, I have time,’ she says with a smile.
Her designs for Floor_Story and Tiipoi are quite different beasts. The two rugs for the former are tonal creations in handtufted wool, Laxmi in pinkish pastels and Rekha in deep shades of red. Jama-Khan blue and pink for Tiipoi, handwoven cotton flatweaves, have something of Mondrian about them. ‘I wanted to see what I could do with geometrics,’ says Sundaram.
She is currently working on her next collection for Floor_Story, which will be based on the Madras check, the traditional pattern from her native city in India. More than a rehash, the designs play with the idea of translucent folds, injecting a sense of three-dimensionality.
With these new rugs Sundaram intends to delve even deeper into the production of her works, spurred on by a keen interest in technique. That same interest will see her join Jongstra this spring to learn more about the making of textiles, from sheep to finished piece. ML"
Not sure how I feel about these hair balls from Holland...as beautiful as they are.
"Calves, fed only on milk and kept closely confines so that when they are killed after a year of such treatment they yield the pale tender veal we apparently crave, start to eat their own hair. The muscular movement of their stomachs, combined with the heat and moisture, felts the hair into solid balls, which in extreme cases weight 750 gm and measure 15 cm across. such an object, the sight of which is a compelling reason for turning vegetarian, is rare. Usually the hair balls are much smaller and, forgetting their origin for a while, one can enjoy their range of colours and textures."
- The Maker's Hand, A Close Look at Textile Structures, Peter Collingwood
This is from a book Jason Collingwood gave me as a present after my rug weaving course with him. His father wrote this book and it was one of his favourites out of everything he put out.
This lovely image was in the Independent on Sunday magazine last December. Love the way my blue jama-khan rug for Tiipoi has been styled and photographed - having gone through the process myself earlier this January, I now appreciate that shooting rugs is not an easy task - amongst other things it's quite tricky to get an interesting angle without distorting proportions. Stunning work by photographer Natasha Pszenicki and stylist Riya Patel
The rug shares the floor with beautiful pieces each connected to India in their own way
- Doshi + Levien's Impossible Wood chair for Moroso
- An ikat throw by Stitchwallah
- A table by Capsbury
"The winter chill, right through the chest
The spring wind, right through the rib"
- Mongolian proverb
I find that I love doing clothes and costumes for performers, outfits take on a new life and energy on stage.
I'm doing some brand identity and styling work for a band called Eclipse - they're a steel pan orchestra. Apart from bringing the v-i-b-e to the party, I love that they make a positive exchange with society. Eclipse has a core group that plays concerts and gigs, but they also perform as a community band that school children can join as an after-school activity.
I took inspiration from their name for their look - think the sun, stars, flares etc. Big, bold, fat shapes - circles, rectangles for maximum visual impact.I wanted each member to have a different outfit that reflected their personality somewhat. I had to think of a way of pulling their looks together without being too matchy-matchy. We had a short time-frame so I had to experiment quickly to find a technique that would work.
I used gold leaf to embellish t-shirts and a skirt. Not sure if my gilding efforts are dry-cleanable, but we had a short deadline and I fell back old tricks, viz., when in doubt, use tape - good ol' double-sided in this case.
Stickers. I love stickers. They're the perfect way to add shiny to an outfit - I wear them on my clothes all the time - it's fun and playful. Plus, brush them off after they lose their glue and your clothes are back to normal.
It was great fun putting this together. I look forward to v2 - our next milestone is a gig in January. Trying to think of a way to get some gold fringe on someones arms - would be fun to watch it toss around as they play!
Next time I'll get a better photograph of the band playing.
What is felt? I've discovered that while most people know felt when they see it, they don't know it by name. Felt is both a noun and verb - you can make felt, and you can also felt. Felting is the process of evenly rubbing wet wool (by hand or machine) until little hooks present on every strand enmesh together into a soft fabric.
You find felt across the world wherever you find sheep - Ireland, Wales, Canada, Tibet, New Zealand, Holland, Jammu & Kashmir, Iran. People have made felt shoes, rugs, blankets, jackets and so on for thousands of years. The Mongolians even made their homes, yurts, from heavy-duty felt. Today it is also used for laptop sleeves, acoustics and upholstery. Felt is one of the oldest materials known to mankind and this is partly why I am fascinated by it.
Last week I spent a week in Piemonte at a felt workshop with the magnificent Claudy Jongstra.
Claudy's felt is large, expressive, super-contemporary. She's made robes for Star Wars, pieces for Marina Abramovic and Stella McCartney. But consider that the fun stuff. Her core body of work consists of large installations, wall coverings and tapestries in institutions, airports, museums and the like. Claudy says she likes to bring softness to places that most need it.
I first came across Claudy's work online whilst looking for references for some felt rugs I was sampling. If Claudy's work is magnificent in pictures, I find it breathtaking in person. The first piece I physically saw was a wall-covering in the Amsterdam Botanical Garden café. Striking from a distance, richly detailed up close, I spent some time looking it. Claudy is working on a piece for SF MoMa right now so I hope more of you will encounter her work soon.
Claudy lives in Friesland in northern Holland. She keeps her own flock of sheep as a supply of wool for her artwork. She grows her own plants to dye her wool. She also regularly runs art workshops for children with the intention of bringing them closer to nature. As I have learnt more about her, I have grown to admire the way she has set up her life and her practice - integrated with nature and society. When I heard that she was doing this workshop I knew that I had no choice but to sign up.
I arrived in Italy with little to no idea about what the workshop was going to be like. Turned out that Claudy had brought along a little crew of instructors to enrich our felt-work. We had Annette giving us the lowdown on natural dyeing, Tijo teaching us about painting with minerals, Amelie and Rebecca for all-round help and Gia guiding us through an hour of body-movement in the mornings.
The workshop was titled, 'From Intuition to Impulse - Constant Meander of Perception, Selfpath, Transformation, Impulse'. It's oddly phrased – probably a literal translation from the Dutch – but I like that. Says a familiar message in an unfamiliar, energetic way.
The title in fact captures the spirit of the workshop perfectly. The instruction emphasised less on technique and more on sensing the material. I felt vulnerable - unsure if I would get it 'right'. But I quickly discarded this feeling and rose into a flow of experimentation.
We worked with different materials based on the theme of the day. Around Day 2 I began feeling the medium for myself, and set off on a line of exploration – 'painting' with wool and silk, churning out one colour study after another.
Descriptions from the workshop leaflet will give you a sense of the vibe -
A bowl growing beneath the ground, what does it feel like? Growing layer upon layer around a core, to be revealed again when brought up from of the earth; left naked.
Sunflower seed dye
Rhythmical work to feel and understand the patternity in seeds.
Sensing your roots, your solid ground underneath your being that allows for growth.
All previous elements & experiments come together to let reverberation sink in and let offer deeper insights and connection.
A selection of my 'colour-studies' - somehow VERY hard to take good photos of them.
Foreground: pink silk
Background: dark green + dark blue wool.
As I found myself layering quite thin, I began using the white wool as a backing layer to 'glue' the piece and hold it all together.
The same piece, dry - in different light. You can see how the silk shines against the wool.
Foreground: red Wensleydale
Background: blue Wensleydale
The Wensleydale sheep is known for its curly locks. I'm particularly fond of this piece - it looks like a stormy cloud to me.
Foreground: white silk
Background: white/grey wool
Again, I was felting very thin at this point, interested in exploring delicacy.
Foreground: white cotton + blue silk + white wool
Background: blue grey wool.
Was exploring texture here.
Foreground: copper silk + white wool mix
Background: green + blue wool
(channeling my inner Rothko)
Foreground: pink silk + white wool
Background: blue wool
Going larger, felting tighter. This was the last piece I made during the workshop.
An overview of the pieces for a sense of size.
One afternoon we were asked to weave using a piece of cardboard as a base. It was my first time doing a lo-fi weave. I loved it. Weaving is easy! (I need that on a t-shirt). The point of weaving was to potentially integrate it in a felt piece. Busy with my colour-studies, I never got around to it.
On the 'seed day' we started the day with a blind drawing exercise - drawing a seed without looking down at the paper. I love these kinds of exercises, the ones that force you to LOOK.
Though the work sessions were largely self-driven, every aspect of the workshop was thought through, from our morning warmup exercises to the unbelievable vegetarian food (both of which deserve their own write-ups).
On the last evening of the workshop, we all got together and shared a couple of words about our work and the whole experience. Let's say it got emotional.
We worked on the lawns of a house that was once the residence of the Marquis of the town – Incisiana. It's now a bed & breakfast that also makes very good wine. More info about the wine here.
The view from our work stations was grapevines, hills, forest and terracotta roofs from the village beyond. The weather was crisp and sunny for the most part and the rain was considerate enough to arrive at 6pm on our last day.
What I loved about this workshop was its conceptual rigour. It's hard to find learning opportunities with people whose judgement you trust. This was one of them, and I am grateful for the experience. In these five days I answered many questions about my relationship with felt, and I've now set some kind of direction going forward.
My second collection is a set of handwoven cotton rugs and cushions for homeware brand Tiipoi.
Both projects have been a labour of love and I'm delighted that they're out, all set for new lives in homes around the world.
Register here to see them at Designjunction
Wed 23 - Sun 27
Victoria House, 37 Southhampton Row WC1B 4DA
Floorstory - stand V23
Tiipoi - stand V39 (near Vitra elephants)
Get in touch if you need information about prices etc.