Susan Brown, the juror of the new 500 Series book, 500 Felt Objects, talks about the featured felt pieces and her views on using felt.
How would you describe the book?
I think it’s a beautiful survey of the incredibly diverse range of techniques now applied to felt-making, in the areas of fashion, jewelry, furnishings, sculpture and more.
How did you get involved in this project? What was your role?
I had recently curated an exhibition, Fashioning Felt, at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. I think people were surprised by the high standard of design of the objects included, as well as by the ambition of the architectural projects.
Felt is something that everyone has some degree of familiarity with, yet most people know very little about it: what it is, how it’s made, what its properties are. Also, after being relegated to heavy industry for decades, it is suddenly flowering as a serious craft, with new techniques being developed all the time.
Tell me about the variety of imagery that was sent for the book.
It spanned the full range in every category—from quirky little handmade objects to impressive architectural installations; from things that were intensively hand-crafted to things that were more about playing around with the characteristics of industrial felt; from the practical to the conceptual; from objects exploring the bulk and stolidity of felt to those showcasing its new ethereality.
What was your approach in choosing the imagery?
I try to look for the paradigm-shifters—artists who work the material in a way that is completely unique to them, or designers who use the material to find a brand-new solution to a problem or need.
As you mentioned in your introduction, felt has been used for thousands of years. How would you like to see the use of felt change over the next few years? How have old techniques been integrated into new ones? How are people looking at felt differently now than they have been?
Felt is a sustainable material that has all kinds of useful technical properties, which I think will be more fully explored in the areas of architecture and design. Most importantly, I think its ability to act as a shaping medium has untapped potential. Biomimetics, for example, is searching for new means of attachment, and we often see felting used as a way to hold together diverse objects. I’m hoping it will find use in the medical industry!