Wool felt is a simple and fascinating material whose myriad properties have been appreciated and put to various uses by people around the world and throughout history. The precision of industrial machinery allows the production of wool felt with a structural uniformity, in densities and in forms not easily achieved by hand. Records of the Society of Automotive Engineers indicate that standards for industrial wool felt were established as early as 1923, and articles reveal that the industry thrived in the United States as part of the World War II economy. Driven by the recent enthusiasm for wool felt in the design fields, wool felt producers and distributors have begun offering “design felt” to the architecture and interior design markets in North America to meet a perceived demand for this highly versatile material.
This presentation explores research into the design felt phenomenon that became the foundation for a chapter contribution to the forthcoming Textile, Technology and Design: From Interior Space to Outer Space, edited by Deborah Schneiderman and Alexa Griffith Winton, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2016. The chapter “Felt and The Emerging Interior” draws on interviews with industry professionals and designers, examines small-scale partnerships between designers and manufacturers and speculates on future directions that might be taken in further developing the potential of felt as an interior material.
Helene Renard is an Associate Professor of Interior Design at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design. Felt and its potential for shaping interior spaces are the focus of her research, creative scholarship, and internationally exhibited installation art. She shares her passion for the material with students in the Felt Construction course she teaches.