DESIGNER FELT AS PART OF MODERN LIFE
Felt is the new favorite of the designing world. A natural, warm material, it is the plainest form of wool, and for the past few years it has been presented in the trendy salons of European design fairs in a multitude of forms extending from decoration to jewelry. In all of them the feel is familiar, but the colors are now much bolder and more energetic. Felt originated in Central Asia and came to Anatolia in the 3rd century when some Turks migrated westward. As the years went by it became part of the Anatolian way of life, in the nomadic floor cloths and yurts and in the distinctive cloaks worn by shepherds.
But during the past year an exhibition of the material was held at Topkapi Palace by Selcuk Gurisik, a designer in love with felt. The idea behind the exhibition was to “achieve communication between the object and the spectator while changing his or her way of perceiving,” and it featured combinations of felt with silk, wool fibers and even denim, the felt sometimes taking on a new personality thanks to an Ottoman technique of cutting known as kaat’i. He is also the creator of the permanent felt exhibition in the British Museum.
Another designer who has lifted felt to new heights is Belkis Balpinar, who for years has devoted herself to Anatolian carpets and kilims. She first brought her felt work together last month at Galeri G-Art in an exhibition with the title ‘Relativistic Planes.’ Like Gurisik, Belkis Balpinar has worked with the venerable feltmaster Mehmet Girgic in developing her approach to this material. She draws her designs on the computer and then transfers them on a scale of one-to-one with the help of Fine Arts Academy graduates who work for the master, and she says of felt that it is a “perfect canvas for understanding and expressing oneself.”
Among the most astonishing uses of felt finds it appearing in jewelry. The Swiss designer Karin Wagner, who in 2003 won the ‘designer of the year’ award at Munich’s Inhogenta Fair, brings all the colors and forms of nature to her striking felt jewelry. Two other practitioners who have made a name through their quest for unusual materials in jewelry design are Ela Cindoruk and Nazan Pak.
In their handbag designs, Zeynep Balaban and Dilek Erbay elect to use industrial felt originally manufactured as an insulating material The ‘room’ project on which Balaban is working is like an updated take on the nomadic culture. In this project, bedding spread on the floor is rolled up to make seats, then rolled up again for removal. The other designs incorporated in the ‘room’ project, the slippers, bundles and handbags, were made without any additional materials as single pieces by utilizing holes, dovetailing and slits.
Ulku Sendil and Feyza Acikgoz are two designers who graduated in decorative arts. The good luck charms, panels, cushions and lampshades they turn out in their studio go beyond tradition to be extremely modern. In the modern world felt is produced by industrial methods, but what designers favor is the traditional technique for making it, and they work with dedicated felt masters in such centers of the craft as Konya, Sanliurfa and Tire, men who have devoted years to the calling. Felt-making requires skill and patience, and at heart is based on first soaking beaten wool in water, then pounding it repeatedly until it acquires the felt texture.
Reference: Benan KAPUCU, Kurtulus GOKALP / Skylife
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):