This month our guest blogger is Arabella McNie, the curator of Wool House and renowned designer and stylist (www.arabellamcnie.com). Here she shares her love of wool and her thoughts on WOOL HOUSE: the world’s biggest ever celebration of Wool in London’s historic Somerset House.
The Wonder of Wool
My mind has very much been on wool for the last few months as I’ve been preparing Wool House. Like most people, I knew wool was used in carpets, fabrics and fashion, but I had no idea what an amazing fibre it is. As the build went on in Somerset House, the sound absorbing quality of wool has become quite apparent. With wool carpet, walling and curtains there has been a noticeable improvement on the acoustics in the interiors rooms.
Wool is so much more than tartan
I wanted to create a real showstopper entrance to Wool House – something with a sense of English eccentricity, that would surprise the visitor and that would set the tone for the whole event. The Chequers carpet, woven for me by Alternative is absolutely perfect. It’s a simple design in black and cream, based on a classic stone floor pattern. The effect is amazing – your eye thinks hard, but it’s soft under foot. It’s the perfect base for the amazing art pieces such as Shauna Richardson’s crochetdermy Brown Bear, Maud Design’s huge tapestry portrait of the Herdwick Ram, Barbara Keal’s family of sheep hats and the Alexander McQueen Hummingbird wall hanging. The scale also works brilliantly with the Gigantic chair in Mongolian long haired sheepskin from Amy Somerville.
I asked Ashley Hicks to design a smart Gentleman’s Study, using men’s suiting as his theme. He has produced a fabulous design, with grey check flannel walls and a printed grey flannel for blinds, but then added in flashes of colour to echo bright braces, contrast lining or a silk handkerchief. He could have played safe with the flooring, choosing a plain or pinstripe base to his scheme. Instead he has gone for a bold pattern in grey, black and red. His Chainmail design, woven for us by Alternative is a fantastic foil for the sober suitings, and shows just how effective pattern can be on the floor.
Safe and secure
Donna Wilson’s nursery is a woody wonderland, with walls covered in felt trees and 3 dimensional leaves; cloudy sky blinds and a knitted stags head. Perfect for nurturing a child’s imagination. Wool carpet was the ideal choice here, because wool is hypoallergenic and safe for babies. The Snuggle carpet is woven using undyed wool, and the texture works brilliantly with the giant boucle used to upholster the bed. The fabulous Dotty in Lime that was chosen for the rug, was perfect for Donna’s design and colour palette, and it has been simply bound in lime wool. A great place to put a baby to play.
As well as the fabulous pieces in the entrance hall, Wool House is home to four tapestry pieces commissioned for the event from Studio Claudy Jongstra. Claudy’s work is truly inspirational, and for me it summed up all I wanted to achieve at Wool House. I wanted to celebrate the heritage and history of wool, but demonstrate that it still has relevance for us today. Studio Claudy Jongstra tapestries are produced using felting – a traditional technique of producing fabric without weaving; the studio grows many of the plants and flowers they use for dying the wool and they have a flock of rare breed sheep that provide much of their wool.
All this draws on the historical use of wool, but the textiles they produce are incredibly modern. In a similar way, in the weaver’s studio Jason Collingwood is producing fabulous contemporary flat weave rugs on a very traditional looking floor loom.
“Wool House is the most expansive venture the Campaign has seen to date as it looks at all the key uses of wool under one roof and shows the amazing versatility of the fibre and its potential to be both stunningly beautiful in use and yet incredibly practical too.” -Bridgette Kelly, The Campaign for Wool’s project director