Why Good Old-Fashioned Wool Is Back in Modern Textiles

For this six-part series, Metropolis asked the textile industry's foremost experts what inspires them—here's what Maharam's senior vice president of design Mary Murphy told us.
textile inspirations mary murphy maharam

Claudy Jongstra’s Field of Transformation Courtesy Claudy Jongstra

Textile design is, to say the least, a varied field. High-tech woven wearables seem far removed from efforts to grow climate-beneficial fibers, and further still from more everyday concerns, like improving commercial upholstery. But speculative art and industry research can propel each other in powerful ways. Metropolis Magazine asked six leading textile designers to name inspirational projects that have pushed them to think differently about their work.

The following inspirations come from Maharam’s senior vice president of design, Mary Murphy. Stay tuned to the Metropolis homepage as we publish the other five entries in this series!

Fields of Transformation by Claudy Jongstra

In May 2017, the University of Pennsylvania revealed its new Moelis Family Grand Reading Room in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Gensler Philadelphia designed the study area with the goal of creating a quiet space for reflection. The highlight of the room is a monumental handmade wool and silk mural by Claudy Jongstra. Named Fields of Transformation, the mural is a triptych organized by three scholarly concepts: creativity, knowledge, and wisdom.

As she has done for her other artworks, Jongstra harvested wool for Fields from her own flock of sheep. (She has raised a rare breed on her farm in the Netherlands for 20 years.) Jongstra dyed the wool with natural indigo and chamomile pigments, also sourced from the farm.

Each of the mural’s colors represents one of the triptych’s concepts: chamomile for curiosity and creativity, indigo and white for the active acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. With the mural as its anchor, the space suggests the “sublime process of gaining wisdom,” as Bridget Abraham, project architect at Gensler, puts it. And perhaps most potently for future designers, the piece reflects what Murphy calls the “increasingly sustainable chain of creation” that Jongstra has developed through two decades of sourcing her materials from one place.

textile inspirations mary murphy maharam

Scholten & Baijings’ Colour Plaid for Hay Courtesy Scholten & Baijings

Colour Plaid for Hay by Scholten & Baijings

“Color bombs” is how Scholten & Baijings describes the design firm’s Colour Plaid blankets, a collection for HAY released in 2005. Made of merino wool, the blankets feature alternating stripes of varying widths in vibrant pink, orange, green, and blue hues. Each design explores the compositional effects of interrupted color sequences, as well as the interactions between soft and intense colors and gradients.

“It’s a perfect expression of their distinct color and pattern language,” says Murphy of the collection. But it also recalls the bold graphic qualities of traditional Mexican serape blankets. In so doing, the Colour Plaid collection suggests a contemporary expression of color, line, and pattern by way of design history—its natural materials, forms, and traditions.

You may also enjoy “Paola Lenti Reflects on 25 Years of Design.”

Categories: Textiles