The ART of Feltmaking
Felt is a homogenous fabric composed of densely matted animal fibers. When the fibers are wetted, tiny scales on each hair open like petals, and as the damp wool is agitated, the scales catch each other, entangling the countless threads on a microscopic level. When the wool dries, its scales close back up, locking the fibers into place and creating a sturdy fabric.
Feltmaking is one of the most ancient technologies, predating weaving and other yarn-based textiles. It is a process that occurs naturally (as in dread locks or matted fur), but in Central Asia, where sheep were first domesticated the technology was refined into an art form. Techniques for decorating the felt, using differently colored wools to create intricate patterns, were developed and passed on through generations of craftsmen. Jo and Kent use traditional methods which they learned in Turkey to create modern and uniquely distinctive area rugs, and while Kent continues to work as a physician, Jo explores the many dimensions of her aesthetic as an artist and designer.
Jo Hesse studied painting and fiber art in Germany at the Freie Hoch Schule Stuttgart where she first became enchanted by felt. While living in Germany she traveled extensively throughout Turkey and spent time in the workshop of UNESCO honored master feltmaker Mehmet Girgiç, learning traditional Turkish rug making and millinery techniques. She now lives in Northampton Massachusetts
After practicing medicine for over three decades Kent Hesse learned to felt from his daughter Jo. In 2018 they traveled together to study with Mehmet and Theresa Girgiç in Konya, where he fell in love with rug making. Kent and Jo make all R & W rugs together, by hand and by foot.