On a cold, snowy day recently I decided to warm myself up with a visit to the much lauded Wool House exhibition, staged by the Campaign for Wool at Somerset House. One of the most striking rooms for me displayed Claudy Jongstra's specially commissioned felt tapestries, which exhibit the most extraordinary depth of colour and intricate texture. But behind their remarkable beauty, lies the even more remarkable story of their creation. The impact of this artists's work reaches far wider than the interiors it graces.
Netherlands-based textile artist Jongstra established her own design studio in 2000, and became fascinated with the ancient art of felt-making. Her work has been commissioned for many public buildings, and is included in museum collections such as the V&A in London, and the Cooper Hewitt Design museum in New York.
Jongstra is dedicated to living and working ethically and sustainably. The entire production of the tapestries is executed by hand, and in-house. The studio raises its own sheep which provide high quality wool, grows fields of natural dye plants, and has its own dye-works. The sheep are rare Drenthe Heath, Europe's oldest breed. Jongstra's flock contributes to their survival, and also to the preservation of Dutch moorland.
The process of extracting colour from plants fascinates me. Jongstra's fields grow St John's Wort, Rhubarb, Weld and Madder, as well as various plants of the indigofera genus which produce the celebrated dark blue. The fields contribute to bio-diversity and raise awareness of the vulnerable status of many rare plants.
Inspired by my discovery of Jongstra's work, I sought out Willer, a gallery just off Kensington Church Street, who represent the studio in London. Willer's current exhibition displays samples relating to Jongstra's large public art installations - the latest of which is two huge tapestries for Queen Mary University of London Arts Two Building.
Willer have launched a new collection of Jongstra's unique throws which incorporate raw spun silk embellishment. At £2,200 a piece, they're a luxury item, but truly a thing of beauty and integrity.
Thank you to Studio Claudy Jongstra and Willer for the images.