Interview with Jorie Johnson (Joi Rae) - Textile artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011
→ This interview is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.
Ceramics Now Magazine: From functional, to decorative or aesthetical, your works also vary in techniques and materials. Tell us about your woolen felt creations.
Jorie Johnson: I am drawn to the painterly and sculptural characteristics of feltmaking with its broad capabilities as a “hard textile” but which also lends itself to soft, sensual body wraps. I like the challenge of completing a work that functions in a practical way as well as becoming an object of aesthetic value. Unlike weaving, each felt piece is disconnected from the next, so in that way, a seamless, three-dimensional vessel, hat or bag may remind us more of a ceramic form than a textile.
The essential material of wool comes from sheep which grow new fleeces each year and which have served mankind in very isolated regions of the world. I love the natural color of wool, as well as, the possibility to blend it with other fibers, to dye the wool or to over dye a completed piece and manipulate its’ shape through this procedure. Now with years of practice I can approach a work from different angles, theorizing which method works best for an expected results, but while shaping and finishing I am on the alert to pick up on a characteristic born through the process that I never figured on. This spontaneity keeps things very interesting.
Jorie Johnson Spring Collection 2011 (beret, vest, skirt, neck wraps), wool, novelty yarn, silk fabric, linen lace fabric, silk cord. Photo by Toyoda Yuzo - View her works
You are using many layering techniques. Can you explain the process of making a new piece? How long does it take?
The matrix of the work is hard to see by the naked eye but while the selected wool fibers start their migration progress they entangle and actually pierce and consume auxiliary materials such as Japanese Washi, silk organza, cotton gauze, skeletal leaves, lace and so on, into the surface of the fabric and become an integral part of the finished fabric we call as FELT. Under optimal conditions (increase in humidity, higher temperatures, change in pH, application of agitation, etc.) and using a selection of different sheep breeds a variety of fabrics result from dense, coarse carpet weight to silky merino blends for sensual neck wraps.
In order to achieve fine fabrics I use many thin layers of carded wool but for the loftier carpets I use coarser wool in thicker layers. Once the design and materials are selected and the shrink factor determined I work as swiftly as possible to complete a piece within a few days as not to cause the wet wool and auxiliary materials to begin to break down. I have to commit to a “work swipe” as I call it, not to damage the wool, silk or other materials by keeping them wet for too long.