Researcher: Kelly Bossinade
Speciality: Illustration & Photography
Department/City: Crossmedia Design, Enschede
Research Project; Furniture Out Of Organic ‘Weak’ Materials
My research started with using different (old school) techniques (learned from a family that has a long history of wool-processing techniques, i.e. my own) to make a more solid material out of wool. This included felting in different variations, knitting and crochet (and felting it afterwards) and weaving. I did start with carding ‘unprocessed’ (only natural colouring) wool to see if I could directly make this into anything solid, with perhaps only adding a natural glue, without using any other techniques.
Hey, it turned out, it all didn’t work!
Nonetheless, here are the tests is made, showing that some wool didn’t felt much or not at all and that sometimes going through a whole process of knitting, boiling and felting only made the materials weaker instead of expecting a stronger mass.
At the same time I was looking for something that would make the wool stronger, an additive that wouldn’t be so much as visible but useful. After quite some research I ended up with paper. Paper mache is a well known ‘moulding paste’ to create objects similar to anything you can make with clay, but for me that wasn’t my first go-to for this research. Then I found ‘webbing’ – used mostly to cover up radiators and a somewhat ugly solution – but maybe useful to me. Webbing is found in different materials, such as straw/cane like materials and good old paper or cardboard. It’s a strong material on itself, but I wanted to add wool to make it more aesthetically pleasing and stronger:
…which turned out to be a complete failure, since the weight of the wool made the whole thing weaker and rather ‘floppy’. Then I tried to alter the shape, sewing together the webbing into a cone model, after some simple wool embroidery. It was quite strong, but not something I imagined using in a piece of furniture. So, on to the next level: or rather, going back to something I ignored: paper mache.
I wanted to make a paper-wool mache, consisting mostly of wool and my wheat-paste (natural glue). So I started testing, to get the strongest combination possible.
First thing I did was making a mass similar to paper pulp: letting strips of paper soak up in a bowl of water overnight, then boiling it to a mushy paper ball with the water and afterwards letting it dry in a net. A part of this I mixed in a mixer, the other part I left like a thick paper-mass. This mass I ‘mixed’ with the freshest wool available: the one with the poop still on it (so I first had to card it before using) and pressed into little test shapes.
Here is my collection of paper tests. It turned out the wool-paper combination was as useless as the poop on it… It seemed it mixed quite well with the water and glue, but when the drying process started, the wool turned back into its normal ‘fluffy’ shape and it was too oily to absorb or even work with the glue.
This is very visible in the test 1 and a bit in 3. After four tests I stopped using wool and only proceeded with paper, using different methods and combinations:
1. 1/4 paper mass, 3/4 wool, mixed with glue, air-dried.
2. 1/2 paper pulp, 1/1 wool, mixed with glue, air-dried.
3. 1 part glue, 1,5 parts paper mass, 0,5 part wool, air-dried.
4. Bottom layer paper pulp + glue, extra layer of glue, layer of wet wool, top layer of paper pulp mixed with glue, air-dried.
5. Loose paper ‘clumps’ glued together, air-dried.
6. 2/3 paper mass, 1/3 glue, base of cardboard, oven dried.
7. Paper mass, just a few drops of glue, oven dried.
8. Dry paper scraps, glue only brushed on top, oven dried.
9. 2/3 paper mass, 1/3 glue, base of normal sheet of paper, oven dried.
10. Paper pulp, mixed with water, oven dried.
11. 3/4 dry paper scraps, 1/4 glue, mixed, oven dried.
12. 1/4 glue, 3/4 paper pulp, dried leafs, air-dried.
I also started experimenting with the drying of the mache: air-drying, on a radiator and in the oven.
After only proceeding with a paper mache base, I started knitting legs for a small test-table and sewing the inside tubes to fill up with paper mache.
The tube was dried in the oven. Hard as a rock and extremely light! This got me a bit closer to proving that I could make a side table from these materials, but the next challenge would be making the table top. At the same time I was questioning whether my DIY glue would be just as good as wallpaper glue made from cellulose.
Turns out, the difference is almost non-existent. Both glues are equally strong for this project. It’s only an ‘all-natural’ versus factory made, and a difference in prize matter.
Then I made three more paper tests, and started making the table top.
The table legs and top turned out to be extremely fat and massive, therefore the next challenge: make them in a as-thin-as-possible version.
Making of the final product:
The whole process of the paper mache skeleton:
Because the batch was a lot bigger than the small tests I did, I got help from my colleague: mum. The paper pulp needed a quick fix in getting a bit dryer, so we used our laundry centrifuge.
We made the cast of the legs on a wooden base with nails that kept the paper mache in shape to dry.
I didn’t really design a pattern for the table top, I took some ideas from different patterns I had and just tried. Which was harder as I thought in the end, because the counting, the different crochet techniques and the variation of thickness of the yarn made a complicated mess.
The whole design was inspired by Dutch Delftware, hence the choice of blues and white.
Photos of the complete table will be uploaded later.