This year’s FeltLOOM Owners’ Conference was jam-packed with information and activities. Presentations by renowned experts in design and product development were interspersed with discussions, Q&A sessions, and hands-on projects actually developing new products. Owners from as far away as Australia and South Africa, as well as Canada, and all across the United States participated in what was an intensive learning experience centered on creating products using the FeltLOOM and the ins and out of bringing those unique products to market.
Designer Jeffrey Monteiro, international fashion designer and the principal behind the design, concept, content, and philosophy of J. M. GENERALS, shared his experiences and insights in the opening presentation. Discussions accompanying his presentation covered all aspects of developing new products from beginning to end. Monteiro generously acted as the go-to expert throughout the conference, freely sharing his extensive knowledge and experience in product development.
On Sunday, nationally acclaimed felter and owner of JA Felt, Janice Arnold, whose work is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, spoke to the group. She talked about her work and where and how she’s used the FeltLOOM in it, including her much-publicized project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation reception building. She also brought fabric samples produced with the FeltLOOM. In her presentation she said that the methods that are possible with the FeltLOOM are so new that there aren’t words to describe the work. It isn’t the traditional felt making of Mongolia nor is it industrial needle felting. She used terms such as preliminary felt and hybrid felt to describe some of the fabric that is being created.
Designer Sandra Liggett, well-known nationwide for her luxurious felted Alpaca garments which she markets through her company Whispirit also spoke and brought a complement of her hand-crafted garments as examples of the stunning creative possibilities of working with the FeltLOOM.
In addition to soaking up knowledge and inspiration, the owner participants were busy throughout the conference. They were divided into five product development teams for hands-on experience. Each team decided on a product to create and develop using one of the three techniques that work with the FeltLOOM: fiber to fiber, fiber to fabric, or fiber with melting fiber.
One team used the technique of fiber to melting fiber to give structural integrity to wool to make a bowl, placemats, and matching coasters. Another team, who identified a niche market for protective covers for fishing reels, blended cotton with wool (fiber to fabric), creating an attractive padded material to prevent nicks and scratches on fishing reels. Other products (using fiber to fiber or fiber to fabric) included a shawl made with locks, a wrapped vest and matching purse, and embellishments such as collars and cuffs.
The products were presented on Sunday morning. Each team talked about their techniques and what they learned. The padded material made for the fishing reel covers spawned ideas about how else it might be used. The group also discussed pricing, an essential element of successfully bringing a product to market.
In keeping with the focus of product development owners also brought products with them made from fabric that they had created on the FeltLOOM. Models and photographers were on hand to take professional photos of their work on models in a runway setting. One of the highlights of the conference was a private style show of the garments that owners had created.
During the conference Lanette Freitag demonstrated using what she calls a “carrying cloth” to aid in combining light fabrics, such as silk, with batts on the FeltLOOM.
Responding to numerous requests, wearable art designer, Laverne Zabielski held a well-attended preconference dyeing workshop on Thursday.
Dr. Etoia Rivera-Strohm, Knitwear & Accessories Design Professor at the Columbus College of Art and Design conducted a popular post-conference workshop teaching participants how to make a mannequin that fits their bodies. She also demonstrated draping techniques to be used with the mannequins.
It was an exciting event. Lanette describes the days as having, “a lot of giggles and laughs, a lot of fun.” She attributes the almost instant bonding of the participants to the participants themselves, saying “These people have so much passion in common with each other, they just click.”