Not a Mistake - Just Something Else

Social Fabric

This is a story about making felt, it's also a story about creating

Felt is made by matting fibres to form a fabric. Industrial manufacturing have made felt products so ubiquitous (such as car interior linings, carpets...) that it's easy to overlook felt.  Yet hand-made felt can be luxurious, especially when made with merino wool and/or mohair, materials naturally abundant in South Africa. Moreover, hand felt-making technology has not changed in a long time, making it a textile ripe for experimentation.
Social Fabric serves as a platform for artists, designers and textile manufacturers to work collaboratively. In this iteration, artist Paul Edmunds works with Krafthaus, a felt furnishings company. They are then joined by creatives across disciplines in a workshop. One thing that came out of this iteration was THE VALUE OF "MISTAKES".
Before showing outcomes/insights from Paul, allow us to introduce him and his work.  Paul is a Cape Town-based artist. From the following few images of his work, it might be clear that he uses everyday materials (stones, telephone wire, wheels,…) but in unexpected ways. For instance, in the work shown, the lion's head is carved from a skateboard wheel. The lion itself was a found object.  By obscuring what we expect to see - the head as the "symbol" of a lion - does it makes us see the lion more?  And why the detailed carving of the wheel?


Paul Edmunds, Orbit, 2012 - 13
PVC-insulated wire, stone
40 x 28 x 21cm

Below the wire wrapping is an actual stone. The wire wrapping follows the fissure and patterns of the stone.

Shade 2, 2013
191 x 110cm

Same but Different, 2000
182 x 94cm

The artist's works whilst artist-in-residence at Krafthaus.

What is a throw?

When Paul Edmunds arrived at his first day of his residence at Krafthaus, he didn't know what felt was. He chose a bad time to ask the busy and distracted owner/designer what she was making. "A throw" came the terse reply. To Paul, the word "throw" suggested something light in order that it can be thrown over the body. Felt must be something like seersucker fabric (with its pucks), Paul reasoned.

Those who know felt would realise Paul's mistake. Because felt is almost the opposite of seersucker in being flat, mat and opaque.

Though a "mistake" in understanding, Paul's "seersucker" felt is surely no mistake, being rich in volume and texture...

... and softly allowing in diffuse light.

Felt origami?

Even after discovering his error, Paul thought it doesn't matter what felt is supposed to be, it's more important what it could be. Indeed, he challenged himself to turn the soft hills and valleys into actual crisp folds. The result: felt “origami”?

Felt "Mistakes"

Paul Edmunds explains how he came to make his felt "mistakes" - this clip is part of a longer film where Edmunds is in conversation with another Social Fabric artist Igshaan Adams.

Paul Edmunds' felt fabrics as well as the stories of how he came to make them were the "brief" for a workshop for a workshop for 25 designers, artists and artisans across creative disciplines. Following are some of the ideas and concepts they came up with.

In the same way Edmunds questioned why felt had to be flat, some of the designers questioned why felt had to be made in small pieces used only as a fabric?

They conceptualised "stelt", felt made not only with traditional materials (wool, mohair, other fibres) but also with thin steel wires.

Could "stelt" help make real the “the huddle”, another concept by another group of designers?

To encourage free, non-judgmental thinking, when we're not auto-correcting - which is anti-creative - there were prizes for, in this case, "the most ridiculous" thing that can be made with felt.

If you have other ideas, share it on our FB page

Robin Sprong and Stephanie Bentum suggest using felt's sound-absorbing qualities to make booths in public spaces. Could variations of the "cone of silence" work in lobbies, offices? Could it be beautiful as well as sound absorbing?

Another sound barrier idea, this time with a socially conscious bent. Monique Friedlander and Zavick Botha ideas using felt and rubber tires - ubiquitous in SA - to make barriers along stretches of motorways against which people live.

The idea behind "badhairday" is bespoke hats. Rather than protesting against the fact that felt shrinks as it's made, why not use that property to allow the hat's owner to fit and tweak the hat's shape as desired?

Paul Edmunds was artist-in-residence at Krafthaus, a home furnishings company that works with felt.  Owner and designer of Krafthaus Stephanie Bentum recounts an encounter with Paul.  Stephanie was working on a commission and made an error. She became frustrated and stressed. Paul told her: "it's not a mistake - it's just something else". When she heard this, she felt a great sense of relief. For Paul was right, and it reminded her that to create, one needs to not repeat the tried and tested, which means sometimes making mistakes, which may lead to something more wonderful. We'll show you how Stephanie (re)embraced "mistakes" and what came out of this.


Krafthaus experimented with Paul Edmunds' "seersucker" felt to make koffieklip - notice the puckering. Stephanie added her own touches such as the colouring. Koffieklip means pebbles in Afrikaans, a South African language, for the texture reminded Stephanie of pebbles in a stream.


Drawing on her own inspiration, and spurred on by Edmunds' spirit of experimentation, Bentum also felted using raw "tops" i.e. uncombed merino wool.

She calls this design Veld, also in Afrikaans, it loosely translates to field.

The Veld design was used to make a blanket for Cape Town Opera’s production of L’Orfeo, October 2016, designer Bridget Baker.

Find out more about this felt iteration via our outcomes book. Please click the image to view or download a copy from our website Social Fabric SA.

Social Fabric is a not-for-profit project. Thanks to DOEN Foundation and Cape Peninsula University of Technology, this iteration's tertiary partner.

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Credits: Story

Credits and Links

Paul Edmunds artworks
photo credit for Sole: Stevenson Gallery
photo credit for Orbit: Paul Edmunds
photo credit for Shade 2: Paul Edmunds
photo credit for Same but Different: Dave Southwood
photo credit for Lion: Heather Moore
visit Paul Edmunds

Krafthaus images
all photo credit: Stephanie Bentum
visit Krafthaus

film, Paul Edmunds and Igshaan Adams
film: Yasmin Hankel for Social Fabric
view film of Paul Edmunds in conversation with Igshaan Adams on their respective experiences at their artists-in-residences
view film of Paul Edmunds in conversation with Igshaan Adams about the ideas and work that came out of their artists-in-residences

Workshop concept sheets
for credit, please see the outcomes book,
visit our website to download.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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