Friday, October 1, 2010


The Palace of Nations, located in Geneva, Switzerland’s Ariana Park, was designed by an international group of architects, and is the headquarters for the League of Nations. Switzerland is also home to featured jewelry designer Karin Wagner.

Although felt is considered one of the world’s oldest fabrics it is unclear just when or how the material was first produced.

However, the mummified remains of an 11th century male, discovered during the 70s in China’s Tarim Basin, reveal a pair of well-preserved, multi-colored felt socks.

An instructor of textile handicrafts at the Pedagogical Institute in Russia the production of felt, interestingly, did not intrigue Wagner.

In fact, she did not like the idea of felt jewelry and had no intention of teaching her students the process of producing felt much less creating jewelry from it.

Her feelings, however, would ultimately change brought about through a casual act of twirling and untwirling a piece of wool yarn around her finger while conversing with a student.

In that relaxed moment, she began to evaluate how to produce wool as something other than clothing that was decorative as well as wearable.

Choosing to start small Wagner believed that none other than a finger would provide a good focal point. The substantial yet flexible property of felt would provide the necessary foundation to construct a ring.

Wagner would select the soothing, omnipresent form of a flower to bloom from the ring setting. Once completed the billowy, life-like trinket won rave reviews from a friend who promptly put in a request for her own.

The challenging and painstaking creation process motivated Wagner to forge ahead with lariat and choker necklaces, as well as bracelets in the hopes to preserve the tradition of cultivating products by hand.

As she sourced wool from Australia and New Zealand, Wagner quickly discovered that she would have to develop ideas for new techniques on her own as there was no one else producing felt designer jewelry.

Though faced with outside skepticism, along with her own doubts, Wagner chose to move ahead as planned letting trial-and-error, and the spirit of creativity guide her.

In 1998, after several years of perfecting her techniques, she established her workshop in Basel, Switzerland gathering a handful of employees to whom she taught techniques to help her craft the jewelry pieces.

Organic, gorgeous flower designs once again serve as the basis for the aesthetic of Wagner’s sustainable jewelry. “The craft is a very important aspect of the creative workday. Getting from the wool to the finished product requires a great deal of patience and dedication,” says Wagner.

“The finished product is soft and flexible due to the wool’s fresh, natural and `live’ character. We pay loving attention to detail striving for subtle color combinations. I believe the work is timeless inspired by the colors of current fashion, and flowers.”

I have always been intrigued by these kinds of life trajectories where one bypasses or overlooks a particular road only to end up traveling that road  discovering that the place it leads to is somewhere he or she cannot imagine not being.
Photo 1 (top right): Wool Felt Lariat Flower Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Wool Felt Flower Bracelet
Photo 3 (bottom left): Wool Felt Red Rose Necklace
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