Winged Vessel II Vessel, 2004
This is a vessel. It was co-designed by Joi Rae Felt and made by Joi Rae Felt. It is dated 2004 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is wool felt, bast fibers, leaf, urushi lacquer. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.
Jorie Johnson trained at the Rhode Island School of Design and has worked in Japan since the late 1980s, focusing on innovative ways to use felt in design objects. Clifton Monteith, a furniture maker, travelled to Japan to study traditional urushi lacquer technique. After years of collaboration and experimentation, Johnson and Monteith developed a technique for the creation of small vessels incorporating both felt and lacquer.
Lacquer is based on sap and needs to cure, rather than dry like paint. Normally, the curing is accomplished with heat and moisture; alternatively, it can occur with protein such as egg whites, tofu, or rice paste blended with urushiol sap for a different effect. Johnson wondered whether the wool fibers of felt could be used as the curing agent. This led to the pair’s fruitful experiments with materials and process.
First, Monteith turned a variety of bowl forms in his woodworking shop, which Johnson used as molds for her felt. The modeling over the wooden molds created a felt strong enough to serve as a lacquer mold, replacing the usual cotton or hemp substrate for the lacquering process. Once formed, the felt vessels are firm but flexible enough that Monteith could distort the forms to give them their organic quality while applying and sanding the 50 to 75 layers of lacquer. The fuzz of the wool fibers acts as a scaffold that gives the lacquer greater strength and integrity. The lacquer, in turn, provides the felt with new textures. The combination of the two techniques creates contrast and strength while producing a visually appealing design.
Monteith calls the result “Mother Nature’s fiberglass.” In fact, Johnson and Monteith’s technique is an ingenious use of two age-old methods combined in a new and reactive way to produce an organic design object.
Winged Vessel II exemplifies the guiding role materials can play in the creation of a new design. It is a good example of two highly skilled craftsmen, who also are designers, working together to innovate in the use of materials. Historically, the museum has considered materials as one of the principal forces in design creation.
This object was
It is credited
Gift of Anonymous Donor.
Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 19.1 x 13.3 x 11.4 cm (7 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.)
Cite this object as
Winged Vessel II Vessel, 2004; Co-Designer: Joi Rae Felt ; wool felt, bast fibers, leaf, urushi lacquer; H x W x D: 19.1 x 13.3 x 11.4 cm (7 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.); Gift of Anonymous Donor; 2009-41-1