The wool industry is facing a crisis. In Ireland, the value of wool has dropped by 93% since the 90’s (The Anglo-Celt, 2020), due to increased dependency on synthetics and a lack of education regarding the fibre’s benefits. Floc encourages the (re)use of wool as a hyper-sustainable material through exploitation of the spinning process. This project aims to revive the 'forgotten' industry.
Wool has been heralded as one of the world’s most sustainable fibres. So why aren’t we using it?
Furniture and Product Design graduate Amber Thompson has created Floc, installation lighting designed as a result of material exploration and research into the crisis happening within the wool industry.
To put things into perspective, in Ireland, the value of wool has dropped by almost 93% (The Anglo-Celt, Seamus Enright, 2020). This has come about because of increased dependency on synthetics across all industries where wool could be used, and the Coronavirus pandemic. This is shocking, as the return on wool once paid farm rent for a whole year. Now, the financial return is less than the cost of shearing. As a result, many farmers are burning their fleeces out of frustration.
Thompson explains “I couldn’t understand why such an abundant, versatile, and sustainable material was going to waste. Humans bred sheep to grow excess wool for monetary gain, now synthetics have come along, we no longer want it, but we have all these sheep that need to be sheared to survive, it makes no sense. We need to start re-using this traditional and compostable fibre to help tackle 21st century issues; it’s a win, win scenario.”
Floc is the result of a material exploration project which explored the process of yarn spinning. The aim of the project was to raise the perceived value of wool by presenting it in an innovative way and highlighting its many key advantages that can contribute to a healthier planet and society. Transparency was also a fundamental driver behind the project, to allow for full traceability of materials and processing to further add value. Wool was sourced from a flock of Romney sheep in Romney Marsh and processed by a local hand-spinner from Sheffield. Colour variation was created naturally using dried hibiscus leaves, exploiting another of wools inherent qualities- colour absorbency. A look-book with a knitted cover hangs alongside the lights, further explaining the process and material origins to viewers, whilst demonstrating a secondary way that wool can be used.
Amber wanted to press pause halfway through the processing of wool, to demonstrate the beauty that the fibre can present, before being spun into yarn. “We are so used to seeing wool as a woven or knitted material; as a result, maybe people aren’t fully aware of how it is processed and its versatile potential. I wanted to challenge this notion by demonstrating how exploiting a less familiar earlier step of the process can present wool in an innovative and beautiful way… an intangible way. This added intrigue to the product with the intention of drawing people in to learn more about wool.”
Inspired by the intangible nature of clouds, Floc is intended as an installation piece for public spaces such as galleries, shopping centres, museums, and visitors’ centres. The intention of this is to expose the benefits of wool to the broadest audience and create maximum impact by enticing and educating maximum individuals.
There is an overarching need for increased utilisation of this amazing fibre to better both the planet and the wool industry. Floc aims to raise awareness of this.