January 18-27, 2019

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Designer Spotlights: Kathryn Walter – FELT

Since 2011, the Toronto Design Offsite Festival has featured a wealth of talent. From furniture to installation to architecture and more, artists and designers working in a range of media showcase exciting new work. Through our new series, Designer Spotlights, readers will have the chance to learn more about past exhibitors, as well as some more recent additions.

FELT is a label and a studio directed by Kathryn Walter whose work with manufactured felt takes many forms. She collaborates with architects, designers and clients, and responds to ideas, sites and budgets from small objects to large-scale installations.

365 Days of Felt continues online, now just past the midway point. Check out the whole project online at www.feltstudio.com/blog or follow on Instagram and Facebook where you’ll find felt as accessories, tools, jerry-rigs, and props, mostly practical, sometimes unlikely, often humorous, but always functional. Felt works!

How long have you been involved, and what are your favourite things about the TO DO Festival?

I’ve participated in TO DO in many capacities including curated exhibitions, talks, and window installations over several years. Before TO DO, I showed my work in the early days of Come Up to My Room and Radiant Dark, and more recently DO Design. I support these projects for their exploratory approach to design. I love that TO DO has brought them together in the name of a festival that has helped build Toronto Design Week into a forum for emerging and experimental projects.

Can you share a fun TO DO Memory?

 365 Pieces of Felt draws from visual art, design and photography, and began with the felt remnants I have accumulated in my studio. I displayed a pile of felt in the window of David Kaye Gallery for the launch with TO DO 2018, and through the course of the Festival a photo was added to the window each day. Each image represents a piece of felt in one of a myriad of applications, staged yet portraying ingenuity in the moment. Around my home, we call felt a cure-all as we find seemingly endless uses for its material properties.

Piles interest me for their impermanence and changeability. Previous FELT piles also exhibited with TO DO include 2256 feet, shown at Aesop in 2016, which followed the permanent installation of my FELT wall in this Queen Street storefront with superkül architects, and Trade at Radiant Dark, curated by Shaun Moore and Julie Nicholson in 2010.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I’ve worked with industrial felts almost exclusively since 2000. The material itself inspires me with its ancient history, its connection to Eastern and Western cultures, and its range of physical properties that give it rich surface and structure.

How would you describe your practice?

My practice has never been easily categorized, so I would say Interdisciplinary. FELT has taken me into many fields including art, architecture, material culture, theatre… And, even within design, there’s furnishings, wall-coverings, lighting… I come from a visual art background and have always been interested in maintaining a critical practice, but my work also has to have some commercial viability in order to survive. So, I walk a line somewhere between, with some projects exploring form while others use irony and humour to raise questions about the world we live in.

As a designer working in Canada, what role do you feel TO DO plays in our art and design industry as a whole?

TO DO is designer-run and has a strong grass roots energy. It’s slightly chaotic, in a good way, with such a wide range pf projects under one umbrella. I think TO DO is important for offering alternative approaches to design in a field that is largely commercially-driven.

*Portrait of Kathryn Walter by Naomi Finlay

Looking to plan ahead? Festival Registration is now open! If you’re interested in joining the Festival, now’s the time. You’ll become part of an exciting network of creatives, exhibitions, and events. Plus, you’ll gain exposure in an engaged community of designers and design-lovers.

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