Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Susan Brown


“.. textiles, so often no more than an afterthought in planning, might take a place again as a contributing thought.”

When Anni Albers wrote “The Pliable Plane” in 1957, she expressed a vision for an integrated, rather than decorative, role for textiles in architecture. Dutch felt artist Claudy Jongstra has realized that goal. In the past five years, Jongstra has created works for some of Holland’s most important public buildings: The Hague, the Amsterdam Public Library, the Rotterdam Kunsthal, The Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Center, and the Nijverdal City Hall and Cultural Center all prominently feature her felts, not as works of art commissioned to adorn public spaces, but rather as architectural materials which serve specific technical, as well as aesthetic, functions in these spaces.

Jongstra has developed a completely unique style which is highly refined in its craftsmanship, yet feels primal, with the gravitas of a natural material like stone or wood. She experiments intensively with the process of felting, as well as the raw materials: Jongstra raises her own sheep, mostly European rare breeds, and uses only natural dyes.

Based on visits to the sites and the artist’s studio, and interviews with the artist and the architects, this paper will examine the technical and creative demands of these architectural collaborations, which benefit from felt’s unique history as both a craft medium and an industrial “problem-solving” material. Claudy Jongstra both draws on and expands the rich textile heritage of The Netherlands through the successful integration of handcraft with contemporary design, giving deep cultural resonance to these important public works.