Felt Experience
with Brigitta Varadi
Wool is a common raw material that we have in abundance here in rural Ireland. Through the process of felting, this raw material can be transformed into both functional pieces and works of art.
The Hungarian born textile artist Brigitta Varadi
has lived in Ireland since 2001. Today she has made
her home in Drumshambo Co. Leitrim. Brigitta has developed felting as a unique art form in itself and her work is grounded in an ethos that is entirely in harmony with environmental concerns. Using natural dyes is also integral to Brigitta’s work as an artist – maintaining a sensitivity and integrity of the material in which she works.
Felting is an ancient textile process believed to be
the oldest form in existence. Prehistoric samples date from the Neolithic period (6500-6300 B.C), while other important finds come from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Felt was good at keeping people warm and dry in cold weather, especially when knitting hadn’t been invented, and it is clear that people all over Asia and Europe used felt. Roman soldiers used felt pads as armoured vests, felt tunics, felt boots, and felt socks. By about 500 A.D., the Vikings further north made felt blankets too. Felt is still made today in eastern Europe, Asia, and by nomads in Tibet and Mongolia where they use the material for clothing and tent coverings (yurts).
Felt fabric is strong, durable, and warm. Norwegian knitters have routinely felted their handmade mittens for warmth and water-resistance. When Scandinavian children come in from playing in the snow, they shed their boots for felted clogs. The felting process is virtually unchanged since ancient times yet its versatility allows the modern textile artist a new perspective on this ancient craft.
As an artist, Brigitta Varadi’s work explores how memory can inform our present-day perspectives on life and artistic expression. Brigitta’s use of different patterns and repetition of gesture help her relate to the invisible and everyday rituals of working life and our constructed environment. The process of creation that is involved in felt making reflects the essence of her work –an erosion of memories through repetitive action till all that remains is the action itself. The raw material of wool is first carded, washed and prepared for use. Dyes are added if required. Wool fibers are next laid out until a dense mesh is created. Through the action of pressure and friction, rolling the moistened fibers together repetitively, a new unit of felt is created. It takes patience, hard work and perseverance to produce any substantial work in felt. Brigitta is well endowed with these qualities. Brigitta’s latest project markings gathers together and explores the different marks that are used by farmers to identify their sheep in the North-West region. Creating a dialogue with farmers and their place within the environment, the project opens to a broader reflection concerning the signs and forms of identification we humans use.
Brigitta’s work is found in many public and private collections including a site-specific commission by the Office of Public Works for The Department of Education and Science, Athlone, Ireland. She has been acknowledged for her contribution to the arts of Ireland by the President, Mary Mc Alesse in 2008.


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