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Women In Design: Frances Van Hasselt celebrates the art of textiles

This local artist is all about honouring mohair through extraordinary textile art

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By House & Garden South Africa | August 9, 2023 | Art

Design is a way to capture stories and memories of places and spaces and recreate these moments into objects. For me, hand-made objects that are deeply rooted in the ecology of their origin hold a certain soul, texture and character that a user can feel.

It is this inexplicable connection and comfort that hand-made objects embody that connects the user to the materiality of its makeup and the human connection of the maker. To that end, I wanted to work in mohair, one of the most ancient, exclusive and sustainable natural fibres, the production and processing of which is geographically centred in South Africa. Having had the privilege of growing up on a family Angora goat farm in the Karoo, I have a natural affinity for the fibre and a desire to produce a high-end, local product that celebrates mohair's incredible characteristics and its unique South African heritage.

Made to order, we work with natural, raw material and never create simply for the sake of making. For us, the process of making starts with rain, the delicate ecosystem of the plant life, the quality of the ground, the role of herdsmen and the importance of healthy animals to produce quality mohair. From raw fibre, we move into the process of washing, cleaning, dyeing and spinning until, finally, the yarn ends up on the loom. In many ways, weaving and finishing are the last steps on an intricate and codependent supply chain. Understanding the connectivity between us and nature and the process needed to get from farm to fabric informs a more selective appreciation of the product.

It turns a simple textile into an invaluable homemaker, paved down to the next generation. We believe that it is vital for consumers to recognise that their buying power has a trickle-down impact on a long line of people, the welfare of animals and the preservation of the land.

Collectable design is usable art. Where you choose to place it and how you use it informs the life of an artwork. If we are who we surround ourselves with, we are also informed by what we choose to surround ourselves with.

They are visual references of how we wish to express ourselves and share with others. This type of design offers the invisible umbilical cord between art and owner, a connection needed for these works to unfold into their end form.

For CUSP, we were given the rare opportunity to simply play and capture a little bit of this place, its people, its history. By mixing plant and animal fibre into the works, we hoped to deconstruct the basics of fabrics, showcasing the ingredients from which we have disengaged. If you take the time to view a textile panel you see a canvas, as well as the incredible science, skill, time and creativity that these pieces hold.

Instead of paint, we have yarn. Each yarn is uniquely constructed by hand, mixing ingredients to achieve a certain composition that is then hand-woven on old looms. The choice of yarn is determined by the hands and emotions of the spinner; at each moment the mohair is fed into the spinning wheel it is never uniform as it holds the mood of the maker.

These pane's capture the homes of souls, the fibre of animals, droplets of rain, women darning our realities into the nonsensical, textile maps showing where we have come from and how we wish to tread into tomorrow.

This article originally appeared on the September 2022 of House and Garden SA