Jim Biddulph in conversation with Anne Kyyro Quinn

As wool is celebrated in all of its guises during the 9th Campaign for Wool events this month, it seems fitting to interview a designer who has been working with and championing the material for the past two decades.

Having studied Textile Design at both BA and MA levels at the London Metropolitan University and the Helsinki University of Industrial Arts respectively, Anne Kyyro Quinn established her studio in 1999. An early pioneer of working across converging fields of art, design and craft, her sumptuously textured, custom handmade panels have always had wool felt at their heart. Both highly decorative and functional, they have gained iconic status across the globe with notable projects including Barclays Wealth Bank in Geneva, Switzerland, The Hilton Suites in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and Boodles Jewellers flagship store in London’s Bond Street.

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JB: As were focusing on wool this month, perhaps we should start there. In terms of materials, your portfolio is primarily built upon wool felt. How did this come about?

AKQ: It all began whilst studying. I worked with a lot of materials but found myself coming back to felt. I chose to work with 100% wool felt because it had so many amazing properties to suit my designs, which were already highly sculptural. I found, and in fact still find, that wool felt is the perfect balance of softness and rigidity. At the same time, with a little research I found that not only is it a natural material but also a very durable and versatile one, which means it lasts – the perfect ecological solution for my surface designs!

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JB: It’s fair to say that you’re panels are distinctive and instantly recognisable to anyone interested in the world of interior design. Apart from the fact that you’ve been making them for some 20 years now, why do you think that might be?

AKQ: Well, the level of craftsmanship invested in their making is legible in their construction – we cut, sew and manually finish every element of a design, so the panels are truly handmade and highly crafted pieces. I’ve also always been very careful and considerate when it comes to the design of the 3-D patterns themselves, be that for a new range or a one off commission. It’s important to remember that we’re embellishing walls with something that is close to an artwork but also has depth and surface relief. I always aim to make designs that are arresting and tactile but at the same time, harmonious and livable. It’s a really important balance to aim for and one that continues to enthral me with every new design.

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JB: As well as the aesthetic allure of your panels, there is also another non-visible benefit that they offer in relation to acoustics. Can you tell me a little more about this?

AKQ: As it turns out, another benefit of wool felt is that is has good sound absorption. Couple this with the fact that irregular 3-Dimensional facets also help to muffle sound and our panels offer a very genuine acoustic solution for almost any environment. It’s one of the reasons that they so regularly get specified for environments such as corporate lobbies and conference rooms, cinemas and auditoriums.

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JB: So was that always the intention, was that another factor in choosing wool felt as your primary material?

AKQ: Well, not really…it was a happy accident! The studio was founded on the basis that textile structures should look good and function on an emotional level. What I found over time was that clients were noticing that the panels were positively affecting the space in which they were used by deadening the noise within. Since that point on I made it my mission to ensure that all of our panels do the same.

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JB: So how have you gone about this?

AKQ: I have worked very closely with London South Bank University’s Acoustic Department for many years. It’s an ongoing and invaluable collaboration. They test each of my designs for its acoustic performance and are on hand, along with other experts, to support my team in devising appropriate sound solutions for specific projects, should problems arise. Now we have a portfolio of products that look beautiful, feel amazing and have a positive impact upon the space and the user in which they are fitted by smoothing sound levels. They really are products that deliver a multi-sensory experience.

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To find out more about Anne Kyyro Quinn’s work visit www.annekyyroquinn.com

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About Jim Biddulph

Jim is our material specialist, conducting ongoing research around cutting-edge surface materials. He is also the founder of Here You Are Studio, and is a lecturer at Buckingham New University.
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