By Maya Kar
Kim is the creator of the eye-catching felts and indigo fabrics at Flextiles, as well as one of the three directors of Makerhood . Here she talks of the magical properties of felt and why she became involved in Makerhood.
1. What are Flextiles?
The name Flextiles reflects my flexible approach to the definition of textiles, as I use not just fabric but also paper, plastic and other unusual materials. At present I have two main strands to my work, wet felting and indigo dyeing. Wet felting feels an almost magical process… hot water, salt, and a lot of hard work transforms a light, fluffy substance into a very strong and durable but light fabric, with which I can create either two-dimensional scarves or three-dimensional practical or sculptural items such as iPad covers and vessels. I particularly enjoy producing 3D work, as I am interested in form and texture. I use indigo to dye items such as silk scarves and also combine it with my love of wet-felting by using it to dye small felt vessels. These play on the tradition of blue and white porcelain and through this I feel there is a connection with my Chinese heritage.
2. How did your interest in textiles develop?
I used to be a journalist with Which?, and when I went freelance I had more time for
creative activities. I used to knit, and then I discovered a course in creative and experimental textiles at Morley College and I loved it! I still do one day a week there. Morley is a great college and the course is a combination of taught sessions and working on your own projects. It allows access to facilities which are beyond the reach of many makers. It also enables you to spend time with other makers, developing ideas, and there is an exhibition to work towards.
3. What are your sources of inspiration?
Almost anything! I can just be walking along and see a plastic sign, curling at the edges, or the colour of a flower … it has made me see things in a different light. I’m particularly inspired by forms from nature, but living in Brixton, I have to be open to other influences.
4. So why do you live in Brixton?
I moved to Brixton 25 years ago, initially because it was cheap and on the tube, but I loved
it here. Brixton doesn’t care what anyone thinks of it! It’s multicultural and has
good transport links, and there’s always something going on. Waves of people of different
cultures come in and out of the area, so it’s constantly changing, yet it also has a great sense of community.
5. How did you get involved in Makerhood, and what do you like about it?
I happened to take part in an online survey about the proposal, and thought it seemed a
good idea as I had recently started creating my textiles. So I offered to help out with
interviewing makers and writing blog posts. It kind of sucked me in – and now I do all sorts of things along with Kristina, Karen, Andy and our core team of volunteers! Makerhood is all about trying to create links: links between makers, between makers and local residents, between makers and local businesses. One of the unexpected but exciting results of the initiative is the strong physical (offline) community which has developed. The website provides a focus (eg for discussions, organising events etc) and a showcase, so the online side feeds into the offline. Since I got involved with Makerhood I have felt encouraged to go out and sell my work, and we have a stall at Brixton market. In the past I used to use Brixton as a place to sleep between going to work, but nowadays I often see people I know when I’m out and about here – it has really made me feel part of the community.
You can buy Kim’s unique experimental textile items including dramatic indigo-dyed silk
scarves and colourful felt vessels at http://brixton.makerhood.com/flextiles.