Felt: Technology meets tradition in today’s art spaces

News News & events

12 Aug 2016

"A happy marriage of technology and tradition," is how Lucy Arnold describes her online art and craft marketplace, Felt.

Arnold will share the story of her success with Art & Design students at Ara Institute of Canterbury on Monday 15 August at the first of two weeks of industry presentations called Contact.

Arnold and other guest speakers will enrich the students' understanding of creative process, technology and technique, and sustainability which they have been exploring in the Creativity module of their Contextual Studies.

Arnold's co-presenters for the session titled Ways of showing are Jamie Hanton, Director of the Physics Room and Paula Orrell, director of CoCA, who will share their perspectives on creative collaboration and processes.

Felt has taken a deliberately inclusive approach, reflected by the accessible website and sign-up process. "Felt is an open marketplace so we don't stop anyone from joining, just as long as their work is made in New Zealand. We curate the products that appear in our gift guides and showcases to advocate craftsmanship and quality, but this is a place where makers can develop their work and be supported – everyone has to start somewhere," Arnold says.

Lucy Arnold, Director of Felt, online art and craft marketplace

While individual craftspeople might struggle to reach an audience, at Felt there is strength in numbers. Felt is now the biggest online marketplace dedicated to New Zealand made products. Growth has been steady over the nine years since Felt was established. "We are pottering along," Arnold says, which belies how sophisticated the set-up is.

Customers can search for arts and crafts easily within one beautifully designed site; not surprisingly Arnold is a graphic designer (she trained at CPIT, now Ara). Customers can read about products, contact makers directly and of course purchase handmade items.

The appeal of handmade, local products will only grow, Arnold predicts.  

"If you have someone making beautiful, 100% linen New Zealand hand-printed tea-towels then that appeals to me as a shopper. It is nice to shop and feel like you are investing in your community.

"It is called place-based economy. This is the way I think things are going. It's driven by technology, but the faster and more advanced technology becomes, the more people want that human connection. Maybe it is ironic saying that, because we are an online market, but it is about knowing the provenance of what you buy and being able to connect with the maker. We encourage our makers to think about the provenance of their materials and to tell that story to their customers."

Copper foil pendant by Cloud Nine Creative, at Felt. 

LuluRose is a perfect example of fulfilling the need for authenticity and sustainability - Christchurch artist Louann Sidon creates and produces quality hand-printed and crafted homewares and gifts in a home studio using eco-friendly inks and 100% natural fabrics where possible. Sidon is also a CPIT/Ara graduate, as are several other makers featured on Felt whose works shows the variety and uniqueness of wares on offer: Handy labels by Mixing Ink, hand knitted NZ merino throws by Chain Gang, and Cloud Nine Creative's copper foil pendant rings and earrings.

Beyond a marketplace, Felt also provides a community for creatives. "For craftspeople, artists and makers their work is often a solitary pursuit in a studio. Felt can offer collaboration and community. And support, with like-minded people sharing information and resources. Then we bring them together so that they have the ability to compete with the bigger brands and retailers."

Contact is at Ara Institute of Canterbury 15 – 26 August. Exhibitions open to the public include 2:01AM, Year 3 Visual Arts mid-year exhibition and Carpe Librum, Word Festival Book Art, both in the Artbox.