The Story So Far - as told by Pieter van der Werf
I’ve set up my practice under the name ‘Orains’ in Scotland in 2012 (p/t), after moving from the continent to the UK. I make large-scale textile art and I’m working with sheep wool. I’m interested in different sheep breeds, different wool fibres, different ways of handling these and the different way natural dyes ‘cling’ to the fibre.
My work is informed and heavily influenced by the land we live on, by the sheep that graze the hill-farms, by the farmers who make a living rearing the sheep. Socio-economic factors play an important role.
I collect Scottish wool direct from the farmers. I can trace each fleece from the three principal farms I work with with different breeds: Scottish Blackface from Colintraive, Jacob from Lephinmore, Hebridean from Inveraray. I am particularly interested in the Scottish Blackface because of its staple length.
I am exploring ways how to strengthen the supply chain in this part of the process, encompassing heritage, history and future, and give new meaning, relevance and purpose to Scottish wool and my designs.
The Making Of
The ‘making of’ of the products is unique in Scotland because I own the whole process on this scale. I consider all facets of the process - including collecting the wool - an integral part of the craft process.
It is done by hand: I collect and wash and treat approx. 70 ‘raw’ fleeces each year at the studio. Hot water and heat required for the processes is provided by firewood, processed by myself.
The natural dye I use from 2014 onwards is created from local plants like heather flower, cowslip and Scottish thistle I collect from the land surrounding the studio. I am creating a 'plant bank' of the vegetable materials available in this part of Scotland.
For research purposes I’ve visited Uist Wool with its scouring facilities and visited mills and weavers on Harris and Lewis to investigate collaborating in the process.
I design & make large-scale textile products up to 5 m2. I apply an ancient felting technique to create contemporary wall pieces, rugs and fabrics, the latter being used in light fixtures and shades using the latest LED technology.
I sell to individual clients, galleries and interior design (trade) in the UK. I exhibit and I also offer creative workshops at the studio and in community settings (schools, community centers, care homes).
I see an increased interest from clients looking for unique pieces with provenance, authenticity and credibility, and this I can offer.
Pieter van der Werf,