A sensory and experimental approach to materials, by MUUNA
A textured, handwoven fabric, on which a sea of glittering crystals has slowly been grown. Yes, grown. An appliqué of patinated metal leaves–layered together, and onto fabric, as a dense cloak. A cluster of translucent and colorful resin droplets, frozen on a swatch of silk tulle.
These unexpected forms and combinations of materials come together to create surfaces that can only be described as ethereal. They are the work of experimental materials studio MUUNA, which creates conceptually driven collections of textiles. Led by designer Hannah Croft, whose background is in textile design innovation, the studio adopts a more sensory and experimental approach, using familiar design elements such as weaving, embroidery, and embellishment differently, while also redefining certain concepts and features signature to textile-based design.
The first of these concepts is traditional embellishment. In MUUNA’s materials, it feels as though the line between base material and external embellishment or adornment is blurred. Often, the fabric is woven or constructed in such a manner that its own structure becomes the attractive, decorative feature. On the other hand, by employing unique processes such as crystallization to enrich the base fabric, rather than attaching elements superficially, a sense of the ‘other’ is removed–the embellishment seems to become an organic and intuitive part of the design.
A second shift, seen in the work of MUUNA, is the union of materials and processes which belong to diverse realms. Embracing the role of scientist, as much as that of a designer, Hannah Croft combines luxurious yarns and weaves with gritty, patinated metals, crystal-inducing chemical washes, and melted resin–ingredients that one is inclined to think of as industrial.
Altogether, MUUNA seems to challenge our perception of what fabric or textile can be. A combination of traditional and alternative crafting methods leads MUUNA to create works that are powerful in their visual and sensory impact on viewers and users. While fashion or couture is one context which one can immediately imagine the studio's materials in, since they are rooted in textile, MUUNA's materials are also poised to play a dramatic role in interior and spatial design, and that of objects and surfaces.
Recently, MaterialDriven spoke with Hannah, soon after her presence at 'One Year On' at New Designers 2017, in London, and just a few weeks shy of MUUNA’s next exhibit–at the Launchpad and Innovation Area at MoOd in Brussels– which will be on from September 6th to 8th 2017. We felt MUUNA's work is an excellent fit for the start of our new series "Material as Object"–a series of content focussed on designer's whose bespoke materials become objects in themselves. Here is a brief interview with Hannah, tracing her journey as a designer, as well as the motivations and processes behind her material-innovation at MUNNA.
MD: From training in traditional textile design, and embroidery, to a more experimental approach to materials and textiles—what has motivated this shift and evolution for you?
Hannah: I had worked in the textile industry in London for a few years, but I hadn’t found my fit creatively. I came to a sort of a crossroads really and decided to leave London and begin my MA in ‘Textile Design Innovation’ at Nottingham Trent University. Returning to study was cathartic and became creatively liberating for me.
Taking this time allowed me to harness my prior experience both technically and conceptually, and channel it in a new direction. Since completing m MA in 2016, I have continued this approach and am now trading as ‘MUUNA.' I hope, with this venture, to challenge the perceptions of what ‘fabric’ is and could be made of, by offering new dimensions of materials. I’ve also recently received funding to buy a digital hand loom for the studio, a tool I want to leverage immensely
MD: Your work is intended to have a strong sensory impact. How does this sensory perspective drive your research and design process?
Hannah: I mainly explore texture to communicate; tactility is very important to me, as engaging directly with materials is becoming lost in our digital world. I am very hands-on myself and learn kinesthetically, so my ideas and understanding develop through continual practice-based research. There are times when a more methodical approach is required, but mostly I find that the work evolves organically. Within my practice, I feel I am all of these roles–textile artist, designer, developer, and researcher, so there can sometimes be a little internal conflict when I am working. But, predominantly, I find that I am aesthetically driven and materials-led.
MD: Aether—a collection of your works—is marked by growing crystals on light or feathered fabrics such as chiffon and mohair. What drew you to this unique, alchemic approach and the process of crystallization itself?
Hannah: Broadly, Artificilae//Matter is a speculative research project in which I was inspired by bio-engineered fabrics, and wanted to cultivate my own 'matter'. I approached this from an embellishment perspective, with the intention of crafting an alternative to traditional adornment.
I spent much of my MA developing a crystalline solution that could be used to treat fabric. After conducting extensive research into yarns, I could manipulate my handwoven fabrics and embroidery applications with this finish to create a transformative crystallized mineral surface. The nature of the process results in a unique piece which exhibits an ethereal, raw and refined aesthetic.
MD: In addition to crystallization on fabric, what are the signature processes you adopt with the fabric and materials that you work with, which have become distinct to ‘MUUNA’?
Hannah: My aim with MUUNA is to explore and maximise the creative potential of materials; to create innovative fabric. In doing so, my work is becoming increasingly multi-processed; although at my core I am a weaver and embroiderer, I am always trying to push these disciplines beyond the traditional. I do this through utilizing unusual yarns, that may have a reactive property–such as thermoplastic or a melting polyurethane. Often I make my own appliques through laser-cutting or digital embroidery. I also adopt unique finishing processes such as the application of resin or patina for an experimental color. I try to suggest a juxtaposition, through combining harder materials with natural soft materials like silk, feathers, wool, and leather. I don’t want it to be obvious how these fabrics were made, so I try to create a bit of an illusion.
MD: Where do you see your materials and textiles being used most? And where do you envision them being placed and appreciated in the future?
Hannah: I think the fabrics lean towards but are not limited to, a fashion context, in a couture, catwalk capacity. I am also developing them within the context of the interiors market as they can be applied as wall coverings, panels, or for an installation. I try not to pigeonhole my work too much as that can limit its potential. Most of these textiles could have multiple applications, and ultimately, the realization of a ‘product’ could be achieved through collaboration or commissioning.
MD: Aether, Obsidian, Ionic—these are distinct types and series of textiles or materials in your work. What are you working on next? And what materials or processes would you like to explore in the future?
Hannah: Right now, I am developing a more interiors-focused collection of material swatches in preparation for my next trade show–MoOd in Brussels. In the future though, I would like to work more with raw components and fibers to develop new types of yarns as well as fabrics. I feel there are so many materials that have great potential to be integrated into textiles. However, manufacturing has not quite caught up with those ideas yet. From a sustainability perspective as well, we are going to have to look towards alternative sources of materials if we are going to limit the carbon footprint of the industry.
MD: Are there collaborations with other disciplines or kinds of practitioners that you would like to see for your work, that would benefit your practice?
Hannah: Yes, particularly with other designers, fashion houses, artists, architects to develop textiles specific to their needs. I am keen to reach out to potential collaborators, particularly like-minded materials/textiles designers, artists, educators or indeed scientists, really, to enrich my research and to create new solutions. I hope to build ‘MUUNA’ towards a creative collective and a materials atelier for the 21st century.