BY Marcella Echavarria | August 16, 2010
The wonderful work of Ronel Jordaan
I have always been a fan of Ronel Jordaan. Her pioneering work has had a tremendous impact on the felt industry, a growing craft that has the potential to touch many lives.
Since 2004, Ronel Jordaan has been experimenting with felt achieving three-dimensional sculptures that echo natural forms. She is known internationally for the felt pebbles used as accent furniture, pillows and sculptures.
Originally from Mongolia, felt has been used since the 13th century by many nomadic tribes that find in it, a protective surface that is warm, waterproof and eco-friendly. Felt comes from sheep and goat wool from breeds such as merino and mohair. Mohair wool from the Lesotho area of South Africa is considered to be the most beautiful in the world. This very fine fiber comes from angora goats that inhabit the Maluti Mountains.
Hundreds of farmers wash, clean, card and comb the fibers, which then are taken through a hand made process of layering and alternating between boiling water, sunlight and cold water. Felt is also called “the angry fiber” because it reacts to the cold water by becoming stiff or “felt like.” Hand rubbing is a key step in the process of creating felt because it allows the follicles from each strand to interlock change from a soft loose texture to a dense and firm structure that allows for new forms and shapes.
The process of creating felt is eco-friendly and socially responsible because it allows for the reuse of water for gardening, uses biodegradable soaps, lead free dyes and a handmade process that allows for the creation of jobs in a growing industry.
Consistent with being inspired by nature, the Ronel Jordaan™ label is harmonious with nature; processes implemented in the workshop are all eco friendly.
• WATER - Waste grey water is recycled into organic food gardens. These lush sun drenched gardens grow in containers on the roof above their work place - a downtown Johannesburg warehouse. The vegetables, mainly morogo and spinach are for the women to take home or sell.
• SOAP - Essential to the felting process, is a South African product and fully bio-degradable.
• DYES - Although the dyes are imported from Germany, they have been specifically chosen because they are lead free and meet European Eco-Standard.
• ANIMAL RIGHTS AWARENESS - Unlike Australia, South African farmers do not practice mule-sing – docking sheep tails to prevent flystrike.
• NO CARBONIZATION - Wool traditionally undergoes a process called carbonization – a bath of hydrochloric acid and other chemicals to clean the wool. As well as a residue of chemicals left in the wool, fine protective hair follicles are also stripped away. A jersey that is itchy around the neck is because of carbonization.
• 100% SOUTH AFRICAN - Finally, all the wool used in Ronel Jordaan™ products is totally, proudly South African.