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Furniture Made by Wind

Merel Karhof uses a series of windmills to create a series of upholstered objects – it is a complete and clean industry.   Finding and then controlling the wind is her biggest obstacle.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 09-05-2013

In Merel Karhof latest project, Windworks, the potential of windpower is visualized in a series of furniture objects.

The furniture is the result of a collaboration between three different mills - colour mill De Kat, saw-mill Het Jonge Schaap, and the Wind Knitting Factory that Karhof developed herself to great acclaim.

Karhof always had big plans for the harvest produced by her Knitting Factory, but it would be a project requiring just the right set of circumstances.  She let it sit for a while.

Until now.

In Zaanse Schans she has set up her project – the dyes, the wood and the upholstery mills, all powered by wind.

“The tree trunks are left immersed in waterways for anything up to ten years to drain the wood of all its juices,” Karhof says.  Then they are transported along the waterways – also using wind energy – to mills where they are sawn and assembled.

At the colour mill the yarn is dyed. Almost all the dyes are natural using sourced materials like Madder Root (oranges and reds), Log wood (purples and greys), Cochineal (pinks), and Indigo (blues).  Chemical dyes are only used for the greens and yellows, “because those colours turn brown over time and are more difficult to maintain,” Karhof explains.

The Wind Knitting Factory is where the yarns are knitted into upholstery.  Little pillows, each representing the amount of time needed by the wind to make it, offer insight into the production process.

Knit itself, however, is too fragile and unpredictable to upholster furniture with so it first has to be felted.  “Knit can unravel too easily and I needed something much stronger,” Karhof explains.

She also needed a windy environment, and being Dutch that wasn’t hard to locate.

“But that has been part of the experiment,” Karhof says.  “Anybody can access wind on a rooftop and I wanted to be able to show how much wind was needed to create these objects.”

Karhof refers to the concept as the urban factory.  “Everything is green and everyone is talking about green energy,” she says, “but nobody knows what that means, how much wind do you need to make a scarf?”  In this project I have really visualized what wind can produce.”

For this special collaboration, Karhof built a new Wind Knitting Factory which incorporates a new feature; a pennon, that gives the machine the ability to turn away from the wind when the speed gets too high, therefore allowing it to operate independently.

“Every mill needs a miller to control things,” she says, “and that is me.  I have to maintain everything and check that the yarn goes through properly.”

The process and the results of this collaboration will be exhibited at De Kat at Zaanse Schans from this Sunday, which is not coincidentally the Dutch National Windmill Day.

12 - 19 May 2013
General opening hours: Tuesday - Monday, 11:00 - 17:00
Verfmolen de Kat at Zaanse Schans, Kalverringdijk 29, Zaandam, The Netherlands

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