“I lived on a fruit orchard until I was five years old,” says Grace Wood, remembering the sweet taste of freshly picked fruit. “It tastes different when it’s straight off the tree. My parents transitioned the farm to an organic orchard, which I have come to realise is a lot work.”
Environmentally sustainable and chemical-free production has become a major part of Wood’s life. Artists and designers who touch the earth lightly and reduce or limit the impact their lives and practices have on the environment has had a powerful influence on how Wood works. As a felt artist, Wood creates stunningly tactile interior textile products from Australian wool. If that doesn’t sound hard enough, she has implemented her parents’ organic approach to her work, personally dyeing the felted wool with natural plant extracts. Cochineal, weld, madder, Dahlia, onion, turmeric and indigo are some of the sources of the rich and vibrant colours seen in her work.
Perhaps it was her time spent interning with Dutch felt artist Claudy Jongstra which ignited Wood’s passion for natural plant dyes.
“Claudy had a garden with over 100 different species of plants with natural dye properties, so I was exposed to that in a big way through her. If you remove all the chemical processes everything becomes much more labour intensive. It was something that I thought about a lot but I just realised that my whole philosophy is about doing something that is not harmful to the environment, so using natural plant dyes in my work was just a logical progression.”
These days, Wood’s parents own another property, ‘Clear Creek’, which runs a mix of Australian Merinos and crossbred sheep. A big supporter of the Australian wool industry, Wood sources most of the wool for her designs from her parents’ farm, allowing her to be fully involved throughout her entire supply chain, from farm, to felt to finished product, hoping to encourage a generation of sustainable creativity. She cleans and felts all of her wool by hand, bringing back the artisanal approach to crafting beautiful products.
Despite not living on the farm, Wood lives surrounded by dense bushland in the iconic Blue Mountains - a rugged region west of Sydney known for its dramatic scenery, steep cliffs and panoramic views.
“I have a few personal favourite places in the Blue Mountains: The Conservation Hut in Wentworth Falls, drink by the fireplace at Katoomba’s Carrington hotel, Mount Hay for the most amazing lookout over the mountains and last but not least, Paradise. I can’t tell you where it is, but if you find it, you’ll know why it’s called Paradise.”
It’s this day-to-day connection with all things natural that shine through in the end products of Grace Wood Design Studio.
“I’m always drawn to the places where the landscapes are wide and open, rugged and wild; although, it doesn’t take much really, even the sky and clouds are also really inspiring to me,” she laughs. “The shapes and forms that occur naturally within the landscape are always showing themselves in my work.”
Even the names of her products are inspired by nature: Bedcovers called Blue Waves or Burnt Bush; Full Moon, Wolf Grey and Black Birds cushion covers all bring a touch of the outdoors inside whilst maintaining a warm and cosy look and feel.
“They’re wool. They’re warm and they’re tactile and soft and that’s part of the appeal for a lot of people. When people actually see the product in real life and they get to touch and feel it, it’s so different to just seeing it on a screen or in a picture. It’s really great when you see people surprised when you tell them what it’s made of and how it’s made. Even the wall hangings, I love the idea that people would touch them and feel what the texture is like.”