seattle’s softwear of software
Janice Arnold collaborated with Rysia Suchecka, principle at NBBJ, Seattle, Washington, to design and build a felted bench and sofa for the reception area in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle.
they were sitting on a really strong felt, but they could reach back and feel the texture of the mohair. It was a wonderful addition to the exhibition because it was the only thing that you could actually touch.
How did people respond when they were in the Palace Yurt environment?
Because felt, as a material, is believed to be the oldest textile tradition known to humans, it makes sense to me that we
have a genetic memory for it.
One of my favorite things was to anonymously go into the Palace Yurt and hang out and watch people. Regardless of their age or economic stature or whether it was the guard or the five-year-old, there was this sense of awe.
The phenomenal part was to watch this reaction and then when they recognized me—the museum played a video they produced with me in it—and they would start asking questions. Some of them would start to weep. It was really amazing. I still have people, who will find out that I am the person that made the piece, and they don’t remember anything else about the exhibition, but they will say, “That was like a spiritual experience.” People well-up with tears, and it makes me have the same response. There was a tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into that exhibition.
It took on a life of its own that was way beyond my vision. That’s the beauty of working in a medium where you can interact with natural light. This was the most popular show the Cooper-Hewitt had ever had. They broke all their attendance records; they had people coming back four and five times to sit in this space.
Have you ever slept in a yurt?
Yes, I did in Central Asia. Also, because I was given this amazing studio to test hang the Palace Yurt in Olympia, I have also slept in my own yurt. The night before the Palace Yurt was shipped off, I got my sleeping bag out and slept in it.
It was an amazing experience to sleep in my own Palace Yurt. When you are in a traditional yurt out in the country it is like being in a womb in a sense— everything is quiet. It’s a phenomenal experience. It is
wF very, very comforting.