Renee: The people of this town, yeah, it’s hard to explain, their nickname is something like “Pee-ers in a pot”
Renee: And that's because normally they-
Me: Pee-ers? Like peeing?
Renee: To pee, like peeing in the pot. Yeah, yeah.
Thus began my introduction to the city of Tilburg in the Netherlands, where Renee Merckx and her husband Jos Pelders founded Febrik. It turns out that in the 17th century the people of Tilburg were famous for saving their urine in jars, which was then used to wash the wool. Urine contains ammonia, an important chemical in the processing of wool - baths were filled with a mixture of water and urine, the mixture was heated to 50 degrees Celsius, and the wool was washed in it. Apparently at one point a bucket of urine cost half a dutch penny …
You will be pleased to know that Febrik does not use urine when making their fabrics. The company uses circular knitting machines which have around 4000 small needles to knit wool in a continuous loop with no seams, and the fabric is then cut to create one wide flat piece of textile. The machines they use allow them to be very flexible and produce very small quantities and easily produce samples of new designs.
Danish textile company Kvadrat recently became a major stakeholder in Febrik, and I shot this series for them in collaboration with Graphic Thought Facility.