Q&A with Virginia Star Busmann | Forestry Wool
June 2, 2018
After moving from New Zealand to the Netherlands in 2013, Virginia combined her love of functional design and natural fibres to create Forestry Wool - a luxurious collection of blankets made from New Zealand's lambs wool. This week we discuss what customers love most about the blankets, how growing up in New Zealand has shaped her outlook and much more. Cooper Interiors loves the clean and modern aesthetic of Forestry Wool - from the simple colour ways of the blankets to the effortless branding.
What inspired you to start Forestry Wool?
I’ve been active with creative projects since finishing art school, either printing fabrics, making small and large scale artworks, and various commercial projects. My parents had a screen printing company so I was colour making/matching Pantone colours and hand screen printing onto textiles since I was young. After art school I spent some years in my first proper job as in-house artist for a textile company in Auckland where I hand painted print designs onto paper which were sent to Asia and made into fabric.
When I started Forestry Wool I had recently moved from NZ to the Netherlands, which is colder than I was used to. Embracing a new culture and not speaking the language was a lesson in re-finding my identity. That was a push to start for me.
I love natural fibres, and I am drawn to design products that are functional, so woollen blankets made sense, for the fibre itself, and the journey of the product - starting with the the sheep and its environment, playing a major part in the quality of the yarn, to the production process and into a finished product as a way to convey ideas and meaning. It is like a functional artwork in it’s own right for the sole purpose of being used and enjoyed everyday.
I am inspired by how blankets have given warmth throughout the centuries, and to give my take on it. Wool is a source of joy and also luxury and pleasure. With these ideas in mind I spent 6 months meeting with various mills, yarn suppliers and trade fairs around Europe to find the right partners who were able to start with small runs for me, and it grew from there, and now I'm working with 2 mills in Europe producing my blankets from New Zealand wool and Italian cashmere.
How has being from New Zealand shaped your design aesthetic?
I grew up in Auckland, and was pretty open about possibilities, there wasn’t much reason to not do what you felt drawn to doing. In NZ opportunities come from our location and feeling unrestrained, I think it gives a sense of freedom, an open and expansive vision; we are unrestrained due to our size, location and culture. NZ being young, vibrant and with a healthy competitiveness, is a powerful combination. NZ looks to the rest of the world but does its own thing.
Being from NZ has definitely shaped how I approach ideas, my outlook and defines how I view things.
Has your style evolved throughout your journey?
Its always evolving, though I keep true as much as possible to my own aesthetic which is visually thoughtful through shape and colour. When my kids were small I used to design my own outfits and prints and hand print them under my kid’s clothing label hum. If I look back now the colour palette and minimal design have similarities to my blankets.
What do customers most love about your blankets?
I think customers are drawn to products that speak to them, either its the subtle colour tones or interesting combinations or thoughtful design. And maybe the combination of modern aesthetic on classic household items.
What does your studio look like?
My studio is an old school classroom in a Dutch school building outside of Utrecht now being used by creative people/businesses. It’s in near original condition (except I painted it and put in new flooring). It’s standard classroom size with 2 sides full of windows so is very light and warm and has a beautiful atmosphere. I am lucky too to have another Kiwi in the building down the hallway from me!
And finally - what would your dream home look like?
It depends on where I was living. One version would be on Waiheke island with a beautiful view over the water, made from natural materials with floor to ceiling glass walls, full of character and warmth, big fire places and load of rugs and blankets in each room.