Flooring Focus: Ella Doran on wool flooring

Designer Ella Doran explains why wool is an often-overlooked material for flooring

Edited by Toby Maxwell

I have just recently finished a solo show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Sheep to Seat, Fleece to Floor – in which I exhibited products that I had designed and made using the wool from the sheep that graze at the park. My aim was to share the principles of the circular economy, where nothing goes to waste and all stages of a product’s life are celebrated and made transparent. I did this in collaboration with filmmaker Paul Wyatt, who made a film about my story called Fabric of the Land.

My floor runner was made using the wool that was traced through every process, and made into 10 limited-edition floor runners measuring 69 x 270cm in length. The design was inspired by my ink paintings while on a residency at the park in 2017. The innovation is in the transparency and celebration of a material that until recent times had somewhat lost its value as a useful material.

Ella Doran’s floor runner was inspired by her own ink paintings. Image credit: Jonty Wilde.Ella Doran’s floor runner was inspired by her own ink paintings. Image credit: Jonty Wilde.

Wool is a natural fibre, it has fire-retardant properties, it breathes, and is a stain-resistant material. It is also packed with natural character and texture. British wool has such a provenance and I believe we shall see a continual rise in demand for it! In the time I was working on my project with Yorkshire Sculpture Park the manufacturers I collaborated with – Camira and Alternative Flooring – were both experiencing a rise in demand. Why? Because wool is sophisticated, luxurious, and naturally soft and comfortable underfoot. It’s biodegradable and, yes, you do need to keep it clean to keep the moths at bay, but that’s a given anyway!

It has been wonderful exploring how my designs have adapted through a new material and process such as my floor runners, caught between new limits and new possibilities. The results are fantastic and Alternative Flooring had been brilliant to collaborate with. I am proud to say the design has recently won the best wool carpet award this year from the Campaign for Wool.

I believe wool carpets have been overlooked over the past few decades as sophisticated fossil fuel options abound. Some of these carpets and companies are to be applauded for improving their sustainability. For example, Interface’s Net-Works collection is made from discarded fishing nets collected in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London. The nets are recycled into new yarn for their carpet tiles by Aquafil, which is world-renowned for achieving a closed-loop fibre, one that can be recycled time and time again providing it stays in the system. And the company boasts an impressive sustainability programme of recycling its energy too.

So, I am not proposing a new material, but I am proposing we engage with all materials in circular ways, and wool is a fantastic example of this. 

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