Palace, by Janice Arnold (All photos courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt Museum)

At the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, two excellent exhibits:

Fashioning Felt, a show that is much more than fashion, fabric or costuming the body. Wool felt is the earliest textile fabric known, and some samples found date back to the Bronze age. The malleability is astounding. In this show felt shows up as room dividers, wall art, luxurious chaise lounges, faux ceramics as well as the pièce de résistance, a full scale yurt. Made with laced delicacy and layered complexity, being inside this structure feels like the ultimate ladycave.

Surfaces, by Ursula Suter

Standing in the Fields Wall Hanging, by Jorie Johnson

Skin Sofa, by Jean Nouvel

Palace, by Janice Arnold

Also on display at the Cooper-Hewitt: Design for a Living World, a show sponsored by the Nature Conservancy. Ten designers took on the challenge of creating new products from sustainable materials from all over the planet. Each designer paid respect to the origin, use and impact of the material within the setting itself. Locations range from Alaska to Micronesia, materials as varied as salmon skin and vegetable ivory, with world class designers including Maya Lin and Kate Spade. Each exhibit is accompanied by a video of the designer discussing their particular project. For the most part, these interviews are engaging, unceremonious and informative.

From the catalog: “Each of the commissions… strives to provoke conversation and to raise awareness of the origin of natural materials. As one-of-a-kind prototypes, they reflect a continuous thought process rather than recipes for mass production.”

All in all, this is a show that keeps resonating.

Ivory palm nuts, Micronesia, fashioned into jewelry by Ted Muhling

Ivory palm nuts fashioned into jewelry by Ted Muehling (Photo by Ami Vitale)

Maya Lin studying different types of FSC-certified wood from northern Maine. (Photo by Mackenzie Stroh)