Nadia Rein Design — ‘When Feathers Come Together: A Global Chicken Collection’
NADIA REIN DESIGN | United Kingdom
Every individual feather that Nadia created for her chickens was a work of art in itself. Her process is slow and intentional and the results are 100% lovely. We were delighted to see what new possibilities her fashion design sense would bring to our table and we were honored to sculpt her delicate feathers onto our chickens. Thank you for sharing your warm, generous heart with us, Nadia. — Sally
Nadia (Nadja) Rein is Russian – German from Kazakhstan (born in the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Soviet Union). Now her family is based in Germany and she lives with her husband and kids in the UK. Nadia values people and nature and loves to tell stories about traditions, friendship, and love in her work. She is passionate about felting as it makes people stop in the moment. The felting process helps to heal the wounds, calm the mind, and unites people from every corner of the world and every walk of life. It has a language of love and understanding and it helps to express feelings and send messages.
Felting came into Nadia’s life when she needed help to find a way to live and take care of the family when her Dad was fighting cancer in its latest stage. Now she shares the healing properties of touch and play of colours of the materials she loves with others. She shares stories about her childhood, about cultures she was lucky to visit and work with, and about amazing nature which is so different in different places. She loves the steppe as well as mountains and forests. Nadia delivers face-to-face and online workshops and continues learning and experimenting with wool and its friends.
The companionship of wool, plus friends, offers endless opportunities. So I thought it would be only appropriate to tell a story of evolution and the possibilities of wool in ‘feathers’ for the lovely chickens. They are two sisters.
The older one is more traditional and showcases the luxury of two main materials - wool and silk. The wool is showcased in its pure form - fleece in the tail and extra-fine merino top/roven are used to make an amazing friendship with silk. This lady is really classy, but also a bit of a flirt and she combines both old and new traditions and east and west (silk and wool). The use of fleece takes us to more traditional felting, however, the eco-fur in her tail is a modern development with us taking care of the world around us with a greater commitment to species and environment. The rest of the feathers were done in a Nuno felting technique using lots of different varieties of silk fibers and fabrics and the finest merino wool. The silk for this sister is dyed using natural dyes like madder root, weld, and onion skins. To me, felting is about valuing traditions and at the same time experimenting with new ideas.
The second sister pushes the experiment a bit further. Her tail is put together from elements felted together to create a 3D expression of chicken feathers. I love natural materials but also appreciate the advantages of diversity in materials when they are used wisely and to their potential. The second chicken is the second child of the family. She has her own mind. She loves family traditions but is also adventurous, stepping out of ‘natural’ materials and adding a diversity of effect fibers: viscose, Hemp, Bamboo, and Nerps, alongside silk fibers - Mulberry, tussah, and fabrics: Margelan, ponge, chiffon. The younger sister also likes to stand out from the crowd and adds to naturally dyed silks - brighter colours of fabric dyed wool and silk. It is fashionable and open to new styles - just look at its tail.
Why did you say ‘yes’ to this collaboration project?
I was following and admiring the chickens of the city girl farm for some time now. I just loved them. They are like ladies with their unique personalities. Simply gorgeous. And practical. Can you imagine resting your feet after a long working day on a piece of art like this!? When Sally and Carly asked me whether I would like to collaborate, my brain was exploding with ideas.
What was your inspiration and process in creating your feathers?
I had a meeting with Sally and Carly and their questions took me back to where my felting journey started. I was born and grew up in Kazakstan. We spent lots of time in the house of my dad’s driver, Uncle Tyrsun as we called him, and Auntie Katya - his wife. There were so many dastarhans (long meals with lots of storytelling and interaction around food) sitting on a woolen shirdak rug at a low dining table. Woolen rugs were also on the walls providing extra insulation which is never a bad thing in a region of Kazakhstan neighbouring Siberia, tucked with woolen cushions with intricate traditional patterns, all made by Auntie Katya.
Actually, my first winter boots were also made of wool - we called them ‘valenki’. Then I grew up, we moved to Germany and then I moved to the UK. I lost connection with wool. I loved more modern things and technologies. Until one day I came across pictures of the dresses from a fashion show. A little comment; being a fashion designer was a dear dream in my school years and I always kept an eye on classy and unique collections. So I follow fashion quite religiously. I could not figure out how those dresses were made. They reminded me so much of my childhood. Cut snowflakes. Warmth, although they were light and did not appear to be warm. It was a collection by German Designer Christine Birkle.
Next, I saw another collection - by a Young Kazakh designer Aya Bapani. She completely turned my world around. She made the connection between the harsh rugs in Auntie Katya’s house with intricate patterns, which were telling lots of stories, and expressed them in a modern language in a couture collection, made of felt, for modern fashionistas She opened an intergenerational dialogue of felt for me. And I was lost… in the exploration of the opportunities and possibilities of wool, in pushing the horizons of what became my favourite companion - wool! As a person who likes to experiment, push the barriers, and dare I was keen to learn and try out friendly combinations using other fibers. The companionship of wool, plus friends, offers endless opportunities. So I thought it would be only appropriate to tell a story of evolution and the possibilities of wool in ‘feathers’ for the lovely chickens.
What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
Appreciating the size of the chickens. I normally felt seamless pieces. I also needed to let go of an idea I had to make space for the expression of ideas for the City Girl Farm. It was not that hard, but it was important to recognize and include it and now I am so excited to see how Sally and Carly will interpret the feathers when assembling them. I included some space to play with where it might need, to ensure the perfect fit, and offered a little challenge for Sally and Carly by offering a different option, shapes of feathers.
What have you enjoyed about this project?
Working with Sally and Carly. They opened the conversation which gave me an idea of the project. It is about what I love - building connections:
Older and younger
Traditional and modern
City and farm
Busy life and slow making process
Luxury materials and everyday things (chickens)
Beauty and functionality
I fell in love with the chickens when I first came across them on Instagram and I became a fan. They brought together dear things for me: my childhood, dear memories, and my love for handmade, bespoke, quirky, and of course felting.
Little Chicken— silk fabrics: chiffon, gauze, ponge - all naturally dyed; fibres: silk, Tencel, viscose
Big Chicken— silk fabric: gauze, chiffon; silk fibres: tussah, eri, mulberry; other fibres: Tencel, linen; fleece: Teeswater & polwarth*romney; wool: fine merino; natural dyes: Dalia, oak galls, madder roots, weld
I've been so fascinated with the idea of this collection since the girls told me about it. Watching the fabrics arrive & guessing where they came from by their designs was fun. I've only stitched for The City Girl Farm for a year and was pretty excited/nervous when they asked me to stitch Little England, the fabric being soooo thin and delicate, but once I got started I was reminded of the many years I made wedding & special occasion dresses. Tiny stitches! Easy does it! I'm so happy to have been asked to be a small part of this collection & can't wait to see it all together in one beautiful space. - Karen Tholen, chicken stitcher