One of the best things about writing this column is now we have an excuse to get to know some of our favorite artists better. Patty Benson of Papaver Vert is a great example: Jill first stumbled upon Patty’s felted wool bowls a few years ago and instantly fell for the amazing quality and beautiful texture of her work. These vessels and bowls are a perfect display when cold weather rolls around, lending an instant cozy feel to whatever is placed inside them. And with Halloween and Thanksgiving fast approaching, we thought Patty’s newest round vessel (she’s been a bit obsessed with pods and seeds lately) would make a playful substitute for a pumpkin with the addition of some pretty vines!
On a little island across from San Francisco we were lucky enough to meet up with Patty at her Alameda home/workshop. Up until a few years ago Patty was paying her bills the old-fashioned way: a nine-to-five job that left her feeling less than fulfilled. Although she has a background in fashion and has worked creatively at both Old Navy and Crate & Barrel, the corporate life was not agreeing with her. It was only when a friend taught her how to crochet that things clicked in to place and she found herself wondering if there wasn’t a better way to make a living. A few experiments with wool felting were inspirational, and she took the plunge.
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“I thought if I could work so hard for someone else, I should be able to work just as hard for myself,” Patty tells us in her workshop a few feet from her kitchen. Like most people who decide to start a business out of their home, she had to decide between dining table and desk. Lucky for us, the desk won out, and with the addition of some really cool industrial lockers snagged from her husband’s work she has the perfect storage spot for her yarn and supplies. Patty now works part-time as an antique rug restorer and the rest of her days as the sole employee and owner of Papaver Vert.
The journey from yarn to bowl is a multi-step process: Patty crochets the shape she wants, performs the felting process with the help of her washer and dryer, uses molds to shape and dry her pieces, and finally trims the excess fuzz for a sculptural vessel that is both fun and elegant. Each piece looks flawless; you won’t find an errant knot or a hair out of place. Patty’s modern color combinations run the gamut from festive fall colors and cool grays, to bright jewel tones. Her line of felted goodies includes vessels, pods, coasters, bracelets, pillows…and we thought her next new product should be “the dog beret” (she fashioned one from a scrap for lil’ boy to sport during our visit and we think he kind of liked it)!
Almost all of Patty’s vessels can be used to display plants and flowers, you just need to nestle a small vase/can/liner inside first. We love using the shallow bowls to create a garden of small succulents or to rest a single cut echeveria inside. The bud vases are great for assembling small collections of autumn bits. It’s hard to choose, but our favorite piece is probably the tall nesting bowl set; you can slip a small plant inside one, fill another with dried moss or nuts, and place a beautiful berry sprig in the last to form a display with instant cohesion. Happy Fall!