Interview with Susanne Vontobel

Above: Noise reduction panel by Susanne Vontobel
We had a chance to catch up with Susanne this summer during her visit to the AVL facilities here in Chico, CA. 
We learned she's been working on some interesting new pieces that combine functionality and art and had to follow up with an interview. Check it out below!
Susanne, it was so great meeting you during your visit to AVL in July. You’re a wealth of weaving  knowledge and I was fascinated by the samples you shared with us and also the ideas you had to improve our equipment (more on that later). What intrigued me most is the work you’ve been doing with “acoustic art” or the sound panels.

What exactly is it? How did you come across the idea to make these?

Hello Ryan, it was nice meeting you and the team of AVL again in July! And I am flattered, that you liked my new noise reduction panels.

In Europe a lot of modern buildings and houses are constructed with resonant materials such as concrete, glass and steel. People living and working in those buildings often feel unwell and disturbed.

In the past thick curtains and carpets helped to reduce noise, but nowadays people like low maintenance floors, such as hardwood or tiles, which can even make the problem worse. So lots of people need an effective and aesthetic solution to decrease reverberation.

Noise reduction panels bought over the counter are often rather unaesthetic and not adjusted to the room design. As a handweaver I am in the position to fill this gap with unique noise absorbing panels, covered with a handwoven textile that is designed to reduce noise to the maximum by weaving folds and simultaneously adapt aesthetically to the room with a nice individual design.

Who buys them, where are they used?

The acoustic art panels are individually developed and produced for each customer. Owners of modern houses or of old industrial buildings converted in living space (lofts) are potential customers. But the panels are also great for offices, eg representing meeting rooms, or medical/dental premises, retirement homes, etc. So everywhere where noise is a problem and a good design is required.

Byvons noise reduction panel

How does your AVL loom come into play here? Is that what you use to make these?

My A-Series 72” loom makes the production of those textiles possible. To weave folds I need two warp beams where I can set the tension accurately and accordingly to the task: ground or fold. The four box fly shuttle system lets me handle all the colors in an easy and effective way, especially as I am not able to throw a hand shuttle conveniantly over the width of 72”. And the sticky beam allows me to weave long yardages, as the tension is set on the sticky beam and not on the cloth beam. So it is possible to store the uneven cloth with all its folds on the cloth beam without changing the tension on my warp!

Double-beam setup with separate warp tension. 


What is your plan to make this type of art grow for you? Is this what you’re looking to focus on?

I really like to be challenged, develop an individual design, work on the technical part of the textile until every detail is perfect. This sets me as a handweaver apart of the big crowd and makes both happy, my customers and myself. So yes, I plan to develop new designs, always with the functional side of the panels in mind. But I am also open to new ideas, like the ottoman poufs (also sound absorbing) and the plaids I am producing since quite some time. Why not match two or three components in one room, and sell it as a unit?

Creating folds in the warp for the noise reduction panels. 

What more can you tell us that I missed with my questions?

Right now I am in the process of getting the fabric tested, so I can get exact knowledge how the fabric has to be made, eg. material, set, structure, layout, etc. that its acoustic function is optimal. Once I have those informations, it is possible to produce unique pieces where a prognosis can be made on how much sound they absorb without expensive tests of each element.

With those informations specialists trained in acoustics can calculate the amount of  square meters needed and define the position of the panels in the room. So I have still quite a way to go but it is a promising and exciting way!

Susanne! Thank you so much for taking time to share your work with us and our audience. From all of us here at AVL - we wish you the best with your work. 

You can learn more about Susanne on her website:

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