The force awakens as studios find product

From Star Wars explsions to mes Bond underwater action, a Calderdale manufacturer is making a name for itself in the film industry after discovering its carpet underlay can be used for special effects.

Tuesday, 16th August 2016, 8:18 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:36 pm
21 July 2016....... Managing director James Taylor at Texfelt in Elland, manufacturers of felt underlay. Picture Tony Johnson.

Texfelt has supplied its non-woven felt underlay to a dozen films in the last 18 months.

The Elland-based company discovered the potential for its product, which is usually sold to hotels, airports and restaurants, by accident.

General manager David Teague said: “We had an order from Pinewood Studios and I saw the address. I thought it would be interesting to know what they were doing with it so I rang them up.”

It turned out the special effects team was using 200 rolls of carpet underlay to cover an underwater tank for the James Bond film Spectre to deaden the echo of the tank.

When Mr Teague visited the studios to see how the product was being used he discovered the company had been supplying Pinewood for years without realising it.

“They told us they’d worked with a felt product for years but didn’t know where it was made. He probably bought it from a local carpet retailer,” he said.

The underlay has also been used in the Assassin’s Creed, Jason Bourne, and Transformer films to insulate the sets from sound contamination.

Mr Teague was then put in touch with the special effects team behind the Star Wars franchise who wanted to use the felt for an explosion scene in The Force Awakens.

“They cut up the felt, poured diesel on to it and set it on fire, which gave them a controlled smoke effect because the felt doesn’t burn,” he said. “We’ve had about four or five orders from them so far and they told us to expect orders for the rest of the series.”

The company has since supplied a number of film companies.

“What we’ve found is that a lot of these people know each other and a lot of the work has come through word of mouth,” Mr Teague said.

He added: “We’ve been involved with most of the major feature films that have been made in the last 18 months.”

Texfelt, which has a £1.8m turnover and employs nine staff, produces three types of eco-friendly carpet underlay: Envirolay, Heart ’n’ Soul and Sterling Royale, which it makes using a traditional needle felt technique.

The underlay is made from recycled carpet and wool waste supplied by its sister company James Robinson Fibres. The material is then blended with other textiles, including acrylic waste from the clothing industry and recycled jute made out of coffee sacks from firms including Bettys and Taylors in Harrogate, to make the final product.

“Blending is the key to our consistency,” said James Taylor, managing director of JR Group, which owns Texfelt.

The underlay has been used to insulate temporary homes at the refugee camp in Calais. It has also been used to insulate yurts and was recently featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel 4 to line the inside of a tree tent. It has also been used in Buckingham Palace.

JR Group is a fourth generation family-run business based in Bradford, which has been involved in the textile industry for more than 160 years. It manufactures and supplies polyester staple fibres to the furniture, furnishings, bedding and carpet industries.

Mr Taylor is the fourth generation of his family to work in the business. His father, Christopher Taylor, is group chairman.

Texfelt’s core business is producing carpet underlay for homes as well as hotels, airports, restaurants and bars in more than 15 countries across Europe, Africa, Middle East & Asia. About 25 per cent of its product is exported.

It supplies wholesale distributors, flooring contractors and independent retailers who in turn supply names such as Premier Inn, Travelodge, Hilton, Westin, Marriott and Crowne Plaza. Its underlay has also been used in Dubai airport.

But the film industry is an area the company is particularly interested in pursuing.

Mr Taylor said: “There was nothing particularly glamorous about what we were doing in the world of carpet underlay and we were looking for other markets and opportunities and then this just blew up from nowhere.

“At the moment it’s in its infancy but it’s raised our profile and making something exciting out of what we’re doing.”