Highland feltmaker holds downtown show in new coworking space

staunton2editsLisa Jacenich makes fabric out of wool. She takes fibers shorn, cleaned and dyed and adds hot water, soap and agitation, plus a big dollop of creativity, turning a pile of loose, wool fibers into wearable art: a jacket, a dress, a shawl, purse, vessel, lamps, wall decorations … the possibilities are endless.

Working from her background in watercolors, she calls her style, “painting with wool.” She teaches others how to do this ancient craft adapted to modern tastes and preferences at her studio at 127 W. Main St. in Monterey, as well as national and international venues. Lisa has been a felt maker for over 15 years, leaving the fast-paced profession of teaching government contracting and project management for the greater intimacy and self-exploration of an artist in the mountains.

This Friday from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Feb. 8-9, Lisa and her husband, Jim will set up shop at 16 W. Beverley in Staunton at the newly established, “pop-up” store being managed by Virtually Sisters of Staunton, with a special felt art collection dedicated to Valentine’s Day.

In addition to handmade items suited to the season, she will have on display pictures and a slideshow from her journey to Mongolia last summer. The nomadic herders of Mongolia live in woolen houses called gers, and are thought to be amongst the earliest people to make and use felt. The Mongolian Government invited Lisa after discovering her implementation of small scale mechanization in the felt making process.

The Jaceniches went to Mongolia to help rural women set up small felt-making businesses. During their three-week trip last August and September, they assessed the need for products and services.

Their Mongolian National Business Incubator Federation contact and travel companion in Mongolia, MNBIF vice president Tsend Enkhtuya, had proposed the purchase of studio-sized carding and rolling machinery, plus money to have them conduct training on the new equipment. The financing for the equipment fell through at the last minute, but the Jaceniches went to Mongolia anyway. Enkhtuya helped with some lodging, food and travel arrangements in Mongolia. The Jaceniches raised enough money through private donations, Kickstarter.com, and their own savings to make the journey.

They spent time in Arkhangai aimag (province), near the middle of the country and a center for the raising of sheep, goats, yaks, cattle and horses, and the production of cheese, with a side-trip to Uverkhangai aimag and a visit to the ancient Mongolian capital of Karakorum. They also visited a national park, a hot spring, and spoke to two small-business classes, two local felt producers, and a small manufacturer of felted ger covers. But the highlight of the trip to the rural provinces was a night in a remote mountain ger camp on the eve of a wedding. “I could have stayed there the rest of my life,” Lisa says.

During their time in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, they visited the Chairman of the Mongolian National Sheep and Wool Association, Ganbat Berenbaral and the executive director of the Wool Craft Support Center, Tsend-Ayush Tseleejav, met with over 60 members of the Internationals Women’s Association of Mongolia and retail outlets for felted products.

Their last night in UB, they dined with Dr. L. Batchuluun, nationally recognized art historian, professor and author of “Felt Art of the Mongols.” He closely examined Lisa’s felted jackets and scarves, praising the blend of colors, the skill of workmanship, and the modern design of the clothing and accessories. He asked her to “please come back and teach my people.” The MNBIF and Wool Craft Support Center also asked Lisa to come back to teach her style of felt making.

Future visits to Mongolia are planned, depending on the availability of resources to pay for the equipment and proposed training. Meanwhile, Lisa continues her journey in felt, pushing the design, color and texture limits of this ancient art.

Lisa says, “I am so grateful for this new venue opportunity of a “pop-up” store in Staunton. I am on a campaign to spread the good news about these perfect fibers. Wool is a sustainable, local resource. The fibers contain lanolin which naturally repel water and even if the garment were to become totally saturated with water, it will still keep you warm. When it’s usefulness is over it is biodegradable within one to five years providing nutrients to the earth. Felted wool has industrial applications as well.”

People are encouraged to bring to the pop-up event a favorite garment such as a hat, scarf, jeans, or jacket and Lisa will adorn it with a felted heart. “The heart is a gift from mine to yours and a small donation is requested for the sewing service which will benefit the ongoing Mongolian Feltmakers Project.”, says Lisa. More about the Mongolian Project can be found at www.artfulgifts.biz. The artist accepts commissioned works and is available for private or group classes. She can be reached by phone, 540-414-1812 or artfulgifts@gmail.com


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