Monterey fiber artist Lisa Jacenich talks about how she came to love felting
Monterey, Va. –
Fiber artist and teacher Lisa Jacenich and her husband Jim came to Highland County several years ago to enjoy the rural environment and develop their artistic skills. Lisa talks about the beginning of their Highland County adventure.
“Fifteen years ago Jim and I set out to find a mountain home, so we could become artists,” said Ms. Jacenich. “That was our intention. And when we were lucky enough to find Monterey and Highland County, when we moved here we decided to try all things local. We got involved in helping to shear some sheep and we went over to Judy Skeen’s and Houston Smith’s to help them shear their sheep. And at the time I thought I would really be focusing on the sketching and Jim was helping with the sheep and of course they have the big wooden structure that holds the huge burlap bag and all this wonderful wool is getting piled into this big sack and this little boy was jumping in to tamp it down and it was just so exciting. And I was like Oh great, now where does the wool go?’ And he said to the dump,’ because, of course, at that time, they couldn’t get enough money for the wool to make it worth their while to drive it to market,” she said.
That inspired Lisa to start a learning process of many years in the art of felting.
“At that moment it just clicked like oh wow, I want to figure out something we can do with this beautiful fiber,” said Ms. Jacenich. “So that’s how I got started to pursue this concept. I knew felting existed. I hadn’t ever really done it, but we were here to just dabble in all kinds of things, so that’s how the journey began. Felting is really the process of how the fibers of the wool bind together. The structure of the fibers themselves, they have scales on them. And it will occur naturally, you don’t really have to do anything. In fact we believe this is how the ancients figured out about felting and how to use these fibers to keep themselves warm. If you were just to take a handful of wool and put it in the bottom of your shoe and walk around on it all day, it will felt on its own. When we are doing it intentionally, we are trying to speed up the process a little bit,” she said.
Lisa goes on to talk about one of the main types of wool processing she uses in her work.
“The wet felting process is by taking the raw fibers and laying them out in criss-cross directions and then water and soap are applied and it’s laid out on something,” said Ms. Jacenich. “The Mongolians would lay it out on something they would call the mother felt. I’m using (a piece of plastic) solar pool cover. The modern form of the mother felt. The fibers are laid out and water and soap are applied. This is rolled into a bundle and then agitated. Now that agitation can occur just by the movement of your arms on the roll,” she said.
The rolling process helps link the wool fibers together to form a fabric that can be made into clothing, artwork and a variety of other items. Lisa’s recent exhibit in the Highland library had many examples of felt work including clothing, artistic wall hangings, lamp shades, blankets, pillows, belts and hats. Lisa’s work can be seen in her studio called Artful Gifts, above the Craft Shop on Main Street in Monterey. Lisa also has a website, www.artfulgifts.biz, where you can contact her about her felt work and about felting classes. Lisa and Jim recently traveled to Mongolia to demonstrate felting techniques to Mongolian felters. That trip will be the subject of a future story on Allegheny Mountain Radio.