The rest of the story...

Here's where I tell you all the stuff that wouldn't fit in a 2-minute TV story.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Of Sheep, Felt, Necessity and Art

Lisa's Shop on Monterey, Va.
We had just finished trekking through the drifting snow.  The feeling in my toes had returned and I was ordering hot food and a cup of coffee, when suddenly, a woman approached the table.

"I am a felter," she said.  "You need to come to my shop and see.  It's just a couple of doors up."

Thus was my introduction to Lisa Jacenich.
Lisa Jacenich with felt she created.

Lisa and her husband Jim are, to quote their website "full time fiber artists."  That and so much more.
Jim Jacenich

Fox videographer Curt Schruth and I had just finished shooting our story on the late arriving maple syrup season in Highland County and had settled into a diner in Monterey.  Lisa has seen the news vehicle parked out front and didn't want to miss an opportunity to share her story.  I'm glad she didn't.

The more I learned, the more I realized it was going to be difficult to decide which parts of her story to tell.

Highland County lambs.

First of all -- I didn't know what a "felter" was or is.  I'm assuming most of the public does not either.

So a story on "where felt comes from" could be a story in itself.  Condensed version: Shear a sheep.  Clean and comb the wool.  Spread it out in large sheets -- like 6' x 10' or more, add soap and water, roll it up and agitate it for hours.  The wool compresses and you have felt.  Who knew?

Wool just before itbecomes felt.
Only Lisa is one of the few people in the world who have a special machine to agitate the wool.  (In some parts of the world they drag the roll behind a horse)  On top of that she is an artist who makes unique felt clothing.  And unique felt art.  And unique felt lampshades.  And she combines her felt with silk and other materials.  And her husband, Jim does something called kumihimo or Japanese braiding, which is cool. AND Lisa has been to that part of the world where they drag the roll behind horses to consult with people who make their houses from felt.

See what I mean?
Examples of Lisa's work.

Another other layer  in the weaving of this tale, is that Lisa and Jim are doing this in Highland County which is famous for it's sheep and it's beauty and is one of my favorite places.   So we had to show some of the countryside as well.

Fox Videographer Curt Schruth takes video of the shearing process.

This is not a painting, it's Lisa's creation from felt.

Souvenirs from Mongolia.

High Fashion felt.  Scroll down for more.

Bottom line is that there are multiple stories here.  From the art, to their decision to move to the country and become artists, to the fact that they have traveled to Mongolia where the world's best felters reside -- because they make their home from it, there is a bottomless pit of story angles. (I won't even get into the wedding dress she is making that involved a role of felt that was on a ship that Commodore Perry captained as the United States first visited Japan in the 1800's. )
 The bottom line is this.  Lisa is a talented artist, who is doing something that is rarely done anywhere.   Her creations are literally world class, and each one is unique.  And she is doing all of this while sequestered in a beautiful, small town in the mountains where life is causal and low stress.

All she needs is a little visibility.  I am happy to help.

For more information, you might want to check out Lisa's website or take a drive up Route 220 to Monterey.  It's a beautiful drive and there are great places to eat once you arrive.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Barn Quilts

There is a cool phenomenon finding its way into the rural landscape.  Barn Quilts.

Click here to see the TV story.

A barn quilt is a simple quilt pattern, painted on a sheet of (usually) plywood and affixed to the side of a barn, shed or some other out building.

My story on Fox focuses on Cydney Willis who has a barn quilt on her horse barn.  I found out about it, when by son, Ben came home with a photo of the quilt on his cell phone.
Cydney Willis works on her next barn quilt.

"Dad, I want to do a barn quilt for Gramma," he said.  "For Christmas."

"What," I asked, "is a barn quilt?"

He then showed me Cydney's painting and I was instantly hooked on the idea of the quilts in general, and specifically for my mother who has been making real quilts for the boys since they were babies.

Ben methodically measured out the squares and chose the colors and painted and painted until he was essentially done.
Cydney works on her patio.

Then we had to strap two, 4x8 sheets of plywood to the top of the mini-van in freezing cold weather so we could transport the gift to my parents' home in central New York.  We hoped there was a place on the side of the barn large enough to hold the quilt and that Gramma 'Laine would want it.

The Boys piecing together the barn quilt.
It's one thing to put the grand kids' coloring projects on the refrigerator and quite another to change the complexion of your property with a huge painting the neighbors might not understand.  Barn quilts are, after all, a bit of a new development in agricultural decor.

My Mother, Elaine Carlin, Ben and my Dad, Jack Carlin.  Ben had just showed them the quilt.
 So we pulled in on Christmas morning.  We enjoyed a huge breakfast of egg casserole, home fries, and other delights my mother makes in her cast iron skillets.  We warmed ourselves by the fire and exchanged gifts.

And then the boys went out, pulled the massive quilt off the car and leaned it against the barn, while I guided my folks out to surprise them.

Mom almost cried.

To be clear, it was tears of joy.  She had labored so long to make Ben, Jonathan and Tyler special quilts, with special patterns.  They had all taken them to college, and sleep overs and dragged them around until they basically fell apart.

Now Ben had made a quilt for Gramma in the same pattern she had made for him.

It now has a permanent home on the side of the barn and has become a great source of family pride. 

Mom sees the barn quilt for the first time.
Cydney is hoping community groups and others will begin making these and attaching them to buildings all over Virginia.  Based upon our experience, that's a pretty good idea.