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Mongolia asks assistance from rural Virginia felt makers.'s video poster

Airfare for journalist to travel to Mongolia to document the introduction of small-scale mechanization to traditional felt making. Read more

pledged of $1,500 goal
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This project was successfully funded on July 21, 2012.

Airfare for journalist to travel to Mongolia to document the introduction of small-scale mechanization to traditional felt making.

About this project

Why are we involved? 

The Mongolian government has found me (in the middle of nowhere, I might add - so it's meant to be!) They saw me on YouTube - An inside look at the art of felting with Lisa Jacenich.  The whole story is worth reading.  It appears on our website. We use small-scale mechanization during the felting process.  They want us to come over and help them set up felting cooperatives with the machines to help employ the women in several rural provinces.  Our goal is to create sustainable businesses, owned and managed by local herders utilizing their natural resources, skills and strengths.  I have been asked to coordinate the manufacture, shipment and training on several different types of machines that will make felt production economically viable.

This project needs to be documented. 

  Luckily, I'm married to an award-winning journalist.  Your pledges will help pay for an Airline Ticket for Jim to accompany me on this journey.  Jim is not only an amazing writer, he is also a fiber artist.  He is in the unique position to thoroughly understand the subject matter and has a deep interest in making sure the traditional techniques are recorded. This project is a huge leap in the evolution of the cultural heritage craft of the Mongolian people.  Upon our return, Jim and I intend to conduct lectures, publish newspaper and magazine articles and a book (probably more than one). The proposed title of the book is ''Felt Craft in Mongolia:  Challenges and Changes in the 21st Century."

Small woman-owned business helping women-owned businesses: Our project is designed to mechanize people into jobs.  We hope that this economic development can be a model for rural locations throughout the world and the U.S.  When I started my business in 2008, I realized that in order to take my products to market (I create incredible fabrics from raw wool and silk, then design and make clothing and accessories) I had to come up with some efficiencies.  I found U.S. small business owners like myself that created carding machines, rolling machines and needle felting machines.  These allow me to spend more time on design and creation and less time on physically demanding efforts needed to make felt. The machines require little to no maintenance and few spare parts.  The "incubator" businesses I envision for Mongolia will utilize the equipment  (that I have tried and tested)  to employ a minimum of 22 women per location and put  one of their great national resources to use -- sheep.  There are approximately 14 million sheep in Mongolia (3 sheep to every person living there).

When will this happen?

Our plan is to travel to Mongolia from mid-August to mid-September, 2012.  This will be an assessment visit. We need to meet the people and work first hand with the Mongolian fibers to further refine the implementation of the mechanization.  We will then have time before the spring of 2013 to order and ship the equipment for implementation and training.

Donations in lieu of money

My dear friend, Ken Dabkowski of M-Cam (who was the key pin in making this Mongolian connection) has taught me to think about (and ask for) "the need to be fulfilled", and not get stuck in the thought that money is the only solution.  Some other possibilities of how you can help.  Maybe you (or someone you know) has:  enough frequent flyer miles to transfer for an airline ticket or connections with an airline to get a ticket donated. Know a publisher that is right for this project?  Perhaps you (or someone you know) has connections to a corporation or a foundation that would like to get involved with this project. Maybe you know someone who can get the machines shipped at no cost (or great discount).  Your dear friend may have some products they want endorsed while we are over there.  Maybe you know a documentary film maker that wants to join us and can fund their own way.   Ken says, "commodities and knowledge flow easier, try to minimize the change. Money is not necessarily the best answer

It doesn't get any greener than this!

Making fabric from wool is sustainable and environmentally sound. Mongolians use sheep for the meat, milk and wool.  Sheep are not harmed in order to shear their fleece. The fibers contain lanolin which makes the fabric water resistant.  Rain, snow (or stains!) will bead up and even if the fabric becomes totally saturated with water it will still keep you warm.  Also, wool takes only 1 to 5 years to decompose entirely into an organic substance that will provide nutrients to the earth.  While giving a group of Boy Scouts a briefing in my studio recently, one said, "Sheep, they are better than a Swiss army knife!"

Mongolian felted slippers
Mongolian felted slippers

Our personal commitment

Since March, 2011, when we were first contacted by Tsend Enkhtuya, Vice President of the Mongolian National Business Incubator Federation (MNBIF), we have devoted our time, effort and resources to helping artisans in central Mongolia achieve their goals of self-sufficiency and productivity while also maintaining their culture and strengthening their families.  To date we have invested over $4,000 of our own funds, researching equipment, identifying resources and making contacts for this project.  As U.S. delegates at the recent International Feltmakers Association Conference in Bath, England we met people who traveled to Mongolia 6 years ago.  In some cases, they had to re-teach the Mongolians the art of felting because many were prohibited from practicing this heritage art during the last hundred years.  We want to make sure the knowledge passed down through the generations is recorded before it is lost forever.  We also want to document this effort of infusing machinery into an ancient tradition.

Pledges - exceeding the goal

Your pledge amounts will help pay for Jim's airline ticket.  We have already raised some money locally and been awarded the Margaret M. Conant grant from the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild in Maryland.  If the pledged amounts exceed the total we need for Jim's airfare, we would like you to know how we will spend the additional monies:  First, I always need a Contingency Plan.  Currently, my airfare and travel monies while in  Mongolia for both Jim and I are going to be paid for by the MNBIF. The Mongolian government is having their parliamentary elections as we speak.  There is always a possibility that the results of the elections could change the funding allocations for this project.  If that were to happen, I will need airfare for myself and travel monies within Mongolia for both Jim and me to conduct this assessment visit. We are confident, however, that those monies will be available as planned.  Secondly, we will use the additional funds to purchase Mongolian hand-made items to accompany us on our lecture series. Thirdly, we would use additional monies for printing, marketing and distribution of Jim's book. I know how generous people can be when they believe strongly about something and this economic development effort has that kind of merit -- if we were to receive enough funds, I could create jobs in Highland County to test and produce products for the global marketplace.

Our work at home

The clothing and accessories we create from my signature fabrics are one of a kind "art wear" for those who like to catch people's eye when they enter a room.  Our work appears in public and private collections in the U.S., Italy, Croatia, England, Scotland, and Mongolia.

Nuno felted blouse of silk and wool
Nuno felted blouse of silk and wool

The sheep in Highland County have coarse fibers.  I am currently creating a prototype for a local business that sells compost (currently only by the truckload).  I would like to mass produce these felted bags that would hold 25 lbs of compost. The bags, when empty, can be used as mulch or weed suppressant (that will itself compost.) This would put large quantities of our local wool to use and put local people to work. 

Our Experience

We are Lisa and Jim Jacenich. We live in the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia (an hour from anything) and have 15 years of felt-making experience.  Lisa was a Lieutenant in the US Army and taught Government Contracting and Project Management as an adjunct faculty member for George Washington University, before becoming a full-time artist in 1997 and owner of Artful Gifts, LLC in 2008. Jim is an award-winning community newspaper journalist and a fiber artist, after a 24-year career with the United States Coast Guard.

Team Members

It takes a village!  We have many people that have been helping us already:

Rose Web Designers
Felt Crafts
Strauch Fiber Equipment Co.
Tsend Enkhtuya
Potomac Fiber Arts Guild
International Feltmakers Association
Empowered Women International
Highland County Chamber of Commerce
Highland Beef Farms
Artisans Center of Virginia
Bluff Works
Black Bear Composting
Staunton Creative Community Fund

Recent NBC television coverage about the project:

Who will benefit?

Women, wool producers, and their families in Mongolia.  U.S. small businesses that manufacture the equipment. Rural agri-businesses in the U.S., felt makers worldwide and  Artful Gifts, LLC.

More about the rewards when you pledge

The rewards are not cumulative. The scarves made from "vindicated" sweaters come in both men's and women's styles. 

The silk scarves are 100% habotai silk embellished with beautiful pencil roving.

Both of the above are subject to color availability.  You can mention your preference and I will do everything possible to accommodate. 

Silk scarf (72" long)
Silk scarf (72" long)

The Fiber retreat is something you don't want to miss.  I can hardly explain the satisfaction of creating something from the raw fibers of wool.  To spend time immersed in color and a real treat.  The dates will be coordinated to accommodate the schedules of both parties (p.s.  Our guest suite looks upon the sheep's meadow and has a queen bed, so you can bring a guest.  The house is just a block away from the studio, in our picturesque town)


We want to thank you for being interested in this project. Your pledges mean more than you will ever know, not only to us but to many women we have yet to meet. For those of you who are interested but unable to pledge money, we appreciate even a note letting us know your thoughts. If possible please share this link with anyone you feel might be interested.


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    3 backers

    An e-mailed PHOTO of our Mongolian adventure with great thanks from the bottom of our hearts.

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    Pledge $12 or more

    9 backers

    POSTCARD and greetings from Mongolia. We'll let you know how things are going! (We'll mail it from there, not sure how long it will take to get to you -- drop us an email when you get it)

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    Pledge $25 or more

    8 backers

    Hand-felted BOOK MARKER made from fabric we have designed and created using wet and needle felted techniques.

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    Pledge $50 or more

    7 backers

    Needle felted SCARF made from vindicated sweaters. (please add $10 for shipping to countries outside of the USA).

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    Pledge $100 or more

    2 backers

    We will PUBLISH YOUR NAME in the acknowledgment page of Jim's book, "Felt Craft in Mongolia: Challenges and Changes in the 21st Century."

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    Pledge $250 or more

    3 backers

    SILK SCARF WITH WOOL EMBELLISHMENT (please add $10 for shipping to countries outside of the United States)

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    Pledge $500 or more

    1 backer

    FIBER RETREAT Spend 2 days of fiberliciousness in our studio and two overnights enjoying the paradise we call home in Highland County, Virginia. Also included is one amazing meal - I'm a great cook, also!!!!! (date will be coordinated)

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (20 days)