About Mary

I often look at the felt I am making, the vest I am sewing, the incredible rug forming under my hands and am taken with a sense of wonder about how I ended up a feltmaker?! Although my father’s mother was an incredible weaver, spinner, and lace-maker I was too young to imagine finding an interest in such intricate work, and it wasn’t until after college that I began learning to work with my hands. Pursuing a curiosity and longing to learn to care for plants and animals I ended up working at a couple of small sheep and fiber farms in Western MA. It was through this work that I slowly began remembering how much I loved the smell of opening a barn filled with hay on a cold winter morning, the welcoming sound of sheep flocking together, the taste of food when shared with friends after a long days work, and the ability to create beauty.
During this time I learned the beginnings of weaving, knitting, spinning, and felting, but it was not until returning home from one session of Martin Prechtel’s school, Bolad’s Kitchen, wearing a hand sewn, white felt coat when I truly became a student of felt-making (and fell in love with sewing too!) The very nature of this coat forced me to stand taller, walk a little prouder, and allowed me to begin dreaming of what it would be like to walk down the street with everyone walking proud and beautifully dressed, like great shimmering schools of fish, or flocks of birds whose very motion and song fed life by the way we all moved together.
I soon began exploring more of the stories of this fabric and was drawn into the world of Central Asia, the wonder of the nomadic herders, their felt-loving ancestors, the gorgeous yurts they lived in, the felt boots, coats, dish covers, saddle blankets, and so much more!

Deciding to become a student of a skill whose history (and people) have been buried in modern life’s drive towards “progress” has been tricky. It means that I have often taught myself, learned through much trial and error, and longed for the day when I could tell people I am a felt-maker and they won’t look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. However, in the summer of 2012 my longing to learn deeper from someone born into this work found a home. I found myself assisting four felt-makers from Kyrgyzstan as they taught traditional felt rug-making to a class of 80 people. The master felt-maker and I became close in those two weeks, and in the winter of 2013 I traveled to Kyrgyzstan for three months to live and study with Farzana Sharshenbieva.  The whole Sharshenbieva clan works in felt, and they have been incredibly generous to me with their teaching.  I recently returned to Kyrgyzstan in the Fall of of 2016  and studied shyrdak making with Farzana’s aunt, Kenje Toktosunova.  It’s been a grand beginning of what I hope will continue to be a long relationship of learning to carry the stories and traditions that come with felt-making, to keep breathing new life into these old ways, and continuing to pass this art on to others.