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We're Back

One journey ends another begins

We are home safe. We weren't able to update you as often as we would have liked while in Mongolia, but now that we are home and using our familiar Internet connection, we'll fill in over several updates from where we left off.

Lady of the Lake

We would have missed Inke, the felt-making lady with the ger by Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake). We were visiting a national park in Arkhangai Province, known for its volcanic rock, caves and lake, when we happened upon her felt store on the shores of the lake. We were staying in a ger camp next to the small business, but only found out about her through word of mouth, since she had no signs up advertising her business.

Many ger camps were packing up and moving to winter camp. We had already seen snow by August 19 and could only imagine what lie ahead. Inke, too, was also packing up as tourist season neared its end.

She opened her shop especially for us and showed us the many felted slippers and hats she had made, in addition to many cotton and silk deels (traditional outer garments) she had. She had already sold most of her stock to tourists over the summer.

Lisa showed her some samples of her work and received many compliments, comments and questions. Two things that stood out about Lisa's work is that each item contains multiple colored fleeces and it is thin. The Mongolian felt makers we met generally stayed with natural color wool or a one-dye fabric, and their wool was much thicker. Part of the reason for the thickness could be the absence of an efficient way to card the wool. Carding wool, separating and aligning the fibers, makes arrangement of multiple colors easier. The felt maker by the lake didn't have a mechanical carding machine, but used two flat carding pads when she was able to card at all. When asked, she said she could use a hand-cranked carding machine, but they were expensive and she didn't have the money to purchase one.

Inke is a small felt producer trying to make a little extra money for her family. She has the skills and talent to do great work. Her products are well-made. She lives in the country and sells her goods at a tourist camp. It's seasonal at best, but presumably provides enough income for her to continue doing it. A small hand-cranked carding machine would speed up her production and would give her a finer, more finished product to sell. With more and better product, she might be able to expand her market opportunities.

In the photo below, taken by Tsend Enkhtuya, are (l-r) Inke, felt-maker of Tsagaan Nuur; Lisa Jacenich, wearing one of Inke's handmade felted hats and vest; Jim Jacenich, wearing another of Inke's hats and a vest; Amina, wearing a handmade deel; and Sukhe, wearing a handmade jacket.

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