Thank you Nancy for this guest post.
Going to Hungary to see the country and learn felting from some of Hungary’s best felt makers, I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Little did I know I would return in just over a year for another, equally unique and amazing trip.
In 2018, I went with Flóra Carlile-Kovács on the East Hungary Felt Tour. The experience was extraordinary!
The tour was everything I expected: touring landmarks, castles, museums, felting with talented felt masters, trying new foods, soaking in minerals-rich thermal baths, and enjoying the company of folks I was traveling with and those I met along the way from the United States, England, France and even Israel.
During the tour I could finally meet and learn from the inspiring felt artists I have been reading about in the Felt Matters (quarterly magazine of the International Felt maker’s Association): Judit Pócs, Gabriella Kovács, Mihály Vetró. It was quite eye-opening to visit the studio and home museum of the last hat maker of Hungary, who still used the 200-year-old technology to make the traditional hats of his area. His hats were more than a piece of clothing. We learned about their symbolic meanings and how they referred to the affiliation and identity of the wearer.
We were fortunate to participate the Spring Sheep Herding Celebration of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Hortobágy. It was a procession of endangered Hungarian heritage breeds like the racka sheep with its unique twisted, straight horns, and the Hungarian grey cattle – wow, those horns are impressive! Here we had the rare opportunity to watch the “Ride of the Brave”, an event during which a horseman was standing on the backs of two horses and he rode five horses at the same time!
Flóra carefully chose a variety of hotels for us, all of them had amazing history. One of my favorites was the over 100-year old artist retreat, where you could feel the accumulated creative energy of a century.
But wait, there was much more that I hadn’t expected. I hadn’t imagined that I would be visiting the largest organic farm of Hungary, stopping at a small rural road side window service and having the most delicious cherry strudel (we had stop on the way back to try the apple strudel, too). I expected we would tour one of the artists’ studios but I had not anticipated that it would be an invitation to look behind the curtain not just at their studio and their craft, but into their home. We were treated as long treasured friends! Besides the fun of shopping artwork directly from our instructors, we had an outstanding opportunity organized specifically for our small group, where three artists (who’s work you can’t find in any stores) put together a small trunk show. Ibolya Morvay’s creative textile jewelry complemented the work of the tapestry weaver Rózsa Raab and leather artist Erika Krieser, who create wearable art accessories under the Etnomád brand.
When I returned home and reflected on the knowledge I had gained, friends I had made, and the warmth I felt from the people, I just knew I had to return. So in the summer of 2019 I returned once again. This time I went on the South Hungary Tour. The adventure began with the celebration of the 1019th anniversary of the foundation of the country (Aug 20, St Stephen’s Day) and the prestigious Festival of Folk Arts, where traditional folk art crafts were demonstrated and sold. From leather-work to embroidery to weaving and iron works, the craftsmanship was amazing. The music, dancing, and food were divine. And of course, the felt was exceptional. My experience was completely different than the earlier trip but no less awe inspiring. Thank you Flora for sharing your beloved country and craft with such enthusiasm!
Now the big question. I have been to the East and the South Tour.
Will I return again for the West trip?
Nancy E., Vancouver WA