Fiber art tours

Straw Boys, and Why Take a Small Group Tour?

R1- 9AHaving led small group tours for nearly 18 years, I think it is important to point out the value of traveling this way. When I first began traveling in Mexico, then Europe, what was so powerful was meeting local people, engaging in conversation (though my Spanish left a lot to be desired!), and feeling as if I had a glimpse into that person’s life, art JOM 1st scan 013and family. As my research and travel increased in Ireland, I sought out local guides who showed me places I never would have known about, and heard stories, folklore and mythology that brought those places so alive.

On a trip to Oaxaca in Mexico, we were staying in a small village and heard music, big brass instruments, coming down the road. Soon we realized this was a funeral procession, and we were invited to join it and proceed to the cemetery. Under a full moon rising from behind the mountains, a magical evening unfolded as we listened to the band, heard the priest incant blessings, and took sips of the local drink, “mescal”, that was passed to all. We were treated as honored guests and it made an indelible impression upon every one of us.

Another example, on one of our cultural tours to Ireland, my friend and one of our guides, Joe McGowan,  organized an evening with the “Straw Boys”. Dating back for decades, the tradition of the Straw boys is rich. Basically a group would create costumes disguising themselves, just of straw, and go from door to door asking for “refreshment”, or 101_0103-001raising mischief one way or another. This evolved into a group today, near Sligo, who still reenact the tradition which now includes women. We were so fortunate to be invited to a costume creating session, learning how to weave the straw into skirts and headpieces. After a light supper, I thought the evening would end, but no! The room was swept up, chairs and tables pushed back, a fiddle or two came out, and soon there was singing, dancing and great fun!




Often with our tours, these special events and encounters happen because we are a small group, we are approachable and a common bond of humanity is there. Having shared so many special times in cultural travel , it is my hope to share such things with our clients.

101_0108 (2) Real people, real adventures, and real experiences make our tours unique! Please join us if this is the kind of travel experience you are looking for!

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Southwestern Art and Universal Symbolism

There is no better way to delve into the minds of people who lived long ago than through their art, symbols and stories represSanta fe 2013 172ented visually. We can learn so much about a group of people by absorbing and studying what they created. Rock carvings and paintings, ancient pottery, and design motifs still seen in weaving all speak to techniques handed down from parent to child. What is so interesting to me is that so many of these motifs are seen in cultures around the world, as if there are symbols and designs that all people are drawn to making. We are so fortunate that some cultures have honored artistic traditions, so in a way, we are looking baSanta fe 2013 258ck in time when we see contemporary art. Notice the same wave pattern in these examples of pottery from the Andrea Fisher Gallery in Santa Fe. While on our Fiber Art tour and workshop in April, we will be spending some quality time at the gallery, seeing older and newer pottery from many pueblos and discussing the intricate patterns, decoration and symbolism. At the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture we’ll hear a guided talk about the even older art and explore the symbolism and motifs used in the past–fascinating! I am looking forward to seeing how being immersed in this beautiful art can be applied to our own creative pursuits in the workshop. I have always been interested in universal symbols- the spiral, square, circle, equidistant cross and triangle, and came across a book by Angeles Arrien called Signs of Life. The book explains the use of these symbols cross culturally and shows artwork that uses them. We’ll be discussing this in the workshop and hopefully, be inspired to explore the meaning of the symbols in our own work. I have done a series of felted pieces exploring this, as in this example: DSCF4633You’ll see several of the universal symbols represented- I wanted to see how they might affect my mind and composition as I worked, and found it very enlightening. I look forward to the Santa Fe workshop and tour, and sharing the richness of the art there with you!

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“Felted landscapes” workshops: How Fleece becomes Art


“Tree of Life” by Joan      Molloy Slack

Several years ago, while in Ireland, I first learned to create felt from the local fleece. We used the wet felting method and created a variety of samplers. Top-9Many people ask about the art of feltmaking, and I want to share some details of our workshops, as well as ideas about how the fiber work is created.

People have created felted objects for thousands of years, Top-14much of it functional, making everything from homes to capes to boots. National Geographic did a fabulous story about the history of wool and humans, tracing the ways people around the world have learned to use it for so many things. The fleece from various Top-10animals, not only sheep, was created into magnificent rugs and tapestries, and many cultures have perfected the techniques to suit their needs and climate.

After years of teachiTop-12ng workshops using wet felting, often combined with needle felting, I began to explore using this way of working in my own art, and find that I am continually excited about the possibilities. I have taught workshops with all ages, and have received grants to work with school programs. It is always fascinating how quickly people can learn the technique and how to use the tools, and what successful art is created!




Depending on the workshop length, I offer a variety of options. We often create samplers using blending

J. Campbell Felt class 004J. Campbell Felt class 035-001 techniques and specialized ways to create shadow and depth.  As we work, frequent discussions are held as the pieces progress, adjustments made, and the image takes shape.




I have often held workshops where we collaborate on a finished piece. 113_13511113_1369A favorite project was one where I developed a curriculum o113_1360n phenology, and taught students K-12 about the changes that occur throughout the year, such as the Equinoxes and Solstices. We created several panels that had to do with the 4 seasons, Celtic symbols, the Greenman mythology, and universal symbols.

I enjoy teaching workshops where there is time to go into more depth and explore ideas more fully than can be done in short classes. So much can be done with felt making! We can use the wool fleece as a “painting” medium,  and can design a multitude of effects, from strong colors to blends.

Cloon Lough (9)For example, while walking in the landscape during a felt making workshop, I might take photos such as these, then , based upon the inspiration  create a felted piece.









Culloo Rocks and St Brendans well (11)


"Standing Stones" by               Joan Slack

“Standing Stones” by Joan Slack










Below are some images from workshops and the work that students produced.

Preparing to "wet" felt

Preparing to “wet” felt



DSC_0829J. Campbell Felt class 029





J. Campbell Felt class 055





















J. Campbell Felt class 045













Below, a student is working on a collaborative project at my John Campbell Folk School workshop on “Pictorial Felt”

J. Campbell Felt class 092

J. Campbell Felt class 027

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