A sojourn in Hungary – or was I on “Planet Felt”?

FROM ORIENT TO OCCIDENT

To mark the 40th anniversary of the modern art of felting, an excellent jubilee exhibition, conceived by Mari Nagy and Istvan Vidak, opened on 5 June 2019 in the beautiful Pesti Vigado building in Budapest, Hungary. A total of 50 feltmakers from 10 countries, including 33 from Hungary, were invited to present their works. The exhibition shows a very wide range of felt objects in three large halls.

In the first hall are hung large wall objects, works by felt artists from the early days of the new felt era, such as Gunilla Paetau Sjöberg, Sweden and Katharina Thomas, Germany. 40 white flags specially designed by the participants, adorn the high-vaulted ceiling of a central room in the second hall. The flags symbolize the bond of feltmakers worldwide throughout these years of rediscovering the art of felt, true to the words of Inge Evers from 1984 “Felt the World Together”. A number of two- and three-dimensional objects are also exhibited in this hall, as are the two large round rugs by Mari Nagy and Istvan Vidak which adorn the cover of the 76-page exhibition catalogue. The third hall houses a tremendous variety and range of clothing, accessories and carpets. Here also are lovingly presented a large selection of three-dimensional game objects.

The exhibition opened with traditional music and greetings by Fekete György, Honorary Chairman and Vashegy György, President of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, and Johanna Rösti, Chairperson of the International Feltmakers Association. Csaji Laszlo Koppany, who wrote the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, also gave a lecture.

Following the opening of the exhibition, the 2-day anniversary conference began. An international group travelled to the Puszta, not to a camp as in the past, but to the Varga Tanya Hotel with affiliated spa. The vastness of the landscape, the sweeping horns of the cows, the horse-drawn carriages, thatched roof houses, hospitable people and fine food generated holiday feelings. Memories were exchanged and the participants shared their experiences of the development of felt-crafting and felt-art over the last 40 years. At that time, felting was known only to a very small circle of insiders, but thanks to the tireless efforts of Mari and Istvan and many other feltmakers and organizations, such as the IFA, and in recent years thanks to the Internet, felting has become widespread around the world and adapted to modern times.

On the initiative of Mari Nagy, the participants started the application to recognize the felt craft and art with its millennium old history as an intangible UNESCO World Heritage.

A visit to the rich collection of felt by Mari Nagy and Istvan Vidak, a visit to the Toy Museum where many felt events took place, and a studio visit to Judith Toth-Pocs in Kecskemet enriched these days around felt culture from all over the world.

The exhibition is open daily until 21st July 2019.

Johanna Rösti, IFA Chairperson, 11.06.2019

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