Though Maggie, whose maiden name is Ferrari, has always been drawn to the Belpaese by her Italian heritage, her regular travels to the country are dedicated to one particular event: Feltrosa.
Feltrosa is an annual event which unites the international felting community for a weekend of exhibitions, workshops and an exploration of local Italian life.
Maggie became immersed in the world of felting – making felt – in 2016, when she was finding it physically challenging to carry on with her profession as a nurse and a potter.
“I was wondering what I could do to incorporate nursing and creating and I discovered art therapy,” she says.
After clicking away at her computer to find out more about this practice, Maggie came across an art therapy course which focused on felting, something she had never heard of until then.
“It sounded like the same kind of magic that happens when you put a pot into a kiln, in that it changes and all of the fibres melt into one another,” she says.
“I did a one-day course and I was hooked.”
Maggie explains that felting is a simple process which requires just three things: wool, water and soap.
According to legend, a shepherd found some leftover wool from his sheep and put it in his shoe because he was cold, and with the friction of his foot and the sweat, he turned it into felt.
While Maggie and her fellow feltmakers don’t necessarily bring their creations to life by walking around with wool in their shoes, the fundamental aspects of the process haven’t changed all that much.
To craft a coat, or perhaps a hat, Maggie prepares sheep’s wool by straightening all of the strands in the same direction before arranging them into layers.
She then adds water and soap to the wool and works it to create friction and cause the barbs to attach to one another.
The wool is then repeatedly immersed in hot water, then cold water to create the final product.
Maggie first followed her passion for felt to Italy in 2013, for the second edition of Feltrosa which was held in the central Italian town of Amelia.
“The first time I went was just magic,” she recalls.
“There were all of these people from mainly Italy, but also Russia and Spain, and even though we didn’t speak the language we were gelling together through our passion.”
Each year the event takes place in a different location in Italy, usually in a place too pretty for words and well and truly off the beaten track.
“It’s very different from what a typical tourist to Italy would see,” Maggie says.
“We get to experience the local traditions and cuisines, and the communities really get behind the event.”
Since her first experience at Feltrosa, Maggie has been back every year, to Bressanone, then Scanno, and Feltre last year.
This April, Maggie will return to Italy for her fifth Feltrosa, to be held in Nazzano, a picturesque town which lies around 40 kilometres north of Rome.
Extending her travels beyond Feltrosa, Maggie will spend some time in Rome and Sicily while she’s in Italy, and hopes to visit Tirano, the northern Italian town from which her great-great-grandfather migrated in 1860.
What keeps Maggie returning to Italy every year for Feltrosa?
“The camaraderie, getting to know more about the friends I’ve made over the years, going to a new place and seeing it with different eyes...and tasting the food!”