Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chance Encounters

For listening to the stories of others ... is a kind of water that breaks the fever of our isolation. If we listen closely enough, we are soothed into remembering our common name.  - Mark Nepo

I am most thankful to two recent reminders that I am on the right path even though I struggle. The first was a touching note from a woman who I met only briefly and did not even know her name. When I began reading the note, it took me a minute to even recall our encounter. I am not sure how she tracked me down. I suspect someone from Dominick's helped since this is where the we "met."

I was in a hurry, running late, and just a tad annoyed, but the child sitting on the floor sobbing just couldn't be ignored. I sat down next to him, "How can I help?" "No one will listen to me." "That's not quite true. I'll listen." And I did. Robert, "not Bob and definitely not Bobby," had just lost his best friend to a move and he was sure that he would never find another one. I asked him to share his favorite memory of his friend and was promptly corrected "best friend." And so I listened to all the adventures they squeezed into their last day together. Next I ask him to share all the things he loved about his friend and was  impressed by the long list of attributes including his best friend's amazing ability to fart on demand which "always made me laugh." Next I asked if he knew anyone else that might have some of the same qualities and he paused and thought a while until a big smile appeared on his face.

Just so you know Robert's mother was struggling with a toddler, obviously not feeling well and dealing with some issue with the pharmacist. As I was leaving, she thanked me. Robert's parting gift to me was given as a comment to his mom, "Can you believe it she's a grown up!" I took that as a compliment.

We all want to be heard.

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to , worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. - e.e. cummings

The next was a former student, Amy Wilson Cavaness, who reached out to me via Facebook. She will never know how much this was appreciated and how much her reaching out was needed. I was seriously considering giving up teaching.

"Hi Karen, Do you remember me from the quilt shop in Lisle? I made my first landscape/memory collage wallhanging and you loved it and told me, "you are an ARTIST!" It really made an impact on me and now I am having some success in various aspects of my artistry with fabric! I have a thriving online commission business and am being published regularly in various Stampington Press magazines. I moved about an hour southwest of Naperville, to Marseilles. I have loved watching your growth and success, too. Just thought I'd say "hi!"" Of course, I remembered her.

"I didn't actually say "thank you" in my previous message, but that was my intent. I'm sure you didn't think too much about it---you never know what little things we say to others can have such a big impact. I WANTED to be an artist.....didn't know how to get there...but your comment (coming from a professional artist) was the first real affirmation that I'd received in terms of being an "artist." Now my kids are grown and that's my identity!  I hope to see you at some event or show soon."

I think this is the greatest compliment a teacher can receive and it inspires me to continue teaching and sharing.

We all need to be acknowledged.

The reminder of these encounters is giving me food for thought and helping me set my goals for 2014. I am so thankful. Hoping 2014 brings you lots of growth and wonderful reminders.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolutions and Wabi-Sabi

Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. - Richard Powell

I am someone who makes and tracks New Year's resolutions. I don't know why I had not thought about it before but when did New Year's resolutions get started? A little research turned up that many historians think it began with the Babylonians, then grew in the Roman empire.

One recent study estimates that nearly half of us will make promises to improve ourselves in various ways starting this week. The statistical success rate of said goals : 8 percent. Not very hopeful, is it?

This got me to thinking about wabi-sabi or "imperfect beauty," a Japanese aesthetic philosophy. I learned about wabi-sabi in the 1980s from my friend Sumiko Fujisiro. The concept has its roots in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and is sometimes explained by using the example of a well-loved teacup, made by an artist's hands, cracked or chipped by use. These cracks and chips remind the observer that nothing is permanent and everything changes. Even fixed objects are subject to change. When my favorite handmade coffee cup got accidentally dropped and cracked, I was sad until I remembered wabi-sabi.  It's the true acceptance of finding beauty in things as they are. Maybe if we embraced how wabi-sabi prizes authenticity instead of perfection, we would have a better success rate than 8 percent.

So I am working on my list of goals for 2014. Keeping it simple and hopefully doable. How about you?

I know one of the ways to be successful is commit your goals to paper (write it down), formulate action items, share with a friend about them and send a weekly progress report are 33 percent more successful. So maybe we should all share and check in! I am determined this year to NOT have any library fines. This year I made it until September and only had a 50 cent fine. It is not about the fine it is about mindfulness for me. I think this will be the year! More on my goals soon!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Inspiration Struck

On Christmas Eve, inspiration struck and I answered the call. Advice I strongly advise doing. I was finished with all I could do for the 18 family members that were arriving the next day but too geared up to sleep. With couple of friends, Marie Z. Johansen and Linda Edkins Wyatt, we have decided to do small art trades next year starting in February. Linda had sent me an angel for the last heARTist trade. I was intrigued by her jointed angel and spent part of an evening putting her in different positions. This is one of the many reasons that I like trading. I am exposed to a different perspective, styles and techniques.

I thought it would be fun to try and make a jointed figure that you could simply pull and get it to move. Ta Da! My dancing bears were created. I use cardboard from the post office (I ordered some Modern Art stamps) which seemed to be the perfect color and weight. I had purchased the button brads earlier in the year and they also seemed perfect. The theme is "hearts" so he has a heart in his hand and a heart belly button.  Besides, bears have always held a special place in my heart. We are suppose to create pieces that are 6-inches or less. The bear is 6.5" but I am certain the .5 inch will not be held against me. Marie and Linda are fabulous artists and people who are easy going too. We are also allowed to create anything we want for the theme and in any medium. Can't wait for February to come around so I can put my bears in the mail. I am so looking forward to trading with these two wonderful women next year! What are you looking forward to doing in the new year?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Another Loss

It seems my year of loss is continuing. Thankfully the year is almost over. My grocery store is for all intensive purposes closed. The last official day is the 28th. I began going to this store when I moved to Illinois the first time in 1987. It was the place, borrowing from the Cheers theme song, where everyone knew my name. Naperville is not a small place, nearly 150,000 people, so having a place that was a small community was wonderful. I would write out my list by the aisles and as I went through the store, I would visit with different people. I knew when Scott's dad died and what a great man he was. I will miss hearing about and seeing photographs of Rita's twin grandchildren who are due in January. I remember Alex's first day of work twenty-six years ago and how he let me sit in his brand new PT Cruiser. Now some anonymous person will bag my groceries and probably not remember how I like them packed. I will miss Kevin who loves telling the check out person that "No, she doesn't want me to take her groceries out for her, she wants me to come home with her and put them away." I never tired of this joke told over and over nor did he ever tire of sharing it. I could go on and on but you get the idea and I get too said.

It saddens me that we are so in need of making a profit that we don't think about the bigger picture. As of Saturday, 6,000 people will be unemployed in the Chicago area. I am fortunate because I have choices about where I can shop. This is not true of many people in the city especially those on the south side. And so I am sad. I did not get to say good-bye.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Simple Request for an Act of Kindness for Michelle

It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.  -Nelson Mandela 

In one of Frank Baum's Oz books, Dorothy winds up in prison in Oz and is treated to luxury, kindness and warm cookies. When she asks why, the guard says, "Why would we treat people meanly when we want them to be kind?" The prison system in the U.S. often runs counter to this notion of kindness and rehabilitation.

I have been corresponding with women being held in the Ohio Reformatory for Women since July 2009. I traveled to Maryville, Ohio, to interview some of the women there who had participated in a special quilt exhibit, Beyond the Barrier, at Sacred Threads. I have watched as these women have grown and made life changes. Many of the women, including Michelle, made bad choices especially with the men they married which is why they are incarcerated. Michelle is going through an especially tough time right now. I am hoping that you will take a moment and send her a store bought card or even one of your holiday cards. Don't include anything handmade. If you want to include something, include a postage paid envelope and no, you can't send an envelope with a stamp on it. If you do, it will get thrown away and possibly get her in trouble. I think knowing that people care makes a huge difference. Don't expect that you will hear back from her unless you send an envelope. She is paid less than a dollar an hour, must pay for her own medications (she has several health issues) and things like socks, winter coats, etc. Thanks.

Michelle Owens 57937
Ohio Reformatory for Women Rgl 209T
1479 Collins Ave
Marysville, OH 43040-8808

Friday, December 20, 2013

Musgrave Makes a Moss Mustache

"Musgrave makes a moss mustache. Say that five times fast," was said with a chuckle by my friend Ken Maloney at ClaySpace. I wanted Ken's opinion on my moss mustache. He just kept laughing. He thinks the mustache is funny. My youngest son thinks it makes him a '70s Green Man. I just thought the mustache would make him more interesting. Your thoughts?

I had always wanted to add moss to my Green Man mask but couldn't figure out how to do it when suddenly the idea of making his mustache mossy came to mind. I had the perfect yarn to make it happen. Jon Pacheco, my sculpture teacher, pointed out the the eye brows should also be mossy. I am so thankful I made enough to add moss to them!

The moss was created using Sulky Solvy which is great fun. It's a stabilizer that dissolves in water. I put the yarn between two layers, stitched like crazy, dissolved the Solvy in warm water (a bit slimy) and let it dry. Presto! Moss! I am now sticking a fork in him and calling him done! I have to stop being in denial about the holidays.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Green Man

Maybe because as a child my dad made leprechauns real that the Green Man--the mystical spirit who stands for Nature in it most wild and untamed form, a man with leaves for hair, who dwells deep within the forest appeals so much to me. To date, he is also the largest clay mask I have made. He is nearly 24 inches tall by 20 inches wide. Whether he is completely done is uncertain. I need to live with him for a few days, but I did want to share. I know that tomorrow I see if I can tone down the shininess of the glazes that I used. And yes, each leaf is two layers fused together and stitched. Overall, I am happy. Much happier than my attempt many years ago at making a quilted one. That said, I still like my journal sized Green Man which hangs in my studio.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Clay and Fiber: More In Common Than You Think

In September 2012, I decided to move outside of my comfort zone and take a pottery/ceramics class. In addition to learning the art which I have truly come to love, I began studying the history and the work of ceramic artists. I discovered that the historical flow of knowledge and influence began in China then moved to Korea and finally to Japan. I choose to spend some time studying Japanese ceramics because I could more easily find translations and information. As I studied, I was struck by the many similarities between ceramics and quilts. There is the art vs. craft debate. Despite names like “bowl,” “jar,” or “vessel,” that imply some sort of practical function, pieces are created with the idea that personal fulfillment and self-expression are often more important than practical utility and commercial success. There is also the tension between the traditionalists and those who breaking away from tradition.  And finally, there is the educated vs the self taught debate.  It is my hope that this provides food for thought.
Kishi Eiko (1948-) took archeology and anthropology courses in college, studied dyeing and painting and art history before taking up clay. She has no formal ties to a ceramic tradition. This independence has enabled her to develop a unique style. She uses a technique of her own invention, which she calls “color inlay” and usually works on two pieces at a time for months at a time. This piece took three months to make. “It is only in making my work that I understand where the piece is going.”
Katsumata Chieko’s (1950-) work reflects a distinctive ceramic education. All her formal training took place in France, where she traveled with a plan to study industrial design. A meeting with Texas-born potter Fance Franck inspired her to pursue a ceramic career.  Her love of ancient artifacts bearing the marks of time owes something to the sixteen-century Japanese tea-ceremony masters and the aesthetic of wabi sabi. Yet Katsumata uses colors that are far removed from those traditional Japanese ceramics. “I am attracted to things…that convey the passing of time.”
Yabe Makoto (1947-2005) lived and worked full-time outside of Japan. He began studying ceramics at 18 and completed his training at twenty-four, following a four-year apprenticeship with Shikokai, a small avant-garde group. He moved to Massachusetts in 1977 and remained in the U.S. until his death. Yabe experimented with the demanding nerikomi marbling technique that originated in Tang-dynasty China ((618-907). His work reflects the struggle between functionality and expression. “Mostly, it doesn’t come out as I expected!”
A great book to lean more about contemporary Japanese ceramics is Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century by Joe Earle (2005, MFA Publications). I look forward to your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The End of heARtist but Not the End of Small Art

The final trades of heARTist Trading Cards is complete. The trades were map ATCs and a flat Santa or Angel (taken from the Flat Stanley books of the 1960s). It is always sad to see the trades end especially since it was such a wonderful group of people. Life has changed for the people in the group so we are ending on a high note instead of fading away.

For my maps ATCs, the saying "wherever you go there you are" was my inspiration. I also wanted to play with a different kind of layering. So travel inspired tags were added with a brad holding everything together.

Since I had already done a flat Santa for a previous trade, I decided this time to do a flat Angel. I combined fiber and paper. I used Timtex (a stiff interfacing which is no longer on the market) and fabric for the wings. I added some dimensional paint dots for interest. Painted tissue paper was used for her halo and paper with colored pencils for her face and body. Dimensional paint was used for her necklace and I added glitter around he edge of her hair.

For the final component, I created cards with the Blue Angel, an amazing fresco from a church in Georgia. Artists painstakingly removed the paint that covered it during Soviet times. When I stood in the church, I was truly moved. I can also tell you that the monks from the region where the church is located are incredibly handsome- tall, dark curly hair and piercingly blue eyes. We all joked with the unmarried women and girls with us that it was too bad that they had given up women because even if they weren't great husbands at least it would be nice to look at them. I have such wonderful memories of my times in Georgia and miss my friends. Hopefully I will be returning next year when the 30th anniversary of the Georgian Textile Group will be celebrated.

So I am a little sad and happy to have this opportunity to share. While this is the end of trading with this group, it is not the end of creating small art. The wonderful thing about making art is that you can always make more. Happy creating!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Small Art Making

You can’t use up creativity. The more you 
use, the more you have.   - Maya Angelou

I am excited! On Monday, I will be giving a hands-on program on making small art for Village Quilters Quilt Guild in Wheaton, Illinois. This group has dedicated this year to increasing their creativity. How cool is that!

If you are in the area, come join the fun- Blanchard Alliance Church, 1766 S, Blanchard St., Wheaton, IL 60189 at 7 p.m. We will be making ATCs and inchies. This is a small guild of 45 members and one of the friendliest I have visited in a while. This is my second time sharing with them (did a program in September) and I cannot wait.

Do you create small art? Do you like to trade?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Weeding and Wonder

We are each of us angels with only one wing
and we can only fly by embracing one another.
                                 -Titus Lucretius Carus

I am one of those people that access goals, life, direction, etc. toward the end of the year. The realization has come that I started this process much earlier this year. My dreams of late have been filled with storms. I finally for out my book The Secret Language of Signs by Denise Linn. She says that a storm can indicate an internal conflict and it can also indicate that the air is clearing in regard to a situation in your life. I think both are true for me.

It occurred to me today that I am weeding. Weeding out the thoughts that I no longer want to carry. Weeding out the people in my life that pull me down instead of help me fly. Weeding out groups that I have outgrown their usefulness. Weeding out things in my home that I don't love or  use. I remember a time when all of this was difficult. And while not all is easy, it does feel good. I know that as I weed I am creating an empty field waiting for new seeds to be planted.

Since creating more income for my family has become a need, I have been wondering what I can do that does not require employment at McDonald's. The realization is to create gifts that I feel have meaning. Here is my carved ceramic wing (13" l x 5" w) which is based on the quote I shared above. I created a fiber feather on the back with the quote.  It will be going into the gallery at ClaySpace and hopefully it will sell this weekend at out holiday open house.  I have also donated a "Create" journal for the raffle (tickets are $1.00 each and you don't have to be present to win). I feel that giving back is important.

So are you doing any weeding? What are you contemplating for the future?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Imagine Journal Give Away

The winner is Gill! Thanks to everyone for entering the drawing. Gill has 48 hours to send me information. If not, I'll have my husband pull another name out of the hat.

I give away things when the spirit moves me so there is hope that you can still win something in the future. Make it a great day!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Living Without Internet

Our Internet stopped working on Friday. My youngest son who is the computer whiz in our house could not figure out how to fix it. He went out of town frustrated. I realized how dependent I have become on my computer and yet the disconnect was good. Even when my husband got it working again, I stayed away and concentrated on other creative things. Of course, now I am playing major catch up. No good deed ever goes unpunished as my friend Bernie would say.

Friday, November 29, 2013

With Gratitude Every Day

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.  - Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Yesterday I kept thinking about how the world is changing and not all for the better. Why do we need to shop on Thanksgiving day? I believe that small changes can create the opportunity for change. I remember when I made the conscious effort to be more grateful. It started by signing emails "With Gratitude" even when it was difficult. This helped me to realize that I needed to be grateful for those who caused me pain because they also caused me to grow as a person. I began a journal just for listing things and people that I am grateful for having in my life. I wrote in it each night before I went to sleep.This lead to another journal where I worked through difficult experiences until I could feel genuinely thankful for them. This, of course, is still a work in process.  I am still working on being grateful for Chicago's long, grey, cold winters. So I hope you will join in me making gratitude a habit because with gratitude also comes acceptance and kindness and happiness. I am grateful for you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt

If someone had told me that a year after taking my first pottery/ceramics class that I would be creating sculpture, I would have looked at the person like he/she were crazy. It is still a work in progress but I wanted to share with you what I have been working on for the last two months. I think I have convinced my teacher that I don't need three detailed drawings to create. 

There will be a broken heart hanging inside the hole and a white crow on the shoulder. It is two pieces and will be epoxy together once it is all done. There are wings too. They are on the shelf waiting to be fired. They are bird like instead of angel like.) It was created in two pieces (newspaper separating them right now) so it will fit in the kiln. 

The piece is autobiographical. It deals with a lifetime of not being seen or heard by people who claim to love me. It also deals with coming to terms with life and finding flight. It has been an interesting experience and I will be creating another sculpture that deals with loss. 

Why clay? It is just another tactile experience, another creative outlet. I think pottery and quilts have more in common than one would think. There is the kaleidoscope of forms, colors, textures, sizes and function. There is traditional and contemporary. All I know is playing in the mud feeds my artistic soul. 

What feeds your artistic soul?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Winner and Another Journal Give-Away

I am overwhelmed by all the kind words and the number of people who signed up to win my journal. I wish I could give each of you a journal. Since that is just not possible, I decided to give another one away next Tuesday, December 2. It is the journal pictured here. I will admit that this one has a mistake in it. I didn't allow enough of a seam with one of the fabrics so I had to fuse some on top.

So if you signed up for the Create journal, you don't have to do anything except check back next Tuesday. If I don't hear from the winner in 48 hours then I will have my son draw another name out of the hat. If you haven't signed up, you can do so.

Now for the winner of the Create journal----Elaine! It makes my heart sing to know that a long time follower and wonderfully kind person won. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Journal Blog Give-Away

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Michele Foster is once again organizing a blog hop give-away. The theme this time is "giving thanks." I am most thankful for Michele for all that she does to make this happen.

I decided to give away one of my recent journals made with my quilt-as-you-go (all three layers are sewn at once) technique. I started teaching this technique more than 15 years ago. It began because I kept hearing my students complain about having UFOs and/or not being happy with their machine quilting and/or not being able to afford to have someone quilt for them.  I called my first quilt "Dropping out of the Conga Line to Do the Merengue." It even uses a 1970s green and yellow polka dot polyester fabric that a friend claimed I could never use in a quilt and have it work. She actually bowed down to me when she saw the quilt. It hangs in my dining room as a reminder of taking a risk and having it work out.

The journal has a pencil holder in the back, a bookmark and can be reused because it is made for composition books which can be easily found. I sell these journals for $45-$65.

Now for the rules.

Read Carefully:

1. I will ship internationally.
2. I won't be responsible if the package gets lost in the mail. Hasn't happened yet.
3. Winner will be announced on November 26. I will not track you down so make sure you either check back or leave an easy way for me to contact you so I can get your address. If you don't leave contact info and I don't hear from you within 48 hours, a new winner will be selected.
4.  I love the people who follow my blog and want them to know it so my followers will get their names put into the hat twice.

Enjoy the hop!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shedding: Letting Go of the Old as I Create the New

Mending a Broken Heart (from one of the workshops I teach)
Fall is a tough season for me. The long grey days with little green outside my window always causes me to feel depressed. This has also been a year of a lot of loss. My mother-in-law died after suffering from Alzheimer's. I experienced her leaving us twice. Six friends have died (one from suicide and one simply gave up). A question that keeps popping up in my head-Is it possible to live life so fully that you die happy?

I lost the friendship of another. Her bipolar disease making it just too difficult to maintain. My husband's job has been eliminated. The quilt store and bead store that I loved and frequented have both closed. All of this has caused me to think about letting some things in my life go.

Interesting that I have also had conversations about this topic with friends (ages late 20s to early 70s) and even a clerk at Trader Joe's. One friend is struggling to let go of someone he loves who does not love him back. I feel his pain. Another friend is struggling with a house full of things that her parents could not let go including the first electric blanket (not usable and full of mouse poop) they ever bought. I can relate and know I don't want to leave my children with this kind of burden. I have asked about how this shedding has made them feel- tense, cranky, restless and vulnerable have been the answers.

Shedding is a natural consequence of growth. Deer shed their antlers. Snakes shed their skin. Animals shed their fur. We shed our entire epidermal layer every 29.5 days. We replace all our cells every seven years. We are constantly letting go of the old as we create the new so why is letting go of other things so difficult?  I wish I could say that shedding outworn activities and aspects of my self were easy. It is not. I truly understand why change is so difficult and often stressful. Change makes our new "skins" feel tender and vulnerable, the old ones, with its familiar scars and weather worn bumps, seem more comfortable. So I am spending a lot of time thinking and writing in my journal. Some decisions have been easy like ending the heARTist Trading Card group. It had run its course and accomplished its purpose. Other things are much more difficult and I am willing to take the time to figure it out.

What do you need to shed now? How did you know that you were done?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Patron Monster of Fear

Be bold and might forces will come to your aid. -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

There was talk on the QuiltArt list about perfectionism. While teaching, there was talk of fear- fear of failure, not being good enough, wasting material, etc.  It got me to thinking which can be dangerous. I got an idea and ran with it.  I would make monsters that dealt with different fears using the fabulous colored erasers I bought years ago. Each piece will have a favorite quote or saying of mine on the monster as a reminder. Goethe's quote seemed perfect for fear. I am going to add a tag to each one too so people who only see them will have some understanding of what I am trying to accomplish. Fear can make small things in life seem big. Hold this guy in your hand or put him on a shelf and you have one less fear hiding in your heart. These monsters will hopefully erases your fears or in the very least cause you to smile. Got to have more fun!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Prayers to the Moon

"Follow your bliss. Allow it to usher you into the orchard of fulfillment. Here the moon shines fully illuminating dreams come true."

For everyone who emailed concerns because I have not been posting, thank you for your kindness. First, I badly sprained my right wrist which made writing a painful challenge. Then I caught a nasty virus which laid me out for more than week. Thankfully I am now injury free and healthy again. Rejoice!

It was good to have a creative must do waiting in the wings for me. This month's ATC theme for heARTist Trading Cards is "Prayers to the Moon" (one of my suggested themes which always seems to bring a little pressure). I had stumbled upon some 2.5" x 3.5" canvases so I decided to try my hand at painting them for this month's theme. This was tougher than I thought and an interesting experience.

The creative juices are flowing once again!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day of the Dead Skelton Dolls

Sometimes you just have to play! It has been a while since I have made any dolls so when inspiration struck to make some, I jumped at the chance. It was so much fun! The dolls range from 12-inches to 7.5-inches. I used fabric markers to color the batik bodies because I thought it make the a little more interesting. Simple, yet fun and it continued to keep me sewing in my studio.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day of the Dead

My love of the Mexican culture began in elementary school when I met my friend Patricia. While she was embarrassed by her culture, I was fascinated. I loved the idea that for a couple of days the veil between the world of the dead and the living was lifted and we could connect with our loved ones.

I was thrilled when heARTist Trading Card decided to use my suggested theme. I was pulled between two ideas so I decided to do both. I created the sugar skulls out of clay. They were fired in a kiln twice. I added jewels, dimensional paint and a star. I also added leather or waxed linen thread so that they can be hung.

While I was waiting on the sugar skulls, I also created some paper ATCs and used wigglie stickers of skulls or wiggle stereoscopy images that I have had since the 1980s when I collected them with my friend Karen Klein. It's time to start using up treasures from the past. On the ATC where you cannot see the wigglie, I put it on the back. I'll mail the treasures today. I think this has been the latest I have sent things out since the group began. Thankfully I still met the deadline. Meeting deadlines is important to me.

What treasures have you held on to and how long have you had them?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


 I needed some gifts so I decided to go back to making journals. It's been a couple of years since I have made these. The technique is my quilt-as-you-go. I use Meade journals so it is easy to replace and continue to use the cover. They have a pen holder in the back and a bookmark. I did quilt the butterflies. I love that the fabric had words! Wish I could remember where I bought it. It felt good to be back sewing and being able to send a little love in the mail.

What is your favorite gift to make?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Power of Quilts

My nine-month-old grandson, Tyler, was visiting and suddenly became very excited about something in my dining room. It turned out to be my quilt, "Dropping Out of the Conga Line to Do the Meringue," my first quilt-as-you-go quilt using my own technique and made nearly 15 years ago. . He squealed with delight then reached to touch it. I allow people to touch my quilts.  Tyler delighted in touching the quilt. It made me think of Radke Donnell in her book Quilts As Women's Art: A Quilt Poetics, when she said that "Rewarding on so many levels, quilts appeal most of all to touch, and to the eyes as they come to rest, to have and to hold instead of seeking a hold and rest in vain. As I have written else where, quilts also stand symbolically for the epitome of warmth and its comforts and the pleasure of closeness and union with a desired object.  Unlike "untouchable art" quilts provide tactile rewards which may serve to challenge rigid prohibitions of touch. Because the sense of touch refers to women's experience and work, it can articulate women's concern's more completely than any other sense." Food for thought. I am just thrilled that Tyler connects so passionately with what I create.

I also want to make you aware that Ragged Cloth Cafe is up and running again. Ragged Cloth is art blog written primarily by fiber artists about any issues concerning artists.  All art forms, subjects, and time periods may be discussed. This is not a blog for self promotion or a place where we sell our work. but rather a place where we explore topics of concern to artists in any medium, but often with a fiber slant. It was begun by June Underwood and Clairan Ferrono is continuing it.  I am excited to be a contributor. This is an amazing resource and I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Life and Silent Meditation


Husband's job is eliminated.
Son passes the bar.

Both masks sell at ClaySpace's opening.
Turned down by a gallery show.

Sprain right wrist and get a little crabby.
Nine month old grandson reaches for me and gives me a very wet kiss.

Another friend dies.
I reconnect with one from the past.

Dad's health continues to decline.
Can't sleep because of all the ideas rattling around in my brain from sculpture class.

I get wonderful art in the mail from friends.
Make something new--mandalas for heARTist Trading Cards group. Thanks Linda Edkins Wyatt for the suggestion.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Creativity and Panic

”You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last minute panic.” - Bill Watterson

Doesn't Bill Watterson's quote hit the nail on the head! Deadlines are powerful motivators. ClaySpace's opening (tonight, tomorrow and Sunday) created a motivation for me to finish some work so I could be part of ClaySpace Gallery. The first piece was a mask that grew out of the bird pieces I was doing. The fiber is recycled sari silk. There are bone skull beads and other glass beads tied into the string that I dyed. I'm calling it "The Devil is in the Details."

The other mask, "Grief" is one of the first masks I made and one that my youngest son does not like at all. His reaction is quite strong. Passion is a good thing and I find his reaction interesting. I don't take it personally. I know my work is not for everyone.

I glued a piece of black wool felt to the back so the eyes, noses and mouth had more definition. I also added some teardrop metal beads. I am happier with it even if it is not one of my favorite masks. And I am in the gallery!  Overcame that fear and have even gotten compliments on my pieces. The real test will be if they sell.I am going to dwell in the possibility.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Story Behind the Quilt

The Ashe County Piecemakers Quilt Guild had a contest to honor my book, Quilts in the Attic. Brenda Cole, President won Best of Theme. The photo is of her with her quilt. Brenda and I never got to connect while I was there, but we have now. Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing! I don't think I will ever tire of hearing the stories behind a quilt. To me, it makes the quilt more intriguing and complete. Here is Brenda's story and I hope it touches your heart as much as it did mine.

"My grandmother Rosalie was born in 1896 and lived in Ashland, Kentucky, most of her life.  She had 5 children – 3 of them girls.  She made quite a few quilts and planned to give a quilt to each of her 10 grandchildren.  Things didn’t turn out that way, but that was her intention.  She died in 1976.  I had visited her in ’73 and she gave me an “umbrella girl” quilt that she had finished and showed me another finished one.  In the 1990’s, my cousin had rounded up the remaining quilts and the girl cousins divided them amongst the 3 of us who had known Gran closely.  At that time, I ‘inherited’ the 12 Umbrella Girl blocks that my Gran had not made into a quilt.  I knew nothing about quilting at the time.  When we moved to West Jefferson, I took lessons at a local quilt shop (which is no longer in business). After all this time, I decided to put my Gran’s quilt together.  It was perfect for the theme of this year’s fair.  I was on schedule to get it finished in plenty of time, but my Mother passed away on Sept 8 and we had to “take her home” to Florida where my Dad was buried.  So I was racing to get my quilt finished in time.  As I worked on it, I was very much aware that my Gran’s hands had handled that fabric and made those stitches.  I could also see where she had left basting stitches in on a few of the “girls” and saw little pencil marks where she had planned the lay-out.  There was an error on one of the blocks which I left “as is” for historical accuracy.  It was a very special project for me because of all this.  When Scott Murkin picked mine as the theme winner, it was a wonderful ending to a very emotional three weeks.  This will always be a very special quilt for me because it was 70 years in the making and was done by my Gran and Me.  (My granddaughters also call me Gran.)"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sharing More From On the Same Page

 The people I met while in West Jefferson, N.C., for On the Same Page were warm, friendly, caring and sharing.   I love that I got to spend some time getting to know people. This is such a rare treat.

While I didn't quite get everyone who was at my lecture, I did get most of them. Those standing in the back left pretty quickly and I'm assuming they had jobs to do. Since my lecture occurred at the quilt show location and during the quilt show a lot of member could not attend so I was pleased with the turn out. The festival organizers must be happy too because they sold out of my book and left people wanting! I often free shipping.

I certainly hope my path crosses with the people I met again. Thank you!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Donation to ClaySpace Raffle

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. 
                                             -ee cummings

Next weekend ClaySpace is having an open house to celebrate the move to Lisle. Each resident artist is being asked to donate a substantial  piece for the raffle. I don't have a lot of "substantial" ceramic pieces so last night I finished a mask I had begun months ago and never finished. This piece continues my desire to combine clay with fiber. Chances are $1.00 each and you don't have to be present to win. I just hope it raises some money. This is one of those times where I just put my work out there and see what happens and not take it personally. It is something different. Hopefully it will find a new owner that is happy to own it. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dini Parsons- Awesome "Handler"

My time in West Jefferson, North Carolina, was made a joy by my "handler" (her term) Dini Parsons. Thank you Dini! Here we are standing in front of the winner for the best of theme for "Quilts in the Attic." It was made by the Ashe County Piecemakers Quilt Guild's president, Brenda Cole.

One thing that I loved about the quilt show was that you did not need to be a member to enter a quilt. This reflects my experience with members of the guild who I met. They were warm, friendly and welcoming. It was refreshing. I also loved that the first place in the wall hanging category was won by a man, Ron Hoffesteder, who has only recently taken up quiltmaking and his wife was so pleased that he outshines her. Do go to the guild's website and check out his wonderful quilt.

I feel truly blessed that I was able to travel to West Jefferson.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Buffalo Tavern Bed and Breakfast

My time in West Jefferson, North Carolina, was amazing. I stayed a the Buffalo Tavern Bed and Breakfast (c. 1872) just a short drive from  downtown. While it was only 3.5 miles off the main road, the winding road made it seem much further and added to the feeling of adventure. I won't forget my first night and watching the fog roll in a I drove to the place. I met some great people unrelated to the On the Same Page Literary Festival, too, which made the stay even more meaningful.  Doc Adams, the owner, was a great storyteller. He left on a cruise so I only got to spend one morning with him. What a hoot!

I stayed in the "Madam's Room" named because the widowed woman of the house needed lots of
firewood (I forget how many fireplaces there are but it's a lot!) and "took care" of the men who gave it to her. The room is also haunted, but Flora, the ghost, didn't seem to mind my presence so I did not get to meet her. The room is on the second floor and I enjoyed a cup of tea on the second floor porch in the evening before turning in for the evening.

If you are ever in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains and near West Jefferson, I highly recommend you book a stay. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How One Things Leads to Another

While working on my power point presentation for On the Same Page Literary Festival, I needed an image for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories (an oral history project that I had given more than 10 years of my life) and remembered a quilt I had made. It was for Lynn Krawczyk's 2008 Breaking Traditions Art Quilt Exhibit with the theme "With One Voice." Artists were asked to give voice to all the good in the world by showcasing a person or organization that they felt contributed to making the world a better place. Ninety-four artists answered the call.

As I was looking through the catalog, I was struck by how many people I know now that I didn't know then- Liz Berg, Mimi Holmes, Linda Boone Laird (essay in Quilts in the Attic), Heather Lair (essay in Quilts in the Attic and fellow Postmark'd Art participant), Catherine Lamkin (interviewed her for Q.S.O.S. and have remained friends), Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh (our quilts hung next to each other for the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece traveling exhibit and I also interviewed her for Q.S.O.S.), Diane Petersmarck (interviewed her for Q.S.O.S.), Bonnie Smith (member of my group CLAW (Crossing the Line: Artists at Work) and a good friend), and last but not least Patty VanHuis-Cox (member of my heARTist Trading Cards group). And while Ami Simms and I knew each other then we are much closer now. It's just too cool.

So I have an image to illustrate all the connections in my life and I took a nice trip down memory lane. Who could ask for anything more?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Villa Park Library Presentation

I am giving a presentation on my book, Quilts in the Attic: Uncovering the Hidden Stories of the Quilts We Love, and the importance of quilts at the Villa Park Library tonight beginning at 7:00 p.m. If you are in the area, do come. I'm bringing quilts to show too. Love to see you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Business Cards

What is it about paper products that make me so happy? I decided to treat myself to some new business cards. I was not sure if the image would work small. Thrilled that it did. Can't wait to hand them out.

I also decided to make bookmarks to give as thank you gifts at the On the Same Page Literary Festival. It was such a "duh" moment and I can thank heARTist Trading Cards small art trade for the idea. I had never made bookmarks before.
My friend Carolyn had made address labels with an image of my book cover for me so I put them on the back. I hope the people who pay to have lunch with me enjoy them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gathering Grief

 Here is the second piece in my "gathering" series. This is "Gathering Grief." This has been a year of far too many unexpected deaths of people I love. I thought this would make the creation of this piece easy. It wasn't. Tears always seem to come when I look at this piece so I guess I was successful in tapping into that sad place inside me. This piece is 48" h x 12" w so it is just a little shorter than "Gathering Stillness."

ClaySpace is still under construction and hopefully things will get back to normal soon as I am anxious to begin working on "Gathering Joy." I am still trying to figure out what color to make the bust part. So tell me when you think of joy, what color comes to mind?

Wishing you only peace today.