Friday, April 11, 2014


First thanks to everyone for your kind condolences concerning the death of my dad. They have truly helped me during this difficult time. 

I do not know about you but for me either I have too much going on or nothing. This month has been too much. I am pleased to announce that my show,"Calumet," with Ken Maloney will be running for the entire month of April in the Gallery at ClaySpace Ceramic Arts Center in Lisle, IL. I loved watching the gallery transform over the three days it took us to get it all together. I had forgotten just how much work putting up a show can be. 

Ken invited me to join him so the concept of the show was his and deals with us both growing up in Northwest Indiana. Here is the show's statement to help you understand.

The northwest corner of the State of Indiana is often referred to as the Calumet Region. Most Hoosiers simply know it as “The Region.” It is a gritty area of immense environmental change and great contrasts. It is the home of working class families and oil refineries. It is a land marked by steel mills and smoke stacks and stunning biodiversity—incredible prairies, dunes, and forests —coexisting with EPA Superfund sites.

The river that divides the hometowns of Karen S. Musgrave and Ken Maloney (Highland and Hammond respectively) also bears the name Calumet.   Although they no longer refer to this area as home, both artists are unable to deny the influence the area has had on their work.  Themes of family, landscapes, texture and disparity are evident in both artists’ work. Karen and Ken met at ClaySpace in 2012 and were both a bit surprised to realize they shared so many common visual experiences.  The glow of the night sky caused by the blast furnaces of the nearby steel mills, the odd assortment of businesses on Kennedy Ave, and large Catholic families sharing two bedroom homes, et al. The Region is clearly not the sole source of their inspiration, yet their shared experiences cannot be denied. 

We will be celebrating with a closing on April 25 at 7 p.m. I hope you can join us. I think the juxtaposition of our work makes for an interesting show. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dealing with Loss

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form — no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space — ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold — the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns,

With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.  -Walt Whitman

The last two weeks have been tough ones for me. My dad died during the night after my visit--March 19. My mom asked me to return on the 20th to help clean and get things ready. The visitation was last Friday and the service was on Saturday.  To make matters worse, I caught a cold which now seems to have morphed into a sinus infection. Needless to say, I am not feeling very creative. I hope you understand. Thanks to all who have sent love my way. It is appreciated. Here's what I shared about my dad at his service so you may get a glimpse of the man I called "dad." 

Hello, my name is Karen Musgrave. I am Jerry’s oldest child. My sister Becky says I have his personality. One of the things that I have come to realize is just how much I am, indeed, my father’s daughter.

Spending time last week sorting through my dad’s things, I realized he loved his label maker. My husband teases me about how much I love mine. Just like my dad, I am a sucker for office supplies. And just like my dad, office supplies and label makers still can’t get us totally organized. And so I learned that it is a journey and one that might not have a destination.

My dad was orphaned when he was 15 years old. This meant that I had an amazing group of people who I would call uncle, grandma and grandpa who were not blood relations. And so I learned that you could make your own family.

This is not to say that my dad’s four brothers-Jack, Bill, Bob and Larry- were not important because they were vital to him and certainly played a major role in my life. On the Friday night gathering of my aunts and uncles, I loved to sneak out of my bed to eavesdrop. My dad was a great storyteller.  The influence of these stories caused me to spend more than 10 years volunteering on an oral history project that is archived in the Library of Congress and to write a nonfiction book with 30 essays. And so I learned the importance of listening.

When I was growing up, my dad’s temper was legendary. I learned to quickly gage his mood when he walked in the door from work. Over the years, I watched as his temper disappeared and the sweet man that he became emerged. When I asked him how he was able to loose his bad temper, he told me “practice.” And so I learned that people could change if they make the effort.

My dad loved building things out of wood. Long before he helped build 17 houses for Habitat for Humanity, he built me a playhouse. As you can imagine I was excited, but it seemed every time I looked out my bedroom window to check on the progress, my dad was on a coffee break. On day two, I could not stand it anymore so I stormed out of the house and told that he needed to give up coffee so he could focus more on working. He replied with a smile on his face that he would take it under consideration. And so I learned patience.

By the way, my cousin Jackie believes that my dad is now in heaven sitting around with his four brothers drinking, what else, coffee and commenting on what we are doing. I hope we all give them some great stories or something to argue about.

My dad loved working with other people. When my mom wanted a desk, my dad turned to his friend and neighbor Dick Good. After they built it in Dick’s garage, I watched them carry this 9-foot desk only to discover, they had not thought about getting the desk around a short corner into my parents’ bedroom. After some scratching of their heads and of course, a coffee break, they figured out that they could get the desk through the bedroom window. This did mean removing the entire window, but the job got done. And so I learned to think about a project in its entirety and problem solving. Oh, and yes, the value of coffee breaks.

My dad loved eating out. On my parents’ 10th anniversary, my dad took us all out to dinner to celebrate. While we were parking, I noticed a man obviously down on his luck approaching people outside the restaurant.  Everyone quickly walked by, but not my dad. Not only did he stop and talk with the man but  he shook his hand and gave him money. His parting good-bye included the man’s name and a hope for better times. And so I learned compassion.

My dad was a simple guy with a big heart. I don’t know how much my dad thought about his life. I do know that he remained to the end full of plans, hope and humor. He taught me that life is a journey with problems to solve, lessons to learn and most of all, experiences and people to enjoy.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gaia- Making My Own Green

I continue to explore clay. For this one, I even made the glaze but she seemed a little too plain so I added moss, yarn, beads and tiny pinecones. The rock she is holding is a felted both by hand and with a needle. While gluing all the moss was a challenge, I do like the way she looks because I always envisioned her as being very organic. And spending time with something green seems fitting as our winter continues to hang out and St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner. She is approx. 24 inches tall.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Life, Judging and Art

Please forgive me for not posting. I do appreciate all the emails of concern. Today I woke to a winter wonderland, only it's suppose to be spring. It feels as if this winter will never end. My dad continues to decline. His end is slow, painful and messy. I would not wish this on anyone. He remains alert and hopeful.

I did make it to the opening of Clay3 at the Warrenville Public Library. As with all exhibits, some pieces spoke to me and others did not. I did question the juror and judge, Kurt Weiser, on his selecting multiple pieces by the same artist. Of the fifty-one pieces in the show, there were only 36 artists represented. I understand that more than 100 artists entered. I know the work of two who were rejected so my thought was "laziness?" Two of the pieces look like they were done by the same person but were not. I am told that they are very typical of a plate coming out of a soda kiln firing. I was thrilled that my friend Viki Dracopoulos got in. She began creating pottery six years ago at the age of 16. In just the short time that I have known her, I have watched her grow. She was like an excited little kid at the opening and it was a joy to watch.

I am a lover of hands and Jamie Bates Slone of Kansas City, Missouri, work was interesting but I did not think it deserved first place. The blue one is titled "Degenerate II"(the winner) and the aqua one is "Degenerate I." The artist statement which can only be found in the catalog did move me. "My work is an examination and reflection of the memories, emotions, and anxieties caused by my family's history with cancer with an emphasis on the relationship between human biology and human emotion."

If I had been the judge, I would have chosen Vijay Paniker's "Pan Co Safety Can" as the first place winner. Unfortunately, the lighting and crowds made it impossible to get a decent photograph. I encourage you to visit his website. You will not be disappointed. Vijay makes his sculptures look like they have been manufactured by machines rather than by an individual. It just goes to show how subjective judging can be.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sunshine from Wanda

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
                         --Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am blessed with the most caring friends a person can have in ones life. This tiny bit of sunshine made into a magnet came in the mail from my friend Wanda Shelton.  I cannot help but smile every time I see it. Thank you Wanda! This tiny act has lifted my heart. Who have you given some sunshine to lately? 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mending a Broken Heart

I am so excited tonight I will be giving a lecture on the journey of my book, Quilts in the Attic, to Faith Circle Quilters Guild in Downer's Grove, Illinois. I will also be teaching my "Mending Your Broken Heart" workshop on Saturday. I always find it interesting how my workshops seem to go in cycles. I haven't taught this workshop in a couple of years and now it is being requested again. I started making these hearts more than 15 years ago when friends began having heart attacks, divorces, etc. I wanted to send something more than a card so "Mending a Broken Heart" came into being. I love teaching this workshop because people go home with multiple hearts nearly done (sewing down the binding). They also learn to put a complex binding on and they can use the embroidery stitches on their machines and I teach how to make fun rope so that they can hang on a door knob, hospital bed, etc. Looking forward to sharing!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Good Deed and A New Connection

On Thursday while at ClaySpace, a plea went out to fix a broken piece for Clay3 (a national exhibition/competition put on by ClaySpace). Stephanie Lanter's piece, "Invaders," was selected for the show's poster and Stephanie had asked for the piece to be fixed. Since I have been playing with lots of different glues and epoxies and no one else wanted to step up, I did. The piece had eight pieces that needed to be glued. I spent most of Friday working on it and finished today. Last night I had a delightful conversation with Stephanie. Her piece resonated with me since it is all about relationships (i.e. communications) with others and ourselves. When I went to her website and discovered that she is also combining fiber with clay, the connection deepened. Please check out her work. You won't be disappointed.

Several people told me that I was nuts to take on this job. Maybe that is true, but I was able to put it back together. I did this because I know that I would want someone to step up for me if the shoe was on the other foot.