Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wish for the New Year

This year help me see the open doors that lie beyond my fears. Help me to believe in that small voice that whispers me towards my dreams. Let my newly found light of awareness become my beacon for those who hesitate in the wings.

(note: My photo is a window on a house in the countryside outside of Osh, Kyrgyzstan. It is not Kyrgyz but Russian. I loved it anyway.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Books for Sale

I'm continuing to clean out both mentally and physically. I've gotten several boxes together to mail to my quilt group in Georgia (country not state) so now I need to come up with the funds. I'm now going through my books.  I've made them cheaper than Amazon or All books are in great shape unless noted.  Many are brand new and never used. Thanks for your help in finding homes and helping me ship supplies. I'll ship via Media Mail (US only) for around $2.50 until the new postage rates take effect. Anyone living outside of the US, we'll need to figure it out. I will accept a check or PayPal.Check back as I will be adding more books as I go through my library.

Abstract Design in American Quilts: A Biography of an Exhibit by Jonathan Holstein $40.00

Quilting by Improvisation by Vikki Pignatelli $18.00

Quilted Memories by Lesley Riley   $10.00
(back of dust cover is wrinkled and has a few small tears at the bottom, it came that way)

Creating Pa Ndau Applique by Carla Hassel   $4.50
(in great shape for a 1984 publication)

Fun Photo-Quilts and Crafts by Ami Simms $8.00

Quilt Savvy Fallert's Guide to Images on Fabric by Caryl Bryer Fallert  $10.00

Patchwork Persuasion by Joen Wolfrom $7.00

Hearts and Flowers Quilt Block Designs by Jodie Davis and Linda Hampton Schiffer $4.00

Painting and Decorating Furniture by Sheila McGraw $14.00

Quilt a Koala by Margaret Rolfe (1986 version) $4.00

Australian Quilts- The People and Their Art by The Quilters' Guild $3.00

Razzle Dazzle Quilts by Judy Hooworth $9.00

Story Quilts Telling Your Tale in Fabric by Mary Mashuta (you pay shipping and it's yours)

Quilts: An American Heritage by Terri Zegart (you pay shipping and it's yours)
(Does have a message from Shelly Zegart inside)

The Fabric Stamping Handbook by Jean Ray Laury (you pay shipping and it's yours) Has a home!

Imagery on Fabric (second edition) by Jean Ray Laury $3.00

Twixt Garden Gates by Jan Patek $6.00

Small Amish Quilt Patterns For Crib Quilts and Wall Hangings by Rachel T. Pellman $6.00

Color for Quilters; Secrets for Color Success in Quiltmaking by Lauri Linch-Zadel and Belinda W Sturgis $3.00

How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul (Fifth Edition) by Caroll Michels $5.00

The Business of Being an Artist (Third Edition) by Daniel Grant $4.00

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rules of Play

I have uncovered another treasure in my efforts to clean out. This one is from 2002. It's Desmond Morris' Rules of Play from The Naked Ape."

  1.  You shall investigate the unfamiliar until it becomes familiar.
  2. You shall impose rhythmic repetition on the familiar.
  3. You shall vary this repetition in a many ways as possible.
  4. You shall select the most satisfying of these variations and develop these at the expense of others.
  5. You shall compose and recombine these variations one with another.
  6. You shall do this for its own sake, as an end in itself.
Who would have thought that cleaning could bring so much food for thought?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cleaning to the Seven Wonders

"If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." According to Steven Jobs, this quote helped shape his life and helped him to remember what is important. "For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

If you knew today was the last day you would ever have, how would you live it? Well, I've been spending my days lately cleaning and I have to tell you it is making me very happy. So happy that I've had a couple of people actually ask if I was on drugs. You just have to laugh.

Many years ago, I decided that I needed to simplify my life. Not an easy task since it goes against my genes. You see I come from a long line of pack rats. I've also had to help clean out the homes of people who have died and talked to friends that have done the same. I know I only want to be surrounded by things that I love and either make me happy or support my creative endeavors.  I know that I want to make 2010 a year of intense creativity so I need to clean away the clutter or unnecessary things to free up space both physically and mentally. I shipped another box (40 pounds) to the Ohio Reformatory for Women. I know they will use it. I filled my jeep for a trip to Goodwill. I still have a ways to go to get my basement studio space in working order but it is getting there. The recycling bin is full of paper and old magazines. Like I said, it feels good! It's been fun to revisit some things. One of them was an email sent to me from Bonnie McCaffery in 2005 about a girl in school writing down the 7 Wonders of the World. For her, they were not the Great Pyramids or China's Great Wall but the following:

1. to touch
2. to taste
3. to see
4. to hear
5 to feel
6. to laugh
7 and to love

So if what I have does not support the 7 Wonders, it is finding a new home where it hopefully will. The cleaning out also helps me to feel that I am in control so now it's back to cleaning!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vermont Life Magazine

Yesterday I was interviewed by Vermont Life Magazine about my quilt which is the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit. The reason for the article, which is in the Spring issue (comes out mid-February), is the exhibit will be at Shelburne Museum from May 16-Oct. 24, 2010. I was only asked two questions.

1. How did making the quilt help you cope with the effects of dealing with a family member who has Alzheimer's? 

I am a person of action. Give me a problem, I'll jump right in and do my best to fix it. Unfortunately, I couldn't fix my mother-in-law's Alzheimer's. I didn't know if my quilt would be accepted. The idea for the quilt had been rolling around in my head for a long time so when Ami sent out the call, it gave me permission to create, to express myself, to share my mother-in-law's story. When the quilt was accepted, I was overjoyed. My quilt is out in the work and part of something that is educating and raising funds. It brings me comfort.

2. When you made this quilt, how was the process different from other quilts you have made?

No, the process was not different. However, I don't remember any other piece where I have cried so much during the making.

My mother-in-law has the terrible disease. She is dying the death she most feared. It is her hands that are shattered and my husband's, my youngest's son's and my hands that are reaching out to her. It has been years since she has known who we are. 

On Monday I will be interviewing Kelly for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Kelly is an 11 year old quiltmaker who made a quilt in memory of her grandfather who died of the disease in November. She donated the quilt to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. Her quilt raised $100. Can't wait to talk with her.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good News!

The National Museum of Mexican Art has decided to extend the exhibit Rastros y Crónicas: Women of Juarez until July 4, 2010! From the museum, "Unfortunately, many institutions are currently cutting back on their budgets and exhibition programming due to the current economic situation we are facing at this time.  It is for this reason that the NMMA feels it is even more important to continue to support exhibitions that otherwise be the first to be eliminated in times like this, such as is the case for Rastros y Crónicas: Women of Juarez. Therefore, we have extended the exhibition run until July 4th, 2010." If you are in Chicago, please go and see this moving and powerful exhibit. I still cannot believe that I have a piece in the show. It is so fun to be a fly on the wall and listen to what people have to say. This is an amazing museum. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

How to Spot an Artist

My neighbor was walking her dog and stopped me on the way to my mailbox. She wanted to know if I was an artist. I said, "yes" even though sometimes I struggle with the idea. Her quick reply was "I thought so."  When I asked her how she knew, she just replied, "It was easy to see." I was cold ) no coat and her dog was impatient to continue walking so further conversation didn't happen but it has gotten me thinking. Painter Mary Todd Beam has a list. An artist:

  • Knows whare she keeps her her muse.
  • Knows how to play and take risks.
  • Searches for meaning through universal experiences.
  • Senses the "flow" and runs with it.
  • Defines herself though her work.
  • Works toward a goal.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Art vs Craft Debate

First, thank you to everyone for their thoughts and kind words. They are appreciated more than words can express. I've thought a great deal on the art vs craft debate and know that it will never be definitively decided. Whenever I am asked about quilts being art, I always say, "yes!" However, I also say that I feel quilts are a lot like photography. Millions of people own cameras. Millions of homes are filled with photographs. The same can be said about quilts. Are all the snapshots art? No. Does this make them less valuable? Personally, I think not. Does it make them all art? No.

There is also a great quote by Martha Graham that I had posted in my studio for years that I also think expresses my feelings better than I could ever say.

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through your action.
There is only one of you in all time.
Your expression is unique, but if you block it, it will never exisit through your medium: and will be lost.
If you block it, the world will not have your expression.
It is not your business to determine how good your expression is, not how it compares with others expressions.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. What you have to do is keep open and aware directly to the usges that motivate you.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. No artist is ever satisfied.
There is a queer, divine dis-satifisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps up marching and makes us more alive than others."

I want to be alive. I'd be lying if I told you that I do not want approval. With that said, approval no longer guides me. Always with gratitude, Karen

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tote Bag Crazy

At first I wasn't going to share my latest obsession which is making tote bags for family and friends for the holidays, but obviously I've changed my mind. A friend shared that she didn't think this counted as "making art" and I don't totally disagree. However, I am having fun playing with fabric and color combination AND making something for people I love. It has also gotten me into the habit of being in my studio every day. I can't thank Lisa enough. It also frees my brain to think and I have to tell you my brain has been on overdrive! The dresses came out of creating them so I can't totally agree that these tote bags are not about creating art.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Green Dress

I didn't over dye this one because I liked the green wool felt's color. I did felt by hand the collar. The necklace was purchased a while ago from Silver Crow Creations which has lots and lots of  cool things. I avoid visiting too often because the temptations are great. Anyway, I love the necklace but found it too short to wear comfortably. I think it adds a nice surprise.

I do feel that I will be able to continue working everyday beyond the Art Every Day Month challenge. I can't believe that I did work all 30 days including Thanksgiving in my studio. I have lots of ideas that are waiting to happen. Back to the studio!

Red Dress

I can't seem to get away from exploring small clothing. For this one I didn't follow a pattern. It's about 14" wide by 18" long. I overdyed the wool felt with chestnut dye. The beads are made out of fimo and the yarn is recycled silk sari. I wove the fabric through cut slits in the wool. I love the organic feel which was the goal. I'm working on a green one and have plans for another which will be even larger. The ideas keep spinning in my head.

Cat's Play

I finished a quilt that I started years ago when I was teaching at a local quilt shop so that I could donate it to the Cat Guardians, a nonprofit, no-kill cat shelter. They are having a silent auction at the
Naperville Art League Fine Art Center
on Saturday, January 9 from noon-4 to raise funds.

I love the fabric I used for the cat. It's all gone now and I'll miss it. It's all hand appliqued and machine quilted. My thirteen year old cat, E.G., was feral. I rescued her from living in a storm sewer not far from my house in Houston. I always credit my dog, Meg, for taming her.  I hope my it will raise some funds and help with the cause. Cats have always been a big part of my life. I've recused many over the years and it has always been worth it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Working, working, working

Sorry that I haven't posted. I have been working and the time flies by and before I know it is dark outside which makes taking photos difficult. Anyway, thanks to everyone who encouraged me to redo the owl for my great niece Makayla. I took the owl apart and sewed the part I forgot the first time so now she has a owl-like body. Next I added buttons for the eyes. I'm happy. Gift done! I went looking for an owl book to include with the bag. However, I fell in love with "One" by Kathryn Otoshi. It's a book about colors, counting and bullying. It's won 8 awards. If you're looking for a book for an 4-8 year old, check it out! From the cover:

Blue is a quiet color.
Red is a hot head.
Red likes to pick on Blue.

Yellow, Green, Purple and Orange don't like what they see, but what can they do?
When no one takes a stand, things get out of hand. Until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up and count.

This book is too cute!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recycle, Reuse, Play

This piece started out as a journal quilt that I never really liked. However,  I always liked the bleached background so instead of simply throwing it away, I removed all the applique which left me with pretty much a blank quilt. It's been hanging around my studio for more than a year for my muse to give me a clue. Well today she spoke. I took leftovers from one of my dresses, started layering and cutting. Just playing around. I'm not sure if I've stuck a fork in it yet. I feel I need to give it some time before declaring it done. It wasn't as much fun as the dresses but I do like exploring layering and I love making art every day. Hoping I can keep this up long after the end of the month.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Snake Dress

This was the first dress that I started and the most difficult to figure out how to finish. I think I like layering more. I'd do it differently if I was doing it again but we all have to start somewhere. It's been a journey to let go of perfectionism and learn from experience.  I do want to make a few more dresses. I'm spending time thinking about what I want to do to the canvases I bought to mount them on.

I've been thinking a lot about intention, showing up and creating. I've noticed that committing to doing art/creating everyday has brought me an exquisite calm and clarity, a lightness of being. I'm excited about life. It feels good!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Owl Bag

Okay, several people have e-mailed me asking about the owl bag for my great niece. I'm still not sure about the owl. It certainly does not look like the pattern so it may get remade. I'm letting it rest before making a decision. I only want Makayla to be happy. It was fun to make and I love the idea of the removable owl. The tote is fleece with a fairy fabric lining (I'm thinking "tree fairies.") and the rest is hand dyed wool felt.  I added a inside pocket because I love pockets and who doesn't need one in a tote! And of course, I am going to make her a fun travel-size tissue cozy to go in the pocket. Can't help myself. I'm just playing and having fun. I truly think this is all happening because I made the commitment to doing Art Every Day Month. It's amazing what happens when you still goals and follow your heart.

Share the Love

Kim Mason shares a tutorial on how to make a travle-size tissue cozy on her blog an oft traveled road. I loved the idea of giving people two--one to keep and one to share. I have to tell you these are quite addicting as you can see by what I did last night. I made 17! I plan to make more. They are easy to make and quite satisfying. Almost instant gratification.

Can't wait to start sharing but first I have to go buy travel-size tissue packages. I am hoping people will share with me the stories about their sharing. Thanks Kim!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All Dressed Up for Play Part 2

I worked some more on the purple, bird dress. I added beads around the neck and lace on the bottom. I'm sticking a fork in it and calling it done! I'm happy. Now I have to start working on the canvas.

I also finished the gold dress. I really think it is my favorite. I loved using old earring pieces. Definitely relieves the guilt from having saved them since the 70"s when I wore long, dangling earrings.

My third dress is creating some problems as I don't feel that it is as complete and interesting as the other two. It was my first attempt. I think I need some sleep and fresh eyes. This really are quite addicting!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All Dressed Up for Play

I spent the day playing with my friend Barbara. We talked, ate good food, entertained her husky Drift and created. A perfect day. I was so inspired by bags  that Barbara had made that came home and worked until midnight on a cute bag for one of my great nieces. It has a tree on the outside of the bag with a stuffed owl that can be taken in and out. It felt so good to have a Christmas gift made! But I'm really getting away from what I wanted to share. Sorry it's just the thrill of getting a gift done that has gotten me distracted from my actual mission.

I spent the day working on a series of little dresses inspired by a Quilting Arts' article (holiday 2008-2009 issue) by Jamie Fingal. They are made with a wool felt base and are about 10" wide from sleeve to sleeve and about 10"  long. I have three in progress and sharing the one that is closest to being complete. I can't believe how much fun they are to  make. I plan to mount them on canvases so stay tuned for more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Art from the Heart Auction" - Supporting Art for Children

I am honored to donate a skull mask to the "Art from the Heart Auction" at the National Museum of Mexican Art on December 5 from 4-7 to raise money so that the museum can continue to offer free art programs for children. The NMMA is the only museum in Chicago that spends a third of its budget on arts education. It is also the only major museum in Chicago that has free admission. Tickets for the event are $30 per person and you don't need to be present to win. Support this worthy cause!

"Far Away"

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's. She loved taking the train from Valparaiso, where she lived, to Chicago. When she was at the point where her memory was going, an image flashed her memory being like looking through a key hole so I decided to make a quilt based on that flash.  The photo is by my friend Ron Porras. There was a time when the Sear's Tower was lite with different colored lights at night. I beaded the edge because I happen to love beading the edges of quilts. I used organza, foiling, hand stitching and couching. I think it is a nice little quilt. I hope whatever home it ends up in loves it. I sure had fun making it.

What I create with my hands, I give with my heart

It's not easy to create with swollen eyes on antihistamines so I decided to take a pattern I had already created for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative and make it a little different. Both quilts are titled "Hope is as Light as a Feather." My grandmother use to say, "Hope might be as light as a feather but look what little birds can do with feathers." I have made the $1,000 Promise which means I've agreed to raise at least $1,000 for Alzheimer's research by making Priority Quilts. Priority Quilts were named because they must fit into a USPS Priority envelope. I'm really close to the goal so it feels good to be making quilts for the cause again. The buttons on the quilt are made from fimo and were a gift from my friend Kathy Pierpoline for my birthday. I think they add a nice touch to the quilt.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eyes Swollen Shut

I woke to my left eye and left nostril just about swollen shut and my right eye swollen. Obviously a reaction to something. I think my cat but I'm not sure. I did make art but posting it will have to happen tomorrow. Life presents its challenges, doesn't it?

Monday, November 9, 2009


The weather was too glorious especially after our cold, grey, rainy October to stay inside so I used every opportunity to be outside. I raked leaves (even took a pile from my neighbor's yard to the street), cleaned out my pond (gross), cleaned up my front porch and put up Christmas lights. I was tired but still wanted to do art. Many months ago I bought Zentangle ( an inspiration aand creation by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. I love to doodle so this seemed perfect for me. I love how the directions tell you to take a deep breath or two which I did. Actually I love all their directions and I definitely will keep this close at hand. It's very relaxing and very addicting. I encourage you to check it out!

The other thing that I did was spend some time visiting the sites of people doing Art Every Day Month and I was so impressed. What a great community full of so much inspiration!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What's Next?

I love manipulating fabric and one of my favorite ways is with bleach. I love those moments when something clicks and that is exactly what happened with this piece. I took a cheap, simple grass rubberstamp and used it to create the image. I am pleased and stuck. I don't know what to do next. The muse is remaining silent. She is like that some times. I've considered writing text in the center. I've thought about borders or making it a part of something larger. I love the Irish proverb ,"It is in the shelter of each other that people live," so what are your thougths? Maybe you can help me coax my muse out of hiding. Thanks!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lots of Cleaning and a Little Art

I got the cleaning bug today. I do believe this is related to the Art Every Day Month challenge. I think I want my environment to reflect my artistic mindset and besides, it felt good and it feels good!  I did made a little ATC. I am new to making ATCs and love them. Unfortunately, I don't have anyone to trade so if you're interested let me know. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Putting Stretch Marks on My Comfort Zone

When my friend Elizabeth Owen asked me to participate in a Tarot card exchange, I said "yes" even though I truly don't know that much about Tarot. However, I like to occasionally do things that frighten me. The cards needed to be based on a work of Edgar Allan Poe. Well, when I got the Page of Wands panic is exactly what I did for days. This was not going to be easy. I read Poe poetry for days and my panic subsided a little when I came across his poem "Dreams" which seemed to fit.


Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awak`ning, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow:
Yes! tho` that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
`Twere better than the dull reality
Of waking life to him whose heart shall be,
And hath been ever, on the chilly earth,
A chaos of deep passion from his birth !

But should it be - that dream eternally
Continuing - as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood - should it thus be given,
`Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven!
For I have revell`d, when the sun was bright
In the summer sky; in dreamy fields of light,
And left unheedingly my very heart
In climes of mine imagining - apart
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought - what more could I have seen?

`Twas once & only once & the wild hour
From my rememberance shall not pass - some power
Or spell had bound me - `twas the chilly wind
Came o`er me in the night & left behind
Its image on my spirit, or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly - or the stars - howe`er it was
That dream was as that night wind - let it pass.

I have been happy - tho` but in a dream
I have been happy - & I love the theme -
Dreams! in their vivid colouring of life -
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality which brings
To the delirious eye more lovely things
Of Paradise & Love - & all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

My first attempt failed. I tried to not let it get me down and now that the second card is finished, I'm actually quite happy the first attempt failed. This is done with a collage technique that uses polymer medium and heat. I'm new to it and really like it. I drew the sun and colored it in with Prisma color pencils and rubber stamped the stars and "Page of Wands." Since the Page is young, I found a photo of Poe as a youth. The checkerboard is from an envelope. I do love them. Anyway, I stretched, overcame fear and failure and lived to tell another tale. Now I can only hope the other artists are happy. I am.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time for Play

Whenever I finish something that has taken a lot of time or has required a lot of thought, I try to just play. I think it is important to play. Remember when play was such a large part of our lives. Last night I was thinking about all the falling stars I wished upon as a child. I wonder how many were granted that I have long forgotten. And more importantly, when did I stop wishing upon them. I am preparing my next wish. When did you make your last wish.

Okay, back to the art. I wanted to do something that express "growth" so I doodled and wrote until I settled on "grow where you are planted." I've moved a lot in my adult life and this has been something I have tried to do. I've been saving the old glass leaf beads for years and I love them not only in the piece but also because they are no longer in a drawer in my closet. I'm finally stopped saving and started using. It feels good!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Going Organic Part 2

I worked more than 8 hours yesterday and can now report that it is done! The piece is difficult to photograph but I think I got a decent enough detail that you get the idea. I really like the copper beads and have decided to call this piece "Points of Light." It continues my theme of connections although this is not what I intended in the beginning. I love using Laura Wasilowski's threads This one is called burnt marshmallow. I managed to loose two skeins of it in my travels. One on the airplane returning home from Houston. I got three rows of people looking with no luck. The other was left behind in a motel in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I hope the maid kept it. I don't know the fiber content of the fabric but it was scratchy. I can tell you it stretched and won't stick to the batting not matter what I tried so I simply gave up. I just tried to flow. It's 18" by 25". I think today's piece will just be playful but I'm still not ready to give up handwork. Enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Going Organic

It took me years to figure out that I could let work rest until it was ready. Sometimes my muse just isn't talking so I have learned to be patient. This is one of those pieces where at the time (several years ago)I just wasn't sure what to do so I set it aside. I've always loved handwork. I find it meditative, relaxing. When I took it out of storage, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. I've spent more hours doing the embroidery work than I care to admit but I'm really liking it more and more. Sorry for the bad photo. I'll try to post a better one tomorrow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anais Ninn Day

This morning when I turned my Brush Dance calendar to reveal November, I was greeted by a quote from Anais Nin, "The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself," and the word "growth." Last night I was reading and came across another Anais Nin quote, "People living deeply have no fear of death." So these quotes have been on my mind as I work today and are fitting for my month's work. How can I live deeply? How can making art contribute to my living deeply? I do know that I often want my art to educate and so in that spirit, I offer my Woman of Juarez Spirit Doll.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Art Every Day

I don't know about anyone else, but I need a creative kick in the butt to get moving on my art right now! I just signed up for Art Every Day Month and plan to make art or at least work on my creative process every day in November. Lisa, the organizer, has already made me feel welcome. Join me!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ni Una Mas at DePaul University

I wish I could say that I dazzled the students. I realized how much I feed off an audience when I speak. Actually, it wasn't bad. The audience just didn't seem interested in the art. However, they were interested in the issues surrounding Juarez. I did get one question. With the naming vigil happening immediately following the panel discussion the room cleared quickly. Judith had an emergency and couldn't make it which was disappointing. I was really looking forward to meeting her. I think she is an amazing artist. Still glad I went. I'd do it again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heart n Hands Guild

I'm in O'Fallon, Illinois to give my lecture "Connecting Cultures: An American Artist's Pilgrimage" to the Heart n Hands Guild tonight at 7. If you're in the neighbor, stop by and say "hi." I love giving lectures and sharing. Huge trunk show! Can't wait!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

They are our daughters, our sisters

Pinch me. I still cannot believe that my quilt "They are our daughters, our sisters" will be included in the exhibit "Rastros y Cronicas: Women of Juarez" at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago (1852 W 19th St) from October 16, 2009 - February 14, 2010. I began making this quilt after being asked to teach a class based on what is happening to young women in Juarez, Mexico. The quilt was made over several months as I read articles and books, watched videos and frankly cried. When I lived in Texas (1994-1998), I had read articles that would occasionally pop up in the newspaper about the women being tortured, raped and killed in Juarez and like many things that we read, it passes from our mind. I was surprised to hear that women were still being killed. Since 1993, more than 500 women have been killed in Ciudad Juarez in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua (just over the border from El Paso, Texas). My piece was not planned but evolved. It was important to me to have a cross for every women (girls since the youngest is 10) that has died. It is important for me that it compels the viewer to comprehend and sympathize with what the victims endured and what the loved ones who are left behind continue to face. We must not forget or ignore the loss because we are all connected.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Article In Quilter's Newsletter about Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories

I love to write. I write in my journal sometimes three or four times a day. I love to write letters. I dream of writing books. I've written articles that have appeared in different publications. I've written for Quilter's Newsletter several times. It's always nice when someone sees and comments on something that I have written. I have an article that is in Quilter's Newsletter's October/November issue on the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories (Q.S.O.S.). Q.S.O.S. is an oral history project of the Alliance for American Quilts and it is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. I have been involved in the project since the beginning. What has surprised me is how many people have read and sent me comments about the article. I'm very blown away. To be honest, I wasn't sure that that many people who know me were reading the magazine. I'm thrilled that Maria Herrera, Lois Beardslee and Charlene Hughes were all featured. I'm especially thrilled about Maria because it was her first quilt!

If you're going to be in Houston for International Quilt Festival and you're free Friday morning, let me know and I'll get you an invitation to the celebration. If someone had told me that I would dedicate 10 years of my life (thousands of hours and thousands of dollars) I would have told them that they were crazy. Looking back it has been a great 10 years with lots of adventures and so many opportunities to connect with people and to give back in a real and meaningful way to this wonderful community that I belong. And I got to write about it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Felt Quilt

Feltmaking has a long tradition in Georgia (country not state) and I became fascinated by the process on my very first visit. Before making this piece, I had felted three times when I was in Georgia. With Inga (feltmaker from Holland), I made a ball. I also have a cube that she made me which I keep in my studio. With Elska (another feltmaker from Holland), I made a small purse. And with my good friend Maia, I felted a scarf I knitted. It took more than six hours and my hands became bloody. This is done by hand not with a machine of any kind. We decided that thinner yarn was the way to go next time!

To help me with my grieving over not going back this fall, I attempted felting again and this time decided to also make it into a quilt. I'm not sure I will ever make a great felter but it is fun to play. My house kind of disappeared but I was able to embroider it back in. The tree definitely came out different than I envisioned and I like it! I added beads to remind me of the incredible night skies that I have experienced while in Georgia. The moon is dupioni silk, another love of mine, that I had appliqued. It's 13 inches by 12 inches.

The buttons are from my trip to Maine. Georgia has these amazing walls made from black stones and I wanted to somehow to include them. Anyway, aren't the buttons cool? My friend Elizabeth turned me on to them. They are from a company called "Island Stone." kariska the artist who makes them says, "summer island living and nature's artistry are the inspirations for my work with hand selected beach stones I create unique adornments." If you would like some buttons, check out her etsy

Feltmaking makes you slow down. There is just no rushing the process. It gave me time to reflect on the times and friends in Georgia. I would close my eyes and be transported.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What it Takes

I'm going to admit that while I dreamed of documenting quiltmakers who were in prison, I never thought much beyond the mission. Now I'm learning just how tough it is to have a quilt program in a prison. I'm learning a new way of thinking and looking. There are reasons that things like needles and fabric pose a threat. Let's start with needles. Needles are used for tattooing. You might think this is no big deal except there is a lot of Hepatitis C in prison which can be spread easily by sharing needles. Fabric can be used to make clothing to be worn after escaping or used as a means of escaping. The Ohio Reformatory for Women only allows inmates to have fabric that is 10 inches square or less. I'm not discouraged. Just learning the ropes and thinking, thinking, thinking.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soccoro's Second Quilt

It is so much fun to watch Socco's confidence grow and grow. She spent a lot of time working on the figure of the woman. Again I can't wait to see what she does next.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Maria's Spirit Doll

I was so pleased when the group embraced making "Spirit" dolls with my pattern. Maria H. was the first one to finish. She plans to give the doll to her sister who is dying of brain cancer. It has been so much fun to watch these dolls being created and seeing how they refect the inner spirit of each women. I will be posting more photos.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christina Carlos' Second Quilt

I think Christina is amazing. I love her sense of design and that she always has movement in her work. I think with time she could make a big splash in the world of art and I hope she gets the chance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Macrina Bravo's First Quilt

Macrina has caught the quilt bug! She bought herself a sewing machine so there is no stopping her now! I love her skull. I loved that she jumped in with no fear. I can't wait to see what she does next!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Martha Domunquez-Diaz's Second Quilt

Martha escaped to Mexico this summer and we missed her terribly. She took her quilt with her on her travels so this quilt has been done by hand. I truly believe that Martha is going to be an embellishing queen!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Florinda Malacara's First Quilt

It is not easy to cme into an established group and yet, Florinda jumped in with both feet. She loved the idea of tulle and even when she melted it, kept going. I'm so proud of her.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Maria Tortolero's Second Quilt

Here's another Juarez quilt. I love that Maria uses so much embroidery in her work. In Mexico, embroidery was something the girls were talk in school. She's good at it too! What I love even more is how much she has embraced quiltmaking. She's always working. Always thinking about the next project. I love her style and cannot wait to see what she does next.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Maria Herrera's Second Quilt

I have the get privilege to teach an amazing group of women at the National Museum of Mexican Art. We have been creating quilts that deal with a tough subject matter--the torture, rape, mutilation and death of young women and children from Juarez, Mexico. This is Maria's second quilt! It truly is typical in that it shows that the women have gone to a better place. I hope you agree with me that this quilt is amazing!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've been in an emotional and creative funk. I know intellectually why. Fall has come early and I want more summer. This time of year I'm usually getting ready to go to Georgia. Last year I didn't get to go because the Russians invaded and this year there wasn't the time and funds. I miss my friends and the place that feels like a second home. It looks like October 10th will be the last time I meet with my group at the National Museum of Mexican Arts due to funds. I have grown to truly love these women. It has been great to be a part of their creative process. They certainly have surpassed all expectations. Anyway, I'm hoping my trip to Maine next week will break the spell. I learned long ago that I am a cycling being and know that this will pass. Off to the studio to see if I can't coax my muse to come out and play.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Crazy Busy! Hoping for Sunshine

Crazy busy so I offer a quote that has always spoken to me. Promise that I will share a lot in a couple of days. For now, I am off to teach! It's day four of no sunsine which always effects me so I'm hoping for sunshine soon too.

To appreciate beauty; to give of one's self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived -- that is to have succeeded. --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Heard From Michelle!

Today in the mail was a letter from Michelle! She shared her appreciation for being in Sacred Threads and my interviewing her. Not much else. Unlike the other letters I have gotten there were no questions or any indication that she wanted me to write back. I find each letter to confirm things I felt when I interviewed them. I've written a letter so we shall see if we hear anymore from Michelle. She does want to make more quilts to give as gifts to her family. I have no idea how much long she has to serve. Michelle is in for knowing about crimes her husband committed. She did not commit any of the crimes and her husband has fallen in love with another woman. Again, I am so surprised the she is not bitter. A little angry but not bitter. Wonder what tomorrow's mail will bring.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Heard from Joy!

Today in the mail was a letter from Joy and just like her name so was her letter. I want to share some of her words with you. "My quilt only expressed my thought on long term incarceration and how important it is to live a celebrated female life. I'm glad to read the feedback because even though I had several positive comments, I felt oddly embarrassed with my verbal communication." Isn't she amazing!

I also need to share with you that after twelve "difficult" years and many appeals, she has been proven innocent of the murder of her husband. Her attorney has filed a petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. She expects a decision soon. She also wants to make a quilt about her the next chapter in her life. I hope she writes me again. There is no bitterness in her. I'm not sure that I could be as forgiving and serene as Joy. She signed off with this wish to me--"May your future be colored by the warm fabric of compassion, compelling texture of community and stitched with the rich thread of life." I wish this for her and you, too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blueberry Boy Bait

I began baking for my group at the National Museum of Mexican Art as another way of connecting and sharing. I think food is important when it come to creativity. We need to feed our bodies. I think the group's favorite recipe of mine is my Zucchini Bread recipe. However, I think Blueberry Boy Bait is a close second. I found it at Cook's Country ( when I was looking for something new to do with blueberries that I had and wanted to use. I've since found it in many, many places. I love the story behind the recipe as much as I enjoy the desert.

Blueberry Boy Bait

Adapted from Cook’s Country, which adapted it from the original
Like any recipe with a great name, this also has a great story, which was that in 1954, a 15-year-old girl stole the show (but only won second prize) in the junior division of an early Pillsbury Bake-Off with a variation of this recipe, named, she said, after the effect it had on boys.

Cook’s Country magazine dusted this recipe off from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Dessert Cookbook and made a few tweaks to bring it more deliciously into the modern age: butter was swapped for shortening, the quantity of blueberries was doubled and some plain sugar was replaced with brown sugar. The result? Let’s just say you don’t need to be a boy to be lured in. Serves 12, generously

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour Note from Karen: I use white wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt Note from Karen: I don't use salt and no one notices
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great) Note from Karen: I used skim milk and it worked fine
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter) Note from Karen: I used more blueberries.

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm (really the best) or at room temperature.

Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. It's never lasted 3 days at my house!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Letter from Ronda!

In yesterday's mail was a letter from Ronda! I had written all the women who I interviewed a thank you note and have been in the process of sending them the feedback and comments on their quilts. So I have to admit I have been disappointed that I had not heard from any of them. Getting the letter from Ronda was exciting and still was even after I read it. Written in small handwriting in the darkness of her cell at 1 a.m., she asked me 20 questions. And some of them were down right tough! "If you had to describe yourself in 5 words, what 5 words would you use?" "What thing do you take for granted that you wouldn't have o be able to do if you were locked up in prison?" "Tell me the most beautiful place you have ever been." "What lifts you up when you are down?" I spent more than 3 hours and seven pages to answer her. I also sent her a couple of photos of my recent quilts (she asked). I worry that the answers about my religion might not sit well with her. Time will tell. I knew when I met her that she was going to cause me to stretch and grow and her letter proved that to be true. If you want to read what I posted about Ronda, you can click below on Ohio Reformatory for Women and find info there or check my July 30th entry. For now, I will anxiously await another letter.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Language of Letting Go

Thank you to everyone for the birthday greetings and wishes. It was one of my better birthdays and you certainly contributed to making it so. After posting, I got news that my book proposal was turned down. I won't lie. I cried. However, I did not let it spoil the day AND at least it's not my writing that was the issue. So I simply reworked the proposal, sent it out and focused on my day.

Since I got so many e-mails about letting go, I thought I would share an excerpt from one of my favorite books, The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie. I highly recommend it.

Letting Go, Dec. 4
"How much do we need to let go of" a friend asked one day.
"I'm not certain," I replied, "but maybe everything."
Letting go is a spiritual, emotional, mental and physical process, a sometimes mysterious metaphysical process of releasing to God and the universe that which we are clinging to so tightly.

We let go of our grasp on people, outcomes, ideas, feelings, wants, desires, everything. We let go of trying to control our progress in recovery. Yes, it's important to acknowledge and accept what we want and what we want to happen. But it's equally important to follow through by letting go.

Letting go is the action part of faith. It is a behavior that gives God and the universe permission to send us what we're meant to have.

Letting go means we acknowledge that hanging on so tightly isn't helping to solve the problem, change the person or get the outcome we desire. It isn't helping us. In fact, we learn that hanging on often blocks us from what we want and need.

Who are we to say that things aren't happening exactly as they need to happen?

There is magic in letting go. Sometimes we get what we want soon after we let go. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the specific outcome we desire doesn't happen. Something better does.

Letting go sets us free and connects us to our Source.
Letting go creates the optimum environment for the best possible outcomes and solutions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Letting Go

Today is my birthday. I've never been comfortable with my birthday. Just so you know, it's not about the getting older part. It goes back to my childhood and I won't bore you with those details. Instead I will share with you how I have dealt with this day. When I was 24, I was pregnant with my first son, Jeremiah. I knew being a mother meant that I had to be the best person I could be. So for my birthday, I decided that each year I would give myself a gift. One year I would give myself the gift of letting something go and the next year I would gift myself by embracing something. Over the last 30 years, I have had to revisit some things. Dealing with clutter and simplifying my life have taken many years and I'm still not there yet. Wish I could be more Zen like. Some years I have cried a lot as I struggled. Some years were filled with so much joy that I thought I would burst. Some years life had a different plan. The year I decided to do something that scared me changed my life in a very big way. I went to Georgia (country not state) which lead me to a couple years of incredible adventures including travel with the quilts of Gee's Bend. Overall, it's been an interesting process of self discovery. I've learned I'm capable of more than ever thought possible.

I use to discount when people would call me courageous until I explored further what courage means. Courage comes from the Latin for "heart." Courage is also contained in the word encouragement--literally, giving heart to another.

This year I am suppose to be letting go of something that is holding me back and as I worked on deciding what that should be, I realized that this year was really about letting go AND embracing. This year I will be letting go of the fear that I don't deserve all the good things that are coming my way AND embrace all the joy and wonder of all the good things that are coming my way. I am going to make this a incredible year! What gift will you give yourself this year?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Christina Carlos

I am so pleased to share with you Christina's finished "Women of Juarez" quilt. This is Christina's second quilt! I hope you agree that she has amazing talent. I can't wait to see what she does next. I also believe more than ever that my belief in expression first works. The proof is in the quilts. I am so blessed to be able to have the women in this group in my life.