Monday, May 25, 2009

"If I Only Knew"

I signed up for the Vintage Photo group for Postmark'd Art, a group that exchanges fabric postcards. I finished the 8 for the exchange and made an extra for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. It feels good to have something done that isn't due until September. I am a great procrastinator. I'll do things that need to be done, just not what I should be doing. Anyway, the photo is of my adopted grandmother, Rachel, (2nd on the left) dancing on the lawn with her friends in 1919 in Canton, Ohio. I titled the piece "If I Only Knew" because I didn't know about this part of her life until after she died. To me she was an extremely sweet and caring old woman who taught children piano. I wonder what people will think about me when I am gone.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I have been working in polymer collage and finding it quite interesting. I am beginning to work more with fabric and paper and promise to share it here in the near future.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Soviet Silk

I have always loved silk especially dupioni. When I had the opportunity to visit Osh in Kyrgyzstan, I did not know that I would have the chance to purchase silk made in the area during Soviet times. Winding the open air market with Kimi, my Kyrgyz guide, in her four inch heels, we came upon the stall full of silk. Not all of it was from Soviet times and I was asked to feel the different silks to see if I could determine the difference. It was not hard. The weight and feel of the Soviet silk was unmistakable. I was also shown the tags on the silk bearing the ax and sickle. I also purchased one piece of Soviet cotton/silk blend. I pass around the silk samples that I have collected in my travels. Someday I hope to find a project worthy of its use.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Georgian Silk Museum

Below is the article that I wrote that was published in "Selvedge" magazine's Issue 26 Nov/Dec. I was not credited for writing the article or providing the photo (which is actually a photo of an old photo). To make matters worse, the promise of mentioning this oversight in the next issue did not occur. However, it did accomplish my goal of letting the world know about this incredible resource. Since the writing of this article, the museum now has their own website.

Off the beaten path and certainly a world treasure is the Silk Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia (a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe). The country has a rich silk history and was once a part of the Silk Road. Tiny fragments of silk fabric have been found in burial grounds of the 2nd through 4th centuries and the first written record concerning silkworm breeding dates from the 5th century. While silk is no longer produced, samples can occasionally be found in stores and open markets.

During the Vienna Congress in 1815, it was decided that sericulture centers would be established in Western Europe to improve silk worm farming and conduct research. Centers in Austria, Italy, France and Hungary were opened. Georgia’s center, The Caucasian Sericulture Station, which also included a museum, extensive library and lecture hall, was founded in 1887 by Nikolas Shavrov (1858-1915), a scholar and scientist. Shavrov spent two years (1885-1887) traveling to Italy, France, Austria-Hungary Empire and Germany studying sericulture and gathering many of the materials now found in the museum.

The actual building was built between 1887 and 1893 by Polish architect Alexander Shinkevick who was living in Tbilisi at the time. The building’s architecture reflects the eclectic style characteristic of Tbilisi in the late 19th century. While the interior remains original, the building does suffer from the effects of a 2002 earthquake. Serious scientific work was conducted at the center. The museum consists of three halls which includes collections from 61 countries, 5,000 species and variations of silkworm cocoons from Europe, Asia, India and Japan, a silk butterfly collection which includes butterflies from Brazil, Argentina, India, Mexico and Bangkok and displays all the stages of silk production from mulberry tree seeds to silk production.

The silk museum's technical library houses more than 4,000 unique books in 26 languages concerning sericulture and other natural sciences including rare Chinese drawings on rice paper detailing silk production and processing.

This Museum is truly a unique part of the cultural heritage of Europe. “There are some things that it pays to remember,” American Silk Journal (1909).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guardian of Wonder

I teach a mask workshop and decided it was time for a new sample. Sewing on the cowrie shells was a challenge but I really like the way they look. I've had the feathers for years so it was good to finally use them. Now all I need is for someone to book a workshop!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I love making masks. When I was in Kyrgyzstan, I learned about the female Buddha from one of the women I spent time with discussing her country. Kyrgyzstan is now a Muslin country but there was time when Buddhism was practiced. Anyway, I wanted to try my hand at making a female Buddha. It allowed me to do hand applique which I love and a little bead embellishing which I also love. She hangs in my studio reminding me of my time in Kyrgyzstan. My friend Carolyn even made me address labels with her image and she always gets a nice compliment. Enjoy! Karen

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spirit Doll

I love how things evolve. Martha brought in leaf skeletons and said that she didn't know why she bought them much less what to do with them. I told her that I had used the leaves to make wings on one of my Spirit dolls. I've always loved making dolls. Anyway, I brought in the doll pictured here. She hangs on the wall of my office. She was a big hit with the women and since I had been trying to think of something that we could do as a project for Women of Juarez that was not so gloomy, this was perfect. I love how it all came together. After we finish the first round of quilts, we will be making Women of Juarez Spirit dolls. How cool is that? Karen

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Can you read this?

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Changing the Story of Fear

I read somewhere that we have 66,000 thoughts a day and that two-thirds of them are fear based. We are basically taught to be afraid. I'm not saying that fear cannot be a good emotion especially when it comes to self-protection, but so often we create a narrative around it in our own minds and it paralyzes us. I've been making a effort to feel the fear and do it anyway. One of the ways that I have done this is in my garden which has made changing the story of fear easier in other parts of my life. Here is my "Spoon River." I spent a day restoring it. I put it in last year and it still makes me smile and my neighbors scratch their heads. I'm just happy that I can still surprise them. Enjoy! Karen

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Shoot

Here is Socorro being filmed by Dante Mozie for Medill News Service at the Northwestern. Only Martha and Socorro showed up for the filming. I think the rest are camera shy. I found out the piece will be about 2 minutes long. It's part of an arts/culture project called "Immigration in Chicago." There are 11 people doing these with different topics with sports being another one.

I went first to provide the background of the project. The only question that caused me to pause when I was asked why two members of the class did not make immigration quilts (you can see them in this photo). I basically told him that I had no desire to be the "police." That I viewed my job as a facilitator of creativity and expression. It will be interesting to see what happens with this. We can only trust that Dante will do a good job. Karen