Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The cold and bitter winter weather has me thinking about  lines in a poem by Dobby Gibson that stuck with me.  They are from a poem called Upon Discovering My Entire Solution to the Attainment of Immortality Erased from the Blackboard Except for the Word "Save."  It's interesting how these things happen.  I cannot remember more of it so I must go off and find it so my memory is refreshed.

And if you have looked
at a winter garden
and seen not a winter garden
but a meditation on shape,
then you know why
this season is not
known for its words,
the cold too much
about the slowing of matter,
not enough about the making of it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Newest Obsession

It seems every Christmas I have a new project that I just can't stop making. They become my potato chips or or as Abby on NCIS says "pistachios."  Last year it was tote bags and this year it's clutch purses. I was only going to make four and you see how well that worked out. I once again have my friend Barbara to (lovingly) blame. She saw a small picture of a clutch in a magazine. I definitely think ours are better than the ones for sale at $78 a pop. I put pockets inside mine. Used fusible Velcro (love the stuff!) so they stay closed. And of course, I used dipioni silk on all but the black and white one which has over-dyed wool felt. I hope these are as big a hit as my tote bags were last year. These were certainly more fun to make. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

I had the privilege of joining Arts in the Cards group. Even though researching, interviewing and writing take up most of my time, I have to have an artistic creative outlet so ATCs (artist trading cards) are perfect. I've also discovered that it's a wonderful group of artists.

The theme for this trade was typography which made my heart sing. It also gave me an opportunity to play with Nevr-Dull (a metal polish) and polymer medium. I'm looking forward to more exchanges and learning more about the artists in the group. I also plan to continue to explore the theme. It must be the writer in me!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fiber Sisters for Hope

I was asked to join the Fibers Artists for Hope which made me happy. I know this group well. They originally began by making Obama quilts. I interviewed many of them for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, an oral history project of the Alliance for American Quilts. They had begun working on a new exhibition called "The Unspoken Truth About Color: A Dialogue in Art Quilts About Racism" which deals with racism. I had less than 10 days to make my quilt. Sometimes it takes a quick deadline to get me from over thinking and just creating. This piece makes me happy. You can visit the group's blog to learn more details about the exhibition--Unspoken Truth and Hope blog. Now it's back to writing for me!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Making Cards

I've been making greeting cards for a while now. My focus is on writing. However, it cannot be me entire  life. I also need something that does not take a lot of time. Making cards seems to be a nice way to balance my need to be creative without taking too much time. I try to make a card each morning while I am waiting for my oatmeal to cook. This means I have eight minutes to accomplish my mission. This also means I cannot over think during the process.
Here is the Halloween I made for my friend Barbara. She is my partner in crime. For the last couple of years, we have gotten together on Fridays to create Christmas gifts for our family and friends. The background paper and hand were from a trick or treat bag. Wish I had bought more than just one package. The bird and happy Halloween were from a package of stickers from JoAnn's for a dollar. Again, why didn't I buy more than one? I love the crow. The stars were from a punch and paper from a mail insert. The swirl is also a sticker. It was a fun filled 8 minutes! And more importantly, Barbara liked it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quilts Around the World

It just arrived! I can't wait to read it and share it. This amazing book, Quilts Around the World: The Story of Quilting from Alabama to Zimbabwe, by Spike Gillespie has two sections written by me. It was such an honor to be asked to contribute. I have one section on my travels to Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan and another on my work with the Latina community. I am in great company with Laurel Horton, Carolyn Mazloomi, Charlotte Pateria, Marsha MacDowell, Margaret Rolfe and Wendy Lugg also having written for the book. From first glance, this looks like a truly incredible resource. There are even quilt patterns. Another outstanding job done by Voyageur Press. Check it out!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book For Sale

Whenever I am feeling stressed, I seem to go into a cleaning mode. I know it's a go figure. Over the last few days I've been tackling my office. I am embracing "out with the old, unused and unneeded so that new and wanted things can come into my life." I also need the cash for a particular project. If you want to know more, email me. Don't want to share here. I'm sending everything media mail unless you want to pay for it. Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully we can make this a win-win situation.
The following books are all $5.00 each.
Garden Inspired Quilts by Jean and Valori Wells (a little wear on the cover)
Embellished Mini-Quilts by Jamie Fingal (perfect)
Quilting Your Memories by Sandy Bonsib  (a little wear on the cover)
Small Amish Quilt Patterns by Rachel T Pellman
Fun Photo-Quilts and Crafts by Ami Simms
Patchwork Persuasion by Joen Wolfrom
Fractued Landscape Quilts by Katie Pasquini Masopust (has her message from her to me inside)
Fabric Lokers Hooking by Kathleen Carpenter (bought for a friend then she decided she didn't want to do it-never even opened)
Quilts from Aunt Amy by Mary Tendall Etherington and Connie Tesene (has my name inside)
Quilt Savvy by Caryl Bryer Fallert
Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900 (out of print)
The Electric Mola by Jane Hill
Photo Memories in Fabric Album Coverups by Lynda Milligan and Nancy Smith (if you like cute, this is for you!)
The following books are all $10.00 each
Quilted Memories by Lesley Riley
Journey of an Art Quilter by Barbara Olsen
The following is $25.00

Abstract in Design in American Quilts: A Biography of an Exhibition by Jonathan Holstein (out of print- new)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Details about the Book Deal

It's funny that my life is so centered around the book that I forgot to give details. Thanks to everyone who pointed out my error. The book will contain 30 stories based on a discovery made about a quilt. Voyageur Press is publishing it. They asked me (you could have knocked me over with a feather) to write it. In so many ways, this was a book made for me and I am so thankful that Voyageur Press felt the same way.  I'm still looking for stories so if you have a story that meets this criteria, please get in touch with me. Read carefully. Remember this is not my idea so I don't have a lot of latitude.

1. Your story must be long enough for me to write a 2,000 word essay. It's a lot of words--about three single spaced pages. I need lots and lots of details!
2. Your story must include an element of discovery either about the quilt or the maker. There has to be a surprise element.
3. You must have a high resolution digital (300 dpi)  photo of the entire quilt with no one or no thing in it. It can also be a transparency. Or be willing to have the quilt professionally photographed. If your photo does not look professional, it will be refused. Remember this is going into a book!

I am working on my 12th story. I feel pretty good since I only started writing on September 20th. I have to have it done by January 15. I am up to the challenge! At least that is what I keep telling myself at 2 a.m.

Book Deal!

I apologize for not posting. First it was the call of the great outdoors and gardening. Gardening feeds my soul in a way nothing else does. It also helps me recover from the long Chicago winters which I am finding more and more difficult to endure. Next came a couple of really nasty emails about my teaching at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Both people felt I should not because I am not Mexican. These perplexed me.I wish I could also say that they did not bother me, that I have grown past caring, but it did. Lastly, I got a book deal! So I have been interviewing, writing, researching, and editing for 8-12 hours a day. This also shows that once you get out of the habit of doing something, it's tough to get back. However, I promise I will post more often as I have a lot to share and this blog is important to las puntadas del alma. You'd have to kill me if you didn't want me to support them. Happy creating! Life is full and good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Florinda Malacara

 Florinda has not had an easy life. I remember how angry she appeared when she first joined the group. Now she works so hard and I'm watching her blossom. This is her second quilt which she titled "The Exceptional Slave/ La esclava excepcional."

Oney Judge was a seamstress for Mrs. Washington, but they also allowed her to play with Nelly, their granddaughter. They never allowed her to read and write. Her history reminds me of many stories of people in my community.

Oney era la costurera de la Sra. Washington pero además le permitían jugar con Nelly- la nieta de los Washington- pero nunca le permitieron aprender a leer. Su historia me recuerda a tantas historias de gente de mi comunidad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dolores Mercado

Dolores is an artist, a curator at the National Museum of Mexican Art, our museum liaison, and a member of our group. We are all deeply appreciative of all the she does for us. This is her first quilt which is titled "Although it is Probable She will Attempt to Pass for a Free Woman/Aunque es probable que ella intent hacerse pasas por una mujer libre."

The title is part of the runaway advertisement that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette on Tuesday, May 24, 1796. Unfortunately these words are still prevalent for women to this day.

El título es parte del anuncio que apareció el día martes, 24 de mayo de 1796 en el Pennsylvania Gazette, después de que Oney escapó de la Casa Presidencial. Por desgracia estas palabras todavía están vigentes para muchas mujeres.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Christina Carlos

Christina actually researched the clothing at the time to make sure that her quilt was historically true to the times. Her quilt's title is "Choices/Elecciones." I love watching Christina's process and how her art is evolving as she gains confidence.

"I admire Oney Judge because she made a choice to be free at the sake of being a wanted fugitive along with living a life of poverty. In society, there are laws that want to be passed to limit a woman’s right to choose in having a family. It is not up to man to decide on a woman’s choice. Women have to live with their own decisions and that is what I believe Oney did."

"Admiro a Oney Judge porque eligió ser libre a costa de ser una fugitiva, y de vivir además en la pobreza. En la sociedad, hay leyes que se quieren aprobar para limitar el derecho de la mujer a elegir si quiere tener familia. No es asunto de los hombre decidir  el derecho de las mujeres a elegir. Las mujeres tenemos que saber vivir con nuestras propias decisiones, creo que fue lo que Oney hizo."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beatriz Alvarez

While everyone went smaller, Beatriz didn't and for that I am truly proud of her. Beatriz was the first to make a pieced background too. I think Beatriz summed up the project so well when she said, "I have learned about history, increased my vocabulary and feel connected to a women that I never knew existed." Her quilt is called "Courage" and her artist statement is "I had the opportunity through this project to know the history of women with great faith and valor. She had faith and courage to change her life. She reminds me of women from my country that have to leave their country in order to find a better opportunity for their family."

"Con este proyecto tove la oportonidad de aprednder la historia de ona mujer con mucho valor y fe para cambiar so vida y el cual me recuerda a las mujeres de mi pars que lo tienen que dejar para boscar una major oportonidad para so familia."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lucy Campos

This is Lucy's very first quilt! It's called "Oney and I." Lucy had never even used a sewing machine. I love the details and that she had the confidence to create something that also included herself in the story. Here is her artist statement.

Creating Oney Judge's quilt motivated me to investigate, appreciate and value her existence as well as her culture. I would also like more appreciation and value to the Mexican culture.

Al crear el quilt de Oney Judge me motivo a investigar apreciar y valorar a ella y a su cultura por lo que taubien me gustaria quw apreciaran valoraran la cultura Mexcicana.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Socorro Carlos

I am so proud of Soco and her newest quilt- "Two Faces of George." This was created for The President's House: Their Untold Stories in Quilts exhibition that will occur in Philadelphia this fall. Soco is growing into a confident artist and it has been my great pleasure to watch this occur and support her on her journey. This quilt is for sale.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Milliande Art Comminity for Women Bead Exchange

I recently joined the Milliande Art Community for Women which has a fiber group. I'm finding it to be a wonderful community and even more so since a fiber bead exchange was announced. I love making fiber beads. They are quite addicting and sinfully satisfying. Here are a few that I've made. Some are for the exchange (groups of 5 all the same size) and some were just for fun. This has also helped me to relax. My dad was in the ICU and we're dealing with water damage to our house. No fun at all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eva's Fabric

My Spoonflower fabric designed by my friend Eva arrived today and I'm thrilled! It is even more beautiful in "person." I'm not sure what I will do with it yet but I'm so glad to own it. I encourage you to check out her other fabrics too. Eva is incredibly talented and a wonderful person.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ideas of Inspiration and Debi's Leaf

My friend Debi gave me this cement leaf as a gift. I've had making cement leaves on my to do wish list for several years so you can just imagine how thrilled I was to receive this one. When I decided to paint it, I channeled to gardeners and artists that I admire--George Little and David Lewis. I was so excited when it was finished and I could add it to my garden. This is definitely causing my wish to make leaves move up on my to do list!

I am also a new member of the Ideas of Inspiration blog lead by Sandy Snowden where members post photographers and work based on a theme. I'm so impressed by the work of this group. I'm hoping this will keep me on my toes and creative.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ants Coming Marching In

Ants decided to build their a condo in my telephone box. This is causing problems with both my phone and Internet. Frustrating. Tom cleaned out the dirt on our side. Now I need A.T. & T. to come and clean out their side. Sure hope this fixes things. It is forcing me to work. Fingers crossed this posts. It's my third attempt. Did I mention being frustrated? Interesting how much we depend on technology.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buy a Book and Help Save a Quilt Group

Los hilos de la vida is a mostly Latina quilt group in Boonville, California. They published this wonderful (English and Spanish) 83 page book. I wrote the introduction (Yes, I know my name is misspelled. If this is the worse thing that happens to me, it's all good.) because of my involvement with the group and because I believe in what they are doing.--creating story quilts with meaning and changing the lives of the women and their families. I interviewed 35 Los hilos participants for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories so if you want to more about the women and children involved in the project you can read their interviews and see the quilts (many are in the book).

Funding has been lost. Molly Johnson Martinez, their fearless leader, is an amazing woman. She has fundraised tirelessly for years. She even raised enough to buy the building where they meet. Unfortunately, funding for her salary has been lost so the future of the group is uncertain. If you purchase the book ($20) or book with DVD ($30) from my blog, I'll pay for the shipping. All the money goes to Los hilos. Thanks!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good News and a Request

My quilt from the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece traveling exhibit is going to be included in a special exhibit on Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories at International Quilt Festival in Houston. I'm particularly beholding to the Shelburne Museum for agreeing to ship my quilt directly to IQA so that it could be included. I haven't seen my quilt in 3 years and for its travels to end in Houston is thrilling and for it to have another opportunity to be seen and hopefully educate is icing on the cake.

Now for my request-- The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative  is still needing  names of people who have/had Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia for the new traveling exhibit called "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope." We are hoping to have 10,000 names in remembrance.

So, if you have a family member or friend who has/had Alzheimer's or a related dementia and would like to have their name written on one of the Name Quilts that will travel the country as part of this national exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer's, either email me or leave the name(s) in the comment area and I'll make sure the names are included. This is a great way to honor a loved one or friend and make a difference. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Martha Dominguez-Diaz

Martha is known as our "Embellishing Queen." She loves embellishing. There isn't a bead or charm that she does not love. She also loves handwork. She is also one of the most generous people in the group-- always willing to share her personal fabric and charms. One of my favorite parts of this quilt is the woman's green eye shadow. The flowers were made when we played with rubberstamps. Martha uses what she learns which makes her teacher so happy!

Remember that these quilts are the second quilts that these women created. The subject matter (the killing of women in Cuidad Juarez in northern Mexico) is not an easy subject matter and yet, they rose to the challenge. I could not be prouder of them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Christina Carlos

On Saturday while I was at the National Museum of Mexican Art teaching, I took pictures (with permission and only of the quilt group member's work) of the quilts hanging in the Rastros y Cronicas: Women of Juarez exhibit. The exhibit will be up until July 4th. An artist  took her piece out early. Her decision caused this wonderful opportunity for the women in the quilt group (Las puntadas del alma/Stitches of the Soul). The gallery is dark so I did the best I could with the photography. I also didn't want to hang out in the gallery too long taking photos just in case others came to view it. I think Christina has a promising future in art. I also think the museum did a great job displaying the works. Of course, it's always better in person! Hope you get a chance to see it. It's an incredibly moving exhibit.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

More on My Mask Exhibition

I decided to do the signage differently than usual. I decided to include more information about me and if needed, the subject matter. This caused most of the signs to fill the 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that I used. I was a little worried that people would not be willing to read so much and to my amazement, people who came to the opening read them all! This created great opportunities for dialogue and connection. One woman required all of the children with her to listen to her read about Kwan Yin mask. I thought I would share some of what I wrote with you this next week.

While traveling in Kyrgyzstan, I learned about the “female Buddha” which inspired this mask. While Kyrgyzstan is now a mostly Muslim country, at one time Buddhism was practiced. Kwan Yin is often referred to as the female Buddha. According to one legend, she was a beautiful Indian princess who forsook marriage and the good life to live in a convent in order to become a truly enlightened human being. By turning her back on a life of luxury and seeking spiritual enlightenment, her life story is similar to the historical Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama.

After having achieved enlightenment and the right to enter Buddhist Heaven or Nirvana, legend has it that at Heaven's gates Kwan Yin heard the despairing cry of someone back on earth. Upon hearing that sad cry, she quickly returned to the earthly plane, and vowed to stay there to help all those who suffer achieve the same level of enlightenment that she had, so that they too could enter Nirvana. Kwan Yin's name means "The one who hears the cries of the world."

The fabric that I used for the face and the neck are the same fabric only the face is the back of the fabric and the neck the front. It is one of my favorite fabrics and one that I wished I had bought lots and lots when I had the chance. Such is life!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gift from a Crow and Sacred Threads

I was working in my yard contemplating my quilt for Sacred Threads. I needed to get something to drink and as I was coming back into the yard, a crow put something in my basket. It was a bone! This crow and I have been hanging out together all week as I work in the yard. I thanked her for her gift and she flew away. It was a most interesting experience. Anyway if you don't know about Sacred Threads, you need to check it out.

Sacred Threads is an exhibition of quilts exploring the subject themes of spirituality, joy, inspiration, peace/brotherhood, grief and healing. This biennial exhibition was established to provide a safe venue for quilters who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey.

It has moved from Columbus, Ohio to Herndon, Virginia about 30 miles outside of Washington, D.C. The exhibit will from June 22 - July 4, 2011. 

Time to get creating!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Observations from the Road

The drive down Route 30 in Indiana is flat and not terribly interesting. I listen to music and try to be as present as I can make myself. I wonder why some towns look so sad why others prosper. I'm particularly saddened by decaying barns. I wonder what the out of business store "Pebble" sold. Did they just have one and once it sold lost their purpose? I see a sign stating that Fairmont is the "birth place of cool." This puzzles me because I thought that James Dean was born in Marion. My mind jumps to wondering if the crack house behind the Marie Webster House is still there. It's kind of fun to not really focus and to see where my mind will take me. Anyway, I make a mental note look up James Dean (he was indeed born in Marion moved to California then to Fairmont then back to California with his beagle named Max.) People are usually surprised to discover that I am a Hoosier. I was born and raised in NW Indiana. My immediate family all still live int the state. I will stay with my parents while I'm in Fort Wayne. As for me, I left in 1977 and lived a gypsy life for a while. It will be 11 years, the longest I have ever lived anywhere as an adult, this June that I have lived in Naperville. Have I told you how good it is to be home?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thoughts on Fort Wayne

I'm back and trying to play catch up. I thought I would start by sharing one of the high points of going to Fort Wayne to the Botanical Gardens and that was finally meeting Susan Gourley and her family at the opening. I interviewed Susan for The Alzheimer's:Forgetting Piece by Piece Q.S.O.S. Project. What a wonderful, upbeat person with such sweet daughters! I wish we had been able to spend more time together.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just for Fun! Frog Masquerade

The Botanical Gardens has lots of children's group visit so all artwork must be "appropriate." I have an entire book on masks that I want to make someday. In browsing through it, I came across the the frog masquerade at Jonkonnu in the Bahamas so I decided to create one in hopes of making the visiting children smile. Jonkonnu masquerades have been celebrated during Christmas since the beginning of the 18th century. The participants, all male, parade in a variety of frog masks and perform established dance routines, accompanied by small musical ensembles. Mine is much more electric than the ones in Bahamas. The fabric just seemed too perfect to me. I can't even remember where or why I bought it but I am so thankful that I did. I looked for a fly to go on the tongue and settled for a beetle instead. The face is three layers and quilted. The eyes were made separately and attached.  The arms are made out of Timtex.

Frogs have personal meaning for me. I named my first born "Jeremiah."  We moved from Louisiana to Illinois when he was in second grade. He was small for his age and had a Southern accent. The kids at school made fun of him mostly by singing, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog." It broke my heart the day that he came home and declared that he would hate me for the rest of his life because I had named him Jeremiah. Thankfully he forgave me and even had "Bullfrog" on his high school letter jacket.

This mask was just too much fun to make. Sometimes it is just great to play!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is that True?

Whenever I say or hear a statement of "fact", I always pause and ask myself, "Is that true?"  The other day I was involved in a discussion where someone said, "Nothing good has ever come out of Afghanistan."   I have a necklace that I purchase in Kyrgyzstan that I was told was made in Afghanistan that I love. However, this did not convince the person who made the statement. So began my quest. I know that today's Afghanistan is full of challenges but can we say that this country that has never contributed to the world? I was thrilled when I discovered that carrots came from Afghanistan and they were marvelously colorful too-- purple, black, red, yellow and white. The orange carrots we have today are courtesy of 17th century Dutch breeders who cultivated carrots from Afghanistan. I love carrots and so I want to thank Afghanistan and I'm also thankful for the opportunity to learn something I did not know. I will continue to strive to have an open mind.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Solo Exhibition

The opening for an exhibition of my masks will be Sunday, May 2 from 1-3 p.m. at the Foellinger Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the Orchid Room. The masks will be available to see until June 28th. It will be the first time that all my masks will be shown together in one place. Can't wait!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sharing More Information

Wow!  Thanks to everyone who has emailed me with questions. I will try to do better next time.

Sacred Threads is an exhibition of quilts exploring the subject themes of spirituality, joy, inspiration, peace/brotherhood, grief and healing. This biennial exhibition was established to provide a safe venue for quilters of all faiths who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey.

Beyond the Barrier was the name of the special exhibit at Sacred Threads that some women at the Ohio Reformatory for Women participated.

I encourage you to visit both sites to learn more and see all the quilts.

I was very committed to having Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, an oral history project of the Alliance for American Quilts, reflect the entire quilt community which is why I traveled to the Ohio Reformatory for Women to document the quiltmaking that occurred there. I was able to document 6 of the quiltmakers (Tangie Thomas was no longer at ORW so I went to Franklin Pre-Release Center to interview her) and Chaplain Jamie Burns. You can read all 7 interviews in the Ohio Reformatory for Women Q.S.O.S. project. I have corresponded with all the women and have gotten quite close to three of them.

I have pitched another exhibition idea to the ORW and hopefully will have news by the middle of the week. I believe strongly that one way to help recidivism is to provide opportunities for self expression which increases self-esteem. I believe in that making quilts can be life changing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


The Alliance for American Quilts is going to have an exhibit of 15 quilts from people who were interviewed for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories this fall at International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. I was thrilled to discover that Rosa Angula's quilt was selected. I interviewed Rosa. Her quilt was originally for a special exhibit for Sacred Threads. Rosa is in the Ohio Reformatory for Women for drug possession and drug trafficking. She is a citizen of Mexico. This was her first quilt. I was hoping her quilt was still at ORW and that Rosa would agree to lend the quilt. I discovered that Rosa had sent it to her daughter. And while Rosa agreed to loan the quilt is expressed that she was ashamed about where she was and that her quilt did not deserve to be included. To that I said, "Nonsense!" as did the Administrative Assistant to the Warden. I was able to connect with Glenda who was delightful. She has agreed to send the quilt. I can only hope that this opportunity will help Rosa's self esteem and quiltmaking will continue to provide her with opportunities once she is out of prison and back in Mexico.

Friday, April 23, 2010


When I head off to a speaking engagement, I never know what is going to happen or how I will be received. My lecture isn't like anyone's I know and I cram a lot of info including geography and history about places most people don't know or are able to pronounce. Anyway I want to thank the biker on the Harley who helped me find the church. I've always found bikers helpful even if they look scary. The Country Crossroad Quilt Guild will always have a special place in my heart. They were warm, welcoming and supportive and had good food too! Members purchased $200 worth of Georgian quilts which provides much needed cash for the quiltmakers. Barb Wells made her second purchase (two more Georgian word quilts). There just aren't words to express the appreciation.

I always love show and share. One guild member, Sue (hope I remembered her name correctly), got a gift from her brother (photo). He bought an old sewing machine at an auction and turned it into a tractor with a comfortable seat. It brought a good laugh from everyone present.

I have pitched my exhibition to Ohio Reformatory for Women so that the inmates can participate. I should know by the middle of next week if its a go. I will have to supply all the materials which I am more than willing to do. For 8 months I have included my experience at ORW in my lecture yet no one has ever asked any questions. I find this interesting.  Anyway, I am hopeful and even looking forward to returning to ORW. Joy Major Hoop and Michelle Owens have agreed to be my coordinators for the project. I am hopeful.

So much is in the works for me right now. It is a test of patience. Wish I could share more. Just can't yet. It's all good!  

Saturday, April 17, 2010


 I'm the best procrastinator I know. I do things that need to be done like clean out the frig. It just don't need to be done right now. Right now I should be making signs for my exhibit and getting all the hanging rods made. Don't worry I won't wait until the last possible second to do this as I would have done when I was younger. I just think mentally I'm just not ready and the pull to be outside enjoying spring is strong. Last night I finally admitted to myself  that my lack of movement has to do with an underlining fear that no one is going to show up for the opening of my mask exhibit.  This revelation is in part due to working once again at being more mindful which also means slowing down. You can't be mindful at warp speed.  I remember the first time I read the Zen proverb --"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." Finding meaning in ordinary tasks made me happier, less resentful, lighter.  I love having a really clean sink in my kitchen. Weird maybe and true. 

A few days ago I came across a quote by Kathleen Norris, a Benedictine oblate and author that I think has the Zen quote beat. "You'll have to wake up tomorrow just like you did today. If you despise repetition, what you're really saying is that you despise life itself." Pretty powerful statement.
For me, I want to make sure that I'm paying attention. Not as easy a task as it might seem. The drawing was done by my youngest, son, Nathaniel in 1988 when he was not just 4. It's of me. I love that he gave me a big smile.  Isn't life grand!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making a Case for Art Quilts

I always seem to end up with interesting challenges. My latest is defending that art quilts are indeed art to someone who admits that she does not like them or really understand the world. This is a more than a craft vs art debate which I'm sure will go on forever. Instead I am being asked to prove that art quilts have moved into the world of art which means I can't use craft museums. To be honest, I find this whole debate/proof thing rather frustrating. When I traveled with the quilts of Gee's Bend to Georgia (country not state), Armenia and Kazakhstan, the quilts were embraced as art. No debate. Why do we have such a need for hierarchy?

The art quilt movement is 30 years old so is it fair to use the lack of a secondary market (used for appraisals) against it? How quickly have other new art forms/styles gotten a secondary market? Still trying to figure it out.

I've been bold and reached out to curators in art museums for help. Many have spoken of the difficulty of displaying textiles not just quilts due to lighting which causes fading and shortens the lifespan. Storage creates issues too. So these are the reasons that cause some museums to not add quilts to their collections not that they don't consider them art. 

I've also been trying to figure out which museums have art quilts. The Smithsonian's American Art Museum has 59 quilts in their collection. Seventeen are considered art quilts. That's 29%. They have quilts by Teresa Barkley, Michael James, Carolyn Mazloomi, Yvonne Porcella, Ed Johnetta Miller, Ellen Oppenheimer (the only artist with 2 quilts), L'Merchie Frazier, Gwendolyn Magee, Cynthia Nixion, Sue Pierce, Pamela Studstill, Michael Cummings, Lia Cook, Kathrine Westphal and others. The Indianapolis Museum of Art focuses mostly on collecting Indiana quilts and yet it has quilts by Nancy Crow, Michael James and Carolyn Mazloomi. I think they have 5 quilts that would be considered art quilts. While the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, doesn't have quilts in their collection, they have had quilt exhibits and art quilts in exhibits. The curator had no problem calling art quilts art.

So I will continue to research and ask questions. Right now my brain hurts from too much thinking so I'm going to go mow the lawn. It's amazing how easily I can work things out or get ideas while channeling Steve Martin in the movie My Blue Heaven. I've stopped actually doing the wave but I still say out loud "It's a great day for a mow." Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Country Crossroads Quilt Guild

On Monday, April 19th, I'll be lecturing in Forreston, IL at Country Crossroads Quilt Guild's meeting. They meet at the Forreston Grove Church, 7246 N. Freeport Rd, Forreston, IL 61030. I love lecturing. My lecture is called "Connecting Cultures: An American Artist's Pilgrimage" where I share my adventures, history and textiles. I will also be seeing my friend Debi.  Can't wait!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Good News, Sad News

My quilt, "Shattered," which is in the traveling exhibition Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece was once again chosen to be featured to advertise a venue. I'm always surprised when this happens because I feel my quilt is not the best or the strongest quilt. Please don't get me wrong, it does make me happy and I am always appreciative. This time it was featured on Seacoastonline.com. Now for the sad news, there is no attribution. No one looking at this online news source will know that I made the quilt and it is something that should have been done. You don't use someone's work without crediting it. I know Ami Simms is upset. I know she insists on attribution so I'll be a little sad but mostly I'll be happy. The more people see this exhibit the better and if my quilt helps make this happen, it's all good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cause for Celebration!

I'll admit that I could have been celebrating this accomplishment months ago had it not slipped my mind. This is even sadder when you consider that I am the publicist for the AAQI (Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative). If you don't know about this nonprofit organization. I truly encourage to check it out. All the money raised goes to finding a cure for Alzheimer's and is lead by the amazing Ami Simms. Anyway, I made a $1,000 Promise which means I agreed to create quilts and donate them for auctions that are held at the beginning of each month until I raised $1,000.  Well I have raised $1,023.62! And I  plan to keep going. My mother-law-in has the disease and my friend Ron was diagnosed when he was only 50.

The idea for the $1,000 Promise came from Joanne Guillemette of Shelburne, Vermont who has raised more than her $1,000 pledge too.This project is an extension of the Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilts project where people “make finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease a priority” by creating mini art quilts in any theme with a maximum size of just 9" x 12" (so that it fits a USPS Priority Mailer without folding. So far, 84 of us have taken up the challenge.

This is just another wonderful example of the power of quiltmakers and quilts to make a difference in the world.  The quilt shown here is one I will be donating. I've reworking some old journal pieces and giving them new life and this is one of those reworked pieces. It's called "Let There Be Angels" and is made in honor of my adopted Grandmother Fields. She was a feisty, tiny, deeply religious, Baptist woman. Ten years before died in a rare moment of clarity, she asked me why she couldn't just go to heaven because she was done with this existence and when I couldn't provide her with an acceptable answer she said, "Let there be angels waiting for me." Sadly it was our last conversation. She died shortly before her 100th birthday. I hope she found her angels waiting for her.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I seem to still be contemplating dresses. Many people have shared that they thought "My Mexican Soul" looked kimono shaped so I decide to try to make one. I took a origami pattern and used fabric instead of paper. I also increased the finished size of the pattern from 7 inches (length) to what I hoped would be 29 inches.  I wanted it to be the same size as "My Mexican Soul." I didn't quite make it but I got close. It's 25" wide by 26" height. I couldn't have done it with out the help of my son, Nathaniel. Folding nearly 100 inches of fabrics was just too much of a challenge for me. Once it was folded, I sewed the openings closed to keep the shape and to be able to hang it. It's just so cool that that sleeve is an actual sleeve (had to sew the top closed) which made hanging quite easy. I do love the fabric I used. It's an old Alexander Henry fabric. I bought it because I loved the faces. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alicia Grajeda's First Quilt

Alicia was always smiling and seemed happy in class even though this was her first experience making a quilt. She did worry. She was nervous but she was making progress then she announced she needed to return to Mexico. Months passed and when we couldn't get in touch with her, I got worried. More months went by and I finally decided we wouldn't see Alicia again so it was such a great surprise when she walked through the door with her finished quilt and a shout of "I love you Karen."  She is so proud of her quilt as is her family. The power of quilts to touch and change lives is amazing. For me, watching the transformation is a wonder that I never grow bored with watching. I love to see people embracing life and their creativity. They walk lighter, are no longer depressed, their souls are freer. It is hard for me when people disappear even when I understand that for some it's easier to stay where they are than to explore the possibility of something new. They fear failure, looking "stupid," etc. It's not easy coming out as an artist, it may mean being more public with our passion than we are comfortable or becoming leaders in ways we never dreamed. I may never see Alicia again. Family responsibilities prevent her from continuing with the class. However, I do know her world is bigger now. She touched me and for that I will always be thankful.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chagall's Wonderful Quote on Color

I love how memory works. I was trying to simply explain the color wheel to one of my students when suddenly the quote from Marc Chagall popped into my head-- "All colors are friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites." It's a quote that I came across while in college and thought was great. Problem solved!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Mexican Soul

I have been working! I've had a dream since 2006 to curate an exhibit that is about women and it looks like it will finally happen! I promise to share details the second that I can.

I have the great privilege to instruct a group of amazing women at the National Museum of Mexican Art. They have always told me that I have a Mexican soul so this quilt is dedicated to them. It was so much fun to make and even more fun to embellish. I can't look at this quilt and not smile. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Still Battling Dragons

This quilt seems to represent my life lately--lots of sadness but with hope for tomorrow. (And it's been quilted! No UFO here.) I've been surprised by comments made to me. One came from a curator who asked me if I have ever had a real job. This said to me in the middle of a class that I was teaching. Could have knocked me over. I teach, lecture and make and sell my art, how is that not a real job? I thought my dad had finally accepted who I was and what I do only to discover that he too doesn't think I "work." Thankfully my immediate family supports me even if they don't "get" what I do most of the time. It's taken me a long time to learn to focus on my needs. I was the oldest of four children with a dad who worked multiple jobs and a mother who went back to school when I was 11. I was taught early that "being selfish" was a sin. If I didn't share or help my mother with my sisters, I was truly wicked. I'll never forget having to babysit my two sisters (my brother who was 11 months younger didn't babysit) on my 12th birthday so my parents could go shopping.  All I wanted to do was hang out with friends but when I complained, I was severely admonished.  Ayn Rand writes in her book The Virtue of Selfishness, "In popular usage, the word 'selfishness' is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures up is a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratitude of the mindless whims of any immediate moment. Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word 'selfishness' is: concern with one's own interests. This concept does not include a moral evaluation." Thank you Ayn!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wrestling with Dragons

"Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one," by Stella Adler. It was good this quote came to me when it did because it was a gentle, much needed reminder. It's been a long time since a quilt of mine has evoked such strong feelings and criticism from people. It was so unexpected too because I was so excited about this quilt and the direction that I was going. While I have pretty much beaten (and sometimes, like now, still battle) the dragon of the Fear of Criticism, some of the remarks have been more hurtful than helpful. In the past, this might have caused me to shut down for a while, instead I'm busy creating. It feels good. I've worked hard to be at this place in my life.

In third grade, the teacher required us to share what we wanted to be when we grew up. I remember how excited I was to share my dream. When it came to my turn, I joyfully announced that I actually wanted to do two things and I thought they worked well together. I wanted to be an artist and the person that got to decide the names for the colors of paint. Mrs. Sanders did not share my passion and informed me that the class already had an artist. His name was Guy and in all honestly, he was quite good. Further I had no artistic talent. She didn't even grace my desire to be the namer of paint colors. She told me that I was much more suited to be a mother or a secretary. I don't remember much of the rest of the day. I went to bed early which wasn't my nature and waited patiently for everyone to go to sleep (I shared a room with my two younger sisters) and then I cried. I cried until I could not cry anymore. I kept my desire to be an artist a secret until high school. I wish I could tell you that my dream was embraced but it wasn't. It has made me realize how much admonishments and criticisms can rob us of the courage to be original and take risks with our ideas. I work hard when I teach to make sure I create a safe place full of encouragement and positive energy.

Anyway, I have added more to the quilt and have decided to "stick a fork in it and call it done." Now it's time to quilt it and move on. I remain happy with the quilt.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Block for Beth

When I lived in Houston, Texas, I started a group called Kindred Spirits. Eighteen of us met every Wednesday at my house. We started in April so the group will be 12 years old soon and going strong. We got "funky" to help us loosen up and be creative. We made funky chickens (more than I care to admit), tea pots, chairs, hats, hearts, etc. Beth joined the group after I left but I knew her from the guild. She has a wonderful mother and a relationship with her mother that I envy. Her mom's health is not good so Beth has been spending lots of time with her. It has been stressful so Kindred Spirits decided to make her a quilt. The requirements were the background had to read black, you had to include your hand and a heart. I chose to do my left hand because it is the one closest to my heart. I hope it brings her joy and reminds her how much I care. It feels good to do a group project again and to feel a small part of the group again. Thanks Marti!

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. --Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Sewing Machine Adventure with the Treasury Department

I started today just wanting to help a friend, Virginia Spiegel, get her sewing machine back. I didn't know I would walk away having an adventure. Our largest and oldest quilt shop (nearly 28 years), Stitches N Stuffing, didn't pay their taxes so the Treasury Department stepped in. Unfortunately, the shop didn't tell Virginia. Today was the auction and an opportunity to get her sewing machine back. I arrived about 20 minutes before the auction as instructed looking for Deputy Gillenwater. Virginia had told him that I was coming. There was a crowd of about 100 people waiting either to get an auction number or waiting to get into the auction. I walked up to the door and was quickly admonished for not getting in line. When I explained my mission, calm was restored. I handed the email from Virginia to the man at the door. He explained that I would not be admitted into the shop until Deputy Gillenwater could verify my story. There was also a teacher hoping to get her class sample. After about 5 minutes, we were allowed in with Deputy Gillenwater annoucing loudly "They are okay. They are with me." I was instructed to wait next to a table while he dealt with the teacher. The heat had been turned off and the coldness of the place (not just temperature) struck me. Only two people were allowed into the shop at a time to be issued their number. The process involved copying down all the info off each person's driver's license. Only 10 people per page. (I had to do something while I was waiting.) Unfortunately, the teacher wasn't successful. Her only proof was a photo on her phone of her blog entry. My heart truly broke for her. A large man came from the back of the store holding my piece of paper and demanding my driver's license. Paperwork was filled out and one copy given to Deputy Gillenwater. The man explained he would not be giving me back my piece of paper. Fine with me. Deputy Gillenwater had placed the sewing machine in the back of his squad car which was parked out front. He was worried what people would think. I told him not to worry. "I can run fast." He laughed. The focus was not on us so I quietly walked to my car. Deputy Gillenwater is a wonderful person. The Treasure Department people never smile and are a little scary.

Lessons learned:
1. Viriginia had the serial number something I have never written down. I will in the future.
2. Label your sewing machine and case with your name.
3. Be prepared for the worse.
4. Make sure all quilts left anywhere have your name and contact info somewhere on them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

DuPage Textile Arts Guild

Tomorrow, March 8th, I will be speaking at the Du Page Textile Arts Guild's meeting at Indian Prairie Public Library, 401 Plainfield Rd., Darien, IL at 10 a.m. Can't wait! Now to take all the quilts and textiles off the walls and put them in the suitcase. Not my favorite part but I love to share!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Begin Again

The last few days I've attempted to create a piece of fabric that expresses who I am for a new quilt I want to make. I've failed. While endings don't always feel so pleasant, starting down a new path does. There is great hope in "begin again" instead of "I failed."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ATCs for Art from a Heart

I belong to the Ning group started by Gary Reef called Art from the Heart. I've never participated in any of the challenges or groups so when the call went out to do ATCs (artist trading cards--2.5 inches by 3.5 inches), I decided I would do it. Art from the Heart is made up of artists and I only know of a few who work with fiber. In part, I guess this is part of the reason I haven't participated but mostly because I'm busy doing my own thing. However, I do love making ATCs, needed to feel a connection to others and these particular cards happened because I continue to clean out. Yep, I'm still making my way through everything I own. Feels good! The other day I was going through old files and I came across a pen and ink drawing I had done more than 30 years ago.  The paper was stained, folded and at first I thought unusable until I scanned it and worked Photo Shop's magic on it. I printed the drawing on paper that had old writing on postcards then I played with my watercolor pencils. I'm really pleased and hope that those who get one will also be happy. Monday I'll mail them off to England. Just having too much fun.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poem by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me 
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with 
its color.

My first quilt group in Georgia (country not state). Miss you!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"A Memory with No History"

My friend Michelle Flamer is curating an exhibit called "The President's House: Their Untold Stories in Quilts." Michelle asked me to make a quilt so this is what I have been doing the last three weeks. (if you're interested in participating, let me know.) The exhibit will deal with the irony that those who sought freedom in a new nation denied it to others. My quilt is based on Oney "Ona" Judge Staines who was Martha Washington's seamstress. Ona ran away to New Hampshire and the Washington's pursued her. I have the original ad that was placed looking for her. George offered $10 for her return. Don't you just love the Internet! The 1793 has to do with the bill that Washington signed into law that kept runaway slaves fugitives. Ona died a fugitive at the age of 75 in 1848. I'm not quite sure if I'm ready to call it done. Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Las puntadas del alma/Stitches of the Soul

I have the great privilege of leading a group of amazing women at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Our journey began in July 2009. Five have been there since the beginning.  Five of the women joined in January and are working on their very first quilts. Two are working on their second quilt. Can't wait to see what happens!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quilt for Christine

I try to practice gratitude whenever and however I can. After the quilt group at the National Museum of Mexican Art seemed to come to an end, a stranger came forward and donated money so we could meet and create again. I get tears in my eyes every time I think about this unexpected kindness. Anyway when I suggested to the group that we make our angel a quilt, everyone jumped at the chance to contribute. For many it was there first time creating something in fabric. So our hearts will now be residing in England where we hope it will provide Christine a reminder to how much her kindness meant to us.