Archive for the ‘art statement’ Category

Envisioning Ourselves: Draw this First

Monday, May 26th, 2014

my ladies and iI’ve been working on an online portfolio. I find that whenever I’m slogging through something, I have a soundtrack of things I say to myself to pull me through.

It runs currently like this.

There’s nothing like reworking your portfolio and resume to make you take a close look.

Before you pick up a pen or a brush, or sit down to your machine, there’s a whole other art piece you need to create. You make whatever it is you make. You give it life and breath and spirit and hope in that creation. But along with that, you’re creating yourself.

Our vision is what we choose to see.

Our decisions make us what we choose to be.

Our limits define our strengths. We do what we do often because it is a work around for what we can’t do.

Our courage continues in a process that isn’t linear or rational or always along with the flow. Art is not for wimps. Of course it isn’t measured in how you feel. It’s measured in what you do.

All of those things make us who we are as artists. And who we are as people.

Vision is that person viewpoint which is wholly our own. It doesn’t matter if we see the world in dead bones, or trees, or flowers or space ship parts. We see what  we see. Our vision may be the most powerful gift we have as artists.

As I’ve been reworking my online portfolio, I’m finding that everything I’m saying here is simply what I need to hear. I’m whispering to myself in the dark. But that’s an art too.

Please come see my new portfolio at and let me know what you think.

Layer after Layer: All the Same Art

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

marble fly spiralIf you’ve been an artist long enough, you learn certain things about yourself, about your approach to art, and how that approach fit’s you in all kinds of odd ways. The strangest thing to me about art is vision and construction. No matter what media you’re working in, your vision is probably consistent. No matter what media you try, you’ll probably form images of similar things in the same ways.

alice and flamingof

Over time, I’ve discovered I view the world in layers. There’s the layers of air currents, water currents, soil, laundry and fabric scraps. There’s a whole other layer of things in the refrigerator we won’t discuss. And then there’s the layers of art.

It’s really not an onion experience from me. I’m not peeling an onion. I’m building something in layers. One layer under another. One layer over another. You may think you can’t see what’s underneath, but it always peeks through a bit.


This may explain why I’ve recently be seduced by photoshop. I’ve been slowing working through the courses on, and playing with old Victorian Etchings. And in the way I’ve  layered thread on top of thread, and sheer on top of sheer, I’m layering image on top of image.

ferny frog

Is there any practical use for this? I’m not sure it matters, though I’ve started playing with it at Spoonflower will take your designs and print them as fabric. You can check out what I’ve been playing with


Mostly I think it’s a virtual playground. But it does have it’s dangers. If you create something on the computer is it done, or is it a reason to go further? Will you have the will or need to take it into another media?

This is uncharted water. I just don’t know.

I do know that I’m taking layer after layer of something and putting it together where it all peaks out to be seen. It’s just how my art works.

Back up on the Horse

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

eddy-cicada-song detail“Humans are amphibians…half spirit and half animal…as spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time, means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters



Someone once said about a rather true insult, “I resemble that”. I’ve always loved C.S. Lewis’ quote about undulation, and always held it true. It isn’t that we always do something, or that we consistently do something. It’s that, even when it’s not working, we do it over and over.

I’ve heard that described as insanity. I’ve heard it described as perseverance. Probably a mix of both. Most of our vises are really virtues in the wrong place, used for the wrong task.

One of the things that gets endlessly tired in an artist’s life is the process of entering things. And facing the statistical likelihood of rejection. I’d hit a point where I really let that slide. 

Then the call for the SAQA portfolio came in the mail box.

“Where is that horse? Can I get up there? Do I get to use a ladder? Do I know where that photo is?” This should be familiar. Sometimes it feels like a ground hog day experience.

All of the above. I sent in my entry, be it the last day to do that. And remember that if I don’t put work in public it will never shine. So my cicadas will sing in public. Probably better them than me.

Artists and Other Prickly Creatures

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

GRANDVILLE 2I received an interesting piece of hate mail yesterday. It’s taken me sometime to process it and I’m still working through that. But the bottom line is that I had gone to a group of creative people who were not my primary art interest (we’ll say they were weavers, because they were not), and my selfish self had shown itself. A really dear friend of mine  who the letter was from, cataloged how I had offended everyone, and how I had no interest in being in a group of creative people because I was selfish and driven and rude.

I was pretty much raised in a barrel as a kid, so it’s not impossible that I was. Most of the manners I have I’ve learned from the kindesses of quilters. I do try. I have my failures.

I can’t quite dismiss what she said, although I have a problem with anyone who wants to tell me how I’ve harmed everyone else. There’s no way to fix that. Tell me how I’ve harmed you, and I will, if I can to my best to make it better.  There was so much rage in this.There was no way to back up, apologise, rework it. Which makes the friendship a dead duck on the floor. At that point there’s nothing to do but sweep things up. 

Then I remembered, they do for a hobby. I do this is a part of my job. I take it out in front of people, occasionally sell a piece, occasionally teach with it, and use it in a daily way.  I’m really not sure most of them do, except in this small class in this group.  And I am sure it puts me in a place where my needs creatively are quite different.

I’ve known so many amazing artists and quilters who were loathed in their groups or guilds. They were like an eye in a hurricane. All kinds of chaos swirled around them. And that was usually the complaint. “They’re self absorbed. They’ve very driven. They’re competitive.  They believe that they are geniuses.” I suspect that I am guilty as charged. It takes an amazing amount of courage to put all this stuff in public. And a huge amount of drive. And don’t forget arrogance.

I’ve believed always that everyone is an artist. It’s part of the human condition. We breathe, we dance, we tell stories, we make art. And what that is is imposing order and beauty on the random ugliness and cruelty that often is part of living. We re order it, redefine it, rework it until we make it something we can live with. Talk about selfish. Well, yes. To do that professionally takes immense drive and  compulsion and probably puts you lacking in the social skills. Because everyone will challenge what you’ve done, or what is worse, ignore it.

I’ve never much doubted my abilities, because I am so often alone with them, so often compelled by them. To doubt them would be like trying to breathe in a vacuum. You can. For a very short period only, you can.

I’m sad for this letter, this judgement, this failure of comprehension on their part and manners on mine. But I understand how threatening it can be to stand next to the eye of a hurricane. Even an older hurricane who’s weathered by time and experience. I wish everyone in this group the joy of their creation, and understand that the chaos of my own is probably not group appropriate. And that my own will have it’s own joys. That will come too.  I’m an artist. It’s an isolating process. I’m prickly like that.

This porcupine is another Grandville image I’ve played with on photoshop. He’s my alter ego today. He’s blue, sc^&*^ed and tattooed, which is pretty much how I feel. Ah, the glamorous world of art!

See Making Layers in Art if you’d like more information about how it was done.



Making Art in Layers

Sunday, October 6th, 2013


Hi Peeps!


435 Swimming Upstream


So much of my art is done in layers. Sheer applique is layer after layer of color and texture. I create a layer of hand dye, then add a layer of stitching, add another layer of sheers, add a solid image and then add more stitching and sheers. I don’t so much design a quilt as I build one in layers.


So its a good thing to try those layers on a whole other platform. I’ve begun some while back to study Photoshop on, which is a software classroom web site. I don’t know  anyone knows Photoshop. But I’ve learned some tricks and it’s interesting it, too, works in layer.


I started with a great abbey hall and soften the image.



abby window




granville 3_0003_abby window






I added in two Granville drawings. Grandville was Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard  generally known by the pseudonym of J. J. Grandville, who did fabulous character drawings in the 1900s in France.








I put in a painted layer underneath to add color


granville 3_0001_Layer 1granville 3_0000_Layer 2granville 3_0002_Layer 3




And added white swirls for energy and pattern.


Then I slid the color panel to the right.


What did I learn?


What I’ve always known. All art is art is art. Playing with layers in one form is no different than playing with another form. And I learned I like white swirls, a lot!



granville 3So get out the paint, the computer, or the organza, or the very wierd lace. Layers make a rich tapestry to delight the eye. The building of patterns and textures make the rich and fabulous world in which we celebrate our art!


You’ll more information on Grandville granville 3aat


grandville bookDover has a great digital design source book on his work. has classes on almost anything and everything. It’s a fabulous way to learn new software.


Go play hard at something new! It’s amazing what happens when you bring that skill back to your own art.





Lessons from My Garden:Color Musings

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

804 Allium and ButterflyMy garden has gone bersonkers. Perhaps it’s all that rain. Or my friends who morris dance in it from time to time. One of the things I enjoy most is the cycle of change measured by my flowers. The garden starts as yellow daffs, goes through a multicolor, but mostly red tulip phase, and then lands in the purple part of May/June


peonie 2This is the time of peonies and alliums.

I have regular peonies.  But they take a back seat to the Chinese peonie trees I put in years ago. They stand as a tree and have spectacular 6-8 inch blooms in pinks, purples and reds.

alliumAlliums are a huge purple  garlic bloom. How could you go wrong? Add another  color peonies and the garden starts to sing in purple.

purples chart wWhy is it so exciting? A look at the color wheel makes it plain. We”re playing with complements again. But on top of that we have colors on either side. So we have an analogous color combination  as well. The colors make a split analogous grouping which really is my favorite way to play. You get all the smooth colors from an analogous color arc and the excitement of a complement group.

Remember that  the color wheel is not just about mixing color. It’s not just red and blue make purple. Instead, it’s a mapping of color relationships.  We respond to the relationships of color, who they are next to each other, much more than we respond to one color or another separately. And we can spin the dial to create to reproduce that relationship with another set of colors entirely.

Next time I’ll take you for a spin on the color wheel using Photoshop as our guide.

Wanting to build your own pattern free quilt garden? Check out my book

Thread Magic Garden Until then, make sure you bathe in the colors.



Once More with Feeling: A Series of Your Own and a New Pattern Book

Monday, March 11th, 2013



 I’ve spent about a month sharing my series with you. Now I’m going to ask you to share yours.

So, what’s stopping you? Whatever media you work in, be it doodling on envelop backs or marble carving, you can stretch into a series, just like stretching into new jamies. It’s not hard.

If you’re waiting for the golden day when you paint your masterpiece, you’ll wait forever. Here is here and now is now.  So take an idea, run with it, do it again and again, not in search of perfection but in search of new pathways,  ideas and passions. 

Here’s some ways to start working in a series

  • Take an image or an idea you’re passionate about.
  • Do it over and over again.
  • Change the angle.
  • Change the size.
  • Do it in primary colors.
  • Do it in black and white.
  • Do it in every color in the rainbow.
  • Do it in a color you really hate.
  • Do it upside down.
  • Get really close to your image.
  • Make your image really far away.
  • Do three of them in your piece.
  • Do five.
  • Make just pieces of your image.
  • Create your image. Cut it up and put it back together.
  • Do it in colors you don’t think go together. Make them go together.
  • Pick a complementary pair of colors on the color wheel that you love. Move it over two spots. Use those colors.
  • Draw it with really thick lines and no detail.
  • Draw it with tiny lines and immense detail.
  • Segment the image parts and color them differently.
  • Segment the image parts and color them so they shade progressively.
  • Put sheer layers  over your image to put it in sunlight, water, or mist.
  • Try it in a brand new media
  • Try it in a media you tried before but didn’t work then.
  • Cut it instead of draw it
  • Draw it instead of cut it

I hope you’re getting the punchline. Draw, put, try, create, take, do, change: these are all action words. Do something to it. Do something different to it. The world is wide.

eddypatternsforembroiderybookcwYou all gave me the best ideas for a pattern book. It went places I hadn’t thought of and I am very grateful.
This is not the pattern book I want to do that includes color clues and stitching advice. It is just an assist, to act as a springboard, if you wish.  If you’d like a free copy,  you can get your copy  of Patterns for Embroidery, at 

I’d also like to show you off. Would you like me to post your work on the Lunatic Fringe thread? Send me a series of 4 pieces of your work (any media) and a picture of yourself with a paragraph long art statement. Tell me how you’ve explored your series. I’ll  post the ones I find most exciting on my site and link them to your web presence. If you gave me book advice please go to scribd for your free ebook. And thank you!

Send your images and statement to

I can’t wait to see what you’ve done and what you’ll do!

Once More with Feeling: Under the Sea

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
159 Secret GArden

Secret Garden

Sometimes it’s an environment  rather than an image. 

I lived in Boston for three years. The best part of Boston was the ocean. I’m a Midwestern girl. I ‘d seen the ocean, in the way you see someone from across a  huge room once. When I lived in Boston, I got to know it as a friend. I regularly went to the beach, looked over piers, sat at the harbor, and found myself in love. 

Secret Garden was about an inappropriate love. Not anything truly wrong. Just terribly unworkable. The feelings were all there but there was no way to make them safe or kind.


162 Coral Sea

Coral Sea

Flying fish are a happier image for me. I love their ability to glide through rough waters.




342 crabby days2-1

Crabby Days

Finally because there are those days, there are crabs.

planet oceanThere’s an amazing book,  Planet Ocean: A Story of Life, the Sea and Dancing to the Fossil Record by Ray Troll  and Bradford Matsen. The illustrations are amazing. But the premise is that we all come from salt brine and carry that in us as our birthright. Watching the ocean roll, I could feel all of that.


Once More with Feeling: Hummingbird Visitors

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Homing Instinct

The seasons pass through with different studio visitors. But my favorite are the summer visitors. If nothing else, they  get to see the garden in bloom. Some of them consider it a ritual seasonal visit. They come year after year, for their pleasure, for my joy.

702 Homing Instinct Detail 1

Homing Instinct detail

I especially love my hummingbird  visitors. Actually he, and his wife, are both emerald green. But I dressed him up with a red head, just because I though he’d like to be formal for his portrait. Why do I know it’s a he? I didn’t look under his skirt. But if it’s a day glow bright bird, it’s a boy.

I was afraid I lost these visitors when my neighbors insisted I take down the day lily garden.  They had come back year to year to those flowers, and I’d never seen them anywhere but in front in the day lily strip.

 Floral Arrangement 24

Floral Arrangement 24

Of course, if one buffet closes, you look around for what’s nearby. They found the back sun garden without any trouble the next year. I was delighted to watch their visit from the back planting rather than from the front porch.


We forget that the things we grow for our pleasure, are survival for the other beings that live in our worlds.  I am honored they keep coming back.



The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

If you missed the entertaining and cautionary tale about my garden wars, The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily , you’ll find it on my web site  at or on, 

My hope is that if you cannot avoid your own, you can at least laugh at mine.

You can read more about the Town of Torper at

Changing the Rules. Can You Outgrow a Fairy Tale

And  Telling Stories

Once More with Feeling: Salamanders

Saturday, February 9th, 2013
755 Mooning 2 g


Lizards aren’t every day creatures for me. I don’t find them in my garden. In my wood walking days, I would find them occasionally in the woods.

But I’m still compelled by them, especially Salamanders. I love their colors. And I love their S shaped bodies. They live in both water and on land. I love things that transform and adapt.



Courtship Rituals

Courtship Rituals

I’m also aware of the lizard brain. It’s the part of us that does really primal things. Some of them are stupid and some of them are vital, but either way, it reminds me that being in a body demands certain things. I also consider it a major part of we deal with others of the opposite sex. I was mad enough at the end of a particular relationship to quilt us both as lizards, upside down and not dealing well with each other. Better to get those things out

 Sometimes they are information. Fall Stream was done at a time when a friend of mine had told some amazing ( and untrue) things about me at my church. In retrospect, when I looked at the quilt, I had the information. I just hadn’t processed it.

fired elementalsBut they’re also considered messengers from the unconscious. They travel from the world of dreams, to our ” real world” to the unconscious, bringing information we need, hiding things we cannot face at that point. Fired Elementals was quilted in the middle of my therapy years. I had no idea what it was about but was a strongly compelling idea that I had to address. Later it occurred to me that these were messengers bringing fire and light, pain and comprehension from where it had been tucked away inside.




ReunionReunion was done for my 31st high school reunion. I did not enjoy my high school years. It was a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Lord of the Flies. So when the chief bully who had sent people to taunt and beat me up asked me to come to the reunion, this was my response. More Lizard brain, I’m afraid. But something useful happens when you face your fears through your art. It transforms, sometimes into something lovely. Sometimes into something you’re simply less frightened of. That is it’s own trans substantiation emotionally. You are different, the fear is different and the thing you are afraid of is either less scary, somehow part of you, or at least smaller. It’s a worthy trip, from the unconscious and back again.

506 reunion detail

Once More with Feeling: The Bad Bugs

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
646 Floral Arrangement 25 - Copy (1)

Floral Arrangement 25

You know the feeling. You find it in the sink or the bathroom and you have to run  and get the bug identification book because you can’t imagine what that beetle is.

Well, none of us look our best sitting in the tub. I have a  Egyptian sort of attitude about beetles because of my father. He loved archaeology and regularly read me Gods, Graves and Scholars as my bedtime book. He read what pleased him. My mother kept trying to insist on things like the Little Grey Squirrel. I may have been only 3 but I knew full well the plot line on the Little Grey Squirrel just couldn’t keep up with the discovering of lost cities and tombs.  And beetles.

This did not extend to The Beatles. That’s a taste I acquired much later. If they’d come in iridescent purple and green, that might have been different. And if the Egyptians had drawn them with wings…..


163 Growing between the CracksLady  bugs are, of course, beetles, but if you dress up in black and red you[‘re already a buggy fashion statement that even Margaret would have considered stylish.






I’m talking about the beetles that are almost ornaments. They were often done as art deco pins.

They’re elegance is undeniable.

beetle bookSo I’ve gone in search of beetles. There’s a book called An Inordinant  Fondness for Beetles. It will give you the most amazing bug images you’ll ever see.

Here are some of my favorite beetles and bugs.

Sapsuckers. How could you not? They’re pink! And they look exactly like the blooms on the  branch. They are just too much fun.

382 Fallen Petals Rise - Copy (1)

Fallen Petals Rise


Brave Little Bugs

758 Bugs in Bloom (1)

Bugs in Bloom

And the Beetles that attend the garden. I so love these. Their shiny crunchy carapaces just please me.





Then there are the beetles that are too wild for words.

Beetles in Blossoms

Beetles in Blossoms


Light Japanese Lunch

Light Japanese Lunch

I have a love hate thing with Japanese Beetles. The hate thing is completely understandable. They eat everything in sight, but they specialize in roses.

The love thing… They’re iridescent purple green brown. How do you beat that? I’m completely torn. Usually I let them alone.

And how can you be sillier than rhinoceros beetles?

Stag party

Stag party


You’ll find An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles at

You’ll find fabulous beetles all over your garden. Look for them there.





Once More with Feeling: Turtles

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
285 Twilight on the Isalnd (1)

Twilight on the Island

My very first pet was a turtle. Margaret decided that since it stayed in a bowl, you could always rinse out the bowl if it went terribly wrong. She was mistook in several ways. I was five, so things did go wrong. But she didn’t understand that turtles do wander. Myrtle the turtle escaped regularly from her bowl. We found her in the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, and the basement. Fortunately she seemed to be unable to complete her escape by going outside. But it was my mother’s living dread was that she might climb up some woman’s nylons during Kalerie Club, my mother’s reading group. My father always hid in the basement for these events. I went over to the neighbors. But I did hear the screams  from there when Myrtle joined Kalarie Club. Myrtle was replaced by other turtles and eventually I was allowed a cat.

Turtles are another form of dinosaur. They’ve been around since then and are such wonderful living rocks. I love the dichotomy. I also wish I could pull my head in and be done with certain social situations. “No, that’s not Ellen. That’s a rock that walked in on it’s own power. ” You can see the appeal.

Here are several turtles I’ve done over the years.

But they are also an exercise in texture. The necks and extremities are full of folds and soft  texture. The shells are hard formations of plates. My favorite technique for this is garnet stitch with thick thread. Soft tiny circles make the skin, and huge bulls eye circles make the shell. I usually use my own hand dyed thread for these.

You’ll find more information on doing garnet stitch on my post A Gift and a Wish, and a tutorial called The Stitch Vocabulary on

Once More with Feeling: Mantis Mania

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
756 Dancing in the light (1)

Dancing in the Light

The first time I saw a praying mantis was in a Dover book called Animals. This great copyright free book of older etchings is a go to bible for animal imagery.

I was astonished. I am an arm chair traveler. I was sick much of my childhood and early adulthood and spend most of my time put together with spit and chewing gum. Except that we don’t chew gum. Art gum spirits? Perhaps.

So I’ve lived in books most of my life. And what I see as images fills my heart, mind, soul and senses.

I instantly loved the mantis shape, the almost alien eyes and the weird way they moved. I’ve been captivated ever since.

When I got my garden, I purchased and placed a praying mantis egg in it. There may have been thousands of mantises hatched. I only saw one. It was three quarters of an inch long. And it fulfilled my favorite truism. You don’t have to be big to be mighty.

Mantises are one of my strongest alter egos. They’re good gardeners. They’re quite lovely. They’re definitely odd. How close can you get?

Oddly enough, they’re the quilts that seem to end up in major collections. Dancing in the Light is in the National Quilt Museum.

Twilight Time

Twilight Time

Twilight Time is in the State of Illinois Museum. It was my first larger mantis quilt. Rondo Redoubled ended up in a prominent private  collection. There’s just something about praying mantises. So I do them, over and over. I love their very odd,exquisite beauty. And their help in the garden.


Rondo Redoubled







But they’re really all portraits of me.

 On the fun side, any time I’ve needed to to a college lecture ( full of 18 year old guys who think they’re hearing a standard quilter) I like to put up something like this on the stand. It seems to create instant respect. And a self portrait teaches you about yourself.

What have I learned about myself?

  • That I am beautiful. It just might not be in your taste.
  • That I love my garden.
  • That I am small but mighty. My size is irrelevant to what I can accomplish.
  • I’m fierce. I will and do protect things I love.
  • My appetite is just part of the bargain. But I’m hungry for many things. Green leaves, Sunlight, joy, beauty, wild pathways. A certain amount of hunger is simply life.
Fall Confetti

Fall Confetti

animalsYou’ll find Animals on Perhaps one of the best source books I’ve ever seen. Hopefully you’ll find your own alter ego in the mirror and in your own art. There’s nothing like a self portrait for getting to know yourself.



Once More with Feeling: Moths in Moonlight, Butterflies in Sun

Monday, January 28th, 2013

765 Luna (1) What is it about the flutter of moth wings? I cannot resist them. The best part of summer is to open the door at night, look up through the tree to see moths flying moonward.

I am mostly a moon child. I sunstroked as a child on the lake and have never been able to take strong sun. So much of my outdoor life has been in early morning or late evening. Or, at night when the dogs take their last run. So moon creatures are my special companions, and I always look for them.

675 Snails Pace  detailNot that I can leave butterflies alone either. One way or another, I really want to flutter over the garden.

Of course what many people miss is that you cannot have moths or butterflies without caterpillars.815 butterfly garden detail



So I treasure them all. The moths, the butterflies, the flutterbys and the caterpillar  all part of their passion play. And the occasional cocoon that shows up hanging from the odd bit of bee balm.

Some moths in flight.


Some butterflies



Once More with Feeling: Arise a Rose

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy very first flowers were roses. The day I was born, my father sent my mother a dozen roses. And sent one for me.  It’s still dried and pressed into my baby book.

Roses aren’t the queen of flowers. Lilies are. But roses are the courtesans of the garden, because they court everyone with their softness, their scent and their exquisite presence. They also smartly have thorns. The rose in the Little Prince reminds everyone that they had best have respect for her, because, after all, she’s armed.

I grew up thinking of roses as the only flowers you gave to people because that was how my father viewed it. In his mind, you gave ladies roses, for all occasions. And only Abe Lincoln roses, with long stems, blood red blooms and velvet scent. I am spoiled forever.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI also grew up thinking you only got flowers if a man gave them to you. A huge part of my therapy was buying my own flowers for a solid year. Now I plant them and pass on the middle man.



223 (2)As a species roses have been cultivated for so long that there are a million kinds and buying them is a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole. So I spent a winter studying roses out of catalogs  and books. Turns out I love my Hansa roses best. They’re a bush rose that blooms twice a year, smells like cloves and has a dinosaur like habit of putting out thorns everywhere. They are blissfully unkillable.

When I studied to make roses, I discovered that, unlike most flowers, it really didn’t help to mimic the petals. There were just too many of them. Instead it was more useful to follow the growth of the petals. Which is in a spiral.

The petals are cut in spirals and whirled around each other. Then, I put the points of folds into the petals as I stitched them. Notice the change in colors. Roses are never just one color.

Of course, the other thing about a courtesan is that everyone wants to be a part of her world. I noticed every garden creature out there, especially tending roses.

865 Rose whiteWould you like a Rose from my garden? When people come to my garden, I usually cut flowers for them. Most often it’s roses, because they do bloom so long. In case, like myself, you know that you have to be your own valentine, I’ve put some delicious little rose quilts on sale for you. Of course, if you’ve got someone who give you things, that will give him a break too.  Check them out on my web site!

LittleprinceYou’ll find The Little Prince  on Amazon. If you’ve somehow missed this delight, run, don’t walk to find a copy to read it. It’s about growing, being, and  caring for the things you love.

Once More with Feeling: Sunflowers. Drawn to the Sun

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

555 Drawn to the Sun 2 bg (1)Once you acknowledge that you are never alone in a garden, you become aware of the life around you. The squirrels, the bugs, the robin that arrives in late March and the hummingbird that visits each July. In the cycle of things, you come to expect their arrival. And plan for it. Your garden is their home. They may be good neighbors or bad, but they are your neighbors, and you come to accommodate their schedules and needs.

vincent-van-gogh-vase-with-twelve-sunflowers-art-print-posterI love the ragged shapes of sunflowers. They’re the dinosaur of the plant world. Not because of their age so much or lineage but because of their huge rough presence. I’ve seen circles of them grown as a play house for children. I saw a wedding where someone created the isle for the bride with them . Van Gogh knew what he was doing.  He painted them over .You just cant beat them.

But better still. They are the ultimate bird, squirrel, mouse, and bird feeder. And you don’t have to do anything but plant them and ring the dinner bell. You’ll find your serving dinner for  a cast of thousands



This sunflower volunteered in my front yard while I was  writing Thread Magic Garden. When I went to break down the shapes it was simplicity itself. It’s simple s shapes with an oval center. Depending on how you’re viewing the flower, the petals either radiate out from the center, or spread out from one side and fold over the center on other side. Either way, YUM!

So I’ve regularly documented the many creatures that come to the banquet table in my garden. And one of their favorite dishes.

thread+magic+gardentnThread Magic Garden documents embroidering sunflowers, step by step. You’ll find it on my web page.



Once More with Feeling: From the Garden

Friday, January 25th, 2013

646 Floral Arrangement 25 (1) There’s a truth that we can’t envision what we’ve never seen. I lived for so long in an apartment in Chicago that I’d lost the rhythms. There was an Easter Vigil were I walked out into the church garden and saw the daffodils. And an odd voice in my head said, “Why did they put plastic daffodils out?” Of course they hadn’t. I was that out of touch.

The oddest thing about buying a house, is that with it comes a garden. I was 44 and I had the first garden of my adult life. I had a terrifying case of constipated gardening. I planted everything everywhere. I even planted the hell strip in front of the street and got in trouble with the city fathers. I put in roses of Sharon, roses of all kinds, quince, five kind of lilac, day lilies everywhere, bee balm, Russian sage, pinks. dogwood, I couldn’t pass a garden center. I planted or mulched every square inch. I brought in a weeping juniper and white cherry tree. Eventually I ran out of land. And began to simply watch it happen, season after season   382 Fallen Petals RiseAll time is spiral in a garden Time is measured in one season after another. The season of tulips, of alliums, of lilies, of blackberries, of tomatoes, and the dreaded zuchinni. They cycle through faithful, every year. So the flowers themselves sudden began to pop up in my quilts.


I discovered that sheers made the best flower petals because petals are see through. I discovered that no petal is the same shape size or color as any other in the flower Which meant I needed to use easily 20 c0lors for a larger flower. learned that every flower is potentially a bird feeder. I learned I could be outside in a yard and not be attacked. It was a time of intense learning. Then I had to learn to let it go. The first October, I lost Gabriel, my big golden cat the day the leaves fell from the maple. Fall had fallen and all I could do was weep at the base of the roots. I cried until after Christmas. Then the garden catalogs started to arrive.

There’s a wonder a bout cycles. You watch things die. You watch things come back. I believe in resurrection for many reasons. But my garden is perhaps the most tangible. The cold came and went and then the cycle came back.

I walk through my garden in the winter and can see all of the dead waiting resurrection. Some things, like helborus rose, just refuse to go down. But even the tenderest roses poke their head up. I 

I also came to realize I wasn’t the only gardener. There were bees, humming birds, praying mantises and frogs all carefully tending the plants. I came to love and look for their hands in my garden. It’s there’s as much as mine. After all, we all live there.

Once More with Feeling: Dragonflies, the Floating World

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

701 Blossom Moon 3 (1)

How did I get caught on dragonflies? It was a mystery for a while. I found them completely compelling and I did them over and over.471 Waterlily Waltz cropped (1)Flying over water, flying to the moon, swooping through flowers.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a constant stream of dragonflies. I couldn’t stop.

424 Dragonfly 16 (1)


When I learned to do embroideries as appliques, it changed the way the elements look. Instead of being ephemeral in the hand dye, they have  raised up solidity. It changed their presence.

After a while I realized how much of my life was like that of a dragonfly. I’d flit in, talk and teach with people, and float out. It was exciting  and ephemeral. And it made me aware how even very small encounters with people  enrich and change you and them. You only have a moment at a time. But there they are, moment, after moment, after moment.

So something small becomes, as St. Teresa once said, large  with love. Of course a large dragonfly is a statement all of it’s own.

It’s a floating world. And I love flitting through it.

Once More with Feeling: The Wisdom of Owls

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013


658 Hunter's Moon (2)


I love owls! They’re sleepy fluffy deadly predators. It’s the dichotomy that pleases me.

658 Hunter's Moon 2 detail (1)We all have the soft and hard edges that war within us. The part of us that is cute, sweet, somewhat cuddly gets more and more edges as we grow older. We learn we can bite. If we’re lucky we learn we don’t always have to.  It’s like the edges calcify. But what makes owls fascinating to me is the balance between the too.

I love that owls aren’t not exactly a forest animal. There’s a population of  owls living in cities. Supposedly they are territorial and love skyscrapers. They tend to keep the pigeon population down.

 I lived for years near Devon Street in Chicago. Devon Street is a united nations consisting of blocks that blend  from Assyrians, Russians, Bosnias, Pakistani, Hindustani,  and European Jewish cultures. It’s the shopping version of the world done by Disney.Without anyone singing it’s a small world after all.  There was a photography store called Hoots, I believe. It had a plastic owl on the highest ledge of   the building. It was high enough that I couldn’t tell if it was real or not. In the end, I decided it didn’t matter. Plastic or live, I want my city to have owls.

When the FACET group did a show called Chicago Blues, I couldn’t resist it.

I had the Hoots owl, singing the blues. Of course I called Chicago Blues.

Once More With Feeling: Lady Bugs Series

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

781 Forrest Floor 14 bMy mother had a lot of pretenses in her life. The largest one was that she was a lady. That was patent nonsense. 

756 Dancing in the light detail 3Margaret was larger than life. She was the kind of Irish of which it is said, “We were lace curtain Irish as soon as we could afford the lace.” That didn’t cover it.

 She danced and did choric reading competitively. She went to college where she ran ramshod over household and school rules in a ruinous and hysterical effort to go to every dance and party in the school. She taught English and History and passion. She ran the teacher’s union and the library board with a very delicately gloved fist. She married my father at 38, both of the the only left over singles in their social circle, after the war. All of that she did with courage, power, ability and steel will.

Not a lady. Not exactly.

861 Arise a RoseBut amazing.

She also, in the manner of most people at the time, drank gin like a fish. There was a ceremonious moment once a year when we walked the vermouth bottle by the gin making all gin a martini.

Margaret’s whole social world was female. It was the society of other teachers, librarians, and educated women. My father watched it all swirl around it and headed for his hiding place in the basement. 

They were formidable  Whenever they were against anything they all got together, arrived in their black dresses and pearls to stare against the town council until the council backed up. Since these women were their first, second, third, fourth and fifth grade teachers, you can imagine how these men felt.  It had to be like 70 years in the principal’s  office.  They were never victims.  They weren’t ladies. They fought like women. The council never had a chance.

I see my mother in the lady bugs. “I’m a lady. Never mind that I’m a fierce predator of all aphids and don’t try to stop me.” It’s actually a disguise. She wore it well. I find myself peaking out behind it every so  often, too.

So often  we forget the power of women who know what is right and make their stand. Like the ladybugs, they protect their own, fight their battles. Aren’t exactly ladies. And to whom does that matter?

783 Hopscotch Boogie (1)

Once again with Feeling: Squirrels and Other Fuzzy Things

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

703 springing (1)This is in honor of my new co-tenants. I have a happy family of squirrels living in the downstairs studio ceiling. They’re a quiet bunch. I wouldn’t have known they were there until they chewed the drain pipe for the furnace. Twice. Now the pipe flushes around a half cup of water every hour onto the studio table. Yes, I have a bucket. Yes the plumber will come again. Yes the squirrel trapping guy is coming this morning. No, I’m not happy, particularly about the flooded fabric. Two bolts of cotton are going to need some special dyeing.

I’ve often been asked why I don’t do fuzzy creatures. It’s simpler than you would think. Almost everything I do is a portrait in some way and I rarely see myself as fuzzy. If you’re 5 foot tall, just about that wide and have a pug nose, you fight an anti-cute campaign constantly. At my mother’s funeral, I had grown people grab me by the cheek pinch and pat my head. Where I come from, that’s legal cause to bite someone. I used to cuss like a some people paint in oil. “The undertext is “I am not a child. I am not a child I am not a child. REALLY!” Of course if you need to say it, you can’t ever ever prove it.  So portraying myself as something fuzzy, just doesn’t happen often. 



I’d never done fuzzy creatures until I did this commission. It was an education! Fur actually does have a nap and its not all that hard to create that. These were my first fuzzy babies. They were fun and they were a reason to try it again. They just weren’t as personally connective.


When Birdy had her bunny experience, it was necessary to do some bunny quilts. Bird found a bunny in the garden and sat down with it in a companionable way for around a half hour. Bird has really no prey instinct. It’s one of her nicer qualities. She found the bunny fascinating, but she just sat with it. It hopped into a bush and she looked at me, with her very short attention span as if to say “What was that?” Too funny. Had to quilt it.

Mice are companionable too. I only object when they want to move inside. Of course when they moved into the studio and started to poop crayola colors, it needed in some way to be documented.

So the cute thing keeps me from doing a lot of fur. Although now that my hair is a lovely silvery grey, I don’t worry about it so much. A cute 30 year old gets treated like a 3 year old. A cute almost 60 year old can do pretty much whatever she wants.  Just because they can’t figure out whether she’s old or young. I do like that,

You’ll find information about Frank Hayes, the writer of Little Fuzzy Animals, on Wickipedia. He’s a filker ( A science fiction folk musician) of great renown. He and I played in a contra band four thousand years ago. His hysterical music can be found at   Firebird Music.

You’ll find Birdy’s comments about mice at Studio Dogs, Studio Mice in an earlier blog on the subject.


Once More with Feeling: Frog Series

Monday, January 14th, 2013

264 As Good as it Gets (1)Our personal perception is an odd thing. Years ago when I was doing my student teaching,  I watched the 6 year olds mirror themselves as the colored in the presidents, the pilgrims, and all the biographic social science coloring sheets. It mostly divided on racial lines. If they were black, everyone was black, or brown. If they were Caucasian, everyone was pink, yellow or orange. In a way, I approved. I want every little kid to think that they are just  like  all our heros, from George Washington to George Washington Carver . There were two exceptions. One was the child of a mixed family who colored all his pictures blue. The other was an adopted child who was over 100 lbs and on a restricted diet. He colored everyone green. I made two rag dolls for my class. They were raggedy ann dolls, but one was in blue flannel. One was made in green.

An odd thing happened. A six year old boy doesn’t want to be caught dead with a doll. But those dolls were part of every game and adventure those boys had at school. Being blue and green, they walked outside of the limits of being a doll. They became perfect companions carried all over the playground and included in every fantasy. 


Somewhere in my life I realized I didn’t fit either. There was something about frogs. That odd spot where you realize that you’re really not much like everyone else. Somehow it’s easier being green. So I find my self often doing my self portrait as a frog

179 The problem with princes (1)

 The Problem with Princes was myself, encircled with the zinnias my dad always grew.

In Imagio Dei means In the Image of God. If I am in the image of God I am a creator. And as He creates so do I. The fabric runs through my hands and becomes birds, fish frogs and flowers.

398 In imagio dei



Sometimes, I do frogs simply because I love the ways that they move. I’m fascinated by their leaps, belly flops and grand ballet moves. 






Then there are the personal frogs.

This was a portrait of my god children, Tom and Sarah at their engagement.

Somehow frogs have become my own way of accepting my odd and different self and the equally odd folk I’m graced with. It’s easier being green than not being easy with who you are.

Once More with Feeling: Koi Series

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

721 in the reeds w (1)My father went to the first church of fishing. That does not mean that he was fishing for men or that he went to church. If he had a free day it was spent in a row boat on the river or lake, fishing for bass. It made for a much nicer sort of person than my Catholic mother, so  I had much more respect for it. It was his passion and his peace.

Being a good dad, he took me along from time to time. We had a few tearful moments about worms on hooks and the use of the tin can ( there is no pottie in a row boat).  We solved that early. He took me ashore when needed and he understood I didn’t want to catch fish. I just wanted to watch them.

So I would lean out of the boat with my head right above the water, watching the swirling water and the swish of fins. I’m still there. I’ll be there forever.

The fish in the stream series is all about that. And it’s about swimming through the waters of your life. I’ve gone  back to it repeatedly because it’s so vital to me.

The earlier ones were less filled in, somehow less active.

92 Father of All FishesFather of All Fishes was my first real Thread Magic Quilt. It was nature based, done in pearl cotton bobbin work. The transparency of the images, and the nature of seeing the fish under and over leaves fascinated me.

Here are some of the more formed fish I did after I learned how to fill them in with thin thread and a zigzag stitch.








I soon learned after that how to control my water better. When you walk into water you can feel the cooler and warmer currents in layers. You can make that happen with layers of organza and lace.

Finally I learned to use hand dyed pearl cottons and Angelina Fiber for water. It’s funny to me that the techniques change and my ability to render get’s better. But the fish still make me quiet and happy as a girl leaning out a row boat, reaching for the illusion of underwater life.


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