Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

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.



Of Bandits and Bullies

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

In my travels, I got to stay with my dear  friend Kathy Semone in Maryland. I was teaching at The Bears Paw in Baltimore.  Kathy and I have  been friends for almost 20 years when she came into my class and wanted to do gargoyles. It was before the gargoyle cliche hit. I loved her immediately. She is one of the original Lunatic Fringe.



Bandit the Bully

One of the many gifts Kathy has given me is the friendship of her dogs. I was not raised with dogs and I really didn’t have doggie friends. No. I don’t mean friends that have dogs. I mean friends that are dogs. One is not the other. But she had a darling Havanise  named Bobbin who would stand on his back legs and clap for you. What’s not to like? Of course I adored him.

So when we were talking about my visit, she said I needed to know about her new dog Bandit. Unlike all of her dogs, Bandit has lived his whole life on his looks. He’s a retired show dog. He acts a bit like a male version of a rock star with a hangover looking for his latest drug of choice. Lots of barking and displays with the occasional nip for emphasis. He really only knows how to behave in a show circle or at the groomers. And he hates crates.

I was a bit daunted. I did what I do whenever I’m really nervous. I went and found a book. 

Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog was a book already in my library. But I went to it for information. If you yawn and look the other way, you’re saying, “Oh for heaven’s sake, calm down. It’s not a threat.”

We did that a lot. I watched Bandit nip at several folk during my visit. But he eventually fell asleep on my feet.

All life is a tutorial. I came home to my bully neighbors. My heavens! Bark bark bark bark bark.  I do wish it was the dogs and not them. This time they insisted on their rights to powerwash their house. Of course they got the building inspector involved. For the day, they had three carloads of visitors to whom they gave tours of my yard, they just power washed the side of the house on my side, and they squashed hostas with abandon. I called the police for the second time when they tried to scream a friend of mine off the property. They called the building inspector to whine three times before the day was over. Bark bark bark bark bark.

It’s a really hard thing to yawn and look the other way. I didn’t manage it, quite. 

What makes a bully? I’ve suffered from them my whole life long and I do think that there needs to be a transformational act. Are they like Bandit, scared and unable to respond in any other way? What would they do if I yawned? If everyone yawned and what they wanted didn’t work? I can’t say I know but I can’t help but think there’s something there.

Bark bark bark bark! Oh calm down.

You’ll find The Bears Paw on their site and at their shop at

8812 Orchard Tree Lane
Towson, MD  21286

It’s a delightful shop, full of all kinds of fabrics, threads and great ideas.

You’ll find The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicals in Cats and in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by T. S. Eliot and Canine Body Language  on Amazon.

You’ll find bullies everywhere. Practice your yawning.

Dyeing without the Red Menace

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Piney Dragonfly


Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.

It used to be that I never dyed anything without certain dyes in the house. Clear yellow, turquoise, plum, blue violet, lemon yellow and fuchsia.If I was out of any of those, I ordered dye. Even if I was out of only one.

Did I ever order one color of dye? Don’t be silly. That would be horrific in shipping costs. So the need for one $4 jar of dye would really quickly turn into a $75  exploration of new colors. It was fun. The economy was stronger and I was teaching much more often.

Now that I’m home more in the studio, my dyeing has changed. I dye more just for myself and much less often. And when I found myself out of fuchsia dye last week I rolled my eyes, shook my head and dyed without it.

It’s fascinating how one color changes the whole pallet.

Piney Dragonfly is dyed using fuchsia, along with hot pink, cotton candy, yellow green, forest and dark green.


three point landing

Three Point Landing was dyed without fuchsia.The reds here were done with basic red, mixing red, strong orange, raspberry, amethyst and scarlet.


  They call fuchsia the red menace for a reason. It bleeds. Not a little. Not sometimes. Stuck pig style. In the most peculiar pink if you have a white spot in your fabric for it to land on. Some people like it. For me, it’s an almost automatic cause for an  overdye.

Leaving out the fuchsia meant that I didn’t have any bleedover. Who knew? Nothing is good or bad less thinking makes it so.

If you want more information about dyeing fabric The Dye Day Workbook will walk you through my sponge painting methods  to wild wonderful fabric, with or without fuchsia.

Ms. Manners for Public Media

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Law, Like Love

Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day…..

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night….

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyvay:
Like love I say.

Like love we don’t know where or why,
Like love we can’t compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.


WH Auden

I’ m still a product of the 60s. Not the late wild sixties where people burned their bras and burned through their ethics trying to find quivering truth with drugs and sex, although that had it’s moments. I’m a product of Miss Manors.

Why? Truth is not always a kindly house guest. So much  truth is subjective. The fact that it’s true in your life does not make it of necessity true in mine.Kindness and consideration can stay longer than three days in my space. Brutal honesty, not so much. Opinion, not really at all.

This poem by Auden is one of my all time favorites. What is the law? What is appropriate? Who holds the keys? Who decides what is and is not acceptable? And why?

We seem to be more divided lately than ever. The separations are political, rude and come to name calling pretty fast in this campaign season. I normally am oblivious. None of that makes dragonflies. But I have to say I’m as frightened with the future as anyone else. And it has political overtones.

I’m a firm believer in multiple view points. I appreciate the differences, because it allows for a correction point when we really are off track. If I have the wrong answer, maybe you have a better one. As long as all of that is functioning, it’s harder to do something that’s deadly extreme. As long as the process is allowing other voices, then no one get’s ignored. But where do we post those? Where to we get to say?

In this day of public media, it’s possible to say it almost anywhere.  But there are those who haven’t noticed that they are not just in their living room when they’re on their computer. What we say on the computer is about as public as Madison Square Garden and 500 times as lasting.

Lately I’ve had a run of experiences where people wanted to use either my facebook wall or blog for their viewpoint. In each  case it was an alternative view I really don’t hold. Yet there it was, associated with me because it was in my space.  And I wonder what Ms. Manners would make of  that.

I had one woman tell me in 7 separate emails that if I asked her opinion  through a group email, I was honor bound to publish it on my blog. It was three thousand miles away from my own thoughts on the matter, and pointed negatively at someone else who had written in. She had a blog of her own. I checked. It hadn’t been entered in for over 6 months. By the time the shouting stopped she’d hit the point of name calling. I had another woman post three negative comments on a facebook post. I unfriended her, because I think it’s inevitable I will offend her. Probably  as we speak.

We view social media as a leisure media. But it isn’t strictly. For any one in business it is the face of their business. It has their name, their brand, right on the top corner.  I get dozens of emails a day telling me how I can maximize facebook, my blog, my pininterest, myspace and my face, all on those social media. It is a business presence. 

So at the risk of being digitally egged, just this once I’m going to ask. Are you obliged to post negative comments  on your site? With your name and picture on it? Do you have an obligation to post stuff you really disagree with? These posts form people’s images and ideas about you. The comments are there as loudly as whatever you originally said. I am all for freedom of speech. I just think that if it’s your voice, and your opinion, your face should be on top the the article.

It’s not like we change people’s minds with these comments. I’ve found that at a certain point, we simply state where we are and they state where they are. Instead it’s a cementing of differences. I just object to it being on a site or space that’s mine. I wouldn’t have posted or printed my original statement if I didn’t care about it. And I would never have gone on their site to post a cheap shot against their viewpoint. I don’t think Ms. Manners would approve.

I will post people’s notes on this. But I’ll only give you one shot each. And after that, I’m claiming my sites as my own.

So I’m back to Auden. In  a world where right and wrong are at best under review, what is wrong with personal space? Much of what we disagree with is fine, as long as it’s not in our spot, defining us. So,  Ms. Manners, what do we do? “Like love I say.” Whatever happened to live and let live?

Of course, perhaps the old saw that you don’t discuss politics or religion needs to come back into vogue. This desire to wash it all in public is, in my own case, perhaps a nervous tick.

Both Blogspot and WordPress offer great free blog spaces for all views.Facebook gives anyone a page. If you need to argue your point,  perhaps it should be said under your picture.

Technology and the Dye Cup Fairy (Pat Winter)

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

I love technology. I hate technology. I feel like the red queen and though I can’t possibly run fast enough, or at all, I must try.

Pat Winter is the Dye Cup Fairy. When I’m done dyeing fabric, I always have a bit of left over dye in the cups. Not so much that you could dye yards and yards of fabric. But ribbon? Yes! So Pat comes by and picks up the dye cups. I go for long periods of time when I don’t see the Dye Cup Fairy but you always know she’s been there. There’s a note, missing dye cups, and if you’re lucky, new plants in your garden or an Icy waiting for you. If you don’t know Pat, she’s perhaps the most inventive and amazing crazy quilter in the world.

Several years ago, I bought what I call a boob camera. Not because it’s for those of us who are a bit behind. No. It fits in my bra. Now this is important because if you don’t have a camera with you you can’t take the picture. I know you’re supposed to be able to do this with a phone. 
Please! I can only master one plastic box at a time.


Panasonic Lumix Boob Camera

I love my boob camera. Simple, no cap to lose. Takes a lot of pictures before it declares itself dead. Do I know what all the settings are? Don’t be silly!





So one day I walked into my studio and found the Dye Cup Fairy. And being the Fairy of Large and Incomprehensible Messes, we played together. With the boob camera and paint sticks.

Pat is much better with a camera than I. We both looked at the sport setting and said Sure! Why Not! You press the button down and it takes picture after picture after picture after picture. Well, you get the idea. She pointed and shot. I just played.


We got 836 pictures. What do you do with 836 pictures? Even after you take out the ones with blurry hands, more is definitively less  there really is a too much. Who’d have believed that?We’re not going to use that setting again.





Did we have fun? You betcha

I hope you have a Dye Cup Fairy who takes, gives and shares wonderful things with you!

I hope you play with your friends, even when the technology is incomprehensible!

I hope all your messes bring you wonder and joy! 

You’ll find Pat Winter’s blog at Pat Winter Gatherings. She also does a fabulous crazy quilt magazine that will launch you into a brand new crazy  quilting world.

You’ll find more about paint sticks on older posts of mine at 

The Secret Handshake: New Toys 

Paint Stick Updates

The Schamburg Expo

You’ll find my camera on There are lots newer ones, but none better. And it fits just fine in a DD cup.


Experimental Art by Accident: Plumbing

Sunday, May 6th, 2012



All of life is an art form. I’ve always maintained that how we live our lives, structure our stories, organize or not organize our space is in it’s own way a creative act. Sometimes it features beauty, or courage, or growth. Sometimes it’s a rare moment of survival in the midst of craziness. It is, however a creative act in response to the world we live in.

Several weeks ago, my neighbor Liam told me he wanted to make a volcano. Not  a problem. Got a soda bottle, vinegar and some baking soda. Mix and explode. It was a lovely afternoon.

Yesterday,  I recreated the LaBrea Tar Pits pit in my kitchen. Honest to God. I can barely wait to show Liam.

We wash dishes here every six weeks or when we run out of forks, whichever happens first.This time I decided I’d have a clean kitchen for my birthday which was yesterday. At least it’s a novelty

I had a very slow drain and thought it was risky to run the dish hider ( I haven’t noticed that it washes dishes. But it’s very good at hiding them.) I knew it was a dicy situation, so I went and looked up drain cleaning on the internet. As always, every product had at least one one star review and five five star reviews. Thus equipped, I went over to the hardware store and picked up a product I will not name. It was buffered sulfuric acid. Should cut through anything. Right?

Not exactly. Home again and we put it down the sink. Looked good. Made significant noises. ( I always find those encouraging). I waited 15 minutes and ran cold water. Out of the depth black bubbly goo started to rise. And take over one side of the sink and then the other. I went to the living room and started to pray for a faith healing experience. That didn’t happen. Two hours later I had everything from the black lagoon in the kitchen sink except, thank God, the creature.

Then I heard the drip. I looked down to see a streak of black goo on the pipe. Ran to get a bucket from the studio. Ran some more cold water to dilute it.

This situation is what we call a busted comode. Full of something and going no where. When I though again about plunging and plungers, I remembered that we could have sulfuric acid and black goo everywhere.

Back to Liam’s volcano. I got the box of baking soda and started to pour it in. Black bubbles rushed up one side of the sink. The other side burbled in response. An odd black greasy crust formed on the surface, broken temporarily by more bubble action. It went on all night.Blump. Burbble burbble, blump,plip,plip plip. Grirrrirrrgle. A symphony in black tarry substances. More baking soda in the other side. More blurble sounds. It was the symphony of the swamp.

I plunged at 10:30. At 3 am. More burbling noises but no other changes. The swamp is still extant and bubbling at nine am.

Why is this art? It’s too funny to be anything else at this point. But in the middle of this, when I called a friend to ask what to do about it, she said” Have you seen the moon?” No, it wasn’t a non-sequetur. If you’re going to have the worst plumbing night of your life you might as well have the best moon too. And I bet there was a spectacular moon over the tar pits as the dinosaurs went down. You’ve got to enjoy what’s there. And it’s a new form of surface design. But you might not want to try this at home.

So I hope you have a super moon to light your plumbing disasters. I’m also hoping the plumber works on Sunday.

You’ll find more information about the super moon at

Update: The plumber doesn’t work on Sunday. And he thinks it’s the whole drainage system. Anyone wanting to buy a quilt today, contact me and we’ll have a half off sale. 



Where are the Guerilla Girls When You Need Them?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

I didn’t start out a feminist. I wasn’t even a tom boy. I read a lot and sewed a lot. Now I write a lot and sew a lot. My life isn’t really much different.

But as a girl I was kept waiting for it to be ok for me to be myself. Being a traditional girl only works if the people around you are willing to be traditionally supportive and kindly. If they make it open season on girls who are socially awkward or not pretty or just a bit over educated, then it really doesn’t pay that little girl much good to cling to traditional roles. I think I had that mostly figured out by the time some guy threw me into the bleachers at a high school dance as a joke. He thought it was funny. Imagine that. I didn’t quite get the joke.

But I have learned that when folk really would like you not to think, have opinions, or God help you, a brain, you’re about to see someone try to throw you to the mat. It doesn’t do any good to say, “I’m just a girl. Why are you doing this to me?” The why’s are impenetrable.  And yet, if you get up and toss them back, you’re a monstrous angry woman. Imagine that.

I like to think that fiber art which is largely women’s art has come into it’s own. Imagine my surprise. The person organizing a show for me advertised my lecture by saying, “And she’ll talk about needlepoint.” When I explained that it wasn’t needlepoint, he said” Needlepoint, fiber art, all the same thing. It’s all thread.” He thought that was funny. Again, I missed the joke.

It doesn’t really matter that I’m an established artist with a 3o year career behind me. It doesn’t matter that work of mine hangs in galleries and museums. It doesn’t matter that over the years I’ve taught thousands of women to follow their own art or that I’ve written over 50 published articles. I could be doing my first book signing, and I would deserve not to have someone diminish my work by saying it’s all the same as all women’s work.  With no disrespect to needlepoint, when men allow that attitude to go passed and unquestioned, do you wonder why women ask what men are for? Once you’ve been consistently dismissed by a group, you lose the ability to care about what they think.

In the 1980’s the Guerilla Girls made a huge statement about how women’s art is viewed. and more important, respected.  What made me a feminist is years of men who have decided to dismiss me and what I do because it’s not useful to them or supportive of their egos. The heart is not a stone. But it can become like one.

The joke here is that as women have money, and jobs, they get to have their own say about what is art. That joke I get.

You’ll find more information on the Guerilla Girls at They’re doing a current show of their many posters. As far as I can tell, we truly need them still.

Moving Day

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

No one ever believes I’m organized. That may because I’m not. I live simply in howling chaos. I also know where mostly everything is. Unless it’s my camera, my scissors,my glasses, or perhaps my wallet.

Perhaps you can see the hole in that theory. I’m trying to be organized and that may well be the best we can do.With that in mind, I’m moving my blog over to my web page at It’s easier for you to find and easier for me to share with you.You’ll find all my blog posts here now at, in one spot

We’ll see you here!

Who Me?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012


Quilter  Magazine offers a Teacher of the Year award. It’s one of those rare moments when someone says thank you. Class is always a rush. Quilters are the best folk on earth and if anyone will follow the niceties, it’s quilters. But it’s rare and lovely to hear a thank you.

I grew up in a teaching family. Everyone in my family had a teaching degree although not everyone taught. But even though I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, it was assumed that that was true if I wanted to be a teacher. I did want to be an archeologist, but that involved bugs and snakes. Bugs I like. Snakes I don’t. Eventually, the snakes and the need for serious organization intruded into the dream and I took my degree in primary education.

It was with serious shock that I realized I wasn’t suited to teach in a regular classroom. It should have been a clue when I realized that I was leading the riot. I’m great at communicating and setting up learning environment. Not so good at crowd control.

So when I began to teach quilters, I knew I found a home. But I also found that my students have always taught me.

They’ve taught me the kindness and personal support quilters give each other.

They’ve taught me to laugh at myself most.

They’ve taught me that the worst disaster is only a comedy in process.

They’ve taught me that nothing is impossible. It just takes more time.

They’ve taught me that physical limits are simply an invitation to do it differently.

They’ve taught me that most things can be fixed with chocolate, duct tape and ice cream, at least for a while.

They’ve taught me to ask for help.

They’ve taught me that accepting someone’s help or gift is a gift in itself, and it’s selfish not to do so.

So, since someone nominated me for teacher of the year, I have one thing to say. After all you’ve taught me, thank you.

Bad Raps, and Bad Wraps

Friday, January 6th, 2012

I grew up reading the Jungle Books by Kipling, so I’ve always loved wolves. The wolves take this baby in and raise him as one of their cubs. Like most adoptive processes, there’s a bit of cognitive dissonance about the whole thing. He doesn’t fit in well. 

So this video touched me.  It’s about perception and reality. For all of her obvious concern when she sees the wolves, they scatter when she says “Git!” The wolves are not evil. They’re just wolves.

This last year I’ve been working on the issue of bullies. I really don’t want to go to my grave grieving over things that happened when I was seven. And like all really good emotional issues, the opportunities come back again and again until I can find better solutions. There’s two schools of though on this. “Oh no! Not another learning experience!” And, “There you are again!”

Bullies function on a wolf perception.Someone has to be perceived either as a wolf to be driven away or a wolf who will probably eat you. Like most binary systems, it has some serious limits.

It occurs to me that two things have to happen to create a wolf perception. We have to give someone a bad rap. We give ourselves reasons why they’ve done what they’ve done. Maybe it’s true. Often enough, that’s a fantasy too. We just convince ourselves of their bad action and intent.

And then we dress them as villains. Give them  a bad wrap to wear: a black hat, a swirling evil cloak, an evil glint to their eye.

I’ve had it happen to me as well. I’ve had people hand me my black cloak and hat and tell me why I’m a danger.

It’s not that I believe there is no evil in the world. It’s there. Nor do I believe it my job to change people’s choices. I wouldn’t take someone’s path away from them like that. If we don’t walk our path as best we can, we won’t learn from it. 

But after years of dressing people in bad wraps and giving them bad raps and being dressed in the same, it occurs to me that they might just scatter if I said, “Git!” My perception is power I give or take, all by myself.

You’ll find the Jungle Book at Skip the Disney copies. They’re cute but a completely different story.

You’ll find people who want to dress up in funny black cloaks and be icky and people who want to dress you too in all kinds of odd places. I hope you can say “Git!” to them too.

The Wizard of Odd

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Having fun being weird today? Thank an artist!

Lately, they’ve been playing the Wizard of Oz again. It occurred to me just how much of our language comes from that amazing movie.

Most movies are a cultural moment at best. They expand on a moment in time. What is a classic changes with the wind, but I think we can say that it’s about how it changes the way people think. 

I was going through the number of phrases that the Wizard cemented into my verbal landscape:

  • “If I only had a brain.”
  • “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”
  • “Over the rainbow.”
  • “And your little dog too.”
  • “I hope my courage holds out. I hope your tail holds out.”
  • “I’m melting.”

And of course,

  • ” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Frank Baum, the author, had a rather unsuccessful life outside his books. He bounced from one thing to another until he wrote this odd and lovely tale, largely about politics. The politics have disappeared in time leaving a wonderful story about friendship, challenges, appreciating weird and very kind help, and finding your heart. Who would any of us be without it?

That being said, I take heart in this. When someone says, “You quilt, right? Can you make me a bed quilt? In beige?”

I remind myself that my glory and my crown, my hope and my consolation is that I be as gloriously odd as I am. And that if I do it well a small part of the world will shift for it.

Those of us doing our art shift the archetypes. Not purposely, or with cause, but simply by bringing our vision to the world. It’s not something one picks and chooses. It’s simply an act of trust to bring what your heart demands into being. We bring it all to the table and let time sort it out.

Silent Night: Waiting for Wonder

Monday, December 19th, 2011

The season of Christmas is hard and fast, a vicious wild river of people and vehicles vying for more gifts, more money, parking spaces, more immeasurable and impossible holiday glee.

I’m convinced this is a reaction to the dark of the year. I can’t speak for any one else. It has an addictive edge to it I don’t trust. When I try to strip myself down each year to the celebration of Christ’s birth and basic kindness to the people in front of me, without the endorphin pump of extra shopping, sugar and alcohol, I find myself facing all kinds of edgy truths about myself. Much of what runs through your mind in the dark.

Not that I’m a stick about sugar and extra spending. They’re just not good for me. There’s an old saying, “Up like a rocket. Down like a stick.”, which pretty much covers my mental health after any Christmas-New Years week. Since I don’t have the family obligations, I can and often do choose to opt out of the commercial aspect. And anything that takes extra vacuuming, or must be put away unless it’s up next spring. Ick.

I’m an escaped Catholic. I go to an Anglican Church largely because I love the rituals and can think what I like. They don’t green the church (translate: put up the tree) until the Sunday before Christmas.

It leaves time for waiting in the darkness. To push back against the darkness, and it’s nastier little whispers and say, “The Light is coming.” There’s a value in saying that before the light arrives. It reminds us that good and bad, broken and whole what we need is there and right for us.

That all said, I think I’m going to put up an origami bird tree. One I don’t have to take down after the season. There’s nothing wrong with lighting a candle in the dark.

All of the best of the blest for you and yours for the holiday.

Lauren Strach: A Botanical Lunatic with a Plan

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Lauren doesn’t look like a lunatic. She looks like a pink cheeked soccer mom. Look out! Stand back! 

She’s an emerging art quilter who attacks new approaches and techniques with gleeful ferocity. And masters them with passion. Every time she visits me, I find myself flying to my machine, inspired by her intensity.

Lauren says,

“My inspiration, like so many other quilters, comes from nature. 

As a life-long biologist and Master Gardener, I thought I saw nature, but it wasn’t until I embraced my artful journey that I began to really see.  My inspiration is found in the whorls of snail shells, the miniature worlds of mosses and lichens, the rugged nooks and crannies of the bark of the fallen tree, and the intricate shading and nuances in the early spring wildflowers. And, the more I see, the more I see.

The act of translating that vision in line, pattern and color into textile recreations introduces the next level of AHA!  It is an ever fascinating challenge to take the experience of seeing with eyes wide open, to shape it into form. From the fantastical realism of exaggerated insects, to the abstracted likeness of the quintessential flower bud, I seek to uncover the universal codes, to bring them to life with fabric and thread.  Tactile, textile translations of the mysteries of nature, celebrating the wonders of life, that is where I find my inspiration.

Lauren’s work has been showed at both Paducah and Houston. She was a finalist in the $100,000 Quilt Challenge. Where will she show next? It could be anywhere. If she doesn’t send it in, it’s likely 
to fly in on it’s own.

Maharishi of the Vacuum Cleaner

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I would like to say that my cats taught me to be  terrified of vacuum cleaners. I’d like to say it but it’s simply not true.

 No one actually cleaned much of anything in my childhood home. We lived in a pleasantly shabby small house carefully insulated by mountains of books. So once every five years or so, someone would put some effort into finding the floor and once found, vacuuming it. Of course that took in my case, huge quantities of ice cream. In my mother’s case, similar quantities of gin. Either way we never faced it chemically unimpaired. It may explain why she thought it was funny to chase me around the room with it. It may also explain my complete dread of them.

But at a certain point you decide that your childhood is past. The floor is in shambles and it would be nice to see what color the rug is. So I went on the search for the vacuum I wouldn’t hate. 

This was not easy. We went through a Royal, several Hoovers, a Eureka canister that lasted a week.We have a dog cookie under every rug and mattress and wisps of thread escaped from the studio. Some of them whole and some in crumbs. Admittedly, this is a hard life for any vacuum cleaner.

I was bemoaning the Eureka when Pat Winter told me she’d gotten a Bissell that pretty much ate babies for lunch for $44 at Walmart. Desperate with the image of my new godbaby wading through the crumbs, fur and crunchies, I bought one.

OMG did this thing whirl fur and fluff around. So it was with tears in my eyes I watched it die today.It was almost a whole month old. Could I find the receipt? Of course not. So I went online, and found the manual. While I was looking for the belt, one of the hoses fell off spewing crumblies everywhere. When I looked in the hose there was a small plastic bottle.

What could it be? I poked at it with broom handles, my croquet mallet handle, the fire poker, the skewers we use for roasting marshmallows. It finally gave it up for  particularly long mop handle.

What else could it have been? It was a bottle of sewers aid!

So I am now, by right of my passage Maharishi of the Vacuum Cleaner.Chief bottle washer too. And I know where I put the Sewer’s Aid. Life is good. Now where did I put the floor?

The Distraction Faction

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
I live in dread of distraction. So it is with serious fear that I face the holidays. I have a really low attention span, and I multitask unmercifully, but I know I will leave three out of five of those tasks in the dust. So when the holidays come, I know I really ought to find the floor. 
This year we had a particular reason why that was vital.
This is Tom and Sarah.

This is Tom and Sarah with munchkin. It’s astonishing how something so small can hold your whole heart that tightly.

Keira is at seven months, a bright sunny soul who likes soft boiled eggs, bee bop music, and is working on toy tossing as an Olympic sport. We had visions of what she’d do when she found the dog bones so we at least had to clean that much up. After that it became the search for more suction in vacuum cleaner land.

The weirdest thing has happened to me.   It was bad enough at the baby shower. I actually made a baby quilt. Since it’s out of all my apron prints, it includes ghosts, tigers, hawks, spiders, and beetles. We thought we ought to start her early on those things.

But I’m knitting………………………….!
I was really worried about having been distracted in this way and then it came to me. I won’t really have to have someone pry the knitting needles out of my hands. They come in pairs and I’m bound to lose one sooner or later.

Either way, I’ve been given the ultimate  delight of a tiny hand waving wet spoons and toys at me as I sing her bee bop. Pretty good for a maiden fairy godmother.

Keira lives in Austin with my God kids, Tom and Sarah, They better bring her back soon or, God knows what I’ll knit.

Fat Girl Boot Camp? I Don’t Think So!

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
As Good as it Gets

It’s no secret I battle with my weight. I am blessed with what the #1 Ladies Detective Agency refers to as “the traditional build.” So every so often, I notice that I’m particularly larger and pull things in a bit. 

Another thing I was blessed with was a small birth defect. My mother, being Irish and collecting tragedies the way other people collect Hummels made that into a huge issue. After being a March of Dimes reject, being fat is a cherry on top. It’s almost a non-sequetor.

So I was appalled today to run into a blog that suggested Boot Camp for fat ladies.  It was suggested that if you had extra punishments you carried with you at all times to remind yourself of what horrible thing would happen if you ate something other than a celery stick. As if you would miraculously not eat. They suggested you decorate a sign with your goal weight with glitter.

I will not give you a link to this site. I consider it toxic. 

I’m tired of aversion fads, and I’m particularly tired of the fat aversion fad. It’s like punishing people for having a birth mark. It’s about fear and self loathing. The science isn’t all in yet, but it’s beginning to show that although no extreme is good for you, being fat is not a death sentence. The attitudes about it are faddish, not necessarily fact.

But most of all, I’m tired of the attitude that says you should do it to yourself. Pour that kind of hate on yourself.

Renoir’s Two Girls

Fat aversion is a fad. It has come but it will go as well.I love this image of Renoir’s. Would we want these lovely girls anorexic? He knew they were gorgeous. And in our own way, so are we all.

The difference in me gaining weight and losing weight is my ability to hear when I’m full. That translates to three extra bites on my plate per meal.  Once I’ve been that mean to myself I need that extra three bites just to cushion myself from the sore spots on my butt from having been emotionally spanked.

I think I’m going to decorate my butt with emotional glitter.  I think I’m going to say it’s all me, and love it the way I love my sunflowers and morning glories, even when they grow way out of proportion. Then I’m going to love every bite of food I take and try very hard to listen lovingly when my body says, “Thanks that’s enough!”

You’ll find “The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency” on Amazon and in your local book store. Read it. It’s a delightful, loving portrait of vital, fun, kind decent people who just happen not to be thin.

Janice Paine Dawes Delightfully Dead Fringe

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
March Hare

I’ve been aware of Janice Paine Dawes wonderful work since she shared a lovely rabbit portrait of herself with me for my Beautiful Beast Lecture.

Day of the Dead 

She just sent me these great pictures of her Day of the Dead quilt! Here’s what she had to say about it.  It was taken from a…”painting…originally done in tempera on illustration board for a Day of the Dead challenge.The piece sold right away… A few years after that I decided I needed to do this in fiber. I love the fiber version most. I was able to give real dimension to the sugar skulls and they look good enough to eat.”

I love that she’s come back to this image to rework it, the way all important images need to be revisited.  I also love that they have no calories!

Her motto is: If you feel like a square peg in a round hole don’t assume you should change, you need to find a square hole.
You’ll find Janice’s brilliant work  at 
The Distoriated Quilter

And a great fun site about finding fabulous fabrics and ideas for cheap at

Linda T. Mintons Fringy Feet and More

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Tragically Cool and Incredibly Hip

Linda T. Minton has Fringy Feet! 
 I love her shoes! And I never love shoes. But I want these.

Painted Mud Clogs

Big City Girl with Her Hair on Fire

Here is a pair of colorful hand-painted Artist’s Mudd clogs that just make her happy, and the pair of black-and-white painted Z-Coil shoes is titled “Tragically Cool and Incredibly Hip”. To go with it she has a fanciful-face fabric collage is built on a favorite pair of bluejeans and is titled “Big City Girl with Her Hair on Fire”.  

Eye Pod

Her”Eye Pod” was  at the Journal Quilts exhibit in Houston. 
Her motto is:
Fail often in order to succeed sooner.” — Peter Sims
You’ll find  Linda Teddlie Minton’s wonderful fringy work  at

The Lunatic Fringe Rampant

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

It’s official! The Lunatic Fringe is back in  action.
If you are a former Fringe member you know it never goes away. 
If you were in class with me and I gave you your badge, it’s good for ever. Like every sign and symbol, we really wear them mostly inside ourselves.

The Lunatic Fringe Badge is 

  • The Red Badge of Courage
  • Your Purple Heart
  • A Green Lunatic Fringe

Although I make these for people who take my class,you are completely welcome to make one for anyone who needs one, most especially yourself.

How do you know if you’re a member of the Lunatic Fringe?

  • Do you do your art at odd hours and in odd ways?
  • Are people always asking you “What’s that for?
  • Do you neglect housework, yard work, dinner, and paper work to do your art?
    Do you see wonderful inspiration in really strange places and at odd times?
  • Does your heart hurt if you can’t do your art?
  • Do you sew, paint, sculpt, write or whatever like a mad person?
  • Have you ever been rejected from a show or publisher?

These are just some of the signs that you are a member of an elite group referred to as the Lunatic Fringe. They are the artists, writers and crazy people out there doing something wonderful and weird only they can do. Great art comes out of the margins. It comes from people following their dreams in strange and wonderful ways.

Of course they need a red badge of courage. That kind of art takes guts. Of course they’ve earned a purple heart. Creative people  like that get shot at. Of course it’s lunatic. It’s lunatic, brilliant, fun, wild,real, healing, scary and personally vital.

This is not just for artists. All life is art and your lunatic fringe may be in how you garden,  arrange your life, cook your food, write your stories. The lunatic fringe is about acknowledging the art within your life.
I’m putting up a page on facebook for the Lunatic Fringe to strut their stuff. Your fringe is hanging! SHOW US YOUR FRINGE!

If you would like a guest blog on the Lunatic Fringe, email at and tell us how your part of it all.

We’ll welcome posts both on facebook and guest blogs. I’m starting a new blog for the Lunatic Fringe for you to show it all off.
Check out the  Lunatic Fringe Blog 

Life in the Garden of Time

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

All games are a metaphor for life. I think that’s why we play them. They give us ups and downs, the wheel of chance, the successes we can celebrate, and what life never gives us, the reset button.

Lately I’ve been captured by a 
Facebook game, Gardens of Time. My game choices are limited by several easy rules. It must, unlike Jungle Gems, be free. It must, unlike Angry Birds, not make me flinch. It can loop endlessly, like Fluffy, but it must offer achievable goals. As you can see, I’ve gone through most of them.

They surely are a way of turning off. Endless amounts of time get swallowed. Gardens of Time is a found object game. You win by finding lost and odd objects in unlikely spots. Then you build your own garden with all kinds of odd but necessary artifacts, buildings and decorations. Just like home. But it is, in a way, symbolic of my life. 

First off, their housekeeping looks like mine. Yes I do have odd objects everywhere, including the banana peel on the couch. Sorry. I want to say the dogs do that, but some lies just aren’t believable.

Secondly, you need to do thing over and over and over again, until you learn them. That’s just reality. Everything worth doing is worth doing badly. You will do it badly until you do it well. So you might as well just do it.

Thirdly, you put in every silly thing they tell you to. After having filled in a quilt show entry, I can see how that relates.

Finally there are gifts people give each other.
At first I didn’t get that. I think they didn’t have it hooked up so you could see what the gift was and who it was from. So I sort of left them sitting around with the rest of the clutter.
Then I realized how much of my life is unclaimed gifts. The real gifts we get given, have no meaning if we don’t claim them. I’m not talking about the lovely  physical things we give each other over time and space. I’m talking about life gifts. A friend. A talent. A love. An opportunity. A chance. A space.

Within the spiral of life we go past these gifts like the golden ring on the merry-go-round.We  may not even look up and see it.But there it is. If we don’t reach for it, we cannot have, even though it’s presented to us,time after time.

I can’t help but wonder what I might accomplish if I walked away from my computer games an extra two hours a day. But my golden ring for today is that I’m going to find that out.
You’ll find Gardens of Time on Facebook.
You’ll also find the Ellen Anne Eddy Thread Magic Studio page there. Like it and you’ll see what’s happening in and out of my studio.

Musings: Art Outside the Box: Hiding in Plain Sight and the Musical Sandbox Squabble

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Every so often I tell myself that all I did was quilt a fish. How silly. Well, yes, I quilted a fish. And who is that fish? I find all art is incredibly ( and somehow mindlessly) self involved.

I’ve recently found myself in an especially stupid squabble with someone at my church. I won’t say which one. We are all mostly alike and there’s one of every kind in every church on the planet.You can put in the name of any church you’ve ever been to, and that’s the one. It turned into a tug of war over the choir music.

There are two major ways to win a tug of war.With that said, there are a half dozen different dirty tricks. You can pull, let up, tell them to look over there and yank, talk about their mom’s hygene. Those are all ways to win at tug of war. But the bottom line is simple. You either tug harder than they do or you let go of the rope.

But like all wars, you have to ask, “What’s the prize? And what is the price?”

I’m a very faithful church goer for several reasons. Sheer loneliness is a significant part of it. A hunger for ritual, certainly a chunk. I believe God to be everywhere, but I’m hoping He hasn’t left the building. Mostly, I’m hoping to be a better me.

But I didn’t miss the fact that I’m in a room with people. Of course they’re scary. I’m sure I am too to them. What was I doing in the choir? I was hanging out in plain sight and perfectly hidden as an alto in the first row. So when we got an organist who insisted I sing out of my range or stay silent, I lost my place to hide. He’s a world class organist.  I’m an alto in the back.He’s also world class at other things I won’t mention. If we’re going to play tug of war, I don’t think I have the pull.

Who wins at tug of war? I can’t believe the guy with the muddy bottom who pulled hardest really won. His very own muddy bottom? What a prize!

So here I am in my quilt, trying to hide somewhere else.Here I am hunting a church with a choir loft or another place for an odd artist to fit in. Perhaps I can rethink that hiding bit. It’s not like I’m good at it. I’m looking at several churches, none of which have a choir at all, and wondering if there’s a space under the floor.  It’s all autobiographical,  really.

Musings: Art Outside the Box: Laughter for Drama Queens

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

I am a redirected Drama Queen, Daughter of a Drama Queen Delux. My mother was not a happy girl until she had a drama 10 feet high and too wide to get through the door. It was all about telling stories.

Now Margaret Eddy was the queen of all stories. And a serious fan of silly. She told amazing whoppers, one-liners, true tales spun into gold from straw, hopeless lies and astonishing steaming piles. She loved her drama. She had a somewhat loose relationship to truth. She was a devastating school teacher, because much of that could indeed come out in a teacher conference meeting or a family reunion. But she had a special gift for looking within and without. First she’s build you a verbal image of herself as she felt about the story. But then she’d draw you into an outer view, where you could see her spinning in what she knew was a silly situation, build for howling laughter.

It happens to me in my quilts. I’m quilting along and I realize that this silly thing I’ve drafted is someone I know. Or worse, me. There with all my rather small fears and desires. I’m not overly deep. I’m just noisy. At that point, it seems just to the point to let it be silly. I am. It is. And the world is better for it.

This quilt, The Orchid Olympics, wasn’t meant to be funny. It just happened. I’d found a great picture of a frog in an odd pose and worked with it. One afternoon in a class demo, I was placing it into the piece and trying to put a sun over his head. It wouldn’t go. It just wouldn’t go. Not over. Not to the side. 

I looked again at the frog and thought, “If you get into that pose, it has to be for something like the Olympics. No one would willingly bend like that otherwise.” The sun fell into her hand like an award and there we were.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all. But I try never to tell a story on myself until I’ve found the funny part. Perhaps it helps to be short, round and have a pug nose. My gray hair also makes any silliness forgivable. 

Musings: Art Outside the Box: The Green Eyed Monster and the Time Machine

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Dancing in the Light
National Quilt Museum
Opening night, April 24th
Paducah, KY 2011

I got to go to Paducah to see the unveiling of my quilt. They bought Dancing in the Light, last year for their permanent collection. The opening was its first viewing there.

I wish I could say that I’ve had so many experiences like that that it felt normal or natural. I felt like Cinderella, thank God without the shoes. I arrived from my flight in Chicago, 15 minutes before the opening. I threw on my dress and ran ( as well as any lady my size with my knees can) to the ball. I met people who loved my quilt. I met people I’d loved forever for their work. I went from throwing- up-scared to simply sitting in a room with fellow artists I love.

I think any artist who’s committed themselves to showing and to selling their work hits a point where it matters desperately what other people think.We all say we don’t. It’s whistling in the dark, as far as I can tell.  It has to do with paying your mortgage at some point. But before that, you commit to your art it such a way that it has to pay you back in terms of some response. Those who are supported externally have a leg up on this, but they also lack some of the edge artistically.We’re all waiting for the response. We do our artistic best and put it up the flag pole to see who salutes.

When I began doing art quilts in the late 1970’s, there was an explosion of excellent people fighting to be seen. That’s still ongoing. In fact it’s so much harder to be recognized or for that point, remembered. We create, we show, we publish, we teach, and in that river of activity, we wait for the response.

In those early days, I remember the agony of not getting in. This show. That book. This opportunity. That also hasn’t changed. There are only so many slots and there are many more pegs. It’s a real danger sitting with a friend who’s just gotten into Quilt National when you haven’t. Your happy for her. Right? Right? Well, yes but. And the but is sour and has a long after-burn.

 I realized at a certain point I was using these moments of win or lose, inclusion and exclusion to define who I am. Shallow as that is, it’s hard not to. The green eyed monster affects all of us, no matter what color our eyes are.

Of course, outside the quilt world, who cares? The quilt world is a very tiny pond. I can’t imagine anyone writing on my tombstone, ” She finally got into Quilt National when she was 89.” Of course they also won’t write, “she had an immaculate house”, or “she was always a size 3 jeans”. I hope they say I did a good job continuing my art and  of loving the people in front of me. 

Time is a slow moving machine. But it does move. I’ve come to be grateful for the fact that it moves slowly. Attitude adjustment takes a long time sometimes. Somewhere after I’d written Thread Magic, I realized that I would have honors all my own. And that no one should collect them all.  The green eyed monster seems to need the time machine to tame it into a glint, rather than a Gordon’s stare. Perhaps what truly tames it is enough sense of who we are that we no longer are so hungry for definition. Or so willing to take it from external sources.

I sent in my IQA offering this week, with the green eyed monster locked safely down by the laundry machines in the basement. I don’t always get in. I don’t always get anything. But I have had mine. And so may we all.

Musing: Art outside the Box:The Call of the Less Wild than It Was

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Every year I find myself drawn into the veggie garden. This little plot of land was part of my parking lot until I begged my godson Tom to dump 500 pounds of Sam’s Choice

 ( and I do not mean potatoes) on  it. This year, Lauren Strach and my neighbor Liam Oberlander offered me special help that made my garden much more organized, green and growing. Every year it provides enough lettuce, spinach, squash, peas and beans to feed me and every raccoon and bunny in Porter. We even manage to feed a neighbor or two. My crop of Japanese Beetles each year is magnificent.

Of course it’s awfully hard to get out of the veggie garden and into the studio. Here is Bedelia Birdy Buttercup, greyhound in charge, trying to herd me out of the garden. She’s not having much luck this year.

Ah well. She’s not having much luck with the bunny either. Which is why I finally quilted the bunny in.

Sometimes your art is your life, that great river of creativity, clutter and projects. Then suddenly your life  is the art of the moment, the placing of pots of plants or the need to find clean forks. It all gets unbalanced if it’s simply one or the other. So as I sit in the veggie garden, watching the plants grow and hearing the happy munching of bunnies I know I”ll find my way back to the studio, but probably after lunch. And aren’t I glad I planted all that lettuce?
Blossom in the Moonlight is one of three quilts on special sale on my site at Can you find the other two? They’re part of the river of art that goes on, once I get myself out of the art of my life.

Musing: Art outside the Box: The Voice in the Dark

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

We all have a voice track in our head that never goes away. It’s full of all kinds of nonsense: music that plays in endless loops, the thing we could have said at a bad moment if we’d been more quick on our feet, the arguments, never said,  with friends long lost and gone. The auditory flotsam and jetsam of our lives, scraped out of an old verbal closet that haunt us.

My worst fear is that I will die saying the same cruel things to myself that were said to me as a child. I am in no way alone. If you teach you get to hear exactly what people were told as a child. Because when their blood sugar drops or they get frightened or threatened, they’ll start saying it to themselves. It’s an agony to listen to. It never should have been said to anyone in the first place. 
“I’m so dumb.”
“I’m not an artist.”
“I’m not creative.”
“I can’t draw, see colors, try, find time, find space, do this …………”
The words hardly matter. It’s almost always about the tone of cruelty. It’s an echo of bullying.

I always shut it down in class. It’s like watching someone dig a hole through their heart with a jagged knife. I tell them no one can talk to my students that way. Not even them about themselves.They’ll tell it to you in a cold and clinical way at 9:30 in the morning. At 3 PM they’re crying about it in the bathroom.

Oddly enough, it’s never anything provable or true. Or it’s true but utterly harmless. We are all, in our physicality, fat, or skinny, tall or short, and I think it’s impossible to be alive and not be funny looking at some point. What gives it weight is not it’s accuracy of the statement but the accuracy involved in having chosen that thing to say. No one could have told me I was dumb. It never worked. I knew better. But they told me daily I was the ugliest girl in the school. 

There wasn’t exactly a contest. It wasn’t like someone proved that.But with the unerring aim of all bullies, they knew that had a sting. Having the normal number of hands, feet, arms legs and heads, I do believe as an adult that I look pretty normal and that this was chosen and said simply for the impact they knew it would have. It was nothing but bullying.

So what happens if we choose different words? What happens if like the video, we choose to define ourselves differently?

I do follow religious seasons and this is the season of Lent. For those of us who do, you usually do what is called a Lenten discipline. This used to be regularly fasting. The current view is that you give up something like chocolate or tv.

But it does me more good to do something rather than to stop doing something. This year, I promised myself to remember my meds and do my face care every day. It sounds like vanity, but it’s not. There’s a little girl in me who has heard too many ugly words and needs to hear actions rather than words. We’re almost at the end of Lent and this time I’ve held on. A really good Lenten discipline is one you want to continue after Lent for the good it did you.

It’s my own anti bullying campaign. It’s my beautiful frogs. If they are beautiful, perhaps I am too. It’s the ability to listen to that dark inner voice and change the channel. It’s the ability to change my world with my words.

Musing: Art outside the Box: Un-entitling Entitlement.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

“Every life you lead does you good if you let it, every life you lead. Sometimes it’s hard to take your mind off your mind” 

I watched an upload on infertility today on Facebook. I will not link to that upload here. The woman’s pain was so raw, and so real. She’s in her twenties and just hit the fact that she cannot have a child. 

I don’t think she’d like to hear what I need to say about all of this.I remember her agony. My mother was given hormones during her pregnancy (You’re over 40. You’re not pregnant, this is menopause.) I was told fairly early that  there would be no children. As there was no one to have a child with, and I think that’s especially difficult, I simply had to wade it through and wait it out. At 42 I had the inevitable hysterectomy that confirmed it all. I would not make a child. I would never have my baby. Eventually I came to understand that I would never have family in the way others do.

There’s this  illusion that the world is fair. That we should all get a certain similar plate, decorated and filled with the same things in equal parts. Wouldn’t that be nice? Shouldn’t we arrange that? It’s almost monstrous to argue otherwise. 

But it’s simply not how it works. Life is massively unfair, much of the time. There are those without money, intelligence, education, opportunities, loves, lovers, connections, health and strength. We can legislate some of these factors to a more even place. But much of it is simply what we have. It’s the raw material of our lives.

I don’t think we get to change that raw material much. As cruel as it is, there are people who I think should not have a child. I’m one of them. My mother had an alcoholic approach to child rearing that I want to make very sure happens to no child around me. The best way to be sure of that is for me to not be the sole person, raising a child.
Could I have said that at 20? 25? 35 when the clock was ticking hard? I’m not sure I could. My body said it for me. And if we wish to discuss what is fair and unfair, did some child deserve me taking that chance?

Oddly enough, I have children. I just didn’t make them. I’ve gone through batches of neighborhood kids, god children, lost lambs, grown up 3 year olds in big bodies and 40 year old ten year olds. All I had to do was open my door. Because they came and went at will, there was a safety there for them and for myself. The things I feared I might do, did not happen. Instead, I got to love the children in front of me.

Life is not fair. It can be right, but it’s never fair. Fair is a measure of average. Who of us is ever that?

I go through whiny places about being alone. I’m not someone who does primary relationships well. By the time I was 40, it was pretty clear I’d never pair up or marry. Recently I shared one with a friend who told me to shut up and count my blessings. This is the answer only a real friend can give you.  My world is often very lonely but it is full of imagery, art, creation, space and time for the world of the mind and the imagination. It is not average. It has gifts for me. But the average world of what is fair, does not have space in it for the odd and lovely gifts my loneness hands me and then demands of me. For that is the other edge of it. The gifts life gives us all demand a commitment of time, strength and focus. You can’t just hold your child at the photo opportunity. You also need to do that at 3 in the morning when she’s crying and scared. You cannot love someone only when they’ve brought you roses. You need to find your love when they’re incomprehensible and terrifying
(and we all are). You aren’t just an artist at an opening. You’re an artist when it separates you from much of what others do. Life is not fair. It is rich, it is odd and it’s mostly our response to the very unaverage person we are.

I love the fairy tales where the fairy give us a cruel and unwanted gift or task that makes us braver, stronger and better. Like the two boys on Christmas,one given everything he wants and the other given a room of manure, it works out differently than we think. There’s a pony in there somewhere.

So, to that woman, I want to say, ” You can have children, just not in the way you hoped.” To myself  I need to say, “All your love is here, it’s just not in the form you wished.” It’s cruel to say ” Your art is your child.” It’s not true. Your art is your creation, but it is never a child who puts their arms around you or rejects you when they hit 17. They are very separate things. Both of them excellent. Perhaps if we can put aside the notion of what is fair, we can see the good in what simply is.

In Praise of Pockets!

Monday, January 10th, 2011
Ellen, Birdy and Ivy

“What has it got in it’s pocketses?”
Golum’s riddle to Bilbo the Hobbit

I’m from a story telling family. My mother was Irish. She had many shortfalls, but she could embroider a story until it glowed silver and gold. My father, being of English blood almost never spoke at all.But he read constantly. And when  I was a child they both read constantly to me.

One of my mother’s favorites was Katie No-Pocket.This child’s delight is about a kangaroo who has no pockets and a very tired out baby who she can’t always hold when she’s traveling. She discovers aprons in her travels and has so many pockets she carries all the other neighbor animals as well.

I think the stories we tell are cement that could fix the world. The stories we tell ourselves can change our fears and our expectations of ourselves and of the world. The stories we tell our children meld theirs. We should always tell stories, but I think we need to understand that they are powerful and wildly unexpected forces. Certainly they teach us how to turn our daily woes into wows.

I know there are somewhere, neat little girls who grow up to be neat adults. I never was one. I made mud pies. I still kind of do. So aprons are a huge part of my life. I don’t need an apron to cover my waist or my front. Preferably the 360 degree cover all is what’s required. I love aprons for that reason.

But best of all, THEY HAVE POCKETS!

I can lose almost anything. I lose things in front of me as a specialty. So anything I need all day goes into my pocket. My phone, my daily do list, my pen, dog cookies, a rotary cutter, a snack, a book, a flash drive, my camera,the TV remote. But it’s all there, somewhere. I have my scissors clipped on at my neck. If it’s on my body, it’s not lost.

Does that sound like a big pocket? Well, yes. And it does clank.

Here’s my favorite apron pattern. I make 6 of these every six months and have them hanging in my kitchen. When they get tattered, I take them to the kitchen and garden. I do make the pockets bigger ( imagine that!)

The only downside to this pattern is that it takes 6 yards of bias. I cut mine from a bias tube (in whatever yummy fabric I want) and put it on with a serger with fusible thread in the lower looper.

You’ll find several great kinds of fusible thread at The Cotton Club

You’ll find instructions for no-hand-stitch bias on a serger in my booklet, Machine Binding Techniques. 

You’ll find my favorite apron pattern here or at your local pattern store.  My Favorite Apron Pattern
You’ll find other apron patterns here.
Search for apron patterns for women

You’ll also find Katy No-Pocket (Sandpiper) at Read it for yourself or share it with your babes. It’s a story that changes worlds.

Get ready to get messy and not lose anything. How good is that? The book should fit in your pocket.

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