I met Pat Jones at the Mountain Laurel Guild in Georgia. The whole guild was full of wild gardeners and astonishing fiber artists. Pat fits right in. She lives in a cabin up the mountain where birds sing to her right off her porch, looking down the gorge. It’s another world.
Pat tells me I gave her permission in my first book to try things. And she has. She’s this quiet and very proper southern gal doing wonderfully wild things with her thread and fabric.
She took my flower class, and being a master gardener herself, she build one incredible flower garden.
Here’s what she had to say about it.
“First, THANK YOU for your visit with us in June. We were ALL blown away by your work! What inspiration! As a result, I had to put all the work I was in the middle of aside and try your techniques. This is my first attempt, and I plan to do MANY more! I have a long way to go….got to learn to be FREE! What a joy you are and your work is gorgeous, on top of that, your teaching is so excellent that it makes us feel confident that we can try it.
The pink flowers in the wall hanging were stitched onto a felt background then stitched on the background fabric sandwich. That made them raised a little and I really like the effect. The center of the flowers is all thread stitched onto Ultra Solvy then applied. The butterfly is, of course, Angelina. The wisteria is made of tubes of hand painted organza and silk.
This past Tuesday was guild and it made a splash with the girls!!!”
There’s no way to know where she’ll go next with her work, but she’s unstoppable. I can’t wait to see.
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
As always, it’s my job to care for the social well being of all people who come to the studio. I think they lack proper dogs who kiss them enough. I always help with that.
But I also get to see the miracles that happen when you have a creative space. A creative space doesn’t just make objects. It makes people creative. And bless them, we know they need help.
Several years ago, a lady left a sewing machine for my mom. It was an awfully old Pfaff, before the walking foot mechanism. She said at the time, she’d find it a home. It’s home seemed to be under the counter.
Then her neighbor Liam, who is 11 told her he wanted a sewing machine. Liam is a great neighbor. He comes over, tells great stories, rubs dog tummies, watches Mom sew and has helped make a great new garden bed for Mom. He even helps her find camera and glasses.
There’s a readiness to learning to sew, just like there is for reading. When a kid wants to, that’s the time. Thank God we had that machine ready and waiting. It’s perfect. It’s all metal, tough, strong and solid. And Liam loves to oil and maintain it. To make him feel better I stuck my nose right up his back while he was stitching. You know, I think he needs that kind of support. But it was good his foot was off the pedal.
But that’s what a good studio does. There’s a lady who needed a place to give her machine to. There’s a little boy sewing his heart out. There’s Mom with great and lovely people around her. A studio is a place to create things. But it also creates happy people.
Can you come to our studio? Well, of course. Call Mom first so she knows or you may find her upside down in a dye sink. If you wish to see a clean studio you can make an appointment for 3 years from now. If you to come play, well just come over.
I’m always astonished by media that changes who we are. I’ve always maintained that we are artists simply by our human birthright. It is simply part of a human soul to sing, dance, draw, write, tell stories, and share the state and circumstances of your life. If you are a person who lives by and with your art, you hope that is resonates with others. When it does, it is transformative.
I was nine when “To Kill a Mocking Bird” came out. I know I didn’t see it as a small child. I grew up later with it. And this incredible scene has always been my favorite part. Where Atticus, who has just made himself a poster boy for every ugly name a white person in a small town could own, gets ready to walk out after an epic fail and everyone he has fought for knows what he did, and honors it. It’s become, in the way of good art, a symbol for me of the cause you have to fight, win or lose. It still leaves me in tears, but tears of pride.
Good art makes symbols for us. It takes us past ourselves. It reminds us of our similar humanity. It can take sides, but it’s real side is someone’s honest face in full light. It’s the illumination of someone’s truth.
Last night I stood in church at the Easter Vigil. It too, shines the light on truth. It’s done, wisely enough, at the change of the year when the cold and bitter time transforms itself into warm breezes and green new growth.
So my prayer and my hope for us all is to find a spot in the sun and grow with the new life, and to find a way to reflect that truth in the art that simply springs out of who we are.
There are times I’m convinced I’m simply living wrong.
For the second time in less than a year I’m having the discussion with a church choir over singing in unison. I left the first church on account of that. If my owl looks a bit peeved, you’ve got the point.
It sounds so simple. Let’s just all sing the melody! The congregation will follow you better. It will sound more strong. It will be more simple.
Unfortunately, it is simple. It doesn’t take into account just what it sounds like if you can’t sing the melody.There are people who can’t sing in a key outside their voice without singing in the key of off. So what it really is, is a way of telling people who are different to be silent. I hate to be told to be silent.
It used to enrage me. Now it makes me breathtakingly sad.
So much of life is about finding a way to bridge our differences. For some the gap is wider than others. I do believe it’s counterproductive to see ourselves as terminally unique. The word special has had connotations that make my teeth hurt. Sometimes ordinary is an amazing accomplishment. And what is worse is that once you get around to that kind of thinking, nothing about yourself is ordinary enough to pass. It’s a counterpart to the melody. It’s the artist’s theme song, sung Allie McBeal style in your head.
For those of us without homelife, we sing the counterpoint of independance, interdependance and constructive work to the constrains of people who have people who need them.
For those of us without children, we sing the aunt or uncle’s lullaby. Odd but endearing, a counterpoint to the parent’s world.
For those of us who write, dance, draw, sculpt, sew and struggle, we sing the counterpart of creation past the security of a regular job.
It would be so simple to sing the melody. But simple isn’t always possible. It’s completely out of my reach. So the counterpart is what I have to offer. I try to tune it to the mass of music around it. My hope is that it’s place and purpose is to enrich the melody I cannot really sing. And to believe it all to be a single whole sound.
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 Amazon.com. 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.
After years of drawing bugs and frogs it has occurred to me that I’m a bit odd. All artists are, mostly. The ones who look normal pass well. I’m not that good an actress.
I was at church for Christmas day. The choir at this church takes off for Christmas. I could have sat in the choir pews, but I ended up in the general congregation.
I’m not an alto as a show off. It’s simply where my range is. I can’t sing the high notes reliably. It happens occasionally, but like Tuesday, anything could happen. So I was singing the alto line, against the bulk of the congregation on the melody.
It’s different within the choir. You expect to hear the part above and below you. The blend is planned and it’s where you belong. This was much more separate, and more isolating.
At the end of the service it occurred to me that much of my life is that way: a counterpoint to melodies I can not reach. My plans for the holiday collapsed and I ended up more alone than was comfortable.
I was speaking afterwards to the choir director who said, “You know, you’ll never be the donut. You’re the sprinkles on the donut. And that’s why we want the donut anyway.
Now the nicest thing about the sprinkles on the donut is that they come in a range of color. They’re practically an edible color chart.
I don’t get to eat donuts either, but I’ve learned to appreciate allergy foods as a visual experience. And I’m an edible color chart! There are worse fates and worse goals.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
When I was teaching in Tampa, at Keep Me in Stitches, I had the pleasure of talking with an old student.
I’ve been teaching now for almost 30 years, so it’s not uncommon to find people who’d had class with me teaching, writing, creating amazing art and winning awards. Students in the quilt world are not like students in other places. They’re often experts in their own right. They’re there in class to pick your brain, but they’ve already got amazing skills. So it’s not like that student owes you very much. They’re another traveler, perhaps out ahead, perhaps a step or two behind. But you’ve showed them a cool trick or two and they may well have showed you as well. It’s more like meeting a pilgrim on a similar path.
I used to give everyone three scraps of fabric:A red badge of Courage, a green lunatic fringe and a purple heart, because if you’re doing brave things, of course they’re shooting at you. At some point, in the four thousand things that have to get done before class, I stopped.
I also always used to wear a badge. At one point someone gave me the most wonderful bug pin. I put it on my badge and it was part of it. At another point, I lost it. No one seemed to miss it. My old student asked me if I was still giving badges. I think I had him in class 15 years ago. It still mattered to him.
Every so often, someone would stop me and tell me they lost their badge. I gave them explicit permission to make another for yourself or for someone else.
Perhaps the badges need to come back. Am I as brave as I need to be? Are my students? Are any of us?
A sacrament is an outside sign of an inward grace. A symbol can be one too. An ordinary person can stand behind a curtain, make a great deal of noise and convince people to be brave and have heart simply by giving them one. But if works???????????????
Should I start making badges again? Do we need the lunatic fringe rampant? Would you stand in the lunatic fringe?
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing against a white stone….
Such, such a yellow Is carried lightly ’way up high. It went away I’m sure because it wished to kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I’ve lived in here Penned up inside this ghetto. But I have found what I love here. The dandelions call to me And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly. That butterfly was the last one. Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto.
Written by Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942
I don’t remember the first time. I heard about the butterfly effect. Was it Jurrasic Park? The movie of that name was not a favorite. But the concept made complete sense to me. The smallest things effect everything. The flick of a butterfly’s wing in my garden effects the weather in China.
Is it true? I’m not a scientist. I don’t know. But I do know that much of my life is made up of tiny interludes with people as I travel. Moments, really. I don’t get years with people except for a few rare and dear friends. Those are also celebrated in moments. So, true or not, I believe in butterflies.
Trudi Sissons from Two Dresses Studio has joined with the Holocaust Museum in Huston to help bring to flight an amazing exhibit. There were 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.
Think about it. I really quite can’t. I have no idea what 1.5 million looks like as a number. So they are collecting 1.5 million butterflies from artists, one for each child, to exhibit there. What did we lose with those children?1.5 million symphonies, lullabies, amazing stories, astonishing art…………
We can never know. We are in a way, as much a victim to the hate that killed them as they. Our world cannot afford hate. Each child is a treasure house, and hate is a vicious thief. If each child were a butterfly and the wings of their life change the world, what have we lost?
So I’ve made my butterfly to be sent off. To remember what was lost and to hope we can learn the evil math behind hate. And my job today is to take someone I truly fear and hate and find why I’m wrong. Hard as it is, I think it better than Christmas shopping. And after all, it’s what I really want for Christmas, both to give and receive.