Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

the muse is keeping me awake…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

handwoven cotton vest

Anyone who makes art knows how exasperating the muse can be. There are times when she has entirely left the brain, the building and the planet and try as we might we cannot ‘rouse her, no matter how disciplined or urgent the need may be. Then there are times when she is simply there, waiting but we don’t have the time. I have learned the hard way to never let this happen. When she is present, she must be noticed, she must be paid attention to and she must be fed. I can play digital mahjong when she is fallow.

And then there are the times when she is so present, she is dancing on the table, singing off key, shouting obscenities, anything to get my attention. Here I am. Pay attention to me dammit! And do it now, this instant, even if it is 3 am in the morning. 

For me that time is now. For the past three nights I have designed many pieces of work, in my mind’s eye while lying in bed between 3 and 6 am.

I am currently finishing the design of #17 of 25 of the current series; while no. 18, 19 and 20 are pacing outside the window. That is what it feels like, as I try to sleep but all I can do is consider construction, how will I execute that idea, should I try to hand stitch all those leaves, would it work if I tried to pillowcase them or would that be an exercise in futility? How big should I make that tree, what about the background? Do I have enough in my stash or should I buy more? What color way do I want to work in? How many leaves should I make? And the most anxiety producing question of all is when I finish the piece can I actually toss out the remaining handwoven remnants?

handwoven cotton-linen bag

This next piece is about my journey through hand-dyeing, hand-spinning and hand-weaving. It began when I was in my late 20’s and concluded at 50. In thirty years I wove all kinds of yardage and made garments, bags and scarves. I sold some, I gave a lot away and I sewed and wore some. Several¬†years ago, after I outgrew most of it¬†I gathered up a big pile¬†and shoved into a drawer in my studio, the famous someday drawer. Someday I will do something with this; until two years ago¬†I realized someday is here and I need to do something with it or get rid of it. So no. 18 is that something! I am excited at the prospect of the design I wish to create and yet still clearly in discussion with muse about how to actually achieve it, to communicate the idea without destroying the woven and knit cloth.

handwoven silk shirt

Ironically I am also experiencing the call of the spring cleaning genie which I am ignoring as best as I can. I don’t want to get sidetracked into tidying when I can actually be designing. And¬†I did the really big purge a year ago so how much can there be to sort through anyway? ¬†When no. 18 is complete I can depart with whatever remains of the handwoven cloth!

The essential ingredient in being able to let go of old and prized textiles, such as my wedding dress and now my handwoven is in creating something new and beautiful from them; essentially giving them new life. I need not drag around the remnants of old life for the rest of mine. It is quite liberating this art making!




it’s the little things…

Monday, December 19th, 2016

the image I wanted to stitch to cloth…just married (1971)

One of the things I most enjoy about this series work is I am continually challenged by how to convey my message or tell the story. The piece I have been working on (#16) these past weeks is about our marriage. A couple months ago I began the prep work by dismantling my wedding dress, which my mother had sewn from heavy cotton pique, lined with cotton flannel. This dress was so well constructed & sturdy, I could have gotten married in the Arctic in January, instead off spring in the Bay Area. After I took the dress apart, I made Thermofax screens of our vows from a fill-in-the-blank book gifted by the preacher.

I printed not only the dress fabric but some of the flannel as well. Additionally, I had retained one bridesmaid dress which was also made by my mother. The wedding theme was based on my Russian heritage. The bridesmaids and I wore headscarves and their dresses were of a flimsy, but lined, cotton voile in a red/white/blue paisley print.

the headscarf upon which I wanted the image

The dresses were ‘granny’ style with a wide ruffle at the bottom. Initially I thought to incorporate the ruffle into the new piece but nothing about that spoke to me. I decided instead to fuse different size squares onto the now pieced wedding dress background. That gave¬†the entire piece a bit of a whimsical feel which certainly was not my intention, but worked!

I hand-stitched a piece of the dress lace vertically to the piece. Then I basted my great grandmother’s hand crocheted lace headscarf to the base and hand-stitched that down. Only in doing so did I find a few areas of disintegration that previously were invisible to the¬†eye.

My idea was to then layer and hand-stitch my headscarf on top; but something was missing. It didn’t¬†quite feel right as the¬†headscarf was a large triangle bound in trim and¬†essentially blank¬†in the middle. So I decided to hand-stitch¬†the image of hubs and I walking down the aisle onto the headscarf before I stitched it to the base.

the reverse showing the image printed to silk organza

That became my challenge. I didn’t want to trace it and potentially ruin the one and only priceless heirloom. I thought of several options but none seemed right, so I asked an¬†artist friend and a mentor for their opinions. And voila, from that came the solution. I printed the image onto silk organza which I pinned onto the back of the headscarf heirloom. Then I gingerly placed it into a hoop and stitched the image through to the headscarf. Only after I lost the light when the sun went down did I realize I could perfectly see the image from the reverse side, so I flipped it over and stitched from the reverse, remembering to knot accordingly. Ah success.

the finished stitching of the image onto the headscarf

In today’s morning light I cut away the printed organza on the back side and voila! I have exactly what I wanted.

It’s the little things that bring so much joy!¬†Onward to the next layer…


2nd layer showing part of GGM’s headscarf and bridesmaid fabric on top of screen printed dress…stay tuned!


out and about…

Saturday, July 30th, 2016
detail of stitching on  canvas

detail of stitching on canvas

Another month has zipped by…do we see a pattern here? I continue on my series which I am so loving. I worry a bit about what I will do when I finish it next year but then I chase that thought away. I will deal with that when I get there. In the meantime I am having such a great time.

I am currently doing some handwork on #12 which was an afterthought piece. And I have gathered the memorabilia and collectibles to begin #15 which is about meeting Mr. Right. I have some great things to work with including his Eagle Scout sash and uniform, which is another sacred garment to dismantle!

Last week I took a four day jaunt up to Portland to see good friends¬†and to take an art class at OCAC. Synchronistically both Franki¬†and I have been craving some hand-stitching so Radical Embroidery seemed to be just the ticket. It was a great class taught by Victoria May, and chock full of inspiration from the work of other hand-stitchers and our classmates. By the fourth day my stitching became very radical and I was enamored with stitching again. While I plan to complete my class samples eventually, I went straight to work on #12 when I got home. Details to follow…

Napa county salt pond,...looks like a Diekenborn

Napa county salt pond

In the meantime my work was selected for a future issue of Art Quilting Studio magazine so I need to prepare the text for that. And also had work chosen for the Boundaries exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. I went to the opening reception last night and was very intrigued by a photography exhibit on sexual abuse in one of the smaller¬†galleries within the center. It was crowded and I could not get close enough to read the statements, so when I went back today to give my spiel for the docents’ talk I went through the photography exhibit.

I was so moved. Here is another woman, another artist, speaking her truth, telling her-story which is by no means pretty. This was my first experience since going public with my own story, to read and observe another’s. Stephanie Hamilton-Oravetz¬†was there so I spoke to her and told her how meaningful her work was. Actually the photography was done by another, but she was the model, acting out her childhood¬†emotions for the sexual abuse she suffered. It was such profound & moving work. She and I agreed that so much healing came to us from telling our stories. And it reminded me again how every single one of us has a story. Yet¬†very few have the courage to speak it. To do so is extremely liberating. So I keep on…telling stories while I¬†observe my own¬†transformation¬†from visual artist to storyteller. It may just be what I’ve needed to be doing all along.

11, 12 and new…

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

I recall my grandmother at about my current age telling my 20 yr old self that time passes more quickly the older one gets. At the time I just thought, well, she’s old. Now I get it and I see it everywhere, like on laundry day. Is it really 12 days since I last did laundry? On the Wii Fit, what? 5 days since I last used it? Or today, as the second month of the New Year draws¬†to a close and I haven’t blogged for a month?

What I have been doing this past month is working on the collaborative series, doing Arts Guild board biz/lead communicator for our big fundraiser, and searching for a new rescue pup.

Defining Moments #11 in process

Defining Moments #11 in process

I am now stitching #11 which I hope will be the last piece I ever do about my surgeries. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to make a profound yet simple statement and I am thrilled to say that has been accomplished. What also feels like closure to the tale is the backing fabric is from the early Tall Girl Series art cloth I designed. I plan to use more fabrics from that series for the facings and sleeve as well. As number 12 is percolating in my brain I am thinking a lot about hand-writing the stories to cloth rather than printing them. With a total of 25 to do, coming up almost to the halfway point is very gratifying!

In the meantime my exemplary skills as a volunteer were heralded in the latest issue of the SAQA Journal. And I have been worker bee extraordinaire for the annual Arts Guild off Sonoma REPO show. This is a very quirky show comprised of donated artwork made of minimally 70% recycled materials. Over seventy artists are donating work. The show is up March 5-26 . Check the website for details.

Keeping Up Appearances #11, vintage cotton tablecloth

Keeping Up Appearances #11, vintage cotton tablecloth

I am submitting two pieces of the Keeping Up Appearances series; #11 and #12 to REPO. ¬†KUA #11¬†is a dye-painted screen-printed vintage 50’s cotton tablecloth. When viewed close-up the stencil printing of that era is apparent through the surface design. In addition KUA #12 was also dye-painted and screen-printed with etiquette text on mid-century pink and red monogrammed linen dinner napkins.

Finally, ever since we lost our old dog Millie last summer I have been perusing rescue sites. We rescued/then ¬†surrendered a jack russell mix last fall. It was heartbreaking and I was pretty sure then I was finished with rescuing dogs. As defiant I was in my resolve I continued to search and last weekend cast a wider net finding exactly what I was looking for…a terrier mix that was neither pittie nor chihuahua. So this week we went to Monterey and adopted this wire haired sweet girl we have named Mopsy.



And so we begin anew…she is already in training to be my ever faithful studio companion!

on proportion…

Friday, December 18th, 2015
church pew

church pew

The muse is in residence these days while the brain is trying to interfere with ‘maybe now would be a good time to clean out the basement’ or ‘ let’s start the final purge in the living room today.’

The first is illogical and the second impractical. Who wants to spend time in a basement in December? And since I already purged the entire house, I have more than enough tax deductible donations for this year anyway.

One should never ever ignore the muse when she is thriving! So now ‘we’¬†are designing number ten. That in of itself is exciting, meaning I am nearly to the half-way point in the series. I continue to love and be inspired by this meaningful narrative work.

While I was gifted with an innate sense of color I was behind the door when perspective was handed out. Well that is not entirely true. I have keen perspective on human interaction and social behavior, but am ‘blind’ when it comes to seeing proportion and perspective when I design my work. I have taken numerous classes in perspective, which have taught me at least where to start but it is as if that part of my brain is asleep. So that is where my in-house critic comes in handy!

It has not always been this way. I have been designing textile art¬†for over a decade now and initially ¬†resented the in-house critic’s comments about proportion and perspective. Eventually or as my mother used to say…too soon old, too late smart I figured out it is not criticism as the word critique might imply but rather an enormous aid to a skill I simply don’t possess.

Since I don’t see perspective it’s a challenge to draw a cartoon for¬†my¬†work. So I googled church pews to get a picture from which to start. Even so my first construction of the pews did not look like rows of seats but rather lines on fabric. In stepped my helper and mentioned the pews go all the way to the floor (duh!), so after a bit of repositioning, voila! church pews. He also helped me with the building. And I plan to engage his point of view later today with another aspect.¬†We make such a good team but then¬†I already knew that!

country club

country club


life stories…

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
Medical Research from the TallGirl Series: A Body of Work

Medical Research from the TallGirl Series: A Body of Work

It has been nearly a month since I posted. I used to be so good at this! Well I do have my list of excuses‚Ķ As a wizen woman once told me, what good are excuses if we don’t use them?¬†

I continue to work on and enjoy the process of the collaborative series. I am now stitching #9 while simultaneously drafting the design for #10.

Number eleven will likely be the surgery piece of which I am still uncertain. A therapist long ago told me I might never get over the drastic changes made to my body. This subject has literally defined my life so it absolutely needs a place in this series; yet what to say that I have not already said?

Appropriately enough I have, for the past year had major inflammation & debilitation issues with one of my knees which was replaced four years ago. All tests have proven the prosthesis is stable but there is definitely something amiss. Some say more surgery, others say no more surgery!

This reminds me once again just how unique my medical history is and how I continue to be a medical oddity. And yet I push through, a day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. I do admit though to being envious of those who move with ease in the world without so much as a thought. Sometimes I just watch people walk, in complete awe of how effortless it seems. Yet everything is relative, as I feel cheated by those who can walk, run and sprint; there are those who have felt cheated to have been cut down in their prime.

Last week another such wonderful person, a strong and courageous friend of over six decades, died. Chris and I met in utero as our parents were university neighbors and life-long friends. Although we lived in different states, our families gathered together almost yearly. Chris and I really connected in our adolescence and stayed in touch throughout high school, college, marriages, divorce, kids, careers, retirements and cancer. Whenever I feel the least bit of sorrow for my broken body I am also aware of just how blessed I am to be otherwise healthy. I am a little slower but still putting out the art and increasingly grateful for the opportunity to do so.

on reinvention…

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015


We have arrived at the reinvention time of year. That time of year when optimistic folks think they need to change the very behavior that makes them human. And being such they lapse back to their comfort zone generally within the first month.

I have not set New Year’s resolutions about as far back as I can remember. It is part of my herd-free¬†mentality. I never want to be doing what everyone else is doing at the same time.

This is the primary reason I have not allowed my hairdresser to color my hair lavender or aqua or green. I will wait ten years until no one is doing it and then if so motivated will go for it. After all, I was the first white woman in suburbia with an afro back in the ’70s. As soon as the grannies got into the ‘fro act I was¬†done. For me it¬†is the same with self-improvement resolutions. I continue to be a work in progress year-round.

For the past several years I have been setting art goals for the year ahead, however. Often they have been quite optimistic yet when revisited have often come to fruition. And yet in December I was unable to find the motivation to set goals for the 2015 year.

And then it hits me. I have not written my art goals for 2015 because I am still thick in the middle of my art goals for 2014. So the primary goal is to continue on, to continue the work that is hammering me physically and psychologically. The work I have chosen to do, the work that further examines how my upbringing shaped my world view. And how I have lost balance, have no leg to stand on, have been rendered paralyzed numerous times in the past six months which has in turn kept me from my work, from my studio, from the progress I need to make to achieve this goal.

I am reminded of a therapist nearly 30 years ago when after months of talking about all the obvious said, are you now ready to deal with your childhood? I said no, I am not. I felt then it would be a gigantic can of worms that I was just not ready to look at. How wise I was then to recognize the can of worms. For now I am in the can, wiggling about, and it is still not very comfortable, let alone without the wisdom of another to guide me. And yet I feel I have only scratched the surface.

My current¬†art goal is to continue to wade through the grief, to unravel the pain, to remember, to forgive, to have compassion, to make the work. And to create yet another body of work that impacts others to look at their own stories. I guess that is what they call ‘pay it forward’‚Ķit informs my life, both as¬†teacher‚Ķand¬†student.



unexpected nirvana…

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
the view from our room

the view from our room

I just returned from a fabulous five-day art retreat on the shores of Lake Tahoe. What could have been a disastrous turn of events actually turned into nirvana for me. The classroom I was assigned to was midway up on billy goat mountain. I traversed it slowly with cane and friend in tow four times on the first day and that night my knee cried “uncle!”

In the night I decided that the best plan was to have my sewing supply bag and workshop machine brought down from on high to our large room. There I set up shop & laid out designs on the spare bed. Sewing primarily by hand, I worked propped up on the bed with pillows and ice, with lovely Lake Tahoe out the window and Pandora cranking out the tunes on my iPad. It literally was divine! What I actually needed on this retreat, without realizing it until then, was long periods of solitude, to rest my brain and body.

The teacher Lorie McGown, texted me during the days and asked permission to come to studio solitude to check out my work progress. That too was great as I got to know her, had private instruction and got her good feedback on my work. A kindred spirit indeed!

My intention for the retreat was to get going¬†on¬†another piece in the 25 pc collaborative series I have been working on this year. ¬†This piece is about my handcraft heritage and I planned to incorporate hand-crocheted doilies, hand-knitting, my great grandmother’s hand-crocheted head scarf, my father’s christening gown, etc.

What I hadn’t been able to figure out was how to make it pop as¬†the french vanilla beige was boring to me. Lorie encouraged me to layer and incorporate pieces of my own work into it and from there it just took off.

father's christening gown on handwoven cloth

father’s christening gown on handwoven cloth

For example, this piece¬†still in progress of my father’s christening gown is sewn to my handwoven silk scarf and my great aunt’s handwoven shawl. Another piece incorporated a lovely quilted belt my mother had made for herself in the ’90’s. She was a world-class hand piecer and quilter.

layers of doilies and Mom's hand-pieced quilting

layers of doilies and Mom’s hand-pieced quilting

Now I am back and rediscovering the challenges of not being able to hand-stitch 8 hours a day!

when enough is enough…

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

curved.pathWhen I am not making art, traveling, exercising, doing chores, sleeping or eating I am usually reading the few magazines that I receive which tend to stack up. I am not much of a reader, never have been, as my mind races. I acquire¬†most of my information off the internet or in snippets of articles in magazines, including art publications. And that is where today’s epiphany happened.

I have spent considerable time, effort and funds marketing my work over the years and I feel good about the results. And yet, as artists we are continually reminded how much more marketing we should be doing, how much more social media we should be engrossed in, how much the market is changing, different markets to appeal to, etc, etc, etc.

Simultaneously there are the consciousness messages about being fully present, taking no more than we need, giving back, healing ourselves, healing others, healing the planet etc, etc, etc.

When I read the latest marketing tips I often cringe because I feel I am doing enough already. Sure I could more, but how much more and for how long? I am not 30 anymore. I do not want to work 80 hr weeks promoting my art.  In spite of my work ethic I strive for more present moments.

For me, being fully present could be acceptance that I am doing enough to market my work. To engage in more social media, more time in front of the big screen is the exact opposite of de-cluttering my internal life. It really is the same old message about not being good enough but in a different dress. I am doing enough.


everyone has something…

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

On Sunday hubs and I drove to San Jose for the opening reception of “Forming Our Lives”, a 3-woman exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. My contribution to this show is five pieces from my Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work¬†which¬†best conveyed the gist of my¬†story.medical-research-D

A while ago I felt I was through showing this work. It had served its purpose in allowing me to grieve my lost body parts, the barbarism and the ongoing effects on my mobility and stamina. For me, the story simply became it is what it is, something I live with daily but rarely talk about anymore. The healing aspect of this work is complete for me. And yet opportunities continue to present themselves to showcase my story. This left me torn between trotting out old news vs. making an impact through storytelling. Now I realize the former has led to the latter.

Every one of us has a story¬†which is¬†what the Tall Girl Series continues to remind me. By outing my story I am encouraging others ‘permission’ to tell theirs.

At¬†Sunday’s reception two of those seeking permission appeared. The first was a lovely woman who asked me several questions about why I decided to tell this story and also mentioning my courage in doing so. Through¬†telling my¬†story I’ve learned that¬†those who mention my¬†courage also have it themselves. The courageous recognize it in others! When I told her that I continue to show this work to encourage others to tell their own story, her eyes welled up. And I knew in that very moment I had given her permission to¬†tell hers.

Then there was a petite Asian man who read the statements,¬†examined the work,¬†walked over and said‚Ķ”people always ask me where I am from?” ¬†And there it was again‚Ķa seeker. Some one who got it! Everyone does have something, everyone has a story. And yet so few allow themselves to feel it, to experience it, to well up over it.

The Tall Girl Series…the gift that keeps on giving!