Coffee with Kathy

Homeplace II: Cattle Barn, Lancaster, Ohio 2010
This has been a very productive year for me. I have clocked in a record number of studio hours, and after finishing my Quilt National 2011 entry in August, I was just plain pooped. Time for drastic measures. I instituted a self-proclaimed sabbatical from quilting for the entire month of September and did a number of things to rejuvenate myself and keep my artistic mojo working. I went to the zoo, got addicted to The Clothes Mentor resale shop and bought a whole new fall wardrobe, visited some galleries and went bicycling and hiking. I also decided to visit one of my old friends from the days when I lived in a log cabin in Circleville, Ohio … Kathy. We practically raised each other’s kids. I used to knock on her door and she would put on a pot of coffee and we would spend the afternoon chatting.


Slate Run Historical Farm , Canal Winchester, Ohio



It was a beautiful day last Sunday, and I hadn’t seen Kath for years, so on a whim, I stopped by and sure enough she put on the coffee and we got caught up. It got me to thinking about the time in my life when we were neighbors, and how I got started quilting. Well, I missed out on the hippie movement, except as a spectator, my mom would have had a fit. But, the back to the land movement in the 70’s was just my style. I lived in a log cabin, gardened, canned, made homemade bread and noodles, even made sauerkraut, although I can’t stand the stuff. Just before the birth of my first child I taught myself to quilt with the help of one of the few quilting books that was around then, The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon. I still have the well loved and well worn, black and white book.


Alphabet Sampler Comforter, 1979

Not long after that I decided to join a quilt guild and worked up all my courage to attend a meeting without knowing a soul. The mean age of the group was probably somewhere around sixty, so I immediately gravitated to the two other twenty-something members and we became fast friends. About the same time I started volunteering at Slate Run Historical Farm and talked my two friends in joining too. The farm is a working farm frozen in the 1880’s time period, with volunteers wearing appropriate historical attire and interpreting history in first person. I was in seventh heaven. I got to wear long dresses and quilt all day long, using the treadle sewing machine to piece the tops.

Slate Run Historical Farm

Pretty soon we had a quilting revolution in full swing. We were making and hand quilting tops, including several friendship quilts, sewing a pretend wedding quilt and putting on a quilt show. We started having quilting bees, often after work, with both guys and girls in attendance. It was probably the first time in history that beer has ever been served at a quilting bee.

Little Red School House Baby Quilt 1979

There is one bee that is forever etched in my mind. My two friends and I were attempting to quilt on a frame in my dining room, but our kids were driving us crazy. Every few minutes some child was crying or whining or having a runny nose. Then, after a while we noticed that we were just getting a ton of work done with no interruptions. UH OH! When six kids under the age of five are quiet for any length of time, something is wrong. I walked around the corner to the living room and stopped breathing for a moment. My son and his cohorts had taken the fireplace shovel and scooped about an inch of ashes from the fireplace, that contained a live fire I might add, onto my coffee table and were running their matchbox cars on the roads they had made in the ashes. As a good mother, (really? you didn’t even notice they were playing with a live fire) I felt the need to provide a terse reprimand without laughing. However, as I looked at the children, it was hard to tell who was who, and I burst out laughing. Their faces were completely covered with ashes, except for white circles around their eyes. They looked like six little raccoons! I laughed until the tears streamed down my face, so I’m not sure if they ever knew they were in trouble. We were extremely lucky that no child was harmed in the making of that quilt, and that I still had a house to call home. What one does in the name of art!

Slate Run Historical Farm

It’s been a long time since those days. My baby is now 31 years old. I still have my children’s baby quilts, and although I have given up traditional quilting, I still remember my quilting roots and try to honor them. If you have a moment, pull out some of your first work and see just how far you have come. And, don’t forget to visit one of your friend’s this week, she might just fix you a cup of coffee and you can reminisce about the good ol’ days.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation – Part One

Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park, San Diego
It has been a mad house around here lately. A lot of commitments at work, preparation for a solo show, trying to keep up with the yard, etc., so I really needed a break. This year it was California here I come. If you are a woman of a certain age, perhaps you had a big crush on the Beach Boys as a teen, I sure did.
Torrey Pines State Park, La Jolla
Living in the middle of Ohio, about the closest we came to an ocean was Lake Erie, so California had a certain cache for all the kids in my neighborhood. We wore beach attire, listened to songs about woodies and little deuce coops and rode our skate boards on our flat as a pancake geography and imagined we knew what it was to ride the big one with Gidget and the Big Kahuna. I dreamed of being a “California Girl.” When I actually met a real person from California, I was in the ninth grade. She was frankly pretty square (as if I wasn’t?) but it didn’t matter, she was from that magical state and must have achieved Nirvana at the age of 14.

San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
Anyway, my son and his girlfriend moved to San Diego last fall so she could enter a doctorate program, and he hasn’t been able to wipe the smile off his face since. When I ask him on the phone how the weather is, he just giggles and tells me it’s 70 degrees and sunny…it’s always 70 degrees and sunny. I stayed for four days and was able to see a lot of interesting things. La Jolla was beautiful, I loved Torrey Pines State Park. We went hiking and the views of the Pacific Ocean were stunning, as well as the pines themselves, which are extremely rare and very photogenic. The hills were covered with succulents and apparently also sprinkled with two varieties of rattle snakes, which we luckily did not see… or hear.

Harbor Seals in La Jolla Cove
We also visited the San Diego Museum of Modern Art. They had one of Andy Goldworthy’s cairns on the lawn. If you don’t know who Andy is, you’ve got to check him out on google. He is the most amazing sculptor who uses only natural material like vines and rocks in the most spectacular ways. When I got home I reserved as many of his books as I could find, as well as a video documentary about him from the public library. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of his work in La Jolla.

San Diego Museum of Modern Art in La Jolla.
We also drove to a wine growing area called Temecula, about on hour north of San Diego and tasted wine all day. I had my fair share, but at least half of what I tasted was dumped in a jar designed for just such a purpose. We also visited the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. I had been dying to visit the Japanese Garden there and it was very peaceful and calming.
No trip would be complete without including textiles somehow. This time I visited the Quilt Visions Gallery not far from Dan Diego Bay, and was really impressed. The gallery is dedicated to art quilts only, and three artists were exhibiting, including Valerie Goodwin. I have seen photos of her work in SAQA bulletins and Quilting Arts magazine, but let me tell you, photos just do not show the amazing layering and detail of her work. The women that run the gallery are volunteers and like all the quilters I’ve met, were very friendly and informative. They let me know that anyone can join Quilt Visions and have the opportunity to apply to their shows. They also had a nice gift shop with hand dyes, books etc. I bought an art quilt pendant that I can’t wait to wear. I also got a hot tip on a fabric store called Rosie’s, but ran out of steam and money before I could get there. Next trip it will be at the top of my list. Anyway, I did a little California dreaming and came home rejuvenated and ready to get back in the studio and back to work.

There’s No Place Like Home

Wild Blue Yonder
I have written several posts on the influence of travel on my work. I seem to require the contrast between the exotic and mundane to add meaning to my life and art. However, another event has also informed my most recent work. Just a couple of years ago, I considered a move to Southwestern Virginia, a seriously special place. I thought it was just me, but that is what the local visitors bureau had actually chosen as a tag line for their promotion of the area. The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian culture created a magical lure. After much contemplation and soul searching however, I decided I could not leave Ohio.

Homeplace III: Farm at Rockmill – Lancaster, Ohi0

Relatives on both sides of my family have called Ohio home for many years, and on my Dad’s side of the family, as early as the 1800’s. They were a family of German immigrants arriving in America in the 1790’s and eventually migrating to Columbus, Ohio to set up their family business, shoe making. They lived in German Village and one of my female relatives was an elementary school prinicipal and another sang German opera in the Dammenchor. My maternal grandparents were both graduates of The Ohio State University in the 1920’s, my own collegiate alma mater.


Homeplace II: Cattle Barn, Lancaster, Ohio
As I was attempting to make my decision, all of these things were running through my mind. I never realized the extent to which I was anchored to this particular place in the world, but I was having a very difficult time when it came to the reality of leaving and not just the romantic contemplation of moving to a “special place.” Once the decision was made, a very odd thing happened. It was like the scales had fallen off of my eyes, and I truly saw the beauty and “specialness” of my chosen hometown, Lancaster and environs.

Homeplace: Winter – Carroll, Ohio
After completing my Toscana series, which explored the joy of a visit to Tuscany, I was searching for a subject for my next body of work. Then I thought, why not express the same joy I experience everyday in my “own backyard?” After all, this is the other half of me. As much as I love to travel, I always find my way back home. I decided this would be the focus of this year’s work. So far, I have completed four quilts and am still working, with a self-imposed deadline of completion set for July. Yes, I’m dreaming of my next adventure, but most days I get out of bed, slip on my ruby slippers and repeat, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”…. “there’s no place like home.”