Every Picture Tells a Story Don’t It?

Once upon a time there was a vivacious young girl who dreamed of growing up to be an artist, a textile designer to be exact. Determined, she had the great fortune to obtain employment at a large department store in the city center with plans to obtain a firm foundation in her future career. What was less fortunate was the time and place into which this young Jewish girl was born: Berlin at the precise time the winds of war were gathering over Germany and the evil specter of National Socialism and Adolf Hitler were in ascendance.

Sonnenblume: sunflower quilt

Sonnenblume 10″ x 10,” 2016

Not unlike Oskar Schindler, the owner of the store made up his mind to help some of his young employees escape Germany. With limited resources and so many in need of his help, he devised a plan to assist him with the daunting and nearly impossible task of deciding who would go and who would stay. He announced a design contest. Winners would secure a place on the Kindertranport, a rescue effort that gave refuge to thousands of Jewish children in Great Britain between 1938 and 1940.

Luckily, the girl’s design was one of those chosen and she was smuggled out of the country to live with her new “adoptive” family in the green Valleys of Wales. What became of her parents and the rest of her family is not my story to tell, however, the girl lived on in Great Britain, eventually marrying a British Army Officer who later became Headmaster of a boy’s school. Her dream of becoming an artist was never fulfilled but she became the mother of two lovely children, a boy and a girl.

Her son married my best friend Anne 40 years ago. The “girl” is now 91 years old, but I only learned the basics of this tale a few years ago. The rest of the story was revealed to me just a few weeks ago when I posted an image of one of my latest pieces on Facebook, an art quilt featuring sunflowers. The very next next morning I received an email from Anton inquiring about the availability of the piece which I had just dropped off at a museum rendering it unavailable. His inquiry was shortly followed by an email from Anne informing me that he wanted the piece for his mother. Her winning design, the one created all those years ago, the design that literally saved her life featured sunflowers, Sonnenblume. So this little piece was designed and made just for her and is on it’s way across the ocean to find a new home with woman who has been an artist in her heart for all these many years.

Thelma and Louise

As I prepare for another art adventure this week, I have been thinking about all of the travel adventures I have had with my best friend Anne. She has played Thelma to my Louise over the past 40 years, all without picking up any deadbeats, killing anyone, or managing to drive our car over a cliff. But what to do when Thelma lives 3,000 miles away? Anne was our foreign exchange student in high school and she lives in Wales. Although we have traveled all over the world together, she is not always available. So rather than stay at home, I have discovered the charm of solo travel.

“I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on my bucket list.”
– Susan Sontag

I think I have already mentioned how shocked a young waitress was recently when she learned I was dining alone. Her eyes became the size of saucers when she learned I was heading out on a hike afterwards, “Really?” she exclaimed, “I didn’t know you could do that, I will have to try it.” I was afraid if I told her I also went to the movies alone and traveled solo she might drop my dinner on the floor and I was pretty hungry, so I kept that information to myself.

Many of my female friends also think I’m just plain nuts to travel alone. They always want to know if I am afraid. What they don’t know is there is little to fear except the fear of the unknown, which really is the point of travel to begin with. It is a fallacy to think that bad things happen when you are away from home, most auto accidents occur within one mile of your home, air travel is safer than driving your car and someone can break into your home just as easy as a cabin, hogan, or hotel room. Heck, I never could get the door to lock at the last National Park residence where I lived for two weeks this summer and no one was really concerned, “Hardly anyone comes down here after closing except the rancher that lives down the road.” That was good enough for me, I grew up on a farm where we never locked our doors either until one of the neighbors reported a peeping Tom looking in her window and my Mom put her foot down. See what I mean about s*** being more likely to happen at home?

A little shot of adrenaline now and then wakes you up, helps you to notice your surroundings and makes you feel alive. Luckily, common sense runs deep in our family, so I do make an effort to avoid deliberately putting myself in harm’s way. In order to avoid plowing into a random buffalo or Black Angus, I avoided driving on the prairie after dark. I also endured severe cravings for a good steak dinner while in Nebraska a few weeks ago, a state with more cattle than people, after I figured out that the only place to get one was in a beer joint with about 50 pick up trucks parked outside. Something about the proposition of being the only female in such a fine dining establishment puts a real crimp in my appetite, and remember that door that wouldn’t lock? I draw the adventure line at anything but a stray bit of livestock following me home.

I will be off on my next National Park adventure at the end of this week. Stay tuned here to learn what happens next, and stay safe out there!

Adventures of a Textile Artist Abroad

Caricature of a Textile Artist at a Wedding
No, I haven’t been abducted by space aliens or been lost at sea, but I have been too darn busy to write for quite some time. I spent much of the winter quilting and preparing for several solo exhibitions scheduled this year, getting ready for my son’s upcoming nuptials, settling in to a new position at work, and best of all, travelling. I just returned from a trip to Great Britain last month where I was the Matron (I hate that word, sounds so old) of Honor at my best friend’s wedding. More about that later. I have noticed that being a textile artist is somewhat like being a pregnant woman who notices babies everywhere she goes. Babies are cute, but wherever I go, I notice textiles. This trip started off with the purchase of some pretty high end textiles in the form of a custom order dress and hand dyed shoes.
The Road Less Travelled
I spent a month last October looking for the perfect dress to wear to Anne’s wedding, who by the way re-married her ex-husband after twenty some years of being divorced. After much trying on of elaborate textile confections, I settled on a design selected from a photo on the Internet. It was so new that samples were not available to try on when I visited the bridal stores. So, with blind faith, it was paid for and I settled in to wait out the four months required for it’s creation. I arrived at the store with baited breath for the fitting, and found the dress wrinkled and covered with loose thread ends that I meticulously clipped off. Considering the cost of the dress, surely the owners could have afforded to do this themselves. Other than that I was pleased. It was made of lace and silk in shades of cappuccino and mocha, quite pretty and just the ticket for this special event. The wedding was in Wales, so I had it pressed at a charming little bridal shop made of stone and slate in the tiny village of Cowbridge; it looked lovely. Meanwhile, the run up to the wedding day was filled with pampering and preparation. Chauffers drove us to appointments to get our hair done, to have french manicures, massages and spray-on tans. The last is not an experience I would recommend for the faint of heart.

Welsh Daffs
For this special event, I was ushered upstairs to a storage room containing a three sided camping tent. I was then asked to strip down, stand in the tent and hold out my arms and legs at various angles, while twirling in a circle, etc. as the attendant sprayed me in the face and everywhere else with a cold mist of slimy, sticky orange dye. I was then instructed to stand on a towel and flap my arms about for the next ten minutes to encourage the drying process. To complete this total degradation, the attendant was about 19 years old and appeared to be about a size two. She was probably thinking she did not get paid enough to do this kind of work and maybe she should please her parents and enroll in college after all. The whole experience enhanced my empathy for the inhabitants of Abugrabe Prison…the only thing missing was a few snarling German Shepherds!
Upon arriving in Wales I got a tour of the new marital abode, a country manor house, hey I was moving up in the world. I was introduced to my new bedroom and was pleased to be assigned the “Rose Room,” which overlooked the “back garden,” a 3 acre field dotted with ancient Elm trees. A pitcher of Welsh Daffodils graced the windowsill, as I arrived on St. David’s Day. Over my bed hung a quilt I made for Anne 4 years ago entitled, The Road Less Travelled. Since I had completely forgotten to document this work, I was happy to get a photo to add to my portfolio.

The Pump Room, Bath, England
A few days before the wedding Anne and I took an excursion to Bath, England which is about an hour an half away by train. As we exited the station and made our way towards the heart of Jane Austen territory, I spied a small sign hanging over the door of a little shop. After all these years I have developed a sixth sense about quilt shops, and sure enough, in this land of Roman England, Jane Austen and Georgian architecture I found myself perusing bolts of quilt fabric and purchasing a few fat quarters and some needles with self’-threading eyes for Anne. Oddly enough I had told her about them just that morning when she complained that she was having trouble sewing on a button because she couldn’t see to thread the needle. Following this textile adventure, we toured the lovely new museum at the Roman Baths and raised a glass of champagne to Jane Austen as we celebrated the upcoming nuptials and Anne’s Birthday with lunch at the Pump Room. As we walked around the corner to the loo, what should we find but a spectacular quilt about 15 feet long and ten feet high documenting all the royal lines of British Kings and Queens. It was a stunning work, but behind glass with a high glare so I was unable to photograph this amazing textile. (Note to self when making irreplacable pieces of art, spend a few extra quid on non-glare glass.)

So, you may be asking, what happened to the lovely silk and lace bridesmaid dress that traversed an ocean and back again to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend? I fear it is destined to become one of the world’s most expensive quilts. I HATE it! It was uncomfortable to wear and unflattering. Although I have gained some middle-aged weight, I still only wear a size 10 dress. However, in the wedding photos this little number made me look three sizes bigger, a woman truly deserving of the title MATRON. So it currently resides, rolled in a wad at the top of my closet, waiting to either be dry cleaned or cut up. Another adventure waiting to happen. Cheers!

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.

Art Floozies (or How to Host an Art Reteat)

Peggy and Jessica Eating a Hearty Breakfast

Some people will do just about anything to pursue their art. As an artist, you know you’re running with the right crowd when they support you in your choice of buying art supplies over mundane items such as say, food. They utter comments like “you really need those paints,” or “you’ve worked hard all your life, I really think you should buy that batik fabric.” or, “your husband will get over it, what’s he gonna do, divorce you because you bought some gesso? What about that new motorcycle he just got?”

Jessica with her Favorite Piece – She prefers working with stencils and her designs are usually intricate

My friend Peggy has been known to remark on various occasions, “I could be sitting in a bar right now, instead, I spend my money on some art supplies. So sue me!” That’s why I belong to Southern Ohio Women Art Group. We support each other when it counts. Our group has been together somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 0r 6 years. Being artists, and over fifty, we tend to forget some of the details, but we all agree that it has been a wonderful arrangement.


Peggy Holding her Favorite Piece – She favors the slop and drip method

We meet once a month and learn a new technique, show and critique our work and report on the latest and greatest in the art world. We also visit galleries and openings, attend workshops together and hold an annual Christmas party in November (all right, so we’re a little eccentric.) For the last several years (two? three?) we have held semi-annual art retreats. Sometimes we invite guests, but last weekend it was just the three of us at my house. On previous occasions we have learned how to do cyanotype and heliographic printing and encaustics. This year it was artist’s choice surface design. Each person brought several yards of white muslim to use in anyway they wished.

Jessica Helping Me with My First Thermofax Screen Print

Because it is so difficult to work around every one’s schedule, we decide on a date for the retreats at least 6 months in advance. Death or catastrophic illness are the only acceptable excuses for cancellation ( really, we even did sun printing on a rainy day). Besides making art, we all love to eat, so each person is assigned a meal or part of the meal well in advance. I’m not exaggerating when I say we eat like queens for the weekend. Our retreats always start on Saturday morning with a hearty breakfast and gourmet coffee. We discuss art and life and then get around to setting up the supplies that fill every one’s car to the gills.

Jessica’s Thermofax Screen Print – Jessica is a whiz at cutting linoleum prints, right now she is into chairs and she selected a series of ink prints to be made into a thermofax screen.

We work all day and laugh, perhaps guffaw is a better term, for much of the day. This time Jessica fell over backwards and went head over tail in the grass, causing much hilarity to all involved, at least the two of us left standing. We worked hard until lunch, which did not take place until 2:00 because we were so enthralled with the silk screening that we forgot to eat. Then back to work until dinner time. After dinner we imbibed in a decadent dessert and a glass of wine. Peggy and I went for a walk and returned to find Jessica attired in her night gown and sprawled on the couch reading art magazines. For a guilty pleasure, we watched the first series of Project Runway, pompously commenting about the questionable taste and rude behavior of the contestants.

Peggy working on a Heart Design – One of my tree silk screen prints drying on the fence.

Sunday morning we indulged in gourmet french toast prepared by Jessica and perused our work. Each person was in the possession of some pretty nifty surface design for use in upcoming projects. Peggy creates fabric books, Jessica fabric collage and me, more art quilts in the line up. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend with each person doing just exactly what they pleased. How we sacrifice for art!