Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Art and Life with Animals Coming Together

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Fanny and my snow shoes

Curious Fanny checking out my snow shoes

Something different is happening in my art and my life with animals.  Or maybe it was always there and I’m just becoming aware of it or allowing myself to believe it.  Since I can remember I’ve been drawn to animals, all kinds of animals.  As a kid I  wished I had a special connection to them, like a secret language or that they would choose me somehow.  But I never really thought of myself as someone capable of that, I never thought of myself as special enough.

I’ve had dogs and cats for most of my life, but other than that, I haven’t spent much time around other animals, although I continued to be interested in them .   Then, when I was in my early 40’s I started feeding the animals at Bedlam Farm.  At the time, Jon and I were just friends and he had 4 donkeys, 3 cows, more than 20 sheep, three goats, three hens and two barn cats.  I remember thinking, it took me forty years, but finally I got to feed the animals.  I would actually cry when I brought the hay out to the feeders.  I didn’t know why I was crying, but it felt like I had finally arrived, after so many years of being deprived.  Deprived of that connection to animals that I craved since childhood.

Then Jon started taking pictures of me and the donkeys.  By then he just had Fanny and Lulu and the barn cats and he and I were living together. He wrote about the connection between me and the donkeys that he captured in his photos.  Everyone seemed to see it, but I couldn’t.  I could feel it, but was afraid to put words to it.  I still didn’t think myself capable of such a thing as much as I wanted it.  I denied it for years.

But little by little, I began to open myself up to it. I could see something happening in Jon’s photos and started to admit it to him and myself.  Then I allowed myself to acknowledge what I was feeling when I crouched next to the donkeys, that opening of my heart, the listening and blurring of beings that would happen between us.

And now I feel like all of this has gone even further.  And it scares me like it used to, not because I’m afraid of what might happen, but because I don’t think I’m special enough for something like this to happen to.   And, like being an artist,  it’s something that I’ve wanted for a  long, long time.

But it does seem to be happening this connection and communication between me and the animals.  And some of its basic and practical, like bringing them food, and some of its mystical, like hearing words and seeing images in my mind when I’m with them.   And I’m just realizing that the animals have made their way into my art.  Not that I wasn’t conscious of using animals in my work, but they’ve entered it organically.  They have become  so integrated in my life, I would almost be lying if I didn’t use them.  And like communicating with them, it’s practical, in that I’m using what’s in front of me to influence my art  and mystical, when they come to me  in my dreams and visions and make their way into my work.

But  Nicole said it best when she left this comment on my blog:  “ that ancient bond speaks so clearly in your art and in your writing. It’s not forced, it just speaks through the stories, dreams, metaphors and archetypes that appear in your art. I really connect to your language, your “dream-speak.”

My art comes from my heart, more than my head.   My feelings and dreams, other places I don’t even know about and can’t describe in words. It’s an internal thing,  and both Jon and Nicole have told me something I feel is true, but it’s so exciting to me that I can’t admit it or quite believe it yet.


Winner of the Common Thread Give-a-way: Restore the Bond Fleece Blanket

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
"Restore the Bond" fleece blanket

“Restore the Bond” fleece blanket

Congratulation Elaine!  You’re the winner of the Common Thread Give-a-way.

And for everyone who didn’t win, you can still have a “Restore The Bond” fleece blanket.  It’s just just $52 and the money goes to support  Blue Star Equiculture and the bond between humans and horses.  Click here to see more about it and/or order a blanket.

And don’t forget to come back the first Monday of next month when guest artist Kathleen Nohe will be giving away one of the wrapped stone necklaces.  You can see what Kathleen is working on now at Wearable Earth Jewelry.

Fanny and Lulu, Remembering Our Past Together

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Fanny and Lulu

Lulu and Fanny

It’s the first time in weeks, or has it been months, that it’s been warm enough for the donkeys to want a little attention other than food.  It was just above freezing all day and I wanted to be outside.  A walk with Jon and Red in the morning and snow shoeing in the afternoon.  Inbetween there was shoveling (all the snow was melting off the roofs) and any other chore I could think up just to be outside.

But this spring-like day also meant that Fanny and Lulu  didn’t mind me scratching them under the chin and behind their ears.  And it was warm enough for me to want to do it too.  So we spent some time in the dry pole barn together.  They seemed to want the attention as much as I did.

I crouched down and squatted next to Fanny. It took  Lulu a little longer but she soon came over and stood on the other side of me.  Now I was surrounded and we just stayed that way, still and quiet.  After a while a voice inside of me asked “Remember this?”  I immediately smiled thinking of the warmer weather when we do this almost everyday. But then something else happened.  I felt something inside of me.  It was like a thin line going through the center of my body.  Straight and strong and glowing white.  And I felt like, well it’s hard to describe, but I felt like I was no longer in the pole barn but somewhere else.  Not on the outside, I could still feel and see my surroundings, but inside, it felt like I was traveling inside me.  Then, in my mind I saw a picture of me and donkeys walking on a trail through hills.   We were surrounded by green scrubby plants and walking on  a yellowish brown earth.

Then I knew the voice asking if I remember wasn’t talking about the warmer months when me and Fanny and Lulu hang around together.  It was going back much farther than that.  It was talking about the ancient bond between humans and donkeys.  It was reminding me of something I had forgotten. And I didn’t know this intellectually, that came later when I thought about it.  I knew it because I could feel it.  As if I actually could remember something that happened thousands of years ago, and not to me as I am now.  But something I carried in my DNA, something all humans share.

So as much as I’ve been thinking and writing about and making art about this connection between equines and humans, today I actually experienced it as something ancient that is deep inside of me.  An untapped part of me that I’ve been circling around for years.

I have no doubt that it was Fanny and Lulu or one or the other that showed this  part of myself to me,  this afternoon, deepening our relationship and leading me down this new and very old path.

Gifts from the Crows Potholders: For Sale

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015


I have been looking at the crow fabric that Kenna sent me for at least a month.  I would take it out and try to find the colors that worked with it, but just couldn’t get it right.  Until today.

There are two things that came together to inspire me to make these Gift of Crows Potholders.  One was seeing the Gee’s Bend Exhibit this weekend and the other was reading an article about a little girl who gets gifts from crows.

When Gabi Mann was four years old, she would  drop a lot of food when she ate.  Apparently her neighborhood crows got on to this and started showing up when she was eating outside and cleaning up the crumbs.  Then she started sharing her lunch with them and soon they always around when she was eating.  When she started feeding them in her back yard, they started returning the favor by bringing her gifts.   They would leave buttons and paperclips, pieces of glass and nuts and bolt, all kinds of things.

Well, I found this story just magical.  I’m always intrigued by how smart crows are, but this went beyond anything I had ever heard about them.

Then there’s the Gee’s Bend quilts and what I wrote about them on Sunday.  The idea of the one piece of fabric that doesn’t belong, that’s like a portal to take you to another place, even if it’s just about color and pattern.

Put the two together with the crow fabric and suddenly the idea from Gee’s Bend becomes the gift from the crows.  That small misplaced piece of fabric is the portal and the button.

Once I knew that, the colors and design of the potholders came easy.  And I have to say, finding that little jewel of fabric and figuring out where to place it was as good as it gets when it comes to making potholders.

These potholders plus some from the extra fabric I have  are sold out.  If I have any more available, I’ll post them later today.

I designed 8 potholders today and  I don’t have fabric for many more. So there’s a limited amount available.   My Gifts from the Crows Potholders are $17 each + $5 shipping for 1-2 and $7 shipping for 3 or more (shipping is a bit more out of the US).  If you have a thing for crows, as I do, and would like a potholder or two, you can email me here at  I take checks and paypal.

Gifts from the Crows Potholders

8 “Gifts from the Crows Potholders”


Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015


I’m calling this blue ladder and blue boat wallhanging Ascending.  It’s about the passage from one place to another in personal growth and how it is both a spiritual and physical passage.  The ladder and boat show the spiritual and the girls on the board the physical.  Without both, the passage can’t be complete.

I do feel that it has to do with Frieda’s dying and my decision to euthanize her.  Something inside of me changed when I was able to take on that responsibility.  It’s one of the many gifts Frieda and I gave each other.  I gave her the ability to leave this physical world and all its pain and I learned to trust myself, my instincts and intuitions,to do what I believed was best for Frieda.

The Black Sun, which I saw in a vision during energy work that I was doing, is the dark and difficult.  That part of life which often is just the thing that ushers us onto a new phase of life.  It’s not evil and has its own gifts.

The drawings inbetween the girls are the everyday things of life.  Precious and mundane.

The girls are from four hankies that I’ve collected over the past couple of years, I knew they would find a home in my work someday.  The ground for the ladder and boat is the back of an old hand stitched quilt.  The texture was just perfect for this and the front of the quilt was so torn and worn, it was unusable.

So many pieces came together to for me to make this piece and it’s really one of my most simple pieces.  It’s a collision of dreams and visions, hankies and someone’s handstitching, marker and thread.  It reaches out and pulls in from so many different places.

Ascending is sold.

The front of the quilt I used to make this piece

The front of the quilt I used to make this piece


A detail of the ascending girls.

A detail of the ascending girls and drawings.

The Black Sun over a sea of stars.

The Black Sun over a sea of stars.

Blue Ladder with a Blue Boat

Monday, March 2nd, 2015


I’ve been haunted by the image of a blue ladder with a boat above it that came to me in a dream a couple of weeks ago.  I knew I would make a wall hanging out of it and I started it today.  This is how far I got when I left the studio this evening.  I don’t know what, if anything, will come next besides sewing it all together.  I really don’t know much about it yet, but I have a feeling that as I continue to work on it, it will become at least a little more clear.



Common Thread Give-a-way: Win a “Restore The Bond” Blanket

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Restore the Bond Blanket

“Restore the Bond”  Fleece Blanket

In this month’s Common Thread Give-a-way I’m giving away one of my “Restore The Bond” fleece blankets.

I originally made this wall hanging for  Pamela at Blue Star Equiculture.  She wanted a new logo for her Working Horse Rescue Farm and knew that it needed to have a horse in it, a person and Blue Star.  I came up with the design that you see inside the butterflies.  When Pamela made the piece into a blanket she took the pattern of butterflies from the back and surrounded the image with them.

This piece has come to represent more than just a logo for Blue Star.  For Pamela it became a symbol of the ancient bond between horses and humans.  I came to this idea in my own way, first when I marveled at the way the NYC Carriage Horses behaved with the people who work with and care for them, then when I went to Visit Blue Star Equiculture and fell for a Percheron named Piper.  It was with Piper that I felt the connection I witnessed in New York.

And soon, I’m going to be embarking on another horse adventure when I start taking riding lesson with Eli Norman.  She has a pony named Chloe that she thinks might suit me.  Chloe is a lot smaller than Piper and  I’m looking forward to getting to know her.

So this wall hanging has taken on lots of meaning for me, more than I ever imagined.  If it appeals to you, or someone you know, and you’d like to try to win it in the Common Thread Give-a-way, just leave a comment on my blog.  I’ll  announce  the winner on Thursday  morning.

In case you’re not familiar with the Common Thread Give-a-way it happens the first Monday of every month.  On that day one of our  regular artists (Rachel Barlow, Jane McMillen, Kim Gifford and Jon Katz)  give one of their creations away.    So check out their blogs and see what you might win one Monday in the Common Thread Give-a-way.




Broken Patterns of Gee’s Bend Quilts

Sunday, March 1st, 2015
One of the quilts from the Gee's Bend Exhibit at Lehman college

One of the Gee’s Bend Quilts at the exhibit at Lehman College

Seeing the Gee’s Bend Quilt exhibit at Lehman College this weekend, I was reminded of  one the first things I loved about them. That is the way the quilters would often start with a traditional quilt pattern then do something to it to throw that pattern off.  The quilt above, by Leola Pettway, is the perfect example of this idea.  You can see it in all four corners and two of the triangles at the top and right of the center “star”.

I used to wonder about this and how the person who made the quilt made those decisions.  Was it intentional or did they just run out of the right color fabric.   After reading much about it, I found that it is completely intentional.  But the reason behind it is less clear.  Some books say it was an effort to confuse evil spirits.  That the spirit would get confused looking at the strange pattern, trying to make sense of it and whoever was sleeping under the quilt would be safe.

The women of Gee’s Bend that were interviewed seem to agree that the patterns are intuitive and a mark of their individuality.  For some of the quilters their quilts even become an identity.  One that the other quilters can recognize almost as a signature.

After wallowing in the joy of seeing those broken patterns, and revelling in their rebellious attitudes, I realized something else that it does for me.  Those patches of fabric that don’t seem to fit in are like a window to another place.  They blow the expected  wide open, and remind me of the unseen right in front of me. And it’s magical to me, like the wardrobe that opens onto Narnia.  A glimpse into another time or place or whole other world.  Familiar but unknown in the context of the expected.

Later that same day, at MOMA I saw a painting that once again reminded me of this same idea.  I don’t remember who it was by or what it was called.  I can’t even picture the whole thing, just one part of it.  It looked like a rectangle of patterned fabric, totally out of place with the rest of the painting.  It didn’t fit in, but didn’t really stand out either.  But I did feel like it was giving me a glimpse of something else.

Until seeing the Gee’s Bend Quilt exhibit, I had forgotten about this idea that so intrigued me and still does. When I first started making quilt about eight years ago or so, I was always careful to put  at least one piece of fabric in them that didn’t fit.  But as my quilts evolved, and became less Gee’s Bend and more mine,  I left this idea behind.

Now I’d like to revisit it. Not in the way the Gee’s Bend quilters did it, but in the way I would do it. Not that I’m clear on what exactly this would look like yet.  But I do have some ideas on where to begin.  And now I’m eager to try them out.

A Bit of Gee’s Bend, Alabama in New York

Friday, February 27th, 2015
Gee's Bend quilt made by Queenie Pettway

Gee’s Bend quilt made by Queenie Pettway in Mary Ann Pettway’s guest room where I slept.

I’ve never seen an exhibit of Gee’s Bend quilts, but I did sleep under one.  When I went to stay with Quilter, Mary Ann Pettway,  last spring in Gee’s Bend Alabama, on the bed in the guest room was a quilt made by Mary Ann’s Aunt Queenie. Better than an exhibit, right, I got to touch it and cover myself with it.

But a bit of Gee’s Bend has made its way to New York.  And tomorrow, Jon and I are going to experience  it.  Thanks to an email from Miriam, I found out about the Gee’s Bend Quilt and Photo Exhibit at Lehman College in the Bronx.

It’s the Gee’s Bend quilts that inspired  me  to make art again after not doing my work for so long.  I saw the catalogue from the exhibit at the Whitney Museum, but had never seen a Gee’s Bend Quilt in person until I went to Alabama last year.

I’m really excited about seeing this exhibit tomorrow.  Ready to soak it all up and be inspired all over again. We’ll be staying over night in NYC and will be back on Sunday.  I plan on taking lots of pictures and will let you know all about it when we get back.


My Ever Changing Flock of Sheep

Friday, February 27th, 2015
Glyndalyn's Scarf

Glyndalyn’s Scarf made from Ma’s wool

Glyndalyn’s been making a scarf from Ma’s wool that she bought from me last year.   She sent me this close up of it.  I can’t get enough of  looking at it.  The texture and soft browns, all the different colors that go into making it what it is.  I want to touch it, I can imagine how it feels.

It makes me think of how our flock of sheep has changed since we first got them.  Tess and Ma gone, the lambs that didn’t live long.   The spring 2014 batch of wool I get back from the mill will have Ma’s wool and Ted’s, the ram who sired the lambs.  All the sheep were pregnant back then.  We had no clue how difficult so many of the births would be.  And I had no idea how both heartbreaking and life affirming an experience it would be.

The batch  from the fall of 2014 will have the last of Ma’s wool, not much, I remember it and Deb’s wool (her lamb) was full of brambles.  Almost impossible to clean.   But it will also have the first wool from all the lambs.  It won’t be so much, they were still small, but I can’t wait to see what it all looks a feels like.

We still have Zelda (a Cheviot) and Suzy and Socks (Border Leicesters)  from our original flock.  Since then we’ve added on Kim (a Karakul) and the lambs, Deb, Liam and Pumpkin.  All with their own personalities and distinctive voices.

It seems to be an ever evolving thing having sheep.  I have a pair of fingerless gloves that Sue made me from Tess’ wool and a cowl that Brenda made me, also from Tess’ wool.  A good and sweet reminder of my first flock of sheep.  But the new flock is a good one too.  Liam seems to be trying to take over for Zelda as the leader.  We’ll see what happens with that.  And Deb has such a big personality, loud as she was the moment she was born (She came our of Ma yowling).  Pumpkin has the sweetest baa.  Soft, like a whisper.

It does seem the older sheep have dropped into the back ground, the lambs always up front, challenging Red and finding their place.  I’m sure when the snow melts and they can graze again things will change once more.  I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Liam, Pumpkin

Liam, Pumpkin, Deb, Kim and Suzy’s butt