Natalia and the drawing in her sketchbook

When the new school year first began Sue introduced me to Natalia who was sitting at a table by herself drawing with black marker in her sketchbook.  Sue said she was one of the most talented artists in her class.  I tried to start a conversation with her, but she didn’t seem interested.  I figured it was a teenage thing and left her to her drawing.

Then I started going to Sue’s classroom during lunchtime and teaching whoever was interested how to sew.  A couple of weeks into it, Natalia showed up.  She was incredibly shy and self-deprecating.  She seemed to have little confidence.  But she caught on right away, was slow and deliberate, and learned to sew a straight line quicker than anyone else.

Yesterday I was looking at all the drawings and paintings hanging in Sue’s classroom that the kids had done and one of them stood out from the rest.   It was done by Natalia who was chosen to enter a drawing in the Congressional Art Challenge of 2022.  When I asked her about it she brought me right to her picture, eager to show it to me. 

Then she pulled out her sketchbook, the same one she had been drawing in the first time I met her. This time she leafed through the pages finding her favorite drawing to show me.  

I asked her about her process and she said she started with a self-portrait then listened to music and drew what she felt. 

She was still quiet and shy but didn’t hold back when talking about her work.

When I got home I thought about the first time I met Natalia and how I was too quick to make assumptions about her, it wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk to me about her work, it was that she was too shy to talk about it.  Now I’m looking forward to seeing her again the next time I visit Sue’s artroom and talking to her some more.

Natalia is incredibly talented and I think art is going to be an important part of her life.

Raising Money For The Last Prom At Bishop Maginn High School

Altogether,(including the Virgin Mary) at the little table, everyone sewing and sharing and helping each other. Dah Blue, Jayla, Hser Nay, Paris, Folasade, and me. Photo by Jon Katz

I’m thinking of the students in my sewing class.  The regulars like Paris, Hser Nay, Jayla and Natalia.  And the kids that came once to learn a little about sewing because they were curious.

I’m thinking of them because they’re the kids I know.   But there are over a hundred kids that go to Bishop Maginn High School and this will be their last year together.

That’s one of the reasons why the Prom is so important this year.  Not only will it be the last one for Bishop Maginn but all the kids will have the opportunity to go to the Prom, not just the seniors.

In a way, it’s a celebration of the whole school and the students and teachers who made it so special over the years.

But to make the prom possible Bishop Maginn is in need of funding. That’s why Jon came up with the idea of asking for donations from the Army of Good to help make the last Prom at Bishop Maginn a very special one.

The teachers at the school know how to throw a Prom and Sue Silverstein said it’s actually easier when there are 100 kids than when there are 50.  So they know what to do, now they just need to raise some money to make it all possible.

So if you’d like to help you can send a check to Mike Tolan, Bishop Maginn School, 75 Park Avenue, Albany, N.Y., 12202; please write “Prom Fund” on the check memo.

If you wish to send small contributions or prefer sending money online,  you can send them to Jon Katz, Bishop Maginn (Prom Fund) via Paypal, [email protected], or through Venmo, Jon Katz@Jon-Katz-13(or by check, Jon Katz,   Bishop Maginn Prom Fund, P.O.  Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Thank you!

Christmas Potholders At Bishop Maginn

Hser Nay with her Christmas Potholder

A few weeks ago someone sent me Christmas fabric for the students at Bishop Maginn to work with.  None of them showed any interest in it till today.

Today everyone wanted to make a Christmas Potholder.  With a few weeks of experience,  most of them were able to get a potholder done in one day.    I could really see how much they had learned.

Camela, the student who knew how to thread a sewing machine, but not sew, was back.  She had her potholder all pinned together and ready to sew, but decided she wanted to use Christmas fabric instead. So she began again, getting good practice in piecing it toghere.  She did a great job sewing it on the machine and when it came time for her to sew the opening closed by hand, Natalia helped her.

Camila and Natalia.

Natalia was so uncertain when she first started sewing three weeks ago.  Now she’s showing other students what to do.  She said she’s going to give her potholder to her mother for Christmas.


This is the second potholder that Jayla finished.  All the students are still having a hard time making the hangers.  I’m thinking of a new way of showing them how to do it for the next class.

Today’s sewing class

When I got to Sue’s classroom, the sewing cart that Jon ordered was there. One of Sue’s students put it together and organized all the sewing tools in the drawers.  All the potholders in process were in one draw so it made it easy for everyone to find their work from the week before.

I’m going to try to get some loose balsam for the next class to make small sachets.  It should be something we can make quickly as a last-minute Christmas gift for those who want to make them.

Making Pillows In The Bishop Maginn Lunchtime Sewing Class


Natalia sewing the opening in her pillow

It was pillow day at Bishop Maginn.  With some of the donations I received from a few of you, I got some polyfill stuffing for the lunchtime sewing class in Sue Silverstein’s art room.

Hser Nay, Paris, and Jayla were there as usual.  They picked up where they left off last class.

But it was the first time sewing for Natalia.  She had to be talked into it.  Sue, who knows each of her kids well,  was able to convince Natalia to try by appealing to her desire to make her own clothes, because she doesn’t like dressing like everyone else.

Natalia is shy and was afraid, to even press down on the foot pedal.  She surprised me and herself by having great control over the machine and sewing an almost perfectly straight line the first time she tried. She would hardly look at me when we first began, giggling nervously.  But by the end of the class she posed with her pillow, looking straight into the camera.

When it was time to hand sew the pillow closed, Natalia was more confident about it because she’s seen her grandmother sew by hand.

Hser Nay ane her pillow

Hser nay was ready to stuff her pillow when she got to class. She was the first one I showed how to finish it off by sewing the opening closed by hand.  Thanks to Elizabeth we had lots of different colors of thread, so Hser Nay was able to find a green that matched her pillow.  Her long nails made it hard for her to thread her needle but were perfect for pushing the polyfill into the corners of the pillow.

Jayla and her pillow

Jayla found the patchwork piece she put together two weeks ago.  She chose a plaid for the backing and sewed them together with a little help.  She was just finishing her pillow up as I was leaving for the day.

Paris and her pillow

Paris got to the class late, so I didn’t get to spend too much time with her.  But she figured out how to sew the front of her pillow to the back and cut it to size without my help.  She’s been working on this patchwork piece outside of our lunchtime class.  I asked Paris and Hser Nay to show her how to sew the opening closed since I had to leave before she got to it.

Jayla, Me and Natalia.  That’s Tsay and Hser Nay in the background. Say already knows how to sew so she was helping out in class today. The Army of Good paid Say’s tuition so she could go to Bishop Maginn.

Everyone was able to thread their needles when it came time to do the hand sewing.  But the tricky part was tying the knot.  I showed them two different ways of doing it. I also showed them how to tie off the thread when they were done.  I’m not sure they’ll remember that, but I imagine we’ll have a chance to do some more hand sewing again soon.

Next…Collective Arts Spring Gallery

Bob selling his homemade lotions and soaps

“Hi, Oh, You have to move”  Those were the first words out of my mouth when I walked into Bean Heads at 9am, one hour before the gallery opened Saturday morning.  Barbara and Bob from Pure n Simple  soaps were in the wrong place.  They had gotten in early and set up where the Candle people were supposed to be.  You see, there were quite a few people organizing the show and things got a bit confusing at times.  Nancy and I had spent the afternoon before setting up the space and well, Pure and Simple Soap was in the wrong place.  Luckily, I was able to pull myself together and see how it really didn’t matter if the two traded places.  And luckily Bob and Barbara are even tempered.  I apologized for greeting them with “You have to move!” (that’s no way to start the day) and we decided we could work it out.  Which we did, when Travis and Natalia came to set up they went in the other corner and all was forgotten.

A wall of Bill Smith’s and Carol Bollinger Green’s paintings

We were all so busy for the rest of the day, I only got away from the register (my ipad and square) once.

Jane’s pincushions, Suzy’s roving and cowls, Jon’s notecards and my potholders

The one table to sit at was filled the whole time.  Sometimes by my mother or Nancy’s mother and sister or just people coming in to shop and have coffee and sweets. ( I bought on of Jane’s pincushions for Kim who sews my potholders, I couldn’t wait for Christmas and gave it to her at the show)

Lisa from the Round House Bakery

Jon brought me a cup of soup and bread from the Round House Bakery for lunch and Lisa and I traded one of my potholders for 2 bags of  her granola.

  I wished I could have gone to Mandy’s meditations circles.  She was selling gift certificates for massage and giving tours of her new healing arts center  upstairs.

Nancy and her jewelry

Nancy was busy all day and Jon bought me one of her necklaces. It sits right on my heart chakra, I think it has some kind of power.


Gabi was selling gift certificates to her painting classes and notecards.  That’s one of her pieces in the background.  She paints from memory, never using photos.

Natalia and her bee’s wax candles

Natalia and Travis sold out of lot of their candles.  Bob and Barbara and Natalia and Travis are  at the Cambridge Farmers Market every week.

Suzy spinning the roving made from her goats and angora bunny Wendy

I bought one of Suzy’s cowls, the grey and yellow one.  Later that night Jon and I were having dinner with Suzy and her husband Joe at Moma’s, the restaurant near our house, and Suzy gave me and Jon each a hat.  Mine is grey and yellow just like the cowl.   She must have read my mind.

The Collective Arts Winter Gallery was a success and we’re thinking of the Collective Arts Spring Gallery, I’m sure you can guess what will come after that.  We all sold a lot and have more to offer.  (I’ll be posting the potholders that are left and some others that I’ll have done tomorrow)  So if you see something you like check out some of the websites below, or you can email me at here or at [email protected]


Winding Down

It’s 4:05 and things are winding down. We’re sitting down for the first time since 9am. Gabi’s still standing. Nancy’s sitting next to Bill Creitz ( the sweet man who let us use Bean Heads for free, we just had to clean up the space). Natalia and Mandy and Suzy whose still spinning. It was a full busy, fun day.

Soap and Candles at the Winter Gallery Dec 8th

Mandy and Nancy showing off their identical iphone covers (and cappuccinos…. those girls) at our  Tuesday morning meeting in Salem

Yes, we had fun, but we did get some business done too.  Nancy put Lisa (our baker for the show) on speaker phone and we firmed up some details about the Soap and Candle makers.

Travis and Natalia Kline live in Cambridge and  make beeswax candles.  You can see some of their work here.  Their website is

  We’ll also have soap and lotions from Pure and Simple Soap located in the town of Salem NY. Their website is and you can check it out here.

Who knows what else we’ll come up with in the 2 weeks  before the show.  Go here or to my Events page for the details (or most of them anyway).


Full Moon Fiber Art