I spent yesterday afternoon at Carol Law Conklin’s house and studio. They’re really the same thing, her house and studio. Her work is everywhere you look, some hanging on walls, some piled up in corners, ready to go to the next gallery or exhibit. And her studio takes up space not just inside her house, but outside as well. (she keeps her dye baths in her yard)
Carol’s started making her batiks in the 1970’s. She stopped for many years while she and her husband Dick dedicated their lives to their Dairy Farm. But her love of nature and animals, especially horses and cows (although now she has a llama who prances around her yard) can be seen in her batiks. She’s also drawn the the mythical side of animals and the earth and that informs her work also.
I took four videos of Carol demonstrating her batik process. I’ll be posting them over the next few days. I was enthralled watching Carol work, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The video above is the first in the series.
Carol also has a blog and reproduces much of her work as functional art on scarves, trivets, notecards and in a bunch of other forms. This makes her art more accessible to more of us. Her website is Amity Farm Batik and you can see it and more of her work here.
Oh Carol I said, as she stood in front of her Batiks, you look just like your work. She did not make the shirt she was wearing to her Opening Reception at the Valley Artisian’s Market, but she could have.
Carol and her husband Dick were dairy farmers until they sold the farm about 8 years ago. They still have one of their cows named Steppin and a llama named Vanilla. Sometimes they show up in her work.
Carol told me all the years she spent farming she was saving up images for the work she’s doing now. Some of it based on myths and others showing the stories the earth tells from what goes on under the ground to what’s happening in the sky above. Plants, animals, earth, water, sky, Phoenix’s and Unicorns.
Carol’s work is labor intensive often taking months to complete one piece. From creating the drawings with hot wax to mixing the dyes and waiting for it all to set. To make her work more accessible she sells inexpensive reproductions on a number of items, including fabric and paper prints, trivets, cuttingboards, and notecards. (you can see them here)
Here’ s a short video of some of Carol’s work and her talking about her work yesterday during opening reception at the Valley Artisian’s Market in Cambridge NY. Her work will be on display there through May 3rd.
Carol and her husband Dick were dairy farmers for many years. When they sold the farm a few years ago, Carol picked up where she left off as an artist and started creating her batiks again. A lover of farm animals, nature and horses, she said she was storing up images during all her years of farming.
And I believe it, because Carol doesn’t seem to be short of ideas. Her images deal with farm life, plants and animals and are also based in mythology. She’s as interested in what’s going on below the ground as on the earth and in the sky.
In her batik, “Caught in the Thunderstorm” Carol draws from her own experience of having her farm house struck by lightening. She uses horses to depict the turmoil and power of the storm. The dark horses darting the thunder and lightening in the sky, while the red horse below waits for the storm to pass. When I read on Carol’s blog about the experience that inspired this piece, I could see how it captured the fear and awe Carol was feeling as she lay in bed with her husband and the storm raged around them.
Caught in the Thunderstorm is one of the many pieces Carol will be showing and selling at the Bedlam Farm Open House, which is just about two short weeks away. She will have her original batiks and prints on fabric, note cards, trivets and cutting boards. She’ll also be selling her batik scarves.
As dedicated to her work as she is, Carol still has the farm in her heart. Not long after selling her farm Carol bought back one of her favorite cows, Steppin. Carol has her work in many galleries around the country including in the Valley Artisian’s Market in Cambridge NY. She was just admitted into The Batik Guild, an international organization. You can also see more of her work and get to know Carol a little better on her blog Amity Farm Batik.
I walked from room to room in Carol’s old farm house as she showed me her work. Her art was everywhere, hanging on walls, stored in boxes, framed and unframed, upstairs and down, in her car and on her porch. She has large original batiks that she sells for $1000 and small prints that she sells for $30. She has scarves and trivets and cards and mouse pads and pillows. Some of her work is framed and some of it hangs loosely from decorative wooded dowels. Carol is going to be in three different exhibits before she shows her work in the June Bedlam Farm Open House. I was fortunate enough to get to see it all before the other shows began.
It was the first time I met Carol, we had only “talked” on facebook. But I had seen pictures of her work and from the way she presented it and wrote about it, I knew she was a professional. And then I found out she lived only a few towns away from me and I knew having her art in the Open House was going to work out.
Carol and her husband Dick have been Dairy Farmers most of their lives. When they sold the farm a few years ago, Carol went back to doing what she went to school for, Art. And specifically, batik. That was in the 1970’s and she told me that all the time she was farming, she was gathering the images that she now uses in her art. That might be one reason she’s so prolific, she has a head and heart full of creative ideas that are finally being released into the world. Lucky for us.
Carol’s Batiks are paintings really. She paints with wax and pigment. From what she told me, the process is a constant flow. She only has so much control over the hot wax that she drips and brushes on the fabric. I didn’t get to see her work, but from how she described it, it seemed like a dance. She starts with an idea, maybe just one image that she sketch’s on a piece of paper, but works free hand on the fabric. Then she lets the piece evolve as she works on it. So it’s a somewhat spontaneous process. You can see the motion in her images, they are full of life.
We also talked about patterns in nature and her desire to depict what goes on under the ground, as well as on the earth and in the sky. Based in nature, her work has a mystical quality to it. It’s filled with her love of the natural world and animals.
So I’m thrilled, not only be selling and showing Carol’s work in my School House Gallery in June, but I’m also excited that she my neighbor. We’re already finding out that we have a lot in common, a good beginning for a friendship.
Click hereto see more of Carol’s work on her website Amity Farm Batik.
I first saw Carol Law Conklin’s batiks on the Bedlam Farm Creative Group. I was immediately impressed by her use of the medium and the beauty of her imagery and command of color. I also liked how she wrote about her work and the process and often showed photos of her working. This made me understand how serious she is about her work.
I had no idea that she lived so close to me (just a few towns over) until I looked at the blog Amity Farm Batik. Carol studied printmaking in school then got into Batik. For years she and her husband owned a dairy farm and when they sold it, Carol began making her art again.
Carol has shown her work in many galleries and this June she’ll be showing and selling her Batiks at the Bedlam Farm Open House. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person and visiting her studio in the spring. Her themes are just right for my School House Gallery, farms, nature, horses and myths.
So have a look at her work on her blog and see what she has for sale on ETSY. And come to the Open House this June and meet Carol and see her work in person.
I woke up to the Ravens calling to each other out our bedroom window. I thought they were crows and didn’t think it unusual until I went out with the dogs a little while later.
What sounded like a throaty bark came from above me.
I looked up into the old maple tree thick with leaves but couldn’t find the bird. Within moments a similar sound answered from the other Maple. The tree, outside my studio where I hang my potholders on to take pictures.
I couldn’t see a bird in that tree either. But I knew they were there. Back and forth the single bark went as if it were the trees themselves talking.
Then another cry. This one a screech that came from the trees across the pasture in our neighbor’s yard.
The barking and screeching went on for a while. I didn’t know what they were saying , but I had no doubt that the three birds were having a conversation.
Then a big black bird flew from the tree above me as if shot from a cannon. I watched it wing its way across the pasture in seconds and land in the group of trees the screech came from.
Not a minute later another big black bird materialized from the other maple and headed for the same trees.
Now they were quiet and I went back into the house. I made myself a cup of tea using mint that I’d dried from my garden, then sat on the back porch steps. The sun warmed me and I watched the bees and flies hum in the garden.
Then suddenly, one of the big black birds was back.
It landed in the birch tree in front of me. This time I could see it clearly. The tree is old, probably dying, and the leaves are small and thin on the branches.
The throaty barking began again. Two or three at a time. The black bird paced the bare branch only stopping to call out. It wasn’t long before the other big black bird flew in, landing on the other side of the tree.
As I watched I was thinking of my Crow Red Quilt. But these birds looked bigger than the crows I’m used to seeing sitting on the electrical lines around the farm.
I didn’t hear the screeching again and eventually, after being quiet for a while, both birds flew away.
I used the Merlin App to figure out that these birds were not crows but ravens.
Next, I went to Carol Law Conklin’s website Amityfarmbatik and looked up the batik that started it all. The name of her piece is Crow Alone. That settled my mind about the identity of the bird in the batik.
When I looked up the physical differences between a crow and raven, all the sources I came across said that size was how they could most easily be differentiated. Then when I read about them in Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak, he too suggested that the birds have similar meanings.
My Crow Red quilt came directly out of my own personal need for grounding as I have been transitioning through a new psychological awareness that I wrote about some weeks ago. Coming to more fully understand the effects of the trauma I experienced in my childhood is a process that I’m moving through.
So when I read in Andrew’s writing on both Raven and Crow the idea that they are symbols of creation and magic in our everyday life, it made sense to me.
“Each of us has the magician within, Andrews writes, and it is Raven which can show us how to bring that part of us out of the dark and into the light.” Raven teaches how to take that which is unformed and give it the form you desire.”
I know the Ravens who came onto the farm that morning were talking to each other. Possibly the one who was screeching was calling a warning or was an adolescent.
But their presence made me also feel like they were talking to me too. Bringing me a spiritual message.
So I’ll take their message as an affirmation of my ability to make the changes that I need to in order to move on in my life. To morn the past and let go of it. And to believe that can manifest something better for me, from its’ darkness.
I just got in from stacking wood. I stopped to look at the almost full moon which was just over the trees on the edge of the pasture.
Earlier, after I finished designing my Crow Red Quilt, I hung it on the barn and Jon took this photo of it with his Lecia camera.
I’ve been having a hard time capturing the true colors of the quilt. I turned off the light in my studio and had to hang the quilt on the wall otherwise the yellows turned white and the reds were all off.
Jon’s photo is very close to the true colors.
Below is a closer picture of Carol Conklin’s crow batik and the Mola Art. My Red Crow Quilt will be for sale when I finish it.
The quilt was already in Ellen’s car. Jon sat in our car with the window open. Ellen and I, bundled up in winter coats and facemasks, stood in the parking lot of the little library, an old graveyard on one side and a farmer’s field behind it, talking.
I’d been trying to get my November Snow quilt to Ellen since before Christmas. But Covid scares and frozen driveways kept it from happening. Now we were back to meeting in a small Vermont town halfway between our houses.
Ellen has been buying my art for years, but we started getting to know her and her husband John just before the pandemic in 2020. We’ve kept in touch, going from having dinner together to Zoom to lunches outside.
Finally, the cold got to me to be too much for me. We made plans with Ellen to get together on Zoom again soon and headed home.
Back in my studio, I finished what I began this morning after my sewing machine was working again. I looked at my Shibori Hankie quilt so far, now about 37″ square and waited for it to tell me what comes next.
But nothing came.
This quilt is happening slowly and feels so tied to the cold weather we’ve been having. It made me think of something my friend Carol Conklin wrote to me just yesterday…
“Winter is another world, amazing things happen… Sometimes winter is like suspended time to me, water stopped in waves and ripples built up in graceful layers and the snow in fields capturing the patterns of the wind and holding that design.”
The sun was almost down, and the cold was seeping in through the floorboards. So I gathered my computer, phone, empty teacups, and turned my heat and lights off. Then I bowed to my studio, thanking it as I do every evening, and Fate and I went into the house for the night.
Carol and I made a trade. I gave her a few of my Dishes Magnet and she gave me two of her face masks.
Because of covid and because her husband hasn’t been well, Carol and I haven’t been able to see each other lately. The weather doesn’t help either. Carol lives in an old farmhouse on top of a hill. My car wouldn’t make it up her driveway for a good part of the winter.
But we keep in touch.
For years Carol was an important part of our Bedlam Farm Open Houses. She’d show up for the whole weekend, selling her art, meeting everyone who came and doing Batik demonstrations.
Now Carol has her work in some local galleries and sells it on her website Amity Farm Batik.
Carol closed her Etsy Shop after Christmas, but now it’s back open. She has her original batiks for sale, but also reproductions of her work on all kinds of clothes leggings, dresses, socks, shawls, scarves, and bags. Also on housewares like cups, cutting boards, trivets, potholders and pillows, as well as fabric and face masks.
So if you’re shopping for something for yourself, or looking for a unique gift, visit Carol’s Website Amity Farm Batik. Just click here.
Or if you’d like to see Carol demonstrate how she makes her batiks, on PBS TV, just click here.
I brought the quilt into the house and, as I always do, laid it out on the bed in our guestroom. Conveniently it’s also my shipping office so I don’t have far to go after I trim the loose threads and run a lint roller over it before I put it in a box and print out a shipping label.
This is my final look at the quilt to make sure that everything is just right. The quilt’s name, with my initials and the date, are stitched in the bottom right corner.
I folded “Goddess Of The Hunt” and put it in a plastic bag with a thank you postcard to Jenn, and my business card. Then it all goes into a box.
The shipping costs have been eased somewhat since Pirate Ship, the company I get my mailing labels from (they are less expensive than USPS), started offering shipping through UPS. It does mean a trip into Greenwhich, which is a half hour round trip to mail it at CVS. But I’m happy to do it, since it saves so much in shipping. And it’s a pretty ride like most around here.
Before the pharmacies became drop-off centers for Fed Ex and UPS, it would have been an hour trip one way to drop off a package. So I’m grateful for it.
I do like the way Goddess Of The Hunt looks on a bed. Carol Conklin’s tree fabric on the bottom shows up so well and anchors the quilt in a very earthy way. The rest of the quilt is divided up nicely on the flat surface too.
Jenn, who is buying the quilt said it’s for her husband. She bought my quilt “A Gentle Place” which has a similar look and also has Jon’s old Chamois shirts in it and Carol’s Batiks.
They do make a good pair. And now they each have a quilt of their own.
Check out Carol’s Etsy Shop Amity Farm Batik, She not only has her original batiks for sale, but all kinds of things made from prints of her work, including clothing, housewares, and fabric. Lot of good shopping for the holidays and you’ll be supporting a wonderful artist and person. Just click here.