Q=A=Q 2019

Last week I shipped two works from the Dozen White Shirts series to the Schweinfuth Art Center in Auburn NY for Quilts=Art=Quilts 2019.

Spin Cycle  , 43 x 44”, Cotton, linen, found white dress shirts, hand embroidered and stitched.

Spin Cycle, 43 x 44”, Cotton, linen, found white dress shirts, hand embroidered and stitched.

Spin Cycle was one of the earliest pieces in this series, and somehow was never the “chosen one” when I entered juried exhibitions. I was very happy to have it selected to show at the Schweinfurth as it is one of my favorites. Imagine staring down into a top loading washer and you will see how I visualized this image. I loved experimenting with fabric manipulation on this piece and also enjoyed putting together the shirt pieces that I had solar-dyed outside into the lower border. This border would become the common element between all eight of the quilts. I think this is also a successful use of the shibori-style fabric I made carelessly in my backyard indigo vat. The fabrics were not at all expert, but I had so much fun making them. The other work selected for the Schweinfurth is Line Dried.

When I have a chance to talk about these quilts I enjoy how other people also have pleasant sensory memories of laundry and are eager to share their own laundry stories. So many of my friends remember their own mothers toiling over white shirts, and the sounds and smells of clothelines and steam irons. Even though the images in this series of quilts are very abstract, I think many different people were able to connect to the ideas I was working out. Agitation will be traveling with Quilt National for another year, but I would like to someday exhibit all eight of the quilts together in one place.

I was in St. Louis last week for the Surface Design Association conference and saw so many astounding fiber artworks. My head was spinning when I returned. The St. Louis area fiber community has put together an amazing group of exhibitions called Inovations in Textiles. Lastly, I was delighted to finally meet two artist friends in person, Amy Meissner and Paula Kovarik. The fiber world is so large, and then sometimes wonderfully small. It is good to meet fellow travelers on the journey.

Summer Goodbyes

Once again, summer has slipped away so quickly. The nights are much cooler and the mornings so very dark. The garden is on its own for awhile, though I am still getting beans, squash, chard and tomatoes. This month I sent off two favorite pieces to live new lives in new places. Marge’s Pickledish went to a new home on the west coast, and Homespun will reside in NYC.

A History of Toil: Marge’s Pickledish, 32 x 37”, cotton,linen, found table linens

A History of Toil: Marge’s Pickledish, 32 x 37”, cotton,linen, found table linens

This little piece began when my husband Mike and his siblings were emptying my mother-in-law’s home after her death. Marge was not a saver, but there were a few family items to disburse and on the way out the door that day, my sister-in-law Maureen pushed the cut glass pickledish at Mike, saying, “give this to Helen.” Making regular appearances for holiday meals over many years, I was pleased to have it. Not long after, I saw some interesting cyanotypes made with cut glass, and I decided to give it a try. This was definitely a trial and error process, but I got some very useable images on linen napkins and began to create a composition. Pickledish is a very challenging traditional quilting pattern and I wanted to make a nod to that, and at the same time visualize something completely new. All the quilts in the History of Toil series are medallion compositions, so the design started at the center. I layered an assortment of vintage table linens and fifties style fabrics with dense stitches.This quilt was selected for Artist as Quiltmaker in Oberlin, OH, and was also part of my recent exhibit at Arrowmont in TN.

I had a good relationship with Mike’s mother and think of her often. Marge and I were friends for many years. The glass pickledish, given to Marge as a wedding present, and to me as a memento, may still appear at table now and then, and I will eventually assign custody to one of my daughters. Meanwhile, the quilt will have a new home, faraway, and I hope it will be enjoyed for years to come.

Books on my List

Here are a few titles from my recent reading list:

Fallen Land, by Taylor Brown; How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper; Strangers and Cousins, by Leah Hager Cohen; Hazards of Time Travel, by Joyce Carol Oates; and Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser.


For me, July has been a month for mulling over. I keep a small notebook close at hand and write down snippets of thoughts, key words and strands of ideas. This is as close as I get to a sketchbook. So all these new ideas are just marinating in my head and in my collection of interesting cloth that I pull out from day to day, just to look at and think about. I bought a few scraps of beautiful red wool at the Waste Shed in Chicago last week to save for winter sewing. They also had a nice selection of pre-owned DMC perle cotton that I jumped on. I have also been experimenting with rust dying on my vintage linens. So many vintage linens…

Terretorial Road: Crosses and Losses , 2018

Terretorial Road: Crosses and Losses , 2018

I was very excited to have my quilt Terretorial Road:Crosses and Losses accepted for the Surface Design Association exhibit Beyond the Surface. The exhibit will be at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild during the SDA conference in St. Louis, MO in early October. I had already registered for the conference, so this is a nice boost to have a work in one of many wonderful fiber exhibits that will be on view for the conference days.

Starched and Pressed will be exhibited at the Swope Museum in Terre Haute, IN in their 75th Annual Wabash Valley Exhibition, September 6 - October 20, 2019.

The Territorial Road is a work inspired by a diary entry, written by Susan Brackney Clayton in 1890. From a sod house on a homestead near Elton, Nebraska, her words tell of beauty in the expanse of land and sky, the constantly howling wind, loneliness and a deep longing for a life left behind in Indiana. This piece is called Crosses and Losses, after a patchwork pattern dating back to the time of westward expansion, speaking to hardship and the isolation of a woman uprooted.

Summer Reads:

Here are a few books I have enjoyed recently:

The Dreamers, by Karen Thompson Walker; The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan; Naive. Super, by Erlend Loe; Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson; Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, by Jess Kidd.

First Days of Summer


Spot the monarch caterpillar on the far right, feasting on common milkweed. He wasn’t there this morning, so may have been nabbed by one of the four wren parents currently nesting in the yard. I live smack in the city, a few blocks from downtown South Bend, Indiana, on a standard city lot, with alley. I am always amazed at the wide diversity of wildlife on such a small piece of ground. No one in the neighborhood is much into lawn, so we don’t have a lot of pesticides or lawn chemicals drifting over. Lots of bugs for the wrens, flowers for birds, bees, butterflies and me. Oh, and cherries (Carmine Jewel, dwarf variety).

June has been a busy month with a family graduation, a retirement (Mike), and visits to and from family and friends. We have had wet, cool weather so I am wildly trying to stay on top of the weeds, pick the peas and lettuce and manage the Unity Garden I am garden leader for. My latest project there is a Monarch Waystation, a very cool habitat for butterflies. Yesterday I ventured south of town to Naturally Native Nursery to pick up some native plant species: what an interesting place, and just 6 miles from home.

My exhibit, In Her Domain, at Arrowmont closes next weekend. A special thanks to Angela Caldwell, my fellow exhibitor and to Kelsey Dillow, the coordinator for the exhibit at Arrowmont, for all the energy and collaboration on this exhibit. You can read an interview Kelsey did with the two of us at this link: https://www.arrowmont.org/category/blog

I’m between projects at the moment, plan to do some rust dying this week and finish a collaborative tile for a local museum project. I did a one-hour quick visit to Vogue Fabrics in Evanston IL while we were there for the graduation. I am still reeling from the scope of this place, but managed to buy a nice stack of fabrics despite being totally overwhelmed.

I read a great book and highly recommend it: The Overstory, by Richard Powers. Put it on your list!

Quilt National 2019

Personalized poster for QN 2019, given to each exhibiting artist.

Personalized poster for QN 2019, given to each exhibiting artist.

What a wonderful opening for QN19. Mike and I drove through rural Indiana and Ohio, (everything wet, nothing planted yet), to reach Athens, OH and the QN opening weekend festivities. My quilt, Agitation, received a juror’s award. Looking around, the quality and quantity of amazing artworks was exciting and humbling. I always feel a little wrong-footed at art openings, but managed to navigate the crowd and meet several wonderful artists, some whose work I am very familiar with, others whose work was new to me and to QN. The catalog is lovely and shows a wide diversity of techniques, concepts and ways of seeing. I am honored to be in this company. Many thanks to the jurors and the Dairy Barn staff for the huge effort that goes into this biennial exhibit.

In Her Domain

In Her Domain Postcard Front.jpg
In Her Domain Postcard Back.jpg

This weekend we are driving to southern Indiana to spend Easter with our son and his family, then on to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to deliver work from my series, A History of Toil, for a two-person exhibit in the Wolpert Gallery with Angela Caldwell. This is the first time I will have more than three works shown at once and I am very excited at this wonderful opportunity. Angela and I both answered an open call for exhibit proposals, and by coincidence, she lives in the same town as my son. We have met several times and gotten to be art friends. Her lovely jewelry work will be on display with my quilts. I am looking forward to an Appalachian spring trip, I know it will be beautiful. If your travels take you to the Smoky Mountains, please stop in and see the exhibit.


As yet untitled detail

As yet untitled detail

I have been working on a new series with a working title of Unbeknownst. I have always liked that word, so archaic and mysterious. I wanted to use some of my large collection of cast off, abandoned and forgotten handwork, mostly in the form of quilts, domestic linens, hankies and doilies. I am intrigued by the idea of how these objects, so carefully made and saved, end up in estate sales, resale shops and in “mystery lots” on ebay. Maybe once the woman who made or used these lovely things is no longer remembered by anyone, the objects lose value and can be discarded in the process of clearing. This seems to take a few generations. My sister-in-law recently brought me a box of such things from my husband’s three Italian great aunts, maiden ladies who lived together and took care of their mother. The aunts lived into great old age and are now departed, and I have many memories of visiting with our little children, but I doubt any of my kids remember them much. And yet, here I am with these lovely linen napkins, embroidered and monogrammed handkerchiefs and pillowcases, turning them into something else.

March crocus with bee

March crocus with bee

I heard this bee buzzing in the crocus when I did my first pass of spring raking today. It has been such a long winter.

Winters End Reading:

Winter Loon, by Susan Bernhard; Dear Life, by Alice Munro; Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak; The River, by Peter Heller; and a blast from the past, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (this is the “One Book Michiana” selection and I got the audio version at the library, read by Stephen Fry—a hoot).

Women, Home and the Revolution of Memory

Opening in South Bend

Opening in South Bend

This is an exciting opportunity to exhibit with twenty other women artists. Three of my works from the Dozen White Shirts series will be on display. Many thanks to Rita Koehler for her interest in my work and for curating this exhibit.

Sorted , detail

Sorted, detail

March is predicted to bring more arctic temperatures, blasting wind and generally un-spring-like weather. I am using this housebound time to stitch three new pieces about things lost and found, memories of people lost and found too. I had a nice opportunity to give a talk to a local organization about my work last week, and that always helps me clarify ideas that are important to me, and gives me a chance to tell some of the narratives that have informed the works I make.

People are always giving me things, and I hit the jackpot when my friend Anna bagged up four very old quilts for me to use as I pleased…I am very much pleased to find ways to use these tattered and well-worn quilts. Thanks Anna.

I have another piece, Standing Amazed: Shape Garden 1, showing in Focus: Fiber 2019, at the Kent State University Museum in Ohio. This exhibit runs from March 1- July 28.

More books:

Here are some more titles from my winter binge reading:

The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner; Etta and Otto and Raymond and James, by Emma Hooper; Shell Game, by Sara Paretsky; and the Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose (This is an interesting book based on The Artist is Present, the MOMA performance by Marina Abramovic).

In a Polar Vortex

Heck, it’s colder here than at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

The truth according to Ecobee.

The truth according to Ecobee.

Yesterday we woke up late, realizing that the alarm didn’t go off because we didn’t have any power…at -18 degrees. The house was already down to 54, but power was restored after a couple of hours, we dressed in layers and were grateful to the utility workers who got us back on the grid. Everything is closed for cold, so we are hunkered down at home, Mike made a lovely pot roast in the crock pot yesterday, I’ll make soup from same today.

Winter is always a creative time for me, no distractions of travel, garden and other warmer weather enjoyments. Friends, Carol Myers and Pat DaRif and I are beginning to put together a body of work from shared materials. Carol got us started with some lovely semi-sheer rust-dyed fabric, I made some cotton and linen solar-dyed pieces, and Pat contributed richly textured fabrics, screen-printed from her original Thermofax plates. I was also interested in using some of the many domestic linens I have collected that had names and monograms on them, the original owners long lost to memory. Here are a few glimpses of my stitching explorations and beginnings.

A Lot of Time for Reading.

Here are a few titles from my “in the deep of winter” reading binge.

Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield; Our Homesick Songs, Emma Hooper; Clock Dance, Anne Tyler; Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng; The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry; A Country Road, a Tree, Jo Baker; A River of Stars, Vanessa Hua; Force of Nature, Jane Harper; and Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss.

Living Waters

Strangers at the Gates

Strangers at the Gates

Boxing Day in South Bend is chilly, but sunny. We did not have snow for the holiday, nice for all of our travelers, but not so great for the little baby sled under the tree for our grandson. We have a nice training sledding hill, right in our front yard, so maybe later this winter.

A few years ago, The Indiana Women’s Caucus for Art decided to put together an exhibit about threats to the Great Lakes. Several of our members actually live on Lake Michigan, and others on waters close by. The show, Living Waters, took a while to come together, and we had some challenges securing the right venue, but here we are, two weeks out from installation. The piece that I made, Strangers at the Gates, is about the three electric barriers on the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal that separate the Asian Carp in the Mississippi River water system from the Great Lakes. These invasive fish are voracious and a huge threat to the food chain for aquatic life. They would join a long line of other invasive species, carelessly introduced, with unintended consequences to the balance of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Living Waters, opens January 14, 2019, at the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture, South Bend, and will close March 22.

I also have a piece, Coin Op Laundry, in the Art Link Midwest Regional Juried Exhibit, opening January 4 at Art Link Gallery in Fort Wayne, IN.

Reading List:

I am closing my 2018 good reads with a few astounding titles: Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver; Virgil Wander, by Leif Enger; and The History of Bees, by Maja Lunde. Other books I have enjoyed, Ways to Hide in Winter, by Sarah St. Vincent; Key to Treehouse Living, by Elliot Reed; There, There, by Tommy Orange; and Longbourne, by Jo Baker.

Best wishes for a 2019 that is full of promise and possibility!