Disaster Fatigue

I definitely have disaster fatigue, and I am only marginally affected. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston I was tense waiting for updates from my family as the rains fell.

On August 28 I felt guilty for the lovely weather and listening to life-as-usual conversations. Meanwhile, friends and family were watching water rise into their neighborhoods. Facebook after Facebook update showed me the breadth of this disaster, with former high school classmates and families impacted greatly.

Each impending disaster piles on more of that stress. People want to help and try to find ways to donate, which then creates an avalanche of donation requests.

Then the criticism of aid organizations arises and whether the ones broadcast by the media are actually using the funds for good.

As the storm passes, opinions abound on what should have been done and which government agency got the disaster plan wrong. Polarization, greed, ‘not my problem’ reasoning piles up. Meanwhile, the aftermath of the storm is life changing for many, and coulda-woulda-shoulda does nothing to mitigate the damage.

At the end of September, I flew out to physically help with my mom’s move to a new apartment.

Even though she lived in a nice neighborhood, debris had not been picked up a full month after the storm. I was not prepared for the piles of personal belongings sitting on the curbs, swallowing up entire front yards.

In the house (which got 30 inches of water), the smell of mold is pervasive. No a/c can fight it. Airing a house out in a humid tropical climate is virtually impossible.

Various blocks of small business are closed. Banks have temporary ATMs set up in a tent on their parking lots. One street is full of debris, another a block away has no damage at all.

Greeting acquaintances is followed by exchanges of how each person fared in the storm. There is survivors guilt for those who had minimal damage. They refrain from saying much because others had it worse. Yet the grief still needs to be acknowledged. We can count blessings and cry at the same time.

I helped mom with her flood insurance paper work. This involved going through the house mentally to fill in line items for each room.

Thoughts were oscillating between big ticket items like furniture pieces to pantry contents to clothing to wondering if it is worth to put stationary and wrapping paper on the spreadsheet since in comparison that loss is not as large as others emotionally and financially.

When the trash was picked up, Harvey left its imprint on the grass.

Debates about standing for the anthem seemed malapropos. And yet people also crave normalcy. They want to resume their running routine on a trail that has now been diverted due to flood damage. Life goes on, and yet life is so different.

There is a lot to coordinate. People have short fuses trying to keep all the to-dos in their heads. Those standing by to help feel like disciplinarians.

Involuntary purges of possessions lead to a reassessment of life, and for our family, we can see it as fresh start (and a little bit of humor helps with coping as well).

Houston is resilient and will come out of this. But many families are devastated. Not everyone can move on from this trauma the way my mom’s circle is able to.

Houston understands storms, and to realize how long recovery is taking there makes me worry for the storms that came after.

For regions hit by Irma and Maria, the cleanup efforts are more difficult than what I saw in Houston. Wildfires are burning, earthquakes keep happening, tsunamis and volcanos pose threats. And then there is violence. Guns, beatings, brutality, emotional violence.

We are all broken. We are all grieving. We all have damage.

The comparison of damage, the bargaining about it, the valuing of one disaster over another, the bragging about donations are all irrelevant tracking devices. Disaster is disaster. The order of magnitude has no bearing.

Comparing is ego-based. Giving, caring and listening is love-based.

As another Harvey garners triggering news, I am going to take a break from the media and from reading #metoo statuses and reading about devastation.

It is time for a bit of self-care before I launch into the holiday fair season, and to focus on my microcosm for a bit. The world will keep turning as I tend to those closest to me, and the activism and donating can be handled by others for a little while.

As the flight attendant reminded me on the plane home, I need to put on my own oxygen mask and take a deep breath before being able to help others out.

Ultimately, there is hope and faith and love in this world, and my aim is to focus on the joy rather than the pain.

Elmhurst Art Museum

Last week I visited the Elmhurst Art Museum, which has two lovely exhibits up.

The cartoon-like works of the Forced Field exhibit by Hebru Brantley seem cheerful at first, but have an underlying message that is more serious. Hebru’s Flyboy is a recurrent theme, based on the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II.

The collection is a vibrant array of 2-d and 3-d art, and the power of repetition is clearly illustrated in both his painted and sculptural works. His Lil Mama character is also featured in the exhibit.

In the exhibit notes, the works showcased at the Museum also allude to the way communities keep each other in check, not wanting a person to break out of the mold. It is interesting to consider that we want our younger generations to excel, yet if they get too adventurous those around them will over-protect and try to reel them back in.

The title “Forced Field” is a reference to South Siders not letting anyone go past a certain point of their neighborhood out of fear and/or ignorance.

The titles add a sinister dimension to the vibrant paintings on display. Some were over my head, but others indicated the state of the nation very clearly.

Not being American I am learning a lot about the history of race relations, yet I suspect that many viewers will be introduced to new ideas through Hebru’s art.

There is a graffiti wall by Hebru in the museum where people can add art and take selfies as Flyboy. I like the accessibility of the art work, even with the subtle messaging behind it. Forced Fields is up through November 26, and is definitely worth a visit.

I also perused Wesley R. Baker’s American Images exhibit, which closes September 22. This striking art work also addresses various political subjects, with artist statements going in depth about the meaning of each piece. Wesley’s love of motorcycles is evident in one half of the room, and I enjoyed his depiction of the freedom he and fellow riders experience while taking road trips.

The painter also illustrates his awareness of historic and political events. One sculpture serves as a stark reminder of slavery’s shackles. 

I learned about Ira Hayes through another sculpture.

His native American themed paintings evoke both the beauty and the struggle of indigenous tribes in America.

I didn’t realize that the museum also owns the McCormick House. Built by Mies van der Rohe, the building is undergoing renovation to its original state after being relocated to the Elmhurst Museum site in 1992. The house was originally built in 1952 for Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. and his wife.

Mies designed the minimalist house as a prototype for a proposed group of smaller, affordable middle-class homes in nearby Melrose Park. Unfortunately,glass, steel and brick on a concrete slab design proved unpopular and the project did not take off. The house has a framework of peripheral columns and ceiling beams, which allowed for an open and adaptable interior with movable wall partitions, now configured as storage spaces.

There are also some large scale sculptures on the museum grounds to interact with. It was a lovely outing prior to the Girls Nite Out event.

Heart in Texas

I’ve been trying to maintain normalcy since August 25, but there is a lot of emotional upheaval when the town you spent 8 years in is devastated by a catastrophic storm.

My mom and brother still live in the greater Houston area, as do many of my high school classmates whose parents are still rooted in the subdivision I finished High School in.

Since the airports were closed and the surrounding infrastructure tentative, I wasn’t able to rush out and be with my family. Now I keep tabs on them daily, watch the Facebook feeds of my friends in the aftermath, and feel helpless and guilty and on edge. I was too agitated to go into the studio last week; it felt too trivial to make art when lives were in danger.

The beauty is that so much unity is coming out of this. A lot of kindness and helpfulness and an abundance of love.

With my heart heavy, I decided to get back into my commissions yesterday, and worked on a Texas angel as well. Concentrating on the wire and pieces I have been assigned to make helped settle me again. I should remember that art is therapeutic, and that it would have helped me last week as well.

This storm has marked my family and friends. The full extent of the aftermath is not yet known. Neighborhoods that made it through numerous storms have become floodzones. My family was lucky in spite of the material losses. For my friends, their kids are displaced as Kingwood High School undergoes repairs, some of their families are dealing with devastating home damage, and emotionally everyone is spent.

I am aware of raging wildfires, more water damage around the world, political craziness going on, and all the microcosmic events my friends in non-disaster areas deal with day to day. I see the cynics utilizing images and opinions to promote their divisive agendas.

But Hurricane Harvey is deeply personal, and it is OK to sit with that for a moment while the rest of the world rages on.

What gives me peace is that my firefighter brother is utilizing his skills to help his neighbors, completely in his element, as weird as that seems. I know mom will be OK, and we all still have each other.

As volatile as the world and life seems just a few weeks after my birthday, I will continue to pursue what I am called to do, which means sending more angels out in to the world as I gear up for my mid-September fairs.

Arming ourselves with body positivity

Last weekend Hip Circle Empowerment Center hosted its third annual body positivity photoshoot.  This year’s focus was arms, with a dress code of sleeveless tops and dresses.

Having just made two sleeveless dresses, it didn’t occur to me that some women are self-conscious about their arms. Then on July 14 going sleeveless even became a political issue in congress with women striving to change the dress code that doesn’t allow for sleeveless dresses in the Capitol’s House of Representatives lobby.  

I like my arms, especially now that they are toned from wire bending and Moxie Boxing. We had a blast striking various poses in front of the new Main Street Station Mural (more will pop up on Hip Circle’s web site). The fabulous Zinta Jauntirāns-Vogel took all our photos.

I knew I would bump into friends and was pleased to meet new power-women. Some are studio regulars, and others just found out about the shoot and decided to join in. We even tried to get passers-by in sleeveless outfits to take pictures with us (they declined).

Unlike the bikini shoot that sparked this annual event, I had no jitters during the day. It was more about deciding which dress to wear! One person had bought a top especially for the occasion.

A little girl who had been made self-conscious of a farmers tan refused to join. She later wanted to be part of some photos, but the rule was that she had to remove her cardigan. As the shoot progressed and we asked her about Wonder Woman’s power poses, she warmed up to the ladies present. Just as the group session wrapped she decided to join in after all. Now she is happy to leave the cardigan at home on hot days.

Here’s to the next empowering activity. I missed the shorts photoshoot last year, which also has fabulous messages.  Check out the various classes, workshops and events Hip Circle Empowerment Center organizes and see if one or more of them resonate with you.

Photos copyright Zinta Jauntirāns-Vogel

Hip Circle Empowerment Center just turned non-profit. Their mission: “Through dance, fitness, and community we empower ALL women to believe they are strong, beautiful, and worthy of attention.

Vision: The Hip Circle Empowerment Center is a safe space for women of all ages, backgrounds, and economic status. It brings together women from across societal boundaries for shared experiences. Through dance and fitness, women are empowered to joyfully inhabit their bodies. Through personal and professional development, women are empowered to courageously accomplish their goals. Through involvement in the studio community, women are empowered to confidently make their voices heard.”

Summerfun

Between EvanstonMade and preparing for the pop up and gearing up for August’s events, my art life has been quite busy.

Nonetheless, I do make sure to stop and smell the flowers, observe butterflies, and stroll in nature.

I blog outdoors when I can to soak up the sun.

Here are some of the snapshots of my downtime in the past few months.

The grocery store’s passion flowers are a special memento of the person who first introduced me to this flower.

I stroll around the neighborhood and love looking at the indoor and outdoor bunnies.

The new Taco Place is plotting its grand opening.

I noticed this lovely little lending library that is twinning on the big house it belongs to.

I danced in the Custer Fair’s flashmob in June.

Then I cheered on my Hip Circle friends during their World Arts and Culture Fair performance.

The Collage Cafe continues to host workshops in the new space, and our last Grown*UP Girls project was weaving paper strips that we shared amongst each other after painting them.

I spotted a yellow butterfly on the way home recently.

Someone in the neighborhood has a Clueless license plate.

I splurged on an empowering movie on a half price Tuesday.

Angel frolicked in the Merrick Rose Garden last weekend.

When I am weary of the walking and doing, I spend reading on the sofa. Angel’s geneaology is fascinating.

It is a thrill to see monarchs take advantage of all the milkweed patches both the city and Evanston gardeners have planted.

They are not as abundant as a few summers ago, but spotting butterflies of any kind gives me hope that we aren’t killing them off just yet.

I hope we can reverse the damage humanity has done to nature.

I continue to monitor my outdoor dragonfly, and I think it is safe to keep my stakes in the garden.

Meanwhile, there are still a few other things I want to do.

  1. Walk the Openlands Long trail (I found the short trailhead but couldn’t tell where the long path merged, so I will be using the southern entrance next time)
  2. Watch Despicable Me 3 on a half-price Tuesday
  3. Find trailmaps for Harms Woods so I can return there again
  4. A cabin retreat to write (2 night stay-the pop up opening had me postpone my July 19 trip)
  5. View Takashi Murakami at MSA (I have until September 24)

What’s on your summer bucket list?

#SayHerName: The Women of the Witness Quilt

“We are all connected.
If we are not really invested in helping each other, there is no hope for us.
It’s about how our lives are all limited
without having deep conversations and interactions with one another.”
~ Melissa Blount

Women starting new lives in a new home or trying to get away from abuse. Young sisters killed by arson. Stray bullets hitting innocents at a wake. A baby left in the care of the wrong person. A woman walking her child in a park. The daughter of a police officer. The cousin of a basketball star. An accidental shooting.

Families are devastated because these women and children were in the line of fire, many through no provocation of their own.

The local news outlets have homicide trackers and timelines of how many people are killed on any given day in Chicago. It gets shrugged off as people being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that presumably they were walking around late at night, that somehow this was provoked. 

But in reviewing these stories, placing blame on the victim is utterly inappropriate. Melissa Blount, instigator of the Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt, gave me a list of the women on the quilt, with five more added since the quilt was completed. 

4 babies (some of whom lost their mothers in utero); 12 girls age 19 and under; 20 age 25 and under; 7 in their late 20s; 12 in their 30s; 3 in their 40s; 3 between 52 and 54 years old. These women and girls should be living out their lives. They are not statistics. They are human beings who loved, who lived, who danced, who had aspirations. Say their names. Click on the links and look at their faces.

  1. Sakinah Reed, 17, shot while standing on a corner
  2. Latania Anderson, 25, attempted peacemaking
  3. Tiana Brown, 20 , accidental shooting
  4. Shari Graham, 30, was sitting in a cab
  5. Daysha Wright, 21, was riding in a car
  6. Dejenaba A. Altman, 43, standing near an Elementary School  
  7. Babette Miller, 35, had just filed an abuse report
  8. Tiara M. Parks, 23, was getting out of a car 
  9. Kiara Kinard, 26, killed at home
  10. Makeesha Starks, 26, killed at home
  11. De’Kayla Dansberry, 16, stabbed 
  12. Camille C. Cooley, 36, murdered 
  13. Yvonne Nelson, 49, errant gunfire near Starbucks 
  14. Pamela Johnson, 32, struck by car while fleeing a robbery 
  15. Jessica Hampton, 25, stabbed on CTA red line 
  16. Chanda Foreman, 37, killed on her birthday 
  17. Shameka Heard 33, stabbed
  18. Katana (Greenlee) Hornbuckle, 2 months, child abuse by babysitter
  19. Africa Bass, 23, shot in front of her new home 
  20. Jessica Williams, 16, asthma attack after witnessing fatal shootings 
  21. Kayana Q. Armond, 33, shot at a memorial party 
  22. Madison Watson, 4, killed in arson fire of multi-unit building
  23. Melanie Watson, 3 months,killed in arson fire of multi-unit building
  24. Shaniyah Staples, 7, killed in arson fire of multi-unit building
  25. Tykina Ali, 20, killed while riding in a car 
  26. Nykea Aldridge,  32, killed while pushing her baby in a stroller 
  27. Othijah (Otha) M. Mooney, 35, killed at home 
  28. KeeKee Fleming 18, killed while attending a vigil 
  29. T.T. Saffore, 28, murdered
  30. Parasha M. Beard, 19, 8-months pregnant was sitting in a parked car 
  31. Adrianna Mayes, 21, killed in errant crossfire while holding her baby  
  32. Julia Martin, 28, stabbed after returning engagement ring 
  33. Marilyn Duffie 21, shot by roommate 
  34. Chiquita Ford, 30, shot while sitting in a car
  35. Emoni House, 20, killed at home with her brother 
  36. Cynthia Richardson, 54, shot on her front lawn 
  37. Nateyah Yahah Hines, 19, killed in attempted robbery 
  38. Shacora Jackson, 40, killed in attempted robbery (Nateyah’s mom)
  39. Sylvia Brice, 52, stabbed after attempting to move out on New Year’s Eve

2017

  1. Precious Land, 27, died after being paralyzed from a gunshot would 7 months prior 
  2. Jamayah Fields, 20, shot near an elementary school 
  3. Takiya Holmes 11, hit by stray bullet while running errands with family 
  4. Tenisha Mallet, 21, shot while in a group
  5. Kanari Gentry Bowers 12, shot while playing basketball at a school
  6. Tiara Richmond (KeKe Collier), 24, murdered 
  7. Wilteeah Jones, 20, shot in a parked car
  8. A’Miracle Jones, 5 months, Parasha M Beard’s baby died of prematurity 
  9. Janylah Mack, 4 months, born prematurely after her mom was abused
  10. Diamond Turner, 21, strangled 
  11. Tanisha Jackson, 30, shot during an argument 
  12. Patrice Calvin, 26, shot at home
  13. Dominque Victoria Scott, 23, shot while riding in a van
  14. Jacquetta Pearson, 22, shot while sitting in car
  15. Brittany Leflore, 22, killed while on her way home
  16. Tatyanna Lewis, 18, rammed into by a car 
  17. Naisha Weems, 27, struck by a car 
  18. Tashika Manuel-Dunbar, 35, shot while walking to her car
  19. Tina Brown, 53, shot in her home 
  20. Chastity Johnson, 18, shot while walking 
  21. Tiara Goodman, 25, murder-suicide
  22. Shantae Nevith, 22, shot 

I used the Sun Times link most often since this one systematically has photos of each victim. A google search will tell you more about each individual. These are our sisters.

Per Wikipedia: “#SayHerName is a social movement that seeks to raise awareness for black female victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence in the United States. #SayHerName aims to change the public perception that victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence are predominantly male by highlighting the gender-specific ways in which black women, particularly black queer women and black transgender women, are disproportionately affected by fatal acts of racial injustice. In an effort to create a large social media presence alongside existing racial justice campaigns, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlsMatter, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) coined the hashtag #SayHerName in February 2015.

Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt

“I see this quilt as an opportunity to create repair.
When you have empathy, it is hard to do damage.
We haven’t dealt with the idea of how we have dehumanized black folk.”
~ Melissa Blount

On June 25, Evanston residents gathered for the unveiling of the Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt at the Frances Willard House Museum. The Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt was created by Melissa Blount, Making Evanston Equitable Together (MEET) and community volunteers, to honor and draw attention to the lives of Black women and girls lost to violence in Chicago by incorporating their names into a community quilt.

Community Sewing Circles of all levels gathered over the last several months to create this unique and beautiful quilt. 50 participants received the names of 56 women killed in 2016 through May 2017 and hand-stitched quilt blocks based on the biographies of each person.

Then the Blounts collected all the squares and sewed them into proper quilt blocks. The colors blue, white and red reflect the Chicago flag. Evanston Stitchworks had provided advice on the pattern, and then print artist Ben Blount assisted with the pops of red within the quilt. One person focused on making the stars, which are purposely sewn on incorrectly to show that Chicago is ‘upside down’, said Melissa.

The final quilt was revealed at the Frances Willard Home. “It turned out amazing, much more than I ever thought,” Melissa Blount

The quilt came out of Ben Blount’s exhibit in February at 1100 Florence. Around Martin Luther King Day a colleague stated that if there was a day off for every black man killed, no work would be done. Ben took this comment to heart, and started researching the number of men killed in 2016. In Chicago alone, this made for 275 Holidays in 2016, which he documented as a calendar.

While he was focusing on the men, he felt he was dismissing the lives of the black women. So his wife Melissa Blount took up the torch to research the homicides of women. Using the DNAInfo Chicago Murder timeline, she collected the names and stories of 56 women and girls.

Inspired by Seneca artist Marie Watt and the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Melissa chose to create a quilt (which she had never done before). She started hosting social justice social circles. Using pink floss, the attendees set about sewing their squares after they were given names and stories of their individual. One mother brought her young son, who worked on the quilt block of an infant. The youngest name is of a 2-month old baby.

One baby on the quilt was born prematurely after her mother was shot, and died later. Another baby died after a woman in her 8th month of pregnancy was beaten. Three sisters are also memorialized on the quilt, who were killed in an aunt’s multi-unit house fire set by arson. One name is the daughter of a Chicago Police officer another the cousin of a basketball athlete.

When Frances Willard House curator Lori Osborne heard of the event, she offered the museum up as a venue to unveil the quilt. The Frances Willard House served as headquarters for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an initiative to defend women’s rights by curbing domestic violence which was linked to men’s alcohol abuse.

“It was this blending of the past and the present in such a special way that made this venue so appropriate,” said Lori.

The women’s temperance movement used quilts as an expression to add their voices to political statements, Lori explained. A Victorian quilt was on display that held signatures of women from Illinois, Iowa and Colorado.

“It [quilting] was giving them back a voice in the power they lost,” said Lori. A petition at the Frances Willard House was sewn together after individual signatures were collected in various parts of the US.

Melissa pointed out that Frances Willard is criticized for not helping Ida B. Wells with the anti-lynching movement. Ida had asked Frances to participate, and she was originally on board. However, when she approached southern women about the initiative, she was told that these men were ‘rightfully’ being lynched, and that Frances would not be given funding for her initiatives if she became part of the anti-lynching campaign. So Frances backed off.

“Frances was about helping women deal with domestic violence and substance abuse,” said Melissa. “Frances was a badass for her time. She raised the marriageable age for women, she worked on prison reform, she wanted to empower women with Gladys (her bicycle) and movement.”

“The history of America is so complicated and nuanced. I don’t want to erase her contribution because she was a woman of her time,” Melissa said.

Nonetheless, today we should be bolder, especially in Evanston. Quoting a conversation with a younger woman, Melissa said: “If your feminism is not intersectional, it is not feminism.”

Melissa’s aim is to act as allies and collaborators in the idea of peace building and creating a beloved community. She believes Evanstonians can serve as an example to the rest of the country. Niles North School was involved in the project as well after one staff member participated in an early sewing circle.

“What we have here in Evanston can be solved if we are really intentional about doing this work”, said Melissa. “There is a cognitive dissonance between what we think Evanston is [in terms of diversity and equity] than what it actually is.”

How does this quilt relate to Black Lives Matter? Melissa had an answer to that: Black Lives Matter has become equivalent to police brutality in the news. However, this brutality is as a result of the trauma of white supremacy. The underfunding of schools and resources in certain communities is an intentional state sanctioned act of discrimination, which creates space for violence, Melissa said: “Violence happens when you are proximate. “

The quilt encouraged the conversation about the issue of racism and oppression, and humanizes the lives of babies and women. The stitchers were asked to hold these women in their hearts as they sewed.

“We are all connected,” Melissa said. “If we are not really invested in helping each other, there is no hope for us. It’s about how our lives are all limited without having deep conversations and interactions with one another.”

MEET wants to continue gathering the community to engage in social justice handwork activities. Melissa and MEET plan to create a second quilt based on the lives lost from June 2017, because they know there will be more deaths.

Another quilt in the shape of the American Flag will focus on national violence against women, also with an eye on mental health issues based on the recent death of Charleena Lyles.

 

Lastly, the misgendering of two people in the media gave rise to the idea of researching transgender violence and creating a quilt for those losses.

The quilt traveled to the Evanston Art Center for public viewing and an additional talk at the end of June. This quilt is intended to travel, and initiatives are underway to move the quilt to other places. The names and stories of these women will also be bound into a book. “The stories of their deaths are so varied,” said Melissa. “It’s just been a transformative experience.”

As part of the local Black Lives Matters Movement, the Blounts are selling their remaining 281 Black Lives Matter yard signs for $10 each (via email) to raise funds for Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration.  The funds will go toward chartering buses that will take the children of incarcerated mothers to their prisons for visitation, a 4-hour ride for many. Selling out of these signs will ensure funding for these buses until the end of the year. BLM Shirts are available at www.blountobjects.com.

“When you incarcerate a mother, you are creating a ripple effect,” said Melissa. With 80% of incarcerated mothers having children under age 18, these children will experience incarceration themselves. Foster care has a criminalization effect on these children. “Segregation hurts us all and limits us all,” she said.

When a listener at the Evanston Art Center discussion expressed a sense of powerlessness at the current state of the world, Melissa quoted Bryan Stevenson in addressing our problems:
1. Get proximate
2. Change the narrative
3. Protect your hopefulness
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

“Officers are not lying when this say they feel threatened. The narrative of who black people are, that’s what we need to change,” she said.

While Melissa is lauded for the quilt effort, she is aware many other movements preceded the quilt. “There are people who have been in the trenches long before me,” she said, citing Chicago Freedom School, Black Youth Project and other names I didn’t catch.

In keeping with #SayHerName, here are the names on the quilt, by age:
Babies under 1 year old: Katana (Greenlee) Hornbuckle, Melanie Watson, Janylah Mack, A’Miracle Jones
Children under 10: Madison Watson, Shaniyah Staples
Tweens and Teens: Takiya Holmes, Kanari Gentry Bowers, Jessica Williams, De’Kayla Dansberry, Sakinah Reed, KeeKee Fleming, Tatyanna Lewis, Nateyah Yahah Hines, Parasha M. Beard
Women in their 20s: Tykina Ali, Jamayah Fields, Wilteeah Jones, Tiana Brown, Emoni House, Tenisha Mallet, Adrianna Mayes, Daysha Wright, Marilyn Duffie, Diamond Turner, Jacquetta Pearson, Brittany Leflore, Dominque Victoria Scott, Tiara M. Parks, Africa Bass, Tiara Richmond (KeKe Collier), Jessica Hampton, Latania Anderson, Makeesha Starks, Patrice Calvin, Kiara Kinard, Precious Land, Naisha Weems, T.T. Saffore, Julia Martin
Women in their 30s: Tanisha Jackson, Shari Graham, Chiquita Ford, Pamela Johnson, Nykea Aldridge, Shameka Heard, Kayana Q. Armond, Othijah (Otha) M. Mooney, Babette Miller, Camille C. Cooley, Chanda Foreman
Women in their 40s: Shacora Jackson, Dejenaba A. Altman, Yvonne Nelson
Women in their 50s: Sylvia Brice, Cynthia Richardson

Dressmaking part 2

Earlier this year I took a dressmaking class at the lovely Evanston Stitchworks.

Then when my mom came to visit, instead of heading to the Mall we picked out my new future wardrobe based on the gorgeous fabrics owner Amalia curates at Stitchworks. It was good to get a second opinion on some of the fabrics I had been eyeing.

My first mission was to re-make the dress I had learned to do in class. What I learned is that I had some serious beginners luck with the blue version.

I prepped the new fabric and impatiently waited for it to dry.

Because this fabric has birds flying in a specific direction, I already needed help in the cutting stage, not sure how to account for the direction of the fabric based on the layout in the booklet. I swung by Stitchworks with photos, and I was directed along the right path.

I also cut up the other pattern, so I checked the interfacing template against the old dress just in case.

Then, I realized that it had been a long time since the workshop, and I forgot the steps to many sewing parts. So I consulted notes and a sewing manual to jog my memory.

I pinned everything together and started following instructions.

Soon the shoulders, sides and skirt were joined. I tried it on to make sure the darts were in the right place.

Then I realized that Amalia had helped me along on the dress-fold in a different way than the pattern instructions. The instructions called for sewing the dress sides before the skirt fold.

With French Seams, this made for some bunching on the sides. It had already taken me 3 tries to get the side seams right.

In my bonus session, we had actually sewn the top and skirt together first and then closed the side seams, but I had been too engrossed in following the written pattern instructions this time around.

I didn’t want to rip up the sides of the dress (again!), so, I soldiered on with ripping, re-stitching, and ripping again for the pleat. After a few adjustments, I made peace with attempt 3.

Replicating the perfect collar seams was a challenge too. While there are a plethora of Youtube tutorials out there, finding the one resembling what I learned was a challenge, so I did what I could.

I know the flaws the armholes have, but hopefully the fabric will detract from all the (re)stitching. Then, in the final stretch, it turns out my neckline was larger than the bias I had cut out.

Oh seamripper, here you are again…

Thankfully I had purchased bias tape for a future project that matched the current fabric, so with the help of YouTube tutorials I was able to finish the dress in time for the Evanston Made Sip and Shop. I took pictures for visual reference next time.

I actually like the accent, so this mishap was a blessing in disguise.

It was fun to meet friends and hang out with local art for the final night of the exhibit.

Amalia was happy to see the dress finished in time as well, and rocking her latest creation.

I am happy with how it all turned out, and looking at both dresses cheers me up. I may shorten one of the hemlines, but haven’t decided on that yet.

Next up is a more complicated project, for which Amalia warned me to start with a sheet to get the sizing worked out. I’ll be planning some tutorial trips over to Stitchworks for that one. I am looking forward to having a studio dress in addition to then trying on a bolder fabric for outside wearing.

The Fall workshop line-up is in the works now, so check back on the Evanston Stitchworks page for new patterns and techniques to be taught. Meanwhile, I have many fabulous fat quarters awaiting conversion into pendants.

It’s fun to play with how the wax interacts with cotton and the different effect that has with the wire.

These are bigger pendants than my usual preference, but I know they will find homes.

One dragonfly stake with my blue dress fabric is undergoing garden testing in Germany right now. My own outdoors dragonfly is still doing well after a few storms and heat waves.

 

Hand pampering and company gift creating

Sometimes weary hands need a bit of pampering, and it had been far too long since I visited Noktivo.

On Friday I gave my hands and feet a break and settled into one of the comfy chairs at Lena Rose. The hands deserved a break, since Noktivo and Lena Rose owner Jenny had asked me to make keychains for her employees.

She had eyed my sparkle bead keychain at a pop-up, and asked if I could make some as gifts. Inspired by her decor, I went through my button stash and made rose keychains, which were immediately approved.

I gathered more roses and started bending rose-colored wire to add to the steel.

The softness of this handmade paper rose contrasts with the industrial steel, and gives it a safe haven.

I also made a double-rose keychain.

It is on Jenny to pick who receives which keychain.

My nails kept up with the visual theme, and after getting the lengths evened out and a lovely massage I was lacquered with a cheerful non-toxic pink.

I also delivered some bangles for consignment, so you can adorn your pampered wrists with one of those on your next visit to Lena Rose.

Keeping with the rose theme, I delivered some pink bangles as well.

I still have more sparklies from my Bead & Button Show excursion, which are available for custom sizing.

One rose had too little wire for a bangle, so it became a pendant instead.

Lena Rose offers a variety of natural beauty products that are free of toxins to keep you healthy and preserve the environment. I love the spray-on sunscreen for its lightweight application and strong protection.

After my hands and feet were thoroughly relaxed, I strolled next door to see what First Slice Pie had to offer. This lovely cafe and bakery has sweet and savory treats. My favorite summer pie was available, and I took a mini strawberry-rhubarb pie home.

Now my nails are ready for the Independence Day festivities.

Lena Rose Natural Beauty is located at 4668 N. Manor Avenue in Chicago. You can book appointments via this link.

Reading-deprived word girl

Well wouldn’t you know it, the week after I organized my bookshelf I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I am going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a local group of lovely women, and Week 4 is when we aren’t supposed to read anything.


This is really, really hard for me. In the spirit of not letting our own thoughts be cluttered up by other people’s influences, we are also taking a Facebook fast and avoiding TV. So my shelves are petting zoo right now.


I am finding that podcasts clutter up my brain. It is really hard for me to just listen to something for a long time without any visuals, even when I am puttering away and organizing things while listening. Casting TEDTalks to my TV is easier. But my preference is to absorb information through words, so I counted down the hours to Sunday morning while posting bangles in my shop.


Not reading at all is not feasible for solopreneurs (even if Ms. Cameron might beg to differ), so we did allow for business-related emails and business page posts. Instagram became my friend because it is primarily visual. I applied to some art shows and started uploading earrings for shop release this week.


On one day I had an email exchange about a commission that required me to poke around my business Facebook page, and it was hard to stop skimming the personal Facebook wall where the computer opened up to initially. I am realizing how much time is spent just poking around on social media and clicking link after link, so having set times for social media activity is a practice I hope to continue after this exercise.

I am not missing the personal Facebook as much as I thought. With the current political climate it isn’t that cheery anyway. Thankfully my family keeps in touch via messenger and Telegram, so I am not totally disconnected. I am also writing some cards to snail mail after the weekend.


On Monday I had a commute and it was so strange to realize that I do default to the phone. Staring out into the world instead of scanning news and social media was different. It is a bit weird not knowing what is happening out in the world, since being informed of headlines has become part of my daily routine. Since I don’t have daily interactions with people who might inform me of world events, this does feel a bit like living in a bubble.


I visited the Chicago Cultural Center for my Artist Date, and initially wasn’t going to read the art descriptions but the work was too intriguing to avoid understanding it, so I gave myself a pass for absorbing the amazing exhibits there. (More on that Thursday).


I started work on a large encaustic commission, but since I had to watch for over-fusing and let my thoughts on composition simmer, this project is only a 2-hour session at a time, so not a whole day-filler.


For me, the hardest part was the evening. Normally I unwind with a book or a movie. During the TED talks I want to look up the speakers, which is also ‘reading’ in my book. So I felt very constrained after sunset.


The Artist Way exercises are showing me that I am already living the life I want, in the environment I wished for myself. Living by myself has eliminated the cluttered mind that Ms. Cameron strives to help us clear, so I am finding myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve organized studio shelves, journaled a lot, taken many many notes on what to look up when I can research again, and I sat in a cafe for a while to keep from touching books (until some very strong cologne caused me to pack up).


The oodles of free time make this sort of a vacation, since I am between freelance projects as well. Unfortunately it has been too chilly to take extended walks, which would help pass the time.


I’d love to take on a crochet project, but that would require picking up a book for instructions! What this is showing me is that I am not very playful. My life is very purposeful in that I read to research, or to relax. My art-making is business-related, and while it does feel like play, it is no longer a hobby. Kitchen time isn’t a playful thing for me either (“what if I burn it all?!”), so cooking up recipes for one doesn’t bring out my inner child.


I played a lot of solitaire.


I also colored a lot, since that was the one book I allowed myself to open.


Still, words are my thing. Saturday was a very dreary rainy day, perfect for curling up with a book. Instead, I passed the hours doing a puzzle.

I guess what this week showed me is that books are my friends, and yes, maybe I am slightly addicted, but they are not as big of a ‘crutch’ as I thought they might be. Reading helps me get out of my ego-brain, my scarcity-brain, my worry-brain.


I am inspired by stories, which prompt a plethora of look-ups, listing of follow-up books to read, and have me mulling over my own story ideas. The week did force me to sit down and do some book-related writing for myself, and to push through “I should look that up right now” which would get me back into research-land.


It is fun to catch up on The Voice and pick out a Netflix movie in the evenings, but since I don’t have cable my TV watching is pretty purposeful instead of it being background noise. I don’t feel like I escape into TV.


Doing the morning pages is grounding me and helps focus on me instead of having my day be influenced by external influences right away. I do a lot of artist dates by default, but haven’t consciously scheduled one a week. It is fun to add to the list based on what other people are doing, and knowing that many artist dates are free. So we will see what Weeks 5-12 bring. I am hoping for lots of synchronicity as my inner artist evolves.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What insights did the 12-week journey bring you?