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?

Assemblage at The Collage cafe

I joined the Grown*UP Girls Club this year at The Collage Cafe and I am loving it. While I have my own studio where I can create, there is something about gathering around women, being in a different space, and having someone else prescribe a project that soothes the soul and takes me out of my head.

This month we did assemblage art. We started with a small chunky canvas to embellish with anything we wished.

The Collage Cafe owner Lindy Stockton has gathered numerous objects over the years, from buttons, ribbons, vintage clothespins, paper scraps, game pieces, puzzles to metal objects like washers and rivets, chunky safety pins, keys and a plethora of other things.

Clearly making a mess is part of the inspirational process. I found a lovely pencil that had to be mine, and gathered a variety of other embellishments that spoke to me.

I put a layer of acrylic paint on mine for starters.

Then I added scraps of decorative paper from a scrapbook paper stack.

With glue guns and drills and super-powerful glue we had a blast making our pieces.

Waiting for paint and glue to dry was the hardest part, but gave an opportunity to walk around and see what everyone else was working on.

It is such fun to see what people pick and how they use it in the end.

I snapped this picture as inspiration, and saw the piece being used by someone else.

I am really happy with how mine turned out, especially since I had no vision at all in the beginning.

Sometimes not knowing what could or should be is very freeing, and leads to results you don’t expect.

Playing with dimension is such fun.

The front addresses the writer in me.

The back clearly needed to sparkle.

You can catch a glimpse of the other pieces here.

Go check out this lovely play space and get your inner creatrix going!

Book Organizing

Last week a winter storm kept me house bound, and it gave me the opportunity to re-organize my bookshelves.

The winterscape was lovely for a bit, until white-out conditions made my windows hard to see through.

So I started pulling out the books that graced my shelves, to give them a thorough dusting and get them realigned. My collection includes books about nature, a lot of historical and map-making books, biographies of strong women, art books, books for the spirit, including goddess and bellydance books. I also have books about language and writing, along with my own words in print.

With various reference books being used often, and others shipped to me, things get crowded and mis-aligned over time.

So I systematically cleared each shelf, dusted off the books, and considered which ones to give away.

While I love my silent companions, sometimes it is time to let go of the books that no longer get used.

My childhood authors still have a hold on me, and I do re-read their lovely tales on occasion. I have a shelf-full of cookbooks I hardly use, but gave them another year to gather dust. There is also a shelf of vintage books I cannot bring myself to tear up yet.

The bottom shelves hold binders with paperwork that I needed to sort through. The binders had not been updated since 2014.

So a shredding session ensued the next day as I reorganized papers and let go of what could be thrown out.

I have about 3 bags to donate to the library, but also still need to give these two bookshelves a whirl, which is a task for another week.

Space clearing feels good, and lifts up the energy of the home.

The snow is now melting, and chirping birds indicate Spring might return.

How do you re-align your home and your belongings?

Reconnecting with the Sewing Machine

During my corporate life, I took a pencil skirt class at Vogue Fabric and of course gathered materials to build on that, except that my inherited sewing machine thwarted me and I gave up.  Eventually I got a brand-new machine, but I only used it for small projects and never went back to my UFOs, especially since my size changed over time and the pattern might not apply anymore.

Enter Evanston Stitchworks, a lovely store along Evanston’s Main-Dempster Mile offering sewing and knitting classes for teens and adults, along with all the supplies for those projects. This “Stitch Lounge and Studio” has been in business for a few years, but moved to the Sherman Street location last year.

Owner Amalia curates beautiful high-quality and fabrics, findings, yarns and patterns. I love the vibe of the shop and the beautiful array of fabrics. Her store reminds me of the doll-shop my mom made for me as a child.

Intrigued by Amalia’s workshops since the beginning, my schedule finally worked out to where I could take the Willow Tank Top Dress class she hosted in February.

For three Wednesday evenings, four of us gathered at Evanston Stitchworks to learn to make this lovely pattern by Grainline Studio. It was hard to decide on a fabric, but with Amalia’s guidance I settled on a lovely Birch Floral Periwinkle print by Rifle Paper Company.

On the first evening, we traced our pattern onto an interfacing fabric, and spent the remaining time cutting out our pieces. Tracing our pattern keeps the original pattern paper intact, allowing for size changes, which I love.

The next week, we started sewing half of the pattern together.

One selling point of this pattern is that I learned to make darts, which are a useful skill for my anatomy.

We learned machine threading, bobbin winding, and how to adjust needle and stitch settings during this session.

Lots of pinning was involved.

My classmates did just the top, so my dress portion took a bit of adjusting by Amalia. We decided I would come in for an extra session the next day to get me caught up with the rest of class.

I sewed the fold, fixed a wrongly attached collar, and received confidence boosters on my sewing capabilities.

Sewing class also involves tutorials on pressing seams.

Then decided to go home to figure out my own machine for the other half of the dress.

A few days later, I sat down with my manual to check out the difference between the Stitchworks machine and my own machine settings. Photo references helped me make sure I was doing the right thing with the arm holes.

Getting the attachment removed for the arm holes took some googling, but I got it figured out and was on my way.

Then I befriended the seam ripper some more due to a sewing snafu. I bet no one else has accidentally folded fabric into the seam mid-way through a garment. 😉

Seam rippers are lovely tools.

With all side seams connected and the hems all pressed, I was all caught up.

The final class was spent sewing the collar, arm holes and hem up to complete the dress. A side exercise was avoiding pinpricks during this round-about fabric feed.

I got some ironing tips for the darts, photos of our end result were taken, and we all went home happy with our creations.

I cannot wait for the weather to warm up so I can wear this fun dress out!

Overall, it took about 9 hours to put it together. Having Amalia supervise every move was affirming and confidence building. Knowing that my home machine is compatible also helps support future projects.

Now I need to incorporate the sample fat quarter fabrics I picked up on Small Business Saturday into my wax and wire creations.

I already gave an old pendant a makeover with a dress remnant.

My next quest is deciding on the next fabric to make the dress again.

Evanston Stitchworks is located at 906 Sherman Avenue in Evanston, Illinois and hosts monthly drop-in events that are posted on FacebookCheck out upcoming classes and online shopping opportunities here. You can also cheer up your Instagram feed by following Evanston Stitchworks.

Valentine’s Week

Last week’s excuse to celebrate love was fun.

I made some loving food in heart-shaped muffin forms.

My Valentine came from Stumble & Relish, along with a delicious bath bomb.

A friend and I strolled along Dempster where I picked up new treasures from Crowded Closet and Secret Treasures. The top will serve well for neckshots.

 

We also stopped by Hewn and Chocolatier Piron for Valentine goodies.

I swung by Michaels to pick up new storage and was hit with Easter right away.

St. Patrick’s day is nigh as well, which will make me upload Shamrock Angel soon.

I had an eye on these scrapbook boxes but needed to explore other ways to transport my swarm and angels and frosties, so I browsed online for solutions until checking these boxes out in the store.

They happened to be on sale, hooray! It’s a great change from the non-weather proof shipping boxes I had recycled before.

I am using foam craft sheets as inserts, which will help keep my creations stable as I sift through layers to get customers the color and style they want when I haven’t hung all my pieces at a fair.

My old boxes wouldn’t close over the dragonfly squiggles, so this closed lid pleases me a lot.

I am excited to use these at the 2 upcoming shows, the Spring Craft Fair in Crystal Lake and Affair of the Arts in Spring Grove.

It’s been beautiful spring weather, and though I was felled with a bug over the weekend I enjoyed the sunshine in my windows and birds chirping.

Now plants are peeking through in February, which is strange.

The rays make for fun window shoots.

I’m uploading pendants, bangles, angels, earrings and other pieces as fast as I can.

Learning Jigoshop has been interesting, and changing the theme fixed a huge sidebar problem that didn’t seem to be solvable for a few weeks.

I am also applying to future shows, and crossing fingers for this one.

One Art Show Application site had me frustrated with rejection, but then this year I decided to try a new show, and I actually got a lovely green check mark! The BLING show will be in November.

Here’s to not giving up and believing in opportunity. Stay confident that you are in exactly the right place at the right time, and do what you can, with what you have, where you are. It might get you featured in a magazine!