Witness Quilt Sewing Circle

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
attributed to Banksy
and Cesar A. Cruz

When I attended the unveiling of Melissa Blount’s Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt last year I knew I wanted to be part of future sewing circles. On January 31 that opportunity arose with an event at the Block Museum. In conjunction with an exhibit, people from all walks of life came to the Block Museum for an art making event.

I had spun through William Blake’s exhibit prior to the reception, and had no idea that this poet held such a spiritual force in the 1970s. I only remember the cadence of Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, and enjoyed perusing his prints and drawings. It was illuminating to see the influence William Blake’s poetry and art (1757-1827) had on those discovering him centuries later.

William Blake and the Age of Aquarius addresses how Blake’s art and ideas were absorbed and filtered through American visual artists from the mid-1940s through the 1960s. The exhibit shows that Blake became a model of non-conformity, individuality, and resistance to authority. 

William Blake and the Age of Aquarius is a psychedelic trip down the Hippie era, with wonderful vibrant art work juxtaposed against darker takes on Blake’s criticism of society.

A companion exhibit also drew my attention, showcasing fiber and visual arts. Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Frank Stella showcases the examination of art as more than 2-dimensional paintings on a wall.

At 7 pm we gathered for the Sewing Circle at Segal Visitors Center. The completed first Witness Quilt was on display, framed by the lovely red borders it didn’t yet have in June.

The names of 30 interpersonal violence victims had been gathered. Because so many more attendees RSVPd than anticipated, each table was given two of these names, with the rest of us stitching “Say Her Name” to commemorate the women and girls who succumbed to domestic violence but would not be named on police reports.

The youngest on the list was a baby, who was delivered when her mother had been shot but died 4 days later. We read the stories of our ladies out loud at the table. 

“Black women’s stories get lost in the Black Lives Matters movement,” Melissa said. Melissa’s plan is to continue the quilts based on police reports.

Melissa also wants to create a quilt for women who are incarcerated because they chose to defend themselves from intimate partner violence. Love & Protect was present to share stories of women whose witness testimony was ignored by law enforcement.

In spite of eye witnesses and neighbors testifying that these women had repeatedly been abused, they were still incarcerated for their act of self defense. Love & Protect intends to seek justice for these women, and we were invited to write postcards to individual women to let them know that there are people working to change their sentencing. 

In addition, another quilt will focus on transgender violence. This was triggered by a homicide report in which a person was misgendered, and activists set out to correct her name, and then discovered more, on the public record.  

In spite of the solemn occasion for the quilting circle, our directive was to focus on the positive. “These lives are lost opportunities, lost leaders,” said Melissa. We were asked to hold these women and babies in our hearts but also take advantage of discussing intersectionality within the impromptu community of 100+ attendees.

William Blake and the Age of Aquarius is on view at the Block Museum’s Main Gallery until March 11, 2018. Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Frank Stella is at the Katz Gallery until June 24, 2018.

More Witness Quilt Sewing Circles will be announced in the future. An offshoot sewing circle: Winter HeARTh: unCOVERed takes place on Sunday, February 18 at 10 AM – 4 PM at the Ecology Center. 

Halim’s Time Piece Collection

On my first visit to the Halim Museum I also strolled through the Clocks of the World. This exhibit starts with a reproduction of the oldest known clock, and impressive installation of gears attributed to Richard of Wallingford. He designed an astronomical clock,which was built approximately 20 years after his death.

More than 1,100 timepieces are on display in a labyrinth of hallways and rooms. The collection includes tower clocks, chronometers, automatons, pocket watches and tall case clocks.

There is a German domestic Turret clock from the 1500s. It is hard to imagine that time pieces were not a personal or household instrument during those times.

In England, clocks were designated for markets, such as this Turkish Market clock from 1780.

There is a room designated to nautical instruments that any sea-lover will want to spend time in.

It has a beautiful stained glass dome.

I learned of the Dutch and German influences of clock making, and took note of those detailed descriptions with my camera.

Galileo’s original pendulum mechanism was on display as a model.

Its application to the first pendulum clock is attributed to Dutchman Christiaan Huygens in 1656. Then the Fromanteels took their training in The Hague during the 1860s to England, and English clocks built upon the Dutch education.

I do love the ornate clocks such as this Catherine the Great Elephant Clock made by Meissen designer Peter Reinecke in the 1700s.

My Greek memories had me gravitating toward Hellenistic Goddess themes as well, like this Athena and Hermes Clock. This one is also a Meissen Design.

The Dutch reoccurred in the 1700s as well with Bernard I van Risamburgh designing some clocks as well. Of course no clock collection can ignore the Black Forest Clock Industry

Of course the mechanical clocks are super fun, and the ones presented have computer screens showing all the gears in motion.

The Watch collection is overwhelming, and there is a lot more to see in this fabulous gem of a museum. I will definitely revisit the museum at a future date to take in more of this exhibit, though I think it is impossible to do so in detail in one visit alone.

Stained Glass at the Halim Museum

In early January I took a staycation and stumbled on a wonderful new Evanston Museum. Founded by an avid collector of clockworks and stained glass windows, this brand-new museum is a gem!

The museum houses three exhibits: Stained Glass Masters, Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Clocks of the World.


Custom-built by the Halim family, the building has 5 storeys, of which 2 hold the exhibits and the others rentable event space.

The outward rectangular shape belies the internal labyrinth of hallways custom-designed to house each collection item.

The museum, located at 1560 Oak Avenue in Evanston, opened September 26 and is $17 to visit. It is kid friendly, and visitors are encouraged to touch the stained glass.

The Stained Glass Masters exhibit houses more than 30 windows, and begins by explaining the European stained glass techniques on which American School of Stained Glass built.

Of course now I want to backtrack and see what my Dutch ancestors did, but that is a research project for another day.

I discovered numerous new glass artists in these halls, including artists like Frederick Wilson who made a name for themselves in Tiffany’s workshops, but also others that worked independently or as other companies.

The collection houses works by John La Farge, William T Hickinson, Mayer and Company, David and Helen Maitland Armstrong, Frederick Stymetz Lamb, Rudy Brothers Company, Edward Peck Sperry, J&R Lamb studios, and George Maher. Each display has a detailed narrative about the maker as well as the theme of the window.  It is a lot to take in during the first round.

There are beautiful displays of opalescent glass, along with other techniques that are highlighted in the exhibit’s narrative. Tours are also available.

I learned about confetti glass.

The exhibit offers a lot of background information on the industry and various glass techniques. I also flashed back to Susan Vreeland’s Clara and Mr. Tiffany, which is a great read for this exhibit.

I was struck by the work of Mary Tillinghast. Born in New York, she studied in Paris under Carolus-Duran and Henner.

She received a gold medal at the Chicago Exposition in 1893 and gold and bronze medals at the Charleston Exposition in 1902. I love details of her windows.

One source says that Mary was the first to understand how electric lighting would impact the effects of window design. Tillinghast became a textile designer, served as manager of the La Farge Decorative Art Company, and learned the art of designing and making windows from La Farge. There is no wikipedia page on her yet, but another blogger claims that she sued La Farge’s company and started her own company. I like this lady!

Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany traces the creative life of the artist.  It showcases his innovations in stained glass, pottery and other media. This exhibit includes paintings in oils, pastels and watercolors that showcase his early life and travels.

Later works include housewares and decorative arts, mosaics and windows.

Beautiful Mosaics with iridescent details are on display.

Here’s another old art form to immerse oneself with.

The chandeliers were mesmerizing also.

Even though the stained glass had saturated my brain, I couldn’t resist going upstairs to peruse the Clocks of the World. I’ll save that for another blog post though…

The Halim family certainly has an eye for beauty, and I love that they share their passion collection with the public. I highly recommend multiple visit to this lovely museum, and plan on making a few returns myself.

The skylights are striking too, and I learned more about other Chicago Landmarks through this exhibit.

This local beauty is a great addendum to the Stained Glass Museum at Navy Pier.

Scarfpin Collection at Evanston Stitchworks

Since my foray onto sewing I have been eager to incorporate fabric into my wax and wire designs too. The Ladybugs with fabric scraps are holding up well. Then a few weeks ago while popping by Evanston Sticthworks Amalia asked me about making scarf pins. I had already designed a safety pin for a friend, which was well-received.

I sat down with that design and made a prototype for Amalia to test.

Then the pin-top got dremeled and filed a bit to ensure no one pokes themselves.

We both like the result.

I was given a lovely array of fabrics to experiment with.

Last week I sat down and created a bunch of clasp-y designs.

I freewheeled with Brenda’s Now That’s a Jig! pegs, not anchoring them to her jig but just wrapping shapes by hand.

Then I added the fabrics that wanted to be paired with the shapes.

Each type of fabric has its own reaction to heat and wax, but on the whole the designs worked.

I delivered 7 pins to Stitchworks on Tuesday, and a customer already called dibs on two!

We arranged them on a lovely hand-knit sweater.

The prototype goes beautifully with Amalia’s hand-knit scarf.

I also prototyped some stitch markers and got feedback on which ones Amalia thinks are most useful for her purposes, so I have some homework to do!

Exacto knives don’t work well with warmed waxed fabric, so I got some special scissors to use on the next designs.

There is a plethora of other fabrics to make pins out of, and lots of different wire designs to experiment with!

Evanston Stitchworks offers a wide array of artisan designed fabrics, great sewing patterns, hand-dyed yarns and all the knitting supplies you need with those.

The store is located at 906 Sherman Avenue in Evanston and offers a variety of excellent workshops as well.

Can you pick a favorite out of these lovely fabrics?

They’re all so lovely in their own way, even if I say so myself.

I’m excited to add more to this collection, and figure out the stitch marker assignment too!

Trunk Show at Ayla’s this weekend

Whew, I thought 2 weeks between shows is a long time, but there is still a lot to be done by Saturday.

When I went to the Bead & Button show in June I stopped by Ayla’s booth first, and was promptly stickered by Joe.

At that time, we made plans for a trunk show, and August 12 & 13 felt so far away. I optimistically purchased some large hole pearls for the occasion. Fast forward one eventful month and I am wrangling wire like crazy, with idea after idea piling into my brain.

My aim is to make sure I am using beads sourced via Ayla, so I went through my inventory list, and I’ve attended quite a few of Ayla’s bead shows over the years, along with visits to the store itself with friends.

I compared the inventory dates to my visual archives (photos snapped after each shopping spree) and set those beads aside in my jewelers bench.

Soon I had ideas and matched papers to my designs.

The last batch came from Kina’s Trunk Show, and I started with those first.

I was pleasantly surprised that the vintage beads I bought from Ayla actually fit the 16 gauge wire, and had fun stringing those.

I waxed the pieces, with the cage versions being a bit more challenging than the others. The etched jade also fit the thicker wire, and I am glad my friend and I shared this strand last summer.

Ayla’s store has many beads that can be strung directly onto the steel wire for a swinging bead effect. David Christensen creates a gorgeous array of glass beads that I have had in my collection for a while. This pendant will get some matching earrings too, though whether that happens by Saturday is still a question mark.

Ayla’s Originals offers freshwater pearls, Czech glass, Swarovski crystals, antique trade beads and gemstones from all over the world. If you see something you love in the store this weekend, I am happy to design a piece if you aren’t interested in creating your own.

In 2016, Ayla’s Originals received an official proclamation from Evanston’s Mayor for the 20th anniversary in Evanston. The store’s history is longer though.

Two decades ago, Ayla was a Director of Human Resources in corporate America. She frequented a bead store to take her mind off her waning passion in the work she was doing.

After a few workshops, Ayla began designing her own jewelry. The bead store owner was retiring, putting Ayla in a position to take over the store’s lease after resigning from her job.

The Ayla’s Own jewelry line was soon featured in the Art Institute of Chicago and Field Museum Gift Shops and well publicized. In 1998 Ayla’s Originals moved to Sherman Avenue in Evanston.

The store offers classes, private lessons, and private party options. The store offers a wide array of You Are Beautiful merchandise as well.

You can get a bingo card for special discounts on future purchases. Ayla and her husband, photographer Joe Pizzo, reside in Evanston.

Ayla’s Originals Store is located at 1511 Sherman Avenue in Evanston. Hours are: T,W, F: 10 am to 6 pm; Th: 10 am to 7 pm; Sat. 10 am to 5 pm; Sun 12 to 5 pm. Closed Mondays.

I will also be bringing my stakes, which are getting additional siblings this week.

There is so much more to make!

Evanston Sidewalk Sale pop up

This weekend is the annual Evanston Sidewalk sale. Retailers along the Main-Dempster Mile and in Downtown Evanston will be setting up tables in front of their businesses for a communal sale and art fest.

Local artists have been invited to be a part of the action in downtown Evanston. Stroll down Sherman Ave. between Church St. and Davis St., to check out jewelry, accessories, children’s clothing and more! Artists will display their wares in downtown Evanston on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

The brand-new Evanston Pop up Gallery will be participating as well, and I plan on being there with some of my extra pieces in addition to what the two shelves inside hold.  

The 1200 block of Sherman is close to many lovely eateries and unique shops. Downtown Evanston will have a giveaway on their Instagram feed, and some restaurants will have special discounts that weekend.

As artists we are limited on discounting our creations, but we hope you stop by anyway to get to know this shop and get some gift-shopping done. You will find gifts at a variety of price points, and new products keep being added each week.

On Saturday, July 29, Downtown Evanston and Main-Dempster Mile are providing free entertainment. Stop by 1603 Orrington Plaza (outside of LYFE Kitchen) to enjoy big games and music.

Street musicians Chicago Traffic Stop will make stops near delicious venues at: 1603 Orrington Plaza, Frio Gelato (517 Dempster St.), Blind Faith (525 Dempster St.), Cultivate (704 Main St.) and The Wine Goddess (702 Main St.). Beaches will play outside of yummy Hoosier Mama (749 Chicago Ave.) and the School of Rock Evanston will rock out in the parking next to their building at 1311 Sherman Ave.

Catch a free ride on a pedicab on Saturday, July 29, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. special thanks to First Bank & Trust. Pedi-cabs will take shoppers from downtown Evanston to Main Street and Dempster Street, making stops in each district. The pedicabs are first come, first serve and do not have specific pick-up or drop-off times. They’ll hang out for a bit to see if there is a pick-up.

  • Church Street and Maple Avenue, across from Terra & Vine
  • Chicago Avenue and Grove Street, at Raymond Park
  • Dempster Street and Chicago Avenue, near Stumble & Relish
  • Chicago Avenue and Kedzie Street, outside Hoosier Mama

I had a blast last year with Sara Jane at See Jane Sparkle, and highly recommend shuttling back and forth between the various stops to see what vendors are looking to send to new homes.

The Evanston Sidewalk Sale is accessible via public transit. To get to downtown Evanston take the CTA Purple Line “el” to Davis or the Metra to the Davis stop, to get to the Chicago/Dempster district take The CTA Purple Line “el” to Dempster or Main or the Metra to the Main stop.

Angel will be happy to pose for selfies with you.

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?

Evanston’s new Pop-up Gallery

On Thursday, a new pop-up shop will be opening its doors to the public. The Evanston Pop-up Gallery officially launches at 11 AM to showcase the art work of 50+ artists.

I snapped a photo of the application email when I walked by in June, and was promptly invited to see the space when I applied.

Having been a visitor to the former rendition of this storefront, I liked owner Steve and Sally’s vision for the space, and started scoping out the various options for my own display. 

After a few calls back and forth, we agreed to a pair of shelves by a mirror and I scoped out the dimensions some more.

It is always exciting to see something new take space. 

Maybe that’s why decorating shows are so popular, because we see spaces transform into something new.

I sat down at my bench and made some new earrings for summer.

Then I picked out the pieces I wanted to bring in and made the inventory sheet for it. The sheet was sent off so Sally would have time to add the inventory to the system.

After peeking in to see how lusciously other displays were coming together on Saturday, I decided to visit Michael’s and HomeGoods to scope out new shelf decorations.

HomeGoods inspired the look, and found the right pieces to complement each other.

I did some staging at home to ensure the dimensions would work.

On Monday I returned to Sherman Avenue. Steve put up my rented shelves and I started putting my display together.

Then the barcode stickers were printed and I cut them to size to fit my tags for the next 2 hours.

Then I heard a familiar voice, and Margarita and her mom popped in to plan out their space for Golden Sapphire bath bombs, soaps and other delicious materials to keep people and pets clean. Their natural and handcrafted bath and skincare products are safe for the environment, children, pets, and the rest of your family. All materials are recycled, and they use natural ingredients. I looove the bath bombs.

We are also partners at Hip Circle Empowerment Center’s Women-Powered Retail Zone so it will be fun to collaborate on this space as well. We decided to have fun in the selfie booth.

Angel also christened the selfie booth, and then Steve jumped in on the fun.

I also learned that Elektra and her husband will bring in their lampwork glass. Everlasting Fire Studio will bring in their beautiful  wine glasses, marbles and paperweights, and some pendants. I use their vases for my trunk shows.

The shelves were soon arranged, and I really like the look. It’s fun to see how a vision comes together in actuality.

I am super excited to see how the rest of the spaces come together.

There is already a lot of great art to see.

The pop-up gallery opens 11 am to 7 pm on Thursday at 1627 Sherman Avenue Evanston.

Then on Monday, the Mayor and Alderman will be present for a 4 pm ribbon cutting.

Check Facebook for updates, special events and hours

Here’s to a successful new boutique!

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.

Main-Dempster Mile fun

I am easing out of hibernation and it is safe (no longer too cold) to take angel out and about on my adventures.

Evanston’s Main-Dempster mile is full of fun adventures. Squeezebox has the right idea with these postcards.

I had tacos for charity on the day of the Woman’s March, and later went to La Principal again with friends.

A few weeks later Brothers K collected funds for the ACLU.

My frosty is still hanging out at Rolf’s Auto Care, where I took my car for service.

We rewarded ourselves with some Sketchbook beer after a Hip Circle workout.

Stumble & Relish’s lovely card selection, along with my stash of Curly Girl Design’s Love Delivered subscription has me writing a postcard on Sundays.

I got to sample SPARK Syrup with Prosecco on Thursday and picked up some earrings I couldn’t resist.

Vivian Visser explained the process and inspiration behind her beautiful creations during an Artist talk at Cultivate.

This wonderful show is up through the end of the month.

It is always neat to see who shadows interact with art work on the wall.

I attended a few recent The Collage Cafe workshops, and loved the glowing woman who emerged from the last Grown*UP Girls Club session.

My vision boards will be shown when they manifest.

Then I was introduced to Bullet Journaling at Hip Circle Studio.

Next weekend I hope to explore Evanston’s Black-owned Businesses during Tour de Noir.

There’s always something fun to do in Evanston.