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Cancelations? Get Creative.

Here in Ohio, the coronavirus has caused a multitude of event cancellations, and the list seems to grow by the hour.  I’m not going to get on a political soapbox about the response to the virus, other than to suggest that if you suddenly have some spare time due to event, school or work closure, take the opportunity to learn something new.

Turn off the TV, turn off the news, get off the internet for a little while, (after you finish reading this post, of course!) get out your needle and thread, or pencil and sketchbook, or any tools or supplies that you’ve had sitting and make something!  If you’re like me, you might have a stack or two of craft books that are begging to be read.  Pick out a book, open it and start a project from one of those books.  Think about the creative skills that you have mastered, and take some time to teach it to someone else.  Making something or expressing yourself creatively is a great escape from the troubles of the world.  With, that I am off to escape from my laptop and get lost in some stitching.

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Inspiration and Influences, Part One

I’m certain that I have a series about the people, places and things that influence and inspire my artwork on my old Blogspot blog, but I need to begin again here.  I’ve hinted here earlier at one thing that inspired me to start making boxes, but there is more to my boxes than a Steinbeck quote.

While traveling two-lane by-ways and backroads, I have cultivated a fascination with run-down, abandoned buildings.  There are so many untold stories hidden in the crumbling walls, fallen fences, twisted signs and rusted metal.

Ice cream shop, Belle Valley, OH


Drive-in movie ruins, near Barnesville, OH


Over the years, I have collected many photographs from my travels of all sorts of weathered and forgotten structures, from the farm lanes of Southeast Ohio to the windswept deserts along Route 66.

Root cellar, Quaker City, OH


Broken windows, crumbling brick, gaps in wood planks, precarious listing to one side, patched holes, bent framing… the wear and tear of old buildings is visual poetry to me.  It wasn’t until I had completed several of my small fabric boxes that I realized I was subconsciously capturing architectural decay in them.

The boxes began where other projects ended.  The first boxes that I made used scraps from other fabric collages, and my decision to embellish each side independent of the others further conveys the spirit of dilapidated structures.  The process of pulling the box sides up and hand stitching them creates subtle warping, twisting and bending, completing my interpretation of things that are run down.  I love making them, and I like to think of them as little shrines to the past.


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Stitching Summer Days

Each season out here has its own particular charms that intrigue me.  Right now, it is being able to see the gentle rolling of the land without piles of wild brush and lushly leafed trees hiding the topographical details.  The branches of the same trees are wrapped with feathery blue-gray lichens, unnoticed in the spring and summer months.  When the cold winds whip through the valleys, I stay in and stitch the summer flowers to keep warm thoughts of the growing season in my mind.

There are certain points along the property where I live that I visit frequently to note changes as the season roll through the year.  At the end of my long driveway is one of those points.  Across the road is a neglected cow pasture that fills out in summer with a riot of wildflowers: soft purple chicory, Queen Anne’s Lace, blaze orange butterfly weed, mullein reaching to the sky, jewelweed, and sometimes a bright red Canadian Lily.


Later in the season, iron weed, Joe Pye weed, goldenrods and asters take over with a different palette of colors and textures.  I have already made several felted and stitched portraits of the fence row, and more are in the works.

I don’t know if I will ever tire of stitching these roadside meadows.  So many people speed past them, in a hurry to get somewhere, and they never notice the flower show to the side.  It doesn’t show up on their GPS.

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Bits and Pieces of Boxes

Today’s project was embellishing squares and rectangles that will become more of the little boxes that I am obsessed with.  I am embarking on a winter-long surge to build up my inventory of finished art with a goal of applying to juried art fairs in the next year.

When I was in high school, I remember going to some higher-end art fairs and thinking about going on the road for a year, selling what I had made all over the country.  At the time, I still had not discovered the art media that worked best for me, nor had I developed any sense of my own creative voice.

Of course, I’m still working on developing that creative voice, and I always will.  Speaking of which, I want to get back to my boxes, so I will leave you today with the quote that inspired me to start making boxes.

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”

          I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”

          “What for?”

          “To put things in.”

          “What things?”

          “Whatever you have,” you said.

Well, here’s your box.  Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full.  Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts – the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

          And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

          And still the box is not full.

-John Steinbeck, dedication to East of Eden


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Listening To the Leaves

When was the last time that you were in a place so quiet and serene that you could hear a leaf fall?  I have that opportunity this time of year, if there is no wind, and the cattle are quiet, to listen for the barely perceptible swish of a spent leaf coming to rest among its companions now carpeting the ground.

Being creative is not only about observing things around us that often go unnoticed – this demands a high degree of awareness of the many things in our day to day lives.  Creativity is also being able to zone in on one of those little details, and for a moment, focusing on that one thing, shutting out all the other chatter and clutter.  Then, we must find our own way to capture that moment, that detail, in a way to share with others.  Listen for that one little leaf, and tell someone about it.

Check back next week, I’ll share some more of my little creative moments from the weekend – more ICAD adventures and moments of stitching.