DMC Pearl Cotton + Clunky Stitching = Glorious World Domination

Power struggles are common in art and in life.  They are represented and played out in so many ways.  From a large worldly scale to a minor insignificant micro scale, dominant and submissive behaviors are abound.  They compliment each other really.  One cannot exist without the other right?  Like yin and yang, black and white, coffee and cream, etc.

Depending on the situation, I’m often one to challenge and vie for an empowered position.  The empowerment is not always achieved, mind you, but I often feel compelled to fight for it.  For instance, when I’m stopped at a red light, attempting to take a left onto Maine Street from McKeen Street in Brunswick, there are no cars in sight, and the light refuses to change for like a minute or more, I simply must gun it and show that light (and the Town of Brunswick, Maine) that I will not be held hostage by their faulty traffic system.  I do not regularly run red lights but that particular light seriously needs to be schooled!


Often when I create artwork a similar, much more invisible power struggle takes place.  I like to break rules so-to-speak.  Sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much.  Last year, I used cardboard from shipping boxes as a mat for some prints.  I stitched the prints onto the cardboard and hung them in a month long show.  Before I did this though, I told my grandmother how I was planning on putting my stuff on cardboard.  Usually a most wonderful supportive lady (my biggest fan really!), she actually told me not to use cardboard in this way, that it cheapens my work.  Some synapse fired off in my brain the moment she said this to me and I was absolutely compelled to use cardboard to frame my art.  I loved the fact that most people who saw this wouldn’t think it was appropriate, or “nice” looking.  I’m sure there is some Freudian reason I do this kind of thing…


I create regularly, on a weekly basis, with an artist friend, the aforementioned Abby Robbins, quilter of vaginae.   Abby is a amazing artist and true outside-the-box thinker.  Her recent work making little hand stitched books inspired me to get on a quilty/stitchy kick.  But I have to break the rules of the quilting world, even if it’s subtle.  So I pieced together some simple wall hangings, using depression-era reproduction prints and some photos I printed on fabric.  

So I have this cute, kistchy sort of nine patch going on, but to break the quilting world rules, I must use ridiculously awesome photos.  I will not put my kids picture in there (ever) not because I don’t love and cherish my kids, but because that’s what most people would do.  My current imaginary power struggle with the assembly of “normal” quilters is unfolding before you.

Then I build my quilt sandwich with Warn N Natural needled cotton batting and a backing.


I use the above DMC Pearl Cotton floss (a delicious, silky, doubled plied thread) and hand quilt a slightly imperfect, somewhat long clunky running stitch around the photos.  Several strategically placed cross stitches (again, slightly crooked) are a nice touch.  The stitches sit on top of the quilt, all textural and yummy.  Their crookedness adds interest to the piece.


I run a machine stitch around the edge and will eventually bind each quilt with a double fold binding, complete with mitered corners.  I’ll use a complimentary print and make my own binding.




How this empowers me, I’m really not sure, but I feel confident that all is right now in the quilting world.  I told them how it can be done!  Ha.  So silly it is, but it’s my silliness, and it keeps me motivated!

I’ve taken these long, clunky stitches further and have constructed several sweet little cloth books with more fabric pictures.


I first backed the fabric prints with an iron-on stabilizer and then stitched them on the back of the page.  Like a reverse applique, I snipped out the center, revealing the fabric photo beneath.


More large wonky running stitches to over turn the stitchy powers that be.




I especially LOVE the above edges of the books.  Big clunky stitches rule!


I added a single stamped word to each page.  It finishes it off nicely.

To quickly bring this rambling post to an abrupt end, I will say that, like the traffic light at the intersection of McKeen and Maine Street, I am being schooled on how to assume a submissive role by my feisty, often overbearing, kids.  As they grow they are trying so hard to establish their own empowerment by pushing the boundaries that we have, somewhat haphazardly, set in place.   I’m learning to let go of a lot of minor struggles. Choose my battles, you know?

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It Takes an Artist to Quilt a Vagina

Seriously, who does this???  My very good friend and amazing artist, Abigail Robbins, that’s who.  Her daughter, Jocelyn, came to her several months ago and asked her to make three or four quilts representing female anatomy.  Jocelyn is an RN and a lactation consultant and wanted the quilts for a presentation on women’s health, both sexual and mental, and how the two are closely related.  Abby immediately said, “Oh my gosh, I WOULD LOVE TO!”  Abby is so freakin’ cool that way.


When I grew up, “vagina” was a dirty word, spoken quietly, only if it absolutely HAD to be mentioned at all.  Unless you were part of the medical profession, just the word would make grown men, and women, blush.  It wasn’t until I was in college when “The Vagina Monologues” were popping up regularly, that I noticed the word becoming quite a bit more mainstream.


When I went to see “The Vagina Monologues” I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell my dad about it.  He would have been far too embarrassed back then.  Now I could tell him and he’d survive.  He might even giggle.  You see, I’m pretty sure he’s been desensitized.   Today you hear “vagina” much more frequently.  Almost every time I turn on the television I notice someone saying “vagina.” (OR a different word that means the same thing, you know what I mean, there are only a select few.)


I think the increasing liberal use of this word is definitely a sign of the slow, but continual empowerment of women.  It’s like we, women, are taking ownership of the V word.  It’s as though we are saying “Yeah, we have one, and we don’t care if that embarrasses you.”  More likely it’s a sign that we are growing up as a society.  Maturing if you will… Maybe…I don’t usually advocate maturing…But in this instance my hope is that my daughter can grow up in a world that understands and values women more than the world did when I was a girl.  I know we have a long way to go, but I’m very happy to share Abby’s vagina quilts!  Just look at her amazing hand quilting.  And the colors are so vibrant!  And don’t they look so warm?  Ha, I couldn’t resist.


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Easy Artful Lettering Tutorial

I love drawing letters.  I especially love to mix my capitals, lowercases, and cursives when constructing words on a page.  I like the wonkiness. The intentional mixing of these letter types is sort of like breaking the rules of elementary school learning.  What student was ever encouraged to do this when learning to write?  Not I.

This tutorial is a little fun exercise and goes hand in hand with my latest guest blog post for  Here my letters absolutely must touch both the top and bottom lines of my lettering space, at least once.  The green dot is where I start and the red is where I end.  Some letters are formed by starting and stopping two or three times.  I’ve numbered these starts and stops for ease of repeating the technique.  But most importantly, change it up and add your own flair or style.  Practice artful lettering whenever you have to hand write something;  like a grocery list or a note for your child’s teacher.  I often like trying out strange word combinations in the “for” or “memo” section of my checks.  Like “puppy breath” or “respect jellyfish.” Don’t worry, people won’t think you’re crazy, for the most part.  And if they do, does it really matter in the long run?  NOPE.  Not at all!  I promise.









That cursive z might need a little help…My favorite letter of all time has to be the lower case e, printed, not cursive.  Oh how I love to print an e!



I’m pretty fond of the uppercase K too.  There’s a lot you can do with the descending swash, or in other words, that little kicked-out leg that it has.  An upper case K is quite cute, in my opinion!


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PAGES Winter 2015- My Hand Felted Covers!





Okay, I fully admit I am thrilled to be featured on the cover of Cloth Paper Scissors PAGES Winter 2015.  This is my first, hopefully not my last, full magazine cover.  These little felted beauties are really quite easy to make, as long as you have patience.   The wet felting process is not an intuitive one and should be practiced on a rectangular bar of soap first, but once you can felt soap, you’re home free.   These are felted plastic light switch covers and they can be embellished in so many ways.  The binding is easy too.  Not an instant sort of binding but not that difficult either.

I’ve been revisiting my hand carved stamps lately.  I got a hold of some cling mount and some clear acrylic blocks.  By clinging my floppy stamps to these blocks I have revolutionized the way I stamp.  The Soft Kut carved rubber really should be paired with a block, it makes all the difference in the world.  I’m just loving it.  Here are some of my designs:

A Radiolaria

A Radiolaria


A Ninja Plankton designed by my daughter

A Ninja Plankton designed by my daughter


My favorite mushroom stamp

My favorite mushroom stamp


Cone Flower

Cone Flower


An Amoeba

An Amoeba


I really really like that amoeba.  It holds a bit of humor.  Like who would carve an amoeba stamp anyway?  I would.  I’m a bit of a science-y geek I suppose.  Take the radiolaria for instance. They come in many gorgeous designs.  They are micro oceanic organisms and when they die, their skeleltons, which are on the outside of their body, fall to the ocean floor.  They pile up and collect in a silty, silaceous (spelling?) or calcium carbonate-ish goo.  In some areas, this radiolarian ooze is feet thick.  It eventually becomes sedimentary rock.  See?  Isn’t that amazing?  That ooze, and subsequent rock, is a masterpiece of Earth-made art.  Go Earth.

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Size DOES Matter- Make Mine Mini!

I found three adorable little canvases at an art sale of a lifetime last weekend.  These vintage gems spoke to me, rather quickly too, as I’ve been formulating a new theory lately.  Originating from recent mistakes, I’ve learned that compositionally speaking, smaller is easier.  When I have a bigger blank canvas or piece of paper in front of me I generally make less appealing art than when I start with a smaller piece of paper or canvas.  This theory falls apart when drawing realistic subject matter like faces, but overall, I’m convinced that because these smaller surfaces are less intimidating and MUCH quicker to fill, they are easier to work with. Easier = Better Art.  For me, at least.

I started my mini series with a little collage, mostly vintage paint color samples, sewing pattern tissue, and some canvas tabs.



Then I gave my three little collages the royal treatment with acrylic paint, acrylic glazing medium, graphite, and a bit of water soluble crayon.







Besides this mini epiphany, I’ve realized something else lately.  I’m finding myself not liking a lot of my art just a little while after I make it. Sometimes it takes longer than others but for example, I just finished something about 2 weeks ago that I thought was the bees knees when I was done with it.  I thought it was the cutest thing ever and now, fast forward just 2 weeks, I find it atrocious.  Well, maybe not totally atrocious, but it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  Does this happen to anyone else out there?  I wonder if I’ll find these cute mini paintings above suitable for a Goodwill donation in another few weeks.  Weird.  Maybe I’m going through art puberty or something.  With all these changes going on I wish I had access to some sort of embarrassingly outdated reference manual titled something like “Your Art and It’s Changes; It’s Totally Natural.”




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