Kettlecutting thread lake smaller 3 2


 Textile Evolution

Liz Kettle Artist, Author and Creator of the Stitch Meditation process

Stitch Journeys

Exploring life with needle and thread.

Dreaming the Future


Vail 2015 1


I am spending this week in Vail Colorado at the Full Circle Mastermind Summit. The purpose of this Summit is to spend time working on business planning and building. We work on our own respective businesses and come together as a group to brainstorm ideas and problem solve with group discussions. It is always a great week for me. It allows me to think bigger, get some different perspectives and reminds me to focus on what is the most meaningful. 

It is also a time for me to remind myself of (or fine-tune) my business values, my mission and my vision. 

So often we forget to take time to work on the things that are important to us. We forget to pause and look at the big picture because it is so easy to become overwhelmed by the details of the day to day. We forget to make sure our life has a balance that makes us happy. We can spend so much time on our art or our business that we neglect family or vice versa.

OR: spend so much energy on everyone else that we neglect ourselves and our dreams! 

This week my planning will be focused on my new adventure! The Thread Lab: a WonderFil Threaducation Center. More details on this very soon.  In the meantime you can join The Thread Lab Facebook Group.

Take a few minutes or a few hours this upcoming week and join me in spending some time thinking about your big vision, your dreams and your big picture. I would love to hear what they are. 



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Allergies and Art: Pushing the Edge

minimal red squares

This week I embarked on a new allergy therapy that is able to help with food allergies. It is the only treatment that is available for those of us allergic to foods as well as all the plant pollen, dust and animals in our lives. Of course it isn’t covered by insurance but that is a different blog post entirely.

What does it have to do with art you ask? Well, actually more than one would think. It is about pushing the edge always and seeking excellence from yourself and the world around you.  

I do very well managing my food allergies when I am at home. I rarely go out to eat and I am obsessive about making sure I have safe food with me all the time. However, I travel quite a bit and that is where everything gets bad. No matter how careful restaurants are with my food I end up getting sick. The main culprit is oils. Most restaurants, unless we are talking 4 Star and up, don’t realize that the oil that is labeled ‘olive’ oil is cut with other oils. In fact it usually says 100% olive oil on the label. If you want to read more about it google ‘olive oil scam’ or go here. Then there are those restaurants that proudly proclaim we use vegetable oil. I generally want to slam my head on the table at that point.

Anyway, in addition to numerous foods, I am allergic to all oils except pure olive, grapeseed, peanut and avocado. So, every time I travel I come home sick. I actually lose 4-8 days after every trip just getting back to ‘normal’. I could quit traveling all together but my travel is usually to teach. Teaching is what I was born to do. So, I am always pushing the edge, questioning the status quo, by researching, reading forums and seeking alternative medical treatments. That is what led me to a unique allergy treatment that works for food allergies, LDA.

It is scary to go off all of my current antihistamine meds that have been keeping me finely balanced on the edge of ‘ok’ but nowhere near excellent health. It is stressful to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for an alternative treatment that isn’t covered by insurance. One that other doctors dismiss out of hand. But, I am an artist and that means fear and excellence part of my daily routine. 

cliff wall oregon

To be an artist is to face scary every day that we go to the studio to push the edge. If we aren’t pushing the edge we are just making the same old thing. We get stale, boring and are bored. We aren’t reaching for our own personal level of excellence.

These are the questions I ask myself with every piece of artwork:

  • How can I make this better?
  • How can I make this more me?
  • How can I drive this forward to excellent?

Actually, I ask those questions of everything I do…

Except for housework…usually I ask myself “how little can I do”?

What questions keep you driving forward?

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The Death of A Teaching Industry?


I have been thinking about writing this post for a while but I was worried I would sound whiny. However, the questions need to be asked. Please know that I really want to know what you think.

I am a teacher and an artist. I am equal parts teacher and artist. I love both aspects of my career but my teacher keeps feeling like a failure.  I am not whining about a lack of students. I am already moving in new directions because of this sad trend. I do however, want to understand how you think.

Being a teacher in the mixed-media art/craft industry is not a piece of cake. Developing classes, experimenting with materials, writing articles and tutorials is exciting work for me and incredibly time consuming not to mention expensive. I often work for months to research, design and craft what I think is a great class. I unveil the class, put it up at a store or a retreat and while many say...oh that is so cool. Very few students sign up. 

When enough people don't sign up for a class it has to be canceled. The people who did sign up are disappointed but two people can't support the effort of the teacher and a class with only two students lacks the dynamic energy that makes classes so much fun and deepen the learning experience. The store loses out as well. Those of you who have lost all of your local quilt shops or art stores know that lack of class attendance was part of their death knell. 

When classes at retreats are canceled it can really wreak havoc with the event schedule and for students who have made travel arrangements which can't be refunded. A teacher at a retreat also has expenses and if she doesn't have enough students to cover her expenses and provide some income she simply can't travel to teach. At some events in the last year students have waited until the last minute to sign up for workshops and then get upset when they find the workshop was cancelled due to low enrollment. We feel like we can't win. 

We teachers, store owners and event organizers talk about the 'why' all the time: not enough advertising? bad economy? boring classes? too much free stuff on YouTube? Do the classes look too hard? Do the classes look too easy?

The other think we teachers discuss is how do we create an income if students aren't taking classes? Many are looking at leaving the industry. The number of retreat swelled in numbers for a while which hurt attendance but now there are fewer retreats and still fewer students. These retreats can't stay in business if they don't have students. 

What are we doing wrong?

Maybe we aren't doing anything wrong. Maybe you simply don't want classes anymore. Maybe you simply don't make the time for fun anymore? Maybe you are satisfied with what is available for free on-line. Maybe you are bored with me/us?

So, I am asking you.

Why do you take classes?

Why don't you take classes?

Why don't you attend retreats?

Why do you attend retreats?

Do you get enough information on-line? 

Do you prefer on-line classes to real life classes?

Do you think classes are too expensive?



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Is Your Stash Holding You Back?

Happy New Year's Eve everyone!

studio 1

I have spent part of the day reflecting on the last year and part of it running around after my grandsons! A great way to end the year if you ask me. One thing I did this year that was scary big was to face down my stash. It was crazy huge, it was everywhere, refusing to be contained to it's allotted shelf space and it was bogging me down!

I have been quilting seriously since about 1988. That is 26 years of stash building! I had kids flannels and prints, civil war reproduction, William Morris, Kaffe Fasset, florals, plaids and striped fabrics. There was also the healthy collection of Aboriginal, African, Japanese and Indonesian fabrics (new and vintage) that I had so carefully been curating. 

Every year I set aside a day to go through my stash, get rid of stuff I won't use anymore and spend time re-organizing and folding it all. I find it satisfying to create order of the mess and it makes me happy to pet all my fabrics and think about new projects and possibilities. However, when I got ready to do that earlier this year I got this heavy sense of dread in the pit of my belly! I needed to do it because it was a mess, falling off the shelves and couldn't find anything but I found myself dreading the entire process this year. 

I had a sit down with myself, a cup of tea and some cookies. Cookies always help when confronting any realities that I am avoiding. I am no longer a real quilter! I still love most of those fabrics but with the possible exception of some baby quilts for future grandchildren I had no desire to stitch bed quilts anymore...and even quilts for grandchildren is questionable! Wow! I was going to need a lot more cookies.

I allowed myself a short period of mourning the passing of this stage of my stitch journey and then got to work. I grabbed some bins and bags and stripped the shelves of all the commercial printed fabrics. I kept out about a dozen pieces of vintage ethnic fabrics but everything else went in the bins. A few times I was tempted to keep a delicious specimen in my favorite shade of chartreuse but after fondling them a few minutes I put them in the bins with a sigh and another cookie.

I called my good friend Cat to come by and pick up the piles of fabric goodness. I knew that she would put it all to good use making charity quilts and things for her guild annual auction. Suddenly I felt as if a huge weight was lifted.  I had empty shelves! Well, at least they were empty for a few hours.:-) I quickly filled them up with all the stuff that was on the floor and needed a home. 

It was hard to release all those years of collected possibilities and quilt dreams but giving up all those future quilts meant that I was free to make more art, open to new directions in my work and I could see even more possibility than before. 

Now, I am not saying you should chuck out all your carefully curated fabric collections but you may want to set aside an afternoon to weed out that which no longer suits you. What is weighing you down? What is preventing you from stretching your creative muscles? Get rid of the fabrics, beliefs and assumptions that may be holding you back and getting in the way of seeing the wide vista of possiblities that 2015 will bring.


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The Business of Art

I am in Vail CO this week on a business retreat with my mastermind group. I know....tough place to have to work! :-) I spent much of the day working on the deck with a beautiful wild flower tangled hillside as my view. We also have a stream out the front door. This week we will map out new programs, brainstorm ways we can better serve our students and clients, fine tune our goals and spend some time thinking about how we can change the world.

vail business full circle 1 of 2

business planning tools for artists!


We are a group of 5 entrepreneurs who share an passion for the art and business. Our businesses are all different but they are held together by the thread of art. We are great friends who support each other 100% and we also hold each other accountable to keep moving forward toward our unique visions.

We meet once a month for a mastermind circle where we brainstorm solutions to problems, set goals, explore 'what ifs' and share updates on progress on our big goals. I have to add that we laugh a lot and are frequently totally silly.

So often people forget that art is a business as well as a passion and calling. If you neglect the business side of art it will be very difficult to see your vision become a reality. I know! I did that for years and I even have a business degree!

Fortunately, I had a friend who invited me to a business networking event a little over 3 years ago. I really didn't want to attend because I tend to be an introvert and thought I hated that sort of thing. But, my friend bought me a ticket for the monthly luncheon so I went out of loyalty and maybe a bit of curiosity. This event was held by eWoman Network in Colorado Springs; a chapter of the international networking organization that is focused on the way women do business. I never looked at my business the same way again.

Not long after I joined the organization I attended their annual conference in Dallas TX. We just got back from our third conference earlier this month and you may have seen my Facebook posts about it. The conference changed the way I looked at woman entrepreneurs and opened my eyes to bigger dreams and possibilities. I highly recommend looking for a chapter near you.

I hope I don't sound like a commercial for eWoman Network but I really love being part of this inspiring and energizing organization. :-)

This week I will be working on some new programs I will be launching next year that are aimed at bringing creativity and innovation into business culture for small to mid-sized companies. I will also be working on my Threads On-Line class. I hope to have the first of the three part series up by the end of September. The technological learning curve slowed us down from our intended start date last spring. Stay tuned for updates on when it goes live. If you have taken my Threads class live you will have instant access to the on-line version!

Some time will be spent looking through all my class lists to decide what other classes I want to add to to my new on-line classroom. Let me know if there is one that you have wanted to take but just can't get to where I am teaching. I will put it on the list. It takes a lot of planning and time to shoot videos for these on-line classes so I won't be traveling quite so much next year.

I won't bore you with all the rest of my to do list for this week! I will post some photos on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr of the stream and the flowers!

vail business full circle 2 of 2

Don't worry that it will be all work and no fun. I will be doing my stitch meditation by the stream tomorrow and today, we took time out this evening to relax with a few heated rounds of Rummikub. After all the number crunching that went on today, it was too much thinking to bother to keep score during the game but I am sure that I won!





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Hear Here!

Tonight my mind was expanded.

Preconceived beliefs were disbanded.

My world shifted.

In the space of two short hours I was guided to experience













Wow! All in the space of two an arts center?

In the light poetry

In The Light was the final amazing poet of the evening.

Our last Friday event this month at Cottonwood Center for the Arts was a poetry event. An Open Mic Night of Performance Poetry to be specific. We routinely have poetry events. The local group Hear Here meets monthly on the third Friday. I usually work late in the studio that evening to welcome poets and their supporters into my studio to share my art. I rarely step out of the studio to hear the poetry readings and experience their art. I stay in my own little world stitching on the latest project.

On this night, the audience was light. Perhaps because it wasn't their usual night to meet; maybe it was the beautiful weather that kept them away. The art center director asked if we could come to fill in some seats so everyone would feel welcome and heard. I have been hand stitching on my installation for the Art in Storefronts piece so I grabbed some supplies and went in to support the poets and our arts center. I gave a party once where not one person showed up so I know how important it is to have people show up.

I am not a poet. I don't read poetry and I rarely even listen to music. They are things I just don't get. At least not in the traditional sense.

That changed tonight.

Attending a poetry reading to experience an artist bringing forth their soul in words is an entirely different animal. This is not at all like reading ancient poetry in school! This may sound silly but I wanted to hug each poet after they were done...I felt so connected with each of them in such a brief time. It was so unexpected.

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we have on our lists to do that we forget to seek out new experiences. It is only in opening the doors to possibility that we grow.

From now on you won't find me in my studio on the third Friday evening. I will be in the audience so come see me before or after.

Better yet, join me for an amazing experience!



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What's the Word?

I have committed to my focus word for 2014. I don't stress out about finding my right word by Jan 1. I start thinking about it mid December and usually by mid January it has presented itself. Some years my focus word arrives quickly and other years not so fast. Are you ready for the big reveal?

I actually have two words!




I have never had two words but they both presented themselves repeatedly the last couple weeks.

Intention is about purpose, planning, being strategic and mindful of what I am doing, why I am doing it and how to get the most out of and put the most into every class, networking event and even in my daily encounters. My art always comes from a place of mindfulness and intention and I want to bring that same power of intention into my business.

intention-sketch-1-of-1I created this little doodle in my sketchbook. I am enjoying the little fact that intention breaks out like a traditional 9 patch quilt. Planning and simplicity.



Allow is a more personal word and is related to how I set my intentions. With allow I want to remind myself to use more of my feminine energy...the yin energy. I grew up and went to college in a very masculine (yang) era. We were taught that to succeed in business women had to turn off the natural yin energy and increase our Yang energy. Not in those exact words of course but we 80's dressed for success women wore ties and suits with giant shoulder pads. I shudder when I think of those big floppy bows we wore around our necks after the tie fad faded.

With allow I want to remind myself to be in balance; using both masculine and feminine energy in both my business and personal life. I often get out of body/mind balance and let my brain think it controls everything and become distrustful of my body and intuition.

Do you use a guiding word for the year or make resolutions? What are your big dreams for 2014?

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Slow down to Speed up

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I spent the weekend immersed in words. I love words! I love writing them, reading them, thinking about them, understanding them...if you love words you understand. My purpose for this word absorbing session this weekend was to slow down and making time to think about my students and customers. How can I help them, what do they need, what do they want, and how can I best share my knowledge with them.

I don't usually make the time to spend two whole days on planning. But, I realized that with my word of the year ACTION I could benefit from some planned action instead of just reaction. Reaction usually just has me putting out fires and making more chaos in my life. Do you ever take the time to step out of your normal routine and focus on your goals? I felt totally energized and ready to take on the world after my introspective weekend. How does it make you feel?

One idea that came out of my brainstorming session was simply to ask you! What do you need? What are you looking for? What sort of classes do you want?  Leave me a comment or e-mail me.

A lot of other ideas came out of my quiet day of thinking and writing. I have lots of ideas for new classes including video classes and some new books. Now, I have to gear up into production mode so I can deliver all these fun ideas into the world.

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Speaking of classes, I am back teaching on-line at Fiber Arts Mixed Media with my Layer it Up! collage class. Lots of fun techniques and some solid guidlines to teach you how to create great collage stories. Plus you get to learn at home! You can learn more about it or sign up here.

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What's in a Name?

I have had a horrid cold, the sort of cold that gives you 'break your ribs' coughing fits. Yuck! I am not too sad though because I think this means my immune system is getting back to a more normal baseline. The only benefit of a Wonder Woman immune system is that normal colds just don't have a chance. LOL As much as I love Wonder Woman I would rather have a non-superhero immune system. So please forgive me if this post is a bit rambly. 

Modern quild challenge quilt

Since I can't get much computer or studio work done I have spent more time than usual reading. I spent quite a few hours checking out reviews of Quilt Con and I came across thisblog postby Thomas Knauer. I have never heard of him before that but found that his post really resonated with me. Basically, he writes a 'mini manifesto' about the words we use to describe what we do. Does it really matter if we name what we make traditional, contemporary, modern or art quilts?

If you have even been to a modern quilt guild meeting you mght be surprised to see english paper piecing-by hand, quilts that look more like contemporary art and traditional patterns being done with 'modern' fabrics. As someone who has been hanging out in the quilt world for more years than seem possible, I am always amused when the modern quilters act like they have discovered something totally new. I amuse myself when I peruse old stitch books and find that what may be called contemporary hand stitching or embroidery has been done before. And, do you remember the hoopla the first time a machine quilted quilt won first prize in Houston? As if quilters hadn't used their tredle machines to quilt before. It is always great to be reminded that just because something is new to you it doesn't mean it is new to the universe. 

Now don't get me wrong. I love the modern quilt movement. It is bringing energy and enthusiam into the quilt industry like a breath of fresh air. I love the new highly graphic asethetic of the new designer's fabric. I love the colors, and wish I could snap my fingers and swap out my stash of muddy tones for all those yummy bright new fabrics. I remember when solid fabrics were 'in' the last time round. I just wonder why we feel the need to distance ourselves from each other. I have made quilts in all these styles, and love each quilt faction equally. I have heard negative remarks from all the different quilt camps about all the other quilt camps as if it were better to belong to one over the other. When you get right down to the bottom line we are all just making stuff!

That is the clincher. What is really important here is the 'making' not the end product. Making connects us with our selves, with our soul and with each other. It doesn't matter if you are making 'fine art' or a quilt that will be drug around by a toddler. The magic, the juicy goodness, is in the making. 

When I crawled into bed at 8pm I had run out of novels to read and my Kindle was being glitchy so I dragged out an old book by Michael Gelb. It is one of my favorites, How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci. The first part of the book takes you through the Renaissance (quickly) and I was stopped dead in my tracks by the following:

"we owe it to ourselves to ask if we can afford to let the authorities of our time---whether church, goverment, or corporation----think for us."     Michael Gelb

Wow, I would have smacked my head but it already hurt! This is what I have been talking about! Who cares what the quilt police, the modern guild or the art world thinks about what I make. Labels can help us define our tribes, find our friends and our place in a huge world. Labels can also fence us in and allow us to let the group tell us how to think and create. Creating and making are too important to let anyone tell us how we should do it. The flip side being everyone's creative expression should be honored and accepted...even when we don't understand it.

If we choose to let what other people create open doors to conversations that connect us more deeply does it matter what we call it?


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Remembering to See

Remembering to See

Quite a while ago I wrote a post about Seeing. See was my word of the year in 2010 and it was a good guiding word for me. I did pay more attention to what and who was around me. I became more mindful and my art work benefited from that.

dead trees in Breckenridge

In January I was in Breckenridge for a long weekend and I realized on the way home that I hadn't really taken time to 'see' what was around me. I didn't even notice the millions of dead trees in my vision. You see, I had become accustomed to them. They had become the new normal in my visual field so I no longer saw them. I no longer mourned their loss or savored their sad beauty.

Today, a month later, I looked out my front window and discovered a huge pile of bird feathers from some unheard battle. Tiny down feathers were attached to all the bare branches. How long had they been there? When did this altercation take place? It could have been could have been a week ago. I had no idea.

bird feathers caught in bush

No blood was found and I imagine a bird was trying to snack on one of my plentyful pocket gophers and met a coyote intent upon the same purpose. Hope one of them got a few of the gophers. Don't think poorly of me...those gophers have killed my garden and my passion for it. Grrrrrr..

At any rate...these two incidences combined to give me pause to consider if I have been taking time to 'see' lately? When I haven't been on the road these last 6 months I have been living in my head. Reading marketing, business and how to make video tutorials. Way too much time in my left brain. I have not made anytime for art. I have not taken the time to slow down, breathe and be mindful of my surroundings.

feathers from yard battle edited-1

I need to bring 'seeing' back into my life as a daily ritual again. So, I have added it to my calendar and task list. I have also added time for the studio. I will be down there all weekend exploring techniques, asking 'what if' and most importantly of all playing. Perhaps these feathers I have collected will find their way into my art.

What reminds you to slow down, be present and see?

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Creativity ~ The New Super Power!

feet in the ocean water

2012 was a wild and crazy year for me. It all started with my word of the year for 2012. Empower. I spend a lot of time empowering my students in classes and empowering the stores and companies I work with spreading product love, inspiration and understanding. But, I wasn't spending much time empowering myself.

The crazy thing about picking a guiding word for the year is that you are never quite sure where it will take you and how it will manifest. I always write my word on a few post it notes and put them on my computer, in my studio and wherever else I need one. Last year I should have put one in my Kindle because I was on the road so much! This word, empower, took me down paths of discovery that I had barely known exhisted. This word made me stretch and grow and feel a little pain too.

You see, along the empowerment journey I found myself smacked in the face with the fact that I have been playing very small in my task here on earth. I have allowed myself to simply put my feet in the ocean rather than diving into the waves. I let myself be convinced that what I do isn't all that important. Sure I got great feedback from my students and I LOVE teaching and talking about creativity. I get such a rush from inspiring someone but is it important to anyone but me? Does anyone care about making art that speaks from their heart and touches their soul? Art that allows them to tell their story? Does anyone really care about being creative?  I guess you could say I was losing my passion. I was in a rut.

But then came the challenge. I wasn't diving into the deep end. I wasn't being authentic. I wasn't letting you know just how passionate I am about teaching creativity. I was holding back because it is scary to let strangers and even friends know how much I care about creativity. They would think I was nuts.

Could I really say out loud that I believe that creativity is what will save our country? Save our planet? Save our humanity?

If I was brave...I could.

So I did.

To a room of non-creative people.

I was scared I would sound stupid but nobody laughed.

They wanted to know more. They wanted to learn how they could be more creative.

I know how to do that! That is what makes my heart sing.

Are you ready for my word for 2013? ACTION. I have new classes in the works and some exciting projects that will take a bit more time but will allow me to spread creativity far and wide.

I am excited.

I have found my passion again.

Come along with me and we will change the world and have so much fun creating while we do it!

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Clutter Wars

My friend Lisa Call wrote a great blog post the other day about clutter. Specifically she wrote about the cost of clutter. The cost in time lost managing the clutter. This got me thinking about my clutter status. Have I made any progress controlling the chaos or am I just making excuses, creating justifications and reasons? Going totally naked here folks...

Creating Art Creates Clutter

My art creates a lot of clutter. It can't be helped when you work in collage. I am sorta kind organized in the studio. The tables are cleared off except for current projects and things are mostly put back in their places. I go through fabric, mixed media stash and tools at least once a year and pass on that which doesn't serve me anymore. I use a lot of it in classes so there is a lot of turnover. That clutter is at it's manageable best. Not great but not drowning me either and I can find what I am looking for quickly. My studio may never be clutter free but in the rest of the house I have been eliminating clutter over the last year. I have conquered most of the kid clutter now that 2 of them are out of the house and off creating their own clutter. I have gotten rid of books that were just collecting dust, clothes that don't fit, misc. stuff that was just collecting dust. Pretty good here too. My desk is a bit cluttered but I have made great progress in this arena over the last couple years. I am a visual organizer so I will always have papers and notes on my desk but I do clear it down to wood about once a month.  I was thinking just how great a job I was doing patting myself on the back and pulling out the gold stars when I thought about my computer. There it was smirking at me...that sneaky time stealing clutter.

Facing Reality

My in-box and Outlook files are a hellacious mess. Let's not even get started on my document files, photo files or my desktop (yikes!). I keep saying I will get to that but I never seem to get caught up. Seriously that has been on my list for over 2 years! I have 3 different e-mail accounts to keep up with. I know I have well over 1000 e-mails (maybe even 1500 ok, ok, 2000+) that need to be dealt with: filed or deleted. I waste time trying to find a specific e-mail. I lose important ones that need replies or follow up. That's really bad right?

The Challenge

So, I am embarking on a 30 day computer clean up! Anyone want to come play with me? Beginning today (I know September 1 would be a better start date but I better not put it off one more day!) I will spend 30-60 minutes focused specifically on computer clutter each and every day. I will keep you posted on my progress each week. If you have any great tips please leave a comment. I need all the help I can get!

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Walk with Me ~ Breckenridge

Ready to head up the hill...come on...let's go!

I occasionally like to challenge you all to take a walk with an eye to art and see what wonderful inspiration you can find in your own neighborhood. So often we think that we need to travel to some exotic local to find art fodder but in visual art, like writing, it is often best to do what you know. You should be able to click on the photos for a larger image.

My friends hiking and chatting.

This weekend I was in Breckenridge CO...yes, many of you will consider that a pretty exotic local but for me it is close to home and I am there often enough that I can easily look right past the beauty as I go about my work. So, my friends and I took advantage of a fabulous spring day to go on a wonderful hike...come walk along with us~!

Spring run off in the ditch.

I wish we could have audio and scentio for this 'walk' There was water everywhere as the spring snow melt was in full force. The wonderful sounds of the rushing water, birds chattering to compete with our own chattering and the heady scent of pine and moist earth so strong that it took your breath away...hard to convey that in photos.

A bit of adventure climbing on our walk...

pine needles in the snow

I love the play of light and shadow on the snow...don't the pine needles look like stitches scattered across a white velvet fabric?

Water really was everywhere and we had to forge many little streams and trudge through slushy snow...what intrepid hikers! LOL!

Spring run off!

Entrance to a mine shaft.

This interesting old mine shaft is just a few feet off the path as we head toward our destination...the Sally Barber mine.

Sally Barber Mine

Ooooohhhh the much wonderful rusty equipment laying around. Wonder if they would mind if we draped it all in fabric to gather some of that wonderful rust.

I will limit myself to just 3 rusty junk photos...I don't want you to get bored...but I have many more!

The view from the mine.

I love the rough texture of this rotting tree stump surrounded by icy snow...

...and the amazing intertwined branches of this tree...

...and don't forget the wonderful variety of texture found in lichen...I don't know if this photo even comes close to capturing the incredible light...the lichen was lit by light bouncing off of the snow drift directly in front of it. It was amazing.

A glimpse of the mountains through the trees

down hill and almost home

Grab your camera...and some friends...go to the beach or the park or just around the block...take them on an art walk to see what inspires them. Show us what inspiration you find on your walk by leaving a comment and your blog link.

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Time, Being Enough and Junk Yards

I meant to write this post last week but time has been very wily the last few weeks and it seems to be hard to corral. I have  been reading Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection the last few days. There is a lot of great stuff in her book...simple thoughts to remind me what is important in my life. Like, taking time to just be, hang out with my family, read a book, make some art, take a friend to tea for her birthday. At the end of the day, I tend to focus on what I didn't get done rather than what I did do...which results in a feeling of inadequacy that is always present. You know...the 'if I was better organized I would have gotten it all done' or 'Sheeesh...why can't you manage to keep just one counter clean'. I am my own worse nag and it makes me feel terrible. Why do I beat myself up so much about things that really just aren't important.  So, from here on out my plan is to reflect at the end of each day on the things I did accomplish rather than my failures.

With that in mind I will not nag myself for being an imperfect blogger but will tell you about my great field trip 9 days ago...when the weather was warm!

Sangre de Cristo Arts Center

I have a couple of great textile and mixed media groups that meet in Monument and Colorado Springs. One of these groups, Discovery, decided to go on a field trip to Pueblo (about an hour south) to see a quilt exhibit at the Sangre de Cristo art center. We were treated to two great shows both connected by the topic of 'children's books and art'. The first exhibit, Winter Lights: A Season in Poems and Quilts by Anna Hines was a delightful pairing of children's winter poems and quilts that illustrated them. The quilts were traditional in construction and design but most had a contemporary feel. The construction was simply amazing...meticulous paper piecing of tiny spiraling log cabins...often executed all in black. Incredible workmanship to celebrate winter.

The second exhibit was my favorite. Stephen Johnson has taken the art of letters and numbers to a new level. I had not seen his books previously as I am a bit out of the children's art book temporarilyas my kids are too old and my grands too young but I think these might find a spot on my shelf. Stephen Johnson's art shows a wide range of styles which made me feel a bit better about my own eclectic mix of work. There were works from Alphabet City, City by Numbers and my favorite, A is for Art which features abstract art and the descriptions of the art works were alliterative poetry themselves. The abstract pieces included fake french fries, lime ladders and red rubber bands in a big pile. They were fun and not quite so serious.  Stephen Johnson's work in Alphabet City and City by Numbers is totally different, watercolor, pencil and pastels worked in a photo-realistic style. It was so much fun looking to find the letters or numbers in the paintings, some were obvious, some were in the negative space and some you had to really look for. Unfortunately, both these shows are done but you can get the books!

After the shows we grabbed a quick lunch at the little cafe on the premises, Francos...what a treat that was. Francos' had a great selection of gluten free offerings that were really tasty! Cross contamination is a big concern for me when eating out but the chef assured me that he completely understood because his daughter was very sensitive as well. YAY! I had a great messy sandwich...what a treat. Those not eating gf were all delighted in their meals so if you go to Pueblo check it out!

We tacked on a little side trip that was the polar opposite of the art center experience. The junk yard! Oh my gosh we must have looked so funny...two cars pull up and 8 ladies get out exclaiming with delight over the piles of rusty junk. I am sure the owners are still shaking their heads. We had a great time looking for tool boxes to repurpose for art supplies and intriguing rusty shapes to use for rusting fabrics. I also found a great non-rusty aluminum 'thing' for soy wax batik. This place had everything from rusty screws and things that were too disintegrated to fathom their original purpose to street signs and doctor's forceps. Don't think I would use the old forceps for doctoring but they would be great for assemblage work and other arty things. I was positively drooling over this antique cash register! It wasn't for sale but I must say I got a great pile of rusty stuff for $20.

unfortunately this 'found' rusty fabic was too fragile to use but isn't it beautiful?

We made one last stop at the quilt shop in Pueblo and headed home...Oh, almost was about 64degrees in Pueblo that day! We soaked up the sun and that helped get us through this last especially frigid week! I am so happy that I made time for this field trip with friends. We all agreed that we 'need' to put more of this into our lives.

Stay tuned for an announcement of two free on-line book studies!! I know a few of you have been waiting patiently for us to....ummmm...get organized! Ruth Chandler and I plan to start Fabric Embellishing on Feb 21st and I will begin Threads the week after that. Details very soon! Thanks for waiting while we get our ducks in a row.
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Who says you're an artist?

I had a great weekend…started with my Visual Journaling class on Sat morning where I had them take a baby step toward drawing and they were brave! Then I took my students on a field trip to Denver…well technically, one of my students drove so I guess she took us. We went to hear a talk given by Laurie M Hawley of Aha Life Designs. Laurie’s topic was the Road to Authenticity – Embracing Imperfection and Feeling Worthy. The talk was inspired by Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.I am a big fan of Brene Brown. She has a couple of talks available on TED that are really great. Laurie shared her experiences on her journey to discovering joy in her life as well as facing the painful parts of embracing imperfection.

A lot of what Laurie talked about really resonated with me…my own journey...especially  being a perfectionist as it is something that I have and still do struggle with. Perfectionists continually seek external validation. Laurie talked about her creativity and life coaching business and how she strives to be the best coach she can be and to that end is continually participating in further training. Which is great for her clients but when is enough, enough? When do ‘they’ see fit declare that you an expert…or in my case, an artist?

I wanted to be an interior designer when I was young but that wasn’t ‘practical’ so I got my degree in business management. Years later when I decided that I really wanted to be an artist my first roadblock was how to go to art school? I didn’t have the time or money to go to art school and everybody said you really had to have an MFA to be an artist. I longingly perused the UK’s City and Guild’s program…even on-line it was still too expensive. How would I get the certificate that declared, YES, I was an artist?? I decided that formal education would just have to wait until the kids were launched even though that meant I wouldn’t get that validation until I was at least 56 and maybe even 60.

In the mean time I took whatever workshops I could, read every book I could get my hand on, joined art groups and I took baby steps. I changed the name of my sewing room to ‘studio’. That was incredibly difficult! It took me at least 3 years to feel comfortable calling it a ‘studio’. I mean really…how pretentious!! I certainly couldn’t bring myself to utter the words ‘I am an artist’. When friends called me an artist I rolled my eyes and dismissed their comments…after all, I hadn’t earned that degree yet!

A funny thing happened while I was busy raising my family, homeschooling, taking creative technique classes, and making stuff. I became an artist. I still didn’t have the diploma that officially declared it but the more confident I became in my skills and the more I talked to ‘real artists’ it slowly dawned on me that being an artist isn’t like being a lawyer. There isn’t a test to pass, a degree required or any hoops to jump through. Being an artist is a state of mind. The only person, entity or even country that can truly declare someone an artist is one’s self.

Go ahead…declare yourself an artist! Hey, want to make today Declare Yourself an Artist Day? We could start a movement!

The photos in this post are from my very first soy wax batik experiments done last Thursday at my Discovery group. This group explores art techniques...not always related to cloth. If you are in the Colorado Springs area let me know and I will send you the meeting details. We always have fun and I am now in love with soy!
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The Ugly Stage

relocated by the gophers

When I was in Estes Park for my guild lecture 10 days ago I had a lovely dinner with some of the guild board members. Talk meandered around quilting and art of course. One of the board members is involved in creating an arts program for a school in Oklahoma. We had a great discussion about the lack of art in many of our schools, what that means for future generations and what this particular school is doing to make things better for their students and community.

blooming in the middle of the path

It has been my experience that one of the key lessons of making art is learning how to get through the ugly stage. Most art has an ugly stage…that point where you can’t stand it and think it is hopeless and maybe you should simply give up and become an accountant! But, no matter how ugly you think it is if you keep working at it the art develops and becomes a thing of beauty. It is magical when it comes together! So many things in our lives have an ugly stage that just needs to be gotten through; kids, home remodels, marriages and gardens to name just a few.

blooming despite the pocket gopher attacks

My garden has had an extended ugly stage thanks to a plethora of pocket gophers who think my yard is a 5 star gopher resort! But I do have some stalwart bloomers who won’t give up and bloom despite the gophers. Today let’s celebrate perseverance in art, gardens and life. Cheers for the Ugly Stage!
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Walk With Me

Red White and Blue
Red, White and Blue Colorado Style

It seems we were about 15 minutes too late to see the bear. Not that I am complaining but it would have been fun to share a photo of a bear with you all! A couple of times a year I take my camera along on my walk and take photos of whatever catches my fancy. These photos become inspiration for art either as images, texture or line. I thought I would share my walk with you so you can see what inspires me and get a feeling for the area I am lucky to live in. Coloradois incredibly beautiful although sometimes you have to look a little more closely to see the beauty…we are a high plains desert after all. Generally our wildflowers are not showy. If you look carefully at the photo above you can see a tiny bit of red wildflower peeking around the penstemon. I thought this was a cheerful July 4th arrangement by mother nature. However, the wind was blowing so it was difficult to get the red flowers. I put the images in the order that I took them so you would feel like you were on my walk with me!

Barbed wire coiled around a fence post.

Wild Geraniums.

Just one of the views on my walk.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon

Scrub Oak skeleton branches. The past couple of winters have been hard on the scrub oak.

Wild sunflowers

Our destination-The Rock.

Wonder what this bush is.

Duke cools down in the pond--this is where the bear was about 15 minutes before we got there.

A closer view of the is big!

Looking up from the base

Mariposa Lily. What a great structure

Interesting for use in collages and journals.

More coiled barbed wire. This is surrounding the Hot Shots Helipad.

Helicopter at the Hot Shots Helipad

tree bark what great texture and lines

Tree rows. This area was once used by the CCC as a tree farm so we have a lot of pines growing in rows. I love the lines.

I have tons of grass photos because I love them. I can be mesmerized watching them blow in the wind. These are about 3' high.

I have a lot of lichen and moss photos also. I love the different colors and textures.

A poppy on the way out...literally on the way out of the trail and almost done with its life. Still beautiful though. I love the seed pods.

Wild Rose in the parking lot.

I started thinking about all the different areas of the world people live in. Sometimes we neglect our immediate surroundings for inspiration and think things like: If only I lived in France or could visit India, then I would have lots of inspiration. Or, If only I lived in the city/country then I would have an inspiring environment. I am sure people in France or who have visited India fill in the sentence with their own versions. It is easy to think that inspiration comes only with exotic locals. Truth is that inspiration surrounds us wherever we live.

All this got me thinking about a cooperative inspiration exercise! Take your camera on a walk and snap photos of anything that catches your fancy. Post them on your blog or flicker acct. Then, e-mail me the link This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will post the links so we can all be inspired.

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Biospheres and Babies


Last week was a busy week. I was in Tucson for a mini family reunion with my mom and two aunts. We had a great time exploring the flora and fauna of Tucson and visited Biosphere 2. You may remember the experiments in the early 1990s where scientists were sealed inside as an experiment in sustainability. Biosphere 2 is an amazing giant greenhouse and it covers over 3 acres but I can’t imagine living in there for a year or more with no outside air or food. The structure is full of incredible grids which I took about a zillion photos of and houses a rainforest, ocean, desert, savannah and wetlands. Biosphere 2 is now operated by the University of Arizona and is used for numerous experiments. The variety of plants is amazing and of course I took a bunch of photos but the cattails one is my favorite. It is worth the visit but be sure to wear your walking shoes. Biosphere 2 makes one pause and wonder at the incredible diversity and beauty of Biosphere 1 which we inhabit.

biosphere grid_edited-1

biosphere cattails

On our Friday morning hike I got the phone call that my grandson Baby Z had arrived…I could hear him crying all they way across the country! Gotta love technology! Within an hour I had a photo of the precious package to share with Great Grandma and Great Aunts. He is healthy but his big brother said he is noisy! Look at how proud K-Man is of his Baby Z. I won't get to see them for a very long month! I had to restrain myself from asking the moms of the newborns on my flight home if I could smell their sweet babies. They probably wouldn't have understood.

k-man and baby z_edited-1
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What is your keystone?

architecture atcs

I have a fantastic ATC (Artist Trading Cards) group that meets monthly. It is so much fun to gather and share our little pieces of art, talk about techniques and tell our stories of why we made what we did. We have a theme every other month and this month the theme was Architecture. It is always so interesting to see everyone’s take on the theme. We had everything from women’s architecture and the elements of architecture to pyramids and obelisks. These women are so creative. I highly recommend starting an ATC group if there isn’t one near you. ATCs are a great way to try new techniques and ideas.

My architecture of choice was the keystone. I have always been amazed at how one stone could be the element that kept all the other stones in place. I like to do a little research about the topic I am working with so my research led me to thinking about the keystone in a different way. There were lots of links about Keystone Colorado and the Keystone Kops but the more interesting links referred to things such as a keystone species of an environment…a species critical to the health of the environment or the keystone idea of a philosophy. That got me thinking about personal keystones. Particularly what is my keystone? What is the thing that keeps every other bit of my life in balance? Is the current keystone the always and forever keystone? Personally, my current keystone is my health. Without my health I don’t have the energy I need to care for my family and friends or the energy to fuel my passion for my art and teaching. My health has been crumbling slowly over the last two decades and I fear that I am close to a tipping point where I will never be able to regain a solid keystone. I have been taking steps to mend my keystone but the patches haven’t been quite strong enough. One autoimmune disorder has led to another and another.

keystone atcs

I am in the process of carving a new keystone, a strong one that will enable me to be and do all that I am passionate about. It is difficult for me to focus solely on my self, my health, my needs as that isn’t my natural inclination. But, as I so often and readily tell others, you have to take care of your body and soul before you can take care of others. I am taking my own advice and approaching this task with a sense of discovery instead of dread and frustration. I am slowing down to see what is around me. I am taking time to care for myself body and soul. This new keystone will be strong and beautiful.

What is your keystone?
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Seeing Eggs


I have always loved spring and Easter. When I lived in VA they generally arrived at the same time. Here in Colorado, spring has barely opened one eye. As my friends tell me about their green grass, daffodils and lilacs I try not to be jealous. I am more likely to see a sea white snow from my window as any grass. This year we do have a beautiful day for Easter though the wind may sweep away any small child hunting for eggs outdoors.

What I love about this season is the sense of rebirth and renewal. We often forget that we need winter to slow down and rest in our busy lives. I know that I usually find those 'winter' times frustrating and full of unease because I feel that time is too short and I must get to creating something fabulous. How silly is that? I need to embrace the 'winter' and let my mind and body heal after putting forth such great effort to produce a luscious harvest. I need to restore my energy and fill my heart with joy. Why do I fight it? Why do I think that I should be able to grow and harvest, grow and harvest on and on with no rest?

You would think I would learn easily but this is something my first born, A-type personality continues to struggle with. My Grandfather always admonished us kids to ‘pace yourself’ and ‘stop and smell the roses’. As a society we seem to forget these wise words. We are always in a rush to accomplish the next big thing, buy the newest gadget, often standing in line for days to be the ‘first’ to have the latest and greatest. But does that make us any more fulfilled as a human? Does it make us more successful, more efficient? I think after almost 50 years I have started to embrace the reality that it doesn’t. Taking time to see the beautiful colors in a basket of fresh farm eggs, to see the light of the afternoon sun on the prairie grass, to see the hawk struggle against the wind…these are the things that fill our soul so that we may experience spring.

So, that is what I have been doing the last couple weeks…enjoying ‘winter’! Fortunately for me Mother Nature has given me a few big snow storms so I could really get into it. And you know what? It worked! All of a sudden I have fresh ideas, I am seeing things with ‘spring’ eyes and I am approaching my work with joy instead of listlessly crossing the next item off my to-do list. I also realized that I didn’t have to spend time dyeing eggs because Mother Nature did it for me.
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