Saturday, May 30, 2009

With Beauty Comes Awareness...The Internet Ruins All

I've been waylaid by end-of-school stuff, a swollen ankle, and the flu, but I'm back to posting again. So, if you've read my first entry, you know that I am obsessed the the concept of the Uzbek Suzani tapestry, a traditional piece of large silk, cotton, or wool that is hand-embroidered and passed on in a young woman's dowry. Ebay has been selling these for a song and I am pleased to say that I am in the possession of four Suzanis now, with two more on the way. I pat myself on the back, saying this is my first investment in antiques--all for less than $50--and boy, do they make an impression!

The one above my fireplace arrived yesterday, and it was the one I was really excited about. When I picked it up at the post office, it was the usual ham-shaped bundle wrapped in greasy paper and string with a wax seal...a bit grimy, like Borat himself. But, in my eagerness to see what was inside, I found myself--and others--almost gasping at what rolled out of the paper. Oh, it was big, alright--5 x 8 feet--but what got me were the colors. This piece is purported to be at least 70 years old, and you can tell if you look at the's really eaten up. But I swear, the pinks and yellows are almost flourescent. All the colors glow. This, after 70 years, before chemicals...vegetable dyes? That have maintained their luster...amazing!

I skipped off with my treasure with that little song in my head that keeps saying, "this is not quite right." Why are these precious family heirlooms being sold off for a song? So I bit the bullet and looked up info on the economy of Uzbekistan: It is a land-locked country. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Current concerns include terrorism by Islamic militants, economic stagnation, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization. Technology is antiquated; trafficking of drugs, slaves, and prostitutes is rampant. They're off there, fending for themselves, selling off precious things that we can snap up for a song on Ebay.

So when I buy these Suzanis, am I helping or hurting? What can I do for a socialist country on the other side of the world? For now, I look at this beauty, take a breath, and say a prayer for those not born into a world like mine.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Her Art is Way Better.

(PLEASE, my few subscribers, READ ALL THE WAY DOWN.)

You know, in junior high I could name five girls in each class that had better hair than I did. I rose at 5:30 am to hit the hot rollers and by noon my tresses looked like wet spaghetti. (Somehow, I never learned about hairspray).

Yesterday I finally met (over email) Jane from the U.K., whose work I had seen for months on Ebay and Etsy and had always puzzled over the low prices and amazing fluidity of her gorgeous felt brooches (you can see more of her stuff at I said, "Jane, your work is so precise and perfect and unique." And I have been SOOO jealous!

When I think about my own clumsy fumblings with oozing glue guns and stinky batches of treasures fresh from Goodwill, and then I see some of the incredible work out there on the web, I really question how I can think of myself as a artist at all. But then I think about what my dabblings at the endeavor have given back to me, and I see that the art is not sitting on the table, but is in the beauty it has created in the unseen spaces of my life in the past year.

I think about the day I discovered that my dad had contracted a cruel and horrifying and wasting disease several months ago, and the days that I continue to watch him suffer. I grabbed a crochet hook, a knitting needle, yarn, thread, anything I could put my hands on and just went to work. And stopped using my mind and only used my hands. I guess I'm still doing that, to some extent.

I think about my mother-in-law, Vicky, who has really been more a mom to me, but whom I am always worried about pleasing, because she always has it so together and I have so much respect for her. I see her pick out a flower for a brooch and then grab another one that she likes and I know I am doing this right.
I think about Lee of OneClayBead (on Etsy), an amazing pottery artist who took the time to blog about my reused/repurposed $2 clock from the Salvation Army. Boy, I tell you, being written about by a REAL artist meant I hit the big time! I think I emailed everyone I knew! (Her blog is awesome--great photography--

I think about Tracey from Canada, who had me make a flower for her little girl's coat a few weeks ago. I did not know at the time that she was in the middle of a major family crisis, and emailing back and forth about the flower was at least a bit of a calming distraction for her. (Things are better now, I'm so glad to say).

I think about my long-time friend Sasha, who I lost touch with for silly reasons a year ago, and who now subscribes to this blog. We lunched and reconnected with art as a major subject, as she is a long-time incredible jewelry maker. But more than that, it was a simple bridge over which we reconnected. And I missed her. And needed her. And now we are back to where we were. Did I tell you she was helping me push in the delivery room when my son was born? You don't let that go.

I think about my friend Aki, who is such a talented artist and mother and gentle soul that she's too good at everything and has a hard time pinning one thing down. Oh, to have such problems! Finally, I am in awe of my husband Russell and his patience and generosity in allowing me to follow this road. Our son Pat is watching and learning about art, and I do believe it will follow him well.

Now that I've gone on way too long, I'll just tell you what I'm getting at. The successful art that has appeared in my life is not always the sticky glue stuff, or the frayed stuff, or even the really good stuff that comes together. It is the connections, the friends, the support, and the peace that God has given me on this creative path I began to follow. I needed it, and it found me, and we all found each other. Paint, clay, thread--they're called "mediums" for a reason. Art is what happens in the spaces unseen...we express ourselves, we send out energy, we get energy back.

And we always encounter a little more love along the way.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Are We Still A Throw-Away Society?

The American press has recently dubbed us "a Thrift Nation" and it seems that everything is reuse, reinvent, repurpose, re-stick in a corner and think about it later. But are we really and truly holding on to what we can, thinking creatively, and trying to avoid wasting money and material?
I, for one, can tell you with much shame that I purchased--and donated--and trashed--thousands of dollars' worth of consumer goods every year for much of my early adult life. When I was working in the professional world and didn't have a kid--man, it was all about me and those new shoes. But cutting back, working from home, focusing on my family, forced me to realize it was more fun to dig through other people's cast-offs than a rack of things that all looked the same. Every item, every little piece of fabric that goes into one of my recycled fabric flowers, tells a story. So there's always several stories on each of my recycled items that I will never know (and may not want to)!

When I was a kid, it would have been the kiss of death to be busted shopping with your Ma at Goodwill. Last week, I found two spring silk skirts, brand new with tags (reduced from $300 apiece), just my size at the Salvation Army. If you are familiar with brands, they were Karen Millen and Tocca. Perfect. Tossed aside. By someone who had the luxury to do it. Well, I'll be happy to bestow stories upon them. Answer: some of us are still chucking an awful lot! Tocca? What are ya, nuts?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It started with the Suzani! Really, you'll want to know what it is...

I haven't been doing this crafty thing too long, but I have been sharing some of my creations (coupla flowers and a sash) with a woman who designs AWESOME ribbon and textiles...and she blogged me! You can see her comments at . I first found her ribbon when I was searching for something with a Suzani print. I am really interested in eastern embroidery.

Here's the amazing thing about Suzani textiles: they have been produced by tradition for centuries in Uzbekistan (remember Borat?) When a girl is born in this central Asian region, work immediately begins on around four elaborate cotton, wool, or silk tapestries that will become part of her dowry when she marries. Sadly, these incredibly colorful and intricate and HUGE antique fabrics can be purchased all over Ebay for a song. I'm sure it's an indication of the need of the people in that impoverished land. Want to learn more about Suzani? Check out Knitting Letters A-Z at

Anyhow, this gave me a real lift. Check out ribbon from Laura at or visit her Etsy at Have a great day, and check out other Suzanis to see the incredible range of work and color.