It’s hard to believe that this artist’s residency is coming to a close. I have just four more days here before returning to Paris. So I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my time here so far. It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. Just amazing.
Gare de l’est
On the train heading toward Orquevaux!
My Studio! I can’t believe it!!
Some of the art work in the Chateau left by other artists in residence
And so it begins… getting the work up on the wall.
but now I have all of this space… I can go much bigger!
The view from my studio
Taking a morning walk with fellow artist in residence, Kevin Ford
Throwing some paint around
Working and adding
Playing with shapes, getting in the blues…
Lichen always inspires
Taking a walk to clear my head and get some perspective on the challenges I’m seeing in the piece now that I’ve doubled its size.
The sheer beauty and magnitude of this place…
The boat house
The blue alien is now an ever present “issue” that I work hard to resolve…
Deciding that I have to stitch stuff down anyway…
Boldly stitching the blue insect/alien even though I have misgivings… maybe it’ll look better once it’s stitched down.
Nope it doesn’t. Annotating the work, before adding more blue, because if the blue bits are the problem, let’s throw more on there and see what happens.
The blue rabbit hole continues. I’m so deep in it I can’t see my way out.
Still I can appreciate the fabulous art all around me that covers the walls of this amazing place.
Raclette night and the fabulous Beulah van Rensburg: artistic director
The. blue continues to prove problematic.
But I’m determined…
and when all else fails, start another piece…
Fellow artists put on a puppet show for all of us, to great hilarity and fun!
and then I return to my studio to finish my little study inspired by the lichen I’ve seen on my many walks.
And on it goes… the creative process continues.
The big take away from all of this is that the process of creating is often bumpy, but if you don’t give into despair and just meet it head on matter-of-factly, the process is actually very instructive and can be wonderfully fun. It so mirrors life. Some of the things I tell myself: Don’t take it personally. You got this. It’s a momentary hiccup, what can you learn? This feels uncomfortable, but it’s okay. I’ve been here before and gotten through, I’ll get through this too. Breathe. Be patient and honor the process.
The ups and downs, the unexpected road blocks, the work arounds, it’s all there, just as in life, but making the decision to find the joy, to be present, even when I’d rather not be, that’s the trick. Right now I still haven’t resolved some of the issues I have with this piece, but I know I’ll get there eventually. It’s all part of creating and creating is always wonderful! Hard, but wonderful!
I’m seizing this moment to explain the website and it’s checkout process since a few people have had trouble. I’ve broken this down into steps and highlighted things that need to be paid attention to.
So let’s go over to the website, shall we?!
First when you arrive you will be greeted by me! There I am, cheerfully welcoming you into my world of design, art, and hand stitching.
Do you see those two big red arrows? That’s showing you the navigation bar because I’m going to go over all of the items listed, but first let’s just look for a second at the bottom of this landing page, the page with me smiling at you. If you scroll down you’ll see a whole bunch of images and text about my past design work and then at the very bottom you’ll see this:
This is how you can get in touch with me.
Now you can also use the “contact” at the top in the navigation bar.
Either one will work. So if you get into trouble, just know we’re here to help answer any and all questions you may have. And most of you, who follow me elsewhere, know I’m pretty good about responding to you in a timely manner.
Okay. Now, let’s move on to “Workshops”.
Yay, workshops!! So much fun. This is what you’ll see. At some point I’ll change the large header image with my most recent piece, but until then this is exactly what you should see. Scroll down and you’ll see the calendar break down of all my workshops as of today. I’ll be adding a few more in the coming weeks, but for now, this is it.
Click on the blue link from the photo above (I’ve circled it in red). All those blue titles are hotlinks and when clicked on, they will open that workshop!
Here we are in the Stitch Along Dorset Button Glasses Case Workshop.
Look at the drop down menu! How cool is that?! That’s what you’ll see if you click on the button to the right of “Customize your experience”. This is where you can add stuff. Fun stuff like fabric kits and thread kits. If you don’t see a drop down menu it’s because no kits are available for that workshop. But for both my Stitch Along workshops you get to add kits!! One more thing about the drop down menu… when you choose one of the options, you’ll see that the price changes.
See how the price changed when you added the Fabric Kit? And can we just admire for a moment those fabulous linens? These include enough linen and lining for TWO cases – Pat Pauly’s hand dyed linens, my own ice dyed linen, a cotton lining AND a micro fiber lining, (you’ll get both) which is perfect for glasses lens, fusible fleece interfacing, again enough for two cases and enough wool for one. Same with the Stitch Along Scissor Case, but I’m getting side tracked…
So the price includes the workshop, plus the Fabric Kit, which also includes shipping and the design and the detailed instruction booklet. “What!” you’re saying to yourself, “that must be a typo!” but no, it’s just one of the perks you get for signing up for this Stitch Along. “But what about the thread kit?” you might ask.
Here you go!
This is the workshop and the thread kit. Please note that if you live outside the US you MUST order at least 4 weeks before the beginning of the workshop. Even so it’s dicey with customs and covid causing delays. Bottom line – if you don’t live in the US, hurry and enroll now!
Here we are with the Workshop, the fabric kit AND the thread kit. See all those beautiful threads above? Oh! And look! See that gorgeous hand dyed linen underneath? Yup that’s the whole package. One last thing – this workshop features Dorset Buttons. Not just your traditional Dorset Button, but really, really wild dorset buttons. Dorset Buttons like you’ve not seen before. Last year I gave a couple workshops called Dorset Buttons Gone Wild. It was a huge hit. This workshop and the other Stitch Along I’m doing in July will teach you how to create dorset buttons that are little pieces of art unto themselves. So even if you don’t want to make a glasses case or scissor case, you can still take this workshop and create dorset buttons for something else you’re working on. It’s all about thinking outside the box, using the dorset button as a jumping off point, but doing things you’ve never thought of doing. That’s what we’ll be doing in both of these Stitch Alongs.
Okay, let’s keep going with the website. So now you’re convinced this is just the coolest Stitch Along/Workshop that you’ve ever seen and you can hardly wait to sign up. So what do you do now?
Click on the “Add to cart” button and you’ll see the little, light blue, transparent box at the top that I’ve helpfully circled in red! And if you look at the navigation bar you’ll see the number 1 in your “cart”, showing you that you’ve added one thing to your shopping cart. And now you can do a couple of things: You can keep shopping and sign up for more workshops and/or designs or you can check out.
There are two ways to check out. The first is to click on the button that I’ve circled in red in the image above.
Or you can click on the the “Go to cart once all items are added?” button, which is right below the “Add to cart” button. Do you see it? ⬆️
Once you click on “view cart” or “Go to cart once all items are added?” you’ll be asked to login, if you haven’t already done so. This is for your security and this is what you’ll see
If you remember your user name and password you’re good to go. If you’ve forgotten your password, like everyone else in the world, you’ll need to click on “login” and you’ll see this image above. Do you see the dreaded “Lost your password?” No problem, we can help you with that. I can’t remember my middle name, much less every password I’ve created for different websites, oh wait, I don’t have a middle name, but you get the point… Click on “Lost your password” and you’ll get an email to reset your password. This is so that no one pretending to be you can get in here and make mischief.
Once you’ve created a new password and logged in, you’ll see this page above… wait, what? Coupon???? I want a coupon! I can help you with that too. If you signed up for my newsletter you will have seen that I give one to everyone who signed up. If you missed that, you can join Patreon where I also gave a different coupon just a few weeks ago! Lots of coupons, lots of different ways to get one.
Once you’ve entered your coupon code or decided you just want to get enrolled because the workshops are filling up fast, you’ll click on “Proceed to checkout” and voila, you’ll be taken to this page.
A couple things here – there’s yet another reminder to use a coupon, if you have one (upper left corner circled in red) and don’t forget to un-click “Ship to a different address?” unless your credit card info is different than your shipping address. For the kits, the shipping address is really important because this is what will be given to me to ship all that beautiful fabric and threads to, so make sure it’s correct. I cannot tell you how many times I go to the post office only to be told “that address doesn’t exist”. So please, please, please, double check and make sure it’s correct. And include you’re phone number so that we can call you to verify, if we run into problems.
Once you’ve filled out all the credit card info, you’ll get an email welcoming you to the workshop and then you’ll get another email from me asking you to choose which kit you’d like. Make sure you have my email address in your contacts so that your email security doesn’t block me, thinking I’m spamming you. I promise, I would never do that. ❤️
Congratulations you are now successfully enrolled in my workshop and the fun has just begun!
But wait! What about the rest of the website?
Okay, okay, here’s the Stitching Shop:
After that is the blog, which is where you’re reading all of this. But have you looked at the right hand side bar? You haven’t!? Well let me show you around because there’s some cool stuff.
So above the red circle there are all the social media icons which you can click on and follow me in various places. And then there’s the Subscribe to this blog! That’s where you enter your email address so that you never miss one of my blog posts.
But there’s more!
When you sign up for my newsletter you’ll get lots of other things stitching related. I wrote my first ever newsletter just a few weeks ago! And I’ll be writing another every month or so. I’m not really sure how often I’ll be writing one, but it won’t be daily or even several times a week, because I don’t have the time, but it will certainly be once a month.
So now that you’ve subscribed to this blog AND you’ve signed up for my newsletter, I want to point out something else: the Translate button.
If English isn’t your first language or second or third, you can have this blog translated to the language you’re most comfortable with. How great is that!
Okay, we’re in the home stretch… Along that top navigation bar after “Blog” and “Contact” (remember I told you about the Contact tab earlier?) then there’s “Account”. And if you hover your mouse over it, another drop down menu like this one will magically appear.
Click on “Account Details” and the image above will appear.
Lost Your Password is the next item on that drop down menu and where you can make a new password.
“Orders” is where you can see all the things you’ve signed up for and purchased and the next item “Downloads” is where you’ll find any and all downloads that came with anything you’ve purchased and finally there’s the “Logout” button.
So that’s it! You are now a pro at finding, ordering and navigating all the different things on my website!
So here’s the thing… I feel a whole lot better when I show up even when I feel awful, even when I feel things are rough and I’m tired, even when I don’t want to. I’ve also learned that showing up anyway is the single best remedy for not continuing to feel that way. Except that it’s also really hard to do. That’s the thing. It’s really, really hard and sometimes… sometimes it feels impossible. I know it technically isn’t, but it sure feels that way.
Marcus Aurelius wrote about pain a great deal. And in his writings about it he consistently focusses on choice and responding, rather than reacting. I’m a huge fan of Marcus Aurelius, not just because he was wise, but because this guy was one of the most powerful men in the world and yet he continued to do his best to remain humble, to avoid arrogance, to nurture self awareness and to treat others with respect and kindness.
So yeah, showing up anyway. Easier said than done, so I have found ways to do so that aren’t quite so laden, that make it a tiny bit easier. I call it setting myself up to succeed.
Here’s what I do:
Thread up a whole bunch of needles with different types and weights of thread. I use both Chenille needles and Milliners Needles.
Grab a needle, any needle, it doesn’t matter which one, and begin stitching. I have a couple of mindless go-to stitches that don’t require any thought. They are the meditative stitches like french knots, bullion knots, colonial knots, seed stitch, chain stitch, fly stitch, straight stitch and then I riff on them, which means I start exploring every aspect of that stitch. How many wraps can I make on a french knot before the whole thing begins to fall apart? (It turns out a lot more than you might think!). What ways can I stitch a straight stitch to create different patterns?
And before you know it, I’m playing!
Stitching, more than anything, changes everything, even grief, even pain.
If you’re curious to know how I did this, I made a video about it and you can watch it here:
“While you don’t control external events, you retain the ability to decide how you respond to those events. You control what every external event means to you personally.”
The Daily Stoic
When we returned from Africa, I had a livestream scheduled for the next day and a Zoom meeting that couldn’t be rescheduled shortly after that. As my computer had crashed and then been wiped out while in Africa, I really, really needed to get it working again or get a new computer, which is no small undertaking, especially if you’re someone like me who is basically computer illiterate and the very idea of migrating information leaves me in a cold sweat. So I went to the nearest Apple store only to be told that basically I should hold on to the computer I had and try to migrate from my time machine. Only my time machine hadn’t backed up since last April. WHAT???? I know, I know. Evidently time machines need to be periodically checked to be sure they’ve backed up and do not always do so automatically. News to me.
So I went home and backed it up and then had endless problems resulting in tons of phone calls with various tech people, as well as realizing how much information I had lost, and then in the midst of all of this I was overcome with a combination panic attack, grief (my mother had just died) and despair; I went into our bathroom and sobbed. To say I “cried” wouldn’t do it justice. It was more a cross between a howl and uncontrollable sobbing.
“While you don’t control external events, you retain the ability to decide how you respond to those events. You control what every external event means to you personally.”
And that was the thing. I was taking all of this personally. The computer, my mother, jet lag, grief, panic… All of it felt like an assault on me. But it wasn’t personal. It was life. So I’m trying hard to remember that. It’s easy to remember when things are going along as I expect them to or when things happen that are unexpected, but are welcome events. It’s much more challenging to remember when things happen that I don’t like or want.
And yet, here I am writing this post on my new laptop, which has taken some adjustments and came with it’s own set of challenges, typing away!
I’m teaching my last workshop, Improvisational Stitching, of the year and am making new Youtube stitching videos and am getting back to creating and incorporating my travels into my latest piece. I can feel my energy returning little by little.
As long as I don’t take things personally, I’ve got this.
Oh, and look!!! Remember I said I so regretted not purchasing some Kuba bark cloth while in Africa, but that I remembered there was a guy who sells African fabrics on the street? Well over the weekend, I found him and here are the pieces I got from him. This first was badly damaged, but I was able to repair it and even figured out and copied the stitch originally used to stitch the seams together.
Bark Cloth From The Democratic Republic of Congo
And look at this one!! I just love the colors, all natural dyes, made in The DRC.
And finally this one, which is by far the most typical, from what I’ve seen.
Hand Stitched Kuba Cloth made from raffia, hand dyed and sewn from the Democratic Republic of Congo
And here is my improvisational stitching piece where I’ve begun incorporating some of the things I saw and loved while in Africa using Pat Pauly hand dyed linen.
There are moments that feel impossible and others that fly by unnoticed. Mostly I’m exhausted almost constantly, as though a perpetual scrim has enveloped me, making everything feel heavier, cloudier, more difficult to sort through. It’s not terrible, just different. This is grief, I’m told.
This morning is one of those heavier moments. Maybe it’s because it’s Tuesday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings are when I post something on this blog. Often I would refer to a video or story my mother had sent me that made me smile and I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. But there will not be any more videos or stories from my mother and as much as I accept that, I still feel a tightness in my throat, a constriction in my chest, an overwhelming sadness. I remind myself that she lived a long, often beautiful sometimes difficult, complicated life. A life with long tendrils that reached so many. This is grief, I’m told.
When my mother died I was in Africa. At Stanley’s camp in the bush in Botswana, to be exact.
We had spotty wi-fi, but it was enough to be able to communicate with my siblings. It was enough to make me feel connected in our grief.
But then we flew to another camp, deeper in the bush, which had no wi-fi at all. I wasn’t able to reach anyone, and so other than my husband, I was alone with my grief. It was a tough few days, and yet those days were also filled with the excitement that can only come from seeing a leopard bounding up a tree, crouching in front of a bush and then leaping so fast the naked eye can barely keep up, to kill a squirrel. Or the joy and amazement of coming upon a pride of lion: two males, several females and half a dozen cubs, before hurrying off to make one of a half dozen flights before eventually arriving back home in New York City.
Upon our arrival home (it took us almost 40 hours) I had to deal with an array of technological problems, one of which was my computer that had crashed on me the third day of our trip. I am just now beginning to post videos of our African Adventure, with a new video coming out every day for the foreseeable future. Making these videos, in many ways, has been a life saver. It’s somewhat methodical work that is also wonderful as I am seeing all the footage I took of our amazing trip. Traveling is always a joyful experience for me. I love to travel, just as both my parents did. My mother’s death has only made me more intent on traveling as much as I can, while I still can.
As my mother lay dying I called every evening and my sister held the phone to my mother’s ear so that I could tell her about seeing a blackback gorilla charging, and the baboons that were intent on sneaking a treat from the expansive breakfast buffet, and the hippo that came close to our boat in Zambia and how the guide told us his open mouth was the first warning sign and when asked what the second warning sign was, he said a hippo with open mouth running towards us, which was exactly what he was doing!
My days were filled with excitement, even elation as well as overwhelming sadness. It was a lesson in holding two seemingly opposing things in either hand and having both be true.