Sleeping through the night

It does occur to me that life intrudes... just when things are going well, there is the unexpected bump, the urgent interruption, the necessary halt to make things right again.

I think the reason I have not posted as much has less to do with design and more to do with being overwhelmed by life. Not beaten down, mind you, but shaken to make me understand what is important.

I am certain that my sister and brother would agree that taking care of a parent is not always convenient but always necessary. In my case, my mom lives in Philadelphia- about a 2 1/2 hour drive from DC. Mom is a feisty lady, an artist who understands the demands that one's passion can make on one's time. As a ceramicist and glass fuser, there were many times where my mom had to stay in her studio and finish a project. It took me many years to understand this, and as a 16 year old girl I was not the most patient person in the world. But the payoff is that my mom knows how important my creative time is to my health and well being.

My mom is 88, in amazing physical health, and bound and determined to age in place, and we are committed to see that this happens. Ah, but saying it is so much easier than doing it. As my mom's capabilities get diminished it is harder to arrange things from afar. So I travel the I95 corridor and my sister flies in from Ann Arbor, and my brother routinely takes my mom on walks and to family gatherings. Yet, we are getting to a time when soon that will not be enough, and I know it occupies much of our collective brain space and energy.

On the other end of the spectrum, at a recent vet appointment we found out that our beloved Golden Retriever, Barley has an inoperable cancerous tumor in his anal sac. It knocked the wind out of Dave and me, and took a few weeks for us to collect our wits and spring into action. He is on oral chemo three times a week with frequent vet oncology appointments- and the great news is that so far he seems to be doing fine.

Sometimes I can channel my anxiety into work, but this time I am afraid that I am just sitting with it and stewing. It results in some sleepless nights where I fret about life and my work. Nothing worse than staring at the ceiling at 1am wondering when my body will finally give in.... actually more like my brain give in. Racing thoughts prevent any sustained sleep and so I am sometimes groggy and short tempered in the morning. That is actually a good time for me to sequester myself away and listen to audio books and music and work.

Today I am going to the first of two openings. I am trying to remind myself not to be hypercritical of my work, the venue, the opening. I am trying to remind myself to enjoy the moment. I will call my mom at the opening and give her an oral description and send her pictures and fret that I did not drive to Philly to pick her up. I will return from the opening and give Barley a nice long walk with Dave.

And who knows, maybe tonight I will sleep through the night.

by JudyK

I've disappeared

Yes, I know a good blogger should write much more often than I have been. I've taken the easy way out and posted on Instagram and Facebook- which of course is not a substitute for writing. I guess I just have been too busy with my work.

Some good news- I am appearing in 2 shows this week. I will have 2 pieces in a show called Handcrafted: Fiber Art and Turned Wood, and I will have 4 pieces in a show, Off the Grid, Contemporary Fiber and Textile Art. The shows are in two local galleries but I feel like I broke a few barriers here. In the first case I really like the juror from the Textile Museum and like the fact that this is not a quilt show. The two pieces I am showing have not been seen, one from the Conflict series and one from The Day After series. In the second show I was asked by a curator to show 4 pieces from my Indigo series. I am really excited to show this work and see what the reactions are. I continue to plow on working in this series- but tentatively. I feel like I need to get feedback. That perhaps is one of the hardest parts of not being at the Barn for a while. I miss the critiques not only from Nancy, but also the other classmates. I do send a lot of my work to Robin Fan and we are good critics of each others work- tough enough to get the job done, but gentle. I know Robin's input has helped me tremendously.

I have tried to be more thoughtful about where I enter my work and have been tremendously frustrated by some of the size limitations. Some of my pieces are just wider than 72"!
I am working on a large scale and know that sometimes the work will never been seen. I'm not happy about that... but it does push me to try and get some one woman shows.

My daily routine is pretty much the same no matter what day it is. I have been putting in 8-10 hour days yet things are taking much longer. My decision to hand quilt one piece is really eating into time. I am currently in quilting hell and have to find a way to finish the pieces AND work in some time for new designs. Yet everyday I am amazed at how quickly the time flies by. It is 4pm before I even know it, and another day has passed.

I am trying to make time for yoga and for my indoor bike. And I am happy to say that I am doing it! I do not expect the pounds to fly off- but at least I am trying to stay healthy.

John McPhee on creative blocks

I listen to books while I work and as I was listening to one of my favorite writers, John McPhee he touched on a problem us creative types all must face. I urge you to read this segment from his book Draft No.4. I bolded a few line that really spoke to me. Substitute "artist" for "writer" and it sings!

"Block. It puts some writers down for months. It puts some writers down for life. A not always brief or minor form of it mutes all writers from the outset of every day. 

“Dear Joel . . .” This is just a random sample from letters written to former students in response to their howling cries as they suffer the masochistic self-inflicted paralysis of a writer’s normal routine. “Dear Joel . . .” This Joel will win huge awards and write countless books and a nationally syndicated column, but at the time of this letter he has just been finding out that to cross the electric fence from the actual world to the writing world requires at least as much invention as the writing itself. “Dear Joel: You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming. For six, seven, ten hours no words have been forthcoming. You are blocked, frustrated, in despair. You are nowhere, and that’s where you’ve been getting. What do you do? You write, ‘Dear Mother.’ And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem, and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than thirty inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat. You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can. And then you go back and delete the ‘Dear Mother’ and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear.”

You could be Joel, even if your name is Jenny. Or Julie, Jillian, Jim, Jane, Joe. You are working on a first draft and small wonder you’re unhappy. If you lack confidence in setting one word after another and sense that you are stuck in a place from which you will never be set free, if you feel sure that you will never make it and were not cut out to do this, if your prose seems stillborn and you completely lack confidence, you must be a writer. If you say you see things differently and describe your efforts positively, if you tell people that you “just love to write,” you may be delusional. 

How could anyone ever know that something is good before it exists? And unless you can identify what is not succeeding—unless you can see those dark clunky spots that are giving you such a low opinion of your prose as it develops—how are you going to be able to tone it up and make it work?"
by JudyK

In praise of Armani

I remember, back in my tailoring days, reading articles in my stash of Threads magazines about Armani's construction techniques. Even though his suits looked simple and elegant, the insides of an Armani suit were a wonder to behold. So many of the construction techniques that made the garments hang properly were hidden to the naked eye.
Inside of an Armani jacket from Threads Magazine

Interfaced background fabric

Remembering this I decided to approach one of my pieces this way- to pay extra special attention to some of the techniques that I might not ordinarily use.

The first thing that I did was to interface the fluid linen cotton background that Jayne had painted. I very rarely interface quilting fabrics unless I want to make sure there is no movement. I used a very light weight fusible interfacing and slowly ironed it on, making sure there were absolutely no bubbles.
Since the fabric was stiff it made it easier for me to inset my circles.
Pressing cloth used on the
backside of the quilt. 
Since I had interfacing on the back of my fabric I had to use a pressing cloth to make sure the interfacing did not melt or move. My sister has been collecting beautiful vintage napkins, so in her honor I used one of my lovely linen napkins as the pressing cloth. It was just translucent enough so I could make sure I was pressing all of my seams in the proper direction.

Instead of simply applying a layer of batting, I decided to insert another layer of wool batting in the line areas. This involved machine basting a line along each of the inset lines- an exercise in madness and control. Then I flipped the quilt over and closely cut nest to the line removing the areas that I did not want batting.
Basting stitch along the inset lines
Reverse side of quilt where I removed batting. 

Once I finished surgically removing the unwanted batting, I pinned along each of the stitching lines to hold the batting in place. 

Then the fun part. I did lots of tests but ultimately decided that hand stitching was the best choice.  And I decided to use a variegated cotton thread- which I almost never use. I wanted the stitches to sometimes be visible and sometimes fade into the background. Thankfully I am not working on any kind of schedule since I really underestimated how long it is going to take me to stitch this piece. 

So, does it make a difference? All these extra steps? Well I can see that my lines are plumper. But is that worth so much more time? I guess I will have to wait and see how the entire piece looks- but honestly that is probably months away.

Looking at an Armani suit with its signature lines, sublime drape and exquisite materials, one might be tempted to ask why the price tag is so high for what appears to be so simple. And while I am not in the market for an Armani suit, I do think it is worth every penny. 

by JudyK

Is it all in a name?

I had an interesting dinner a few weekends ago with a good friend who used to be the associate director of the Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibition Service and is now the director of the Smithsonian Resident Associates. She is used to being around art and I always trust her instincts. On top of that, her husband, Mark, photographs all of my work as well as the work of other quilters and fine artists. He is the official photographer for the National Portrait Gallery, so he knows his stuff.

I was telling them about my recent work being rejected- Mark had photographed them and knew the pieces well and was surprised. But, what was interesting was the conversation that followed on influence and appropriation. We talked about these two subjects for about an hour, and it dawned on me that while I might have been influenced by both Picasso and indigenous artists, my work might be seen as ripping off African art. And now I kind of see that too.

Yesterday it occurred to me that I might be aiding and abetting  this by the name I chose to identify these works- the Totem Series. That moniker goes directly to indigenous cultures and probably does not help my work. In truth I have not really looked at too many totems, and when selecting a name, I ran into problems. Normally my work is influenced by a feeling, by events, by emotions. In this case, my work was more influenced by a love for a certain kind of fabric and the desire to play.

So, I took the unusual step of renaming the entire series, "Indigo Compositions." I feel better about this. And I do not know if it will change the way they are received, but I feel that they are more honest words, and it will be interesting to see if they are more successful under a new name. I also think that it allows me to broaden this grouping as I continue to experiment.

I'm working slowly these days, hand stitching one piece and machine stitching a really large piece, The Day After No. 5. My wrist continues to heal but is pesky when the weather changes or it is cold. I find that if I switch up what I am doing it is easier. I am starting to formulate ideas for a new piece, but want to get these two pieces off my table before I get involved in another piece. Right now I have too many quilts vying for my attention- which is sometimes fleeting.

Today I say goodbye to Circles No. 6 as it joins and exhibition for the American embassy in Senegal. It will be living abroad for 3 years. The curator from the State Department is due to pick it up in an hour and I feel like I am send another kid off into the world.

I also invested some time this week looking into galleries that might be interested in a one woman show. It is slow work, but I am starting to get ideas on what and how I would present my work to a venue.

Lots to be thankful for this year. Family. Health. Comfortable life. Good friends and neighbors. So Happy Thanksgiving to all. I will try to count my blessings instead of focusing on the irritants. xxoo J
by JudyK

Getting my act together

After my pity party I decided to get moving in the right direction.
1. I put together a list of exhibitions I want to enter. I set up an numbers sheet that lets me look at everything in one place and plan.
2. I joined the Maryland Arts Council and posted a mini portfolio there. I am not sure if it will do anything but at least it is a positive move.
3. I started to get organized to pitch a one woman show to a bunch of places in the DC area.
4. I ripped out some hand stitches that were not good enough on the piece I am working on- and I restitched them.
5. I talked things out with my best friend- my husband. It was helpful to air my worries and get them off my chest.
6. I resolved not to abandon working with my Chinese fabric, but perhaps revisit shapes and forms that might look less like cultural appropriation. I am not going to give up.

I am almost 65- my birthday is in a few weeks. It really is time for me to grow up, be more confident, and stop worrying what others are doing and concentrate on what I am doing. This is a hard row to hoe, but I am sure going to try.

by JudyK

Batting zero

Well batting zero. Two more rejections and I am feeling pretty crummy. I entered Totems in two more competitions and ended up with 2 lovely rejection letters.
So how do I combat the feeling that I am either going down a wrong path, my work is not longer relevant, I am "out of fashion", the work shits, my talent is gone, and any one of ten other destructive thoughts that occupy my head right now.
Yes, I admit that it was hard for me to look at photos of the QAQ exhibit- where my Totems were rejected, and not feel envious. The work that I saw was gorgeous and well deserved entry into that show. And each time I saw a familiar face I shrunk a bit. And I expect that I will have some of the same issues when I look at AQE entries. Jealousy is really a green eyed monster.
I think I am feeling insecure because I am working in uncharted territory. I am balancing between three different series, and using techniques that I am not 100% sure of. I think I am growing, and I am having fun, but I am feeling rejection a bit more acutely right now. I need validation.
I am trying very hard not to slide back to techniques that I know are "crowd pleasers" and still continue to grow. But what if I am merely deluding myself? What if the work really is NOT good? Then what do I do?
Well one thing is to leave this computer, march upstairs and continue working on the piece that sits on my table. I decided (somewhat insanely) that it needs to be hand quilted, and I know this will take me months to complete. But I believe the softness of hand quilting is called for instead of the hard feel of machine quilting.
I do all my own quilting- machine or otherwise- and I do wonder if this time consuming process is preventing me from designing and producing more pieces. I know that I can not produce more than half a dozen pieces a year if they are large pieces, and I think often of letting this part go- but something keeps pulling me back. Not sure why production seems to important to me....

by JudyK


My wrist is back and so is my excitement. Years ago I saw a beautiful piece of fabric created by Jayne Willoughby at the Crow Barn. It was so dynamic and had so much energy and I fell in love with it. I had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do with it, and I asked Jayne if I might buy it from her. Well, if you know Jayne you know she is one of the most generous sharing souls that walk this earth, and she said that if I promised I would use it, I could have it for free.

Original painted surface by Jayne Scott Willoughby
That piece has haunted me for about three years. It is so strong on its own, and I wanted to make sure that anything I did to it would improve it. I recently wrote to Jayne to make sure she still felt comfortable with me using the piece, and she said yes. And I started my first piece of collaboration.

I have been toying with doing a piece on memory- rather loss of memory- for a while. I am experiencing this with my mom- right now and it is painful to see how memories fade in and out. Short term memory is fleeting while long term memory seems to be in tack for the most part. As for me, it is sad and a bit terrifying to witness. I find myself alternating between being very patient and then incredibly impatient. It has been especially hard to see my mom- who was a role model and an intensely creative individual slow down and abandon many of her artistic pursuits.

The piece I am working on right now addresses that.

But while it is difficult for me to deal with many of these emotions, it is exhilarating to work on a new piece that has a new element... a painted background on a cotton linen. I love the way Jayne's texture and brush strokes play off my tight lines.

This is still a work very much in progress and I have some ideas on how to quilt this that hopefully will add to the depth. Immersing myself in my work helps me and lets me concentrate on the good memories.

by JudyK

Me, too.

It really does not matter if it is our President, a Hollywood mogul, or a bunch of teenage boys careening around in a car... So many of the women I know have been victims of sexual misconduct, sexual aggression, and unwanted sexual advances, both in and out of the workplace.
The recent social media "Me, too." campaign was nevertheless startling since so many of the women I know posted Me, too. posts on their Facebook pages. Some are very close friends of mine and this was the first I heard about the fact that they had been molested.

We don't talk about that kind of stuff. We talk about kids, jobs, passions, disappointments, family. But we almost never speak about this. In fact the first time my daughter or husband knew that I had been molested was when I stood up during a presentation of the Vagina Monologues at the University of Pennsylvania, a production my daughter was producing. An actor asked all the women in the audience to stand if they had had this kind of experience, and I would estimate that 70% of the audience stood. It was the kind of thing that renders one speechless. I stood. I cried.

From early teenage years, being the well endowed girl that I was, I was always cat called from passing cars. I reacted to this by wearing baggy clothes that hid my figure, by ALWAYS carrying something in front of my chest (for a period of 3 years from age 11-14) and being completely ashamed of my body. The somewhat harmless catcalls graduated to daily encounters in the Philadelphia subway where I was dry humped by an older man every time I was on the crowded subway car with him, a peeping Tom looking at me naked in my bedroom, and a cavalcade of anonymous men who felt that they had the right to touch or pinch my breasts at will. These are experiences that you just do not forget. Or the encounters on an Israeli bus where a man put his hand up my skirt- and at least that time I was old enough and confident enough to shout at him, and he quickly exited the bus.

No, we do not ask for it. No I did not dress to entice. No I did not do really anything to encourage this behavior except have a large chest. And no, I did not say a word, since I felt guilty that somehow I was to blame. Until this posting, I have not shared this with anyone... and I should have. I should have told my mother, my friends, my co-workers. I should have screamed that these guys and pointed them out instead of bearing the humiliation silently.

The effect it has had on me- I still will not wear a form fitting top or dress. I never ever wear anything  low cut where my cleavage could even peek out a little. I have never had anything but a one piece bathing suit. I still walk around with my arms across my chest in a defensive pose. And it has taken me years to dismiss the thoughts that maybe I did something wrong.

I did act. I started a firm that would not tolerate this kind of behavior. Many times in business meetings I was the only woman in the room, but my past made me pretty strong with a "Take no shit." attitude that many men found threatening. They were not used to a strong female. I became bold enough to question unethical behavior and certainly would not countenance any aggression - sexual or otherwise- in my dealings with clients, vendors or staff. I have raised two now grown children that know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

I remember that when I saw my beautiful strong daughter grow up and mature with a body like mine, my first thought was fear. Would she have to face the same kinds of things that I did? The catcalls, the stupid jokes, the errant hand, the pelvis thrust from behind? And honestly, I never really talked to her about any of this until now. I realize now that my silence has aided and abetted these creeps. I have taken great strength from reading about so many women who have come out of the shadows and admitted that this kind of thing has happened to them. I am sorry. I am sad, and most importantly, now I can say that I am angry and have found my voice.

by JudyK


I just entered a third show where I expect my work to be rejected. I entered three pieces from my Totem series.  This series is seriously dark and hard to photograph although I had one of the country's best photographers shoot it, and his images match the pieces exactly, but and let's face it, it is different.

I have already been rejected twice, yet this series seems to really grab people when they see it in person. I have one hanging in my living room and everyone who has walked in is drawn to it- unlike some of my other pieces. I have already had several offers to purchase Totem 2 although I am not quite ready to part with it. I have entered it yet again to see what the reaction is, although I suspect I will be getting another thin letter in the mail.

This is bruising to the ego, especially entering shows that I normally get into. I have at least 5 other quilts that I could enter, but I am really interested in getting the Totem pieces shown- so I persevere. I am trying to stay positive.  I know that it takes experimentation for me to get anywhere. I like the work, it is good work I think, and I guess I want someone else to like it as well.

I have met with some small successes that keep me moving forward- I have sold a few pieces, and I have been asked to lend one of my pieces to the Artists in Embassies program that is sponsored by the US State Department. So one of my pieces will be traveling to live in the US embassy in Senegal for 3 years. It is an older piece, but one that I like. And the process has been pretty interesting.

But what is it in me that needs affirmation for me to believe that a piece is good? On this day, the day before Yom Kippur I think of all the things I can do better, all the mistakes I have made. And while most of my thinking is other-directed, for myself  I wish for more confidence and courage.

by JudyK

Discovering new fabrics

I love my Pimatex and I am sure I will always have one piece in the works with the fabulous cottons that are dyed for me. But lately I have been working in a different fashion, with different fabrics allowing me to discover texture. My work up until now has been very clean and crisp- I use strong lines that are mirrored with almost obsessive straight quilting.

But my trip to Japan last year really changed all that. I had been working with old vintage indigo cotton solids, but while I was there I discovered the beauty of fabrics that are dyed with persimmon- (kakishibu) and purchased a number of small pieces. I was also given a number of small samples, and after much hemming and hawing I decided to use these precious fabrics as well.

I have a real problem cutting into some of my special fabrics. Since I do not dye or do surface design (and yes, I know I should) these pieces are especially valuable to me. In one case I purchased a rather rough piece of Japanese fabric that was used to cover boiling vats of oil. The effect was like looking at a reverse of the sun, and I love it. I have pulled that piece out a dozen times, only to refold it and stow it away until another time. Like many Japanese hand woven materials, the fabric was composed of strips of fabric that are about 13" wide that are then sewn together.
Part of the hesitation is that I am a piecer by nature and really have not done much with whole cloth, and I felt that I had to use this fabric in an inventive way- not just machine quilt it.
Working on my last composition I decided the time was right. With much trepidation I took apart the four 13" sections and started to reassemble them in my composition. I have to admit that I was very nervous that I had ruined one of my favorite pieces and did about 15-20 different variations until I was comfortable that I had properly honored this piece of fabric.

After piecing the composition I knew that I had to do more handwork to make it come alive and to give it the texture that the rest of the piece had. And that started my foray into hand stitching around the sun area. I used a heavy cotton floss that did not contrast too much with the stained areas of the cloth. I was able to use my left hand almost exclusively to stitch these areas so it was a perfect project while waiting for me wrist to heal. 

I know that this experiment with texture will not be my last. I have taken down this piece from my design wall waiting to square it up at the studio in Lewes where I have a bigger table. And I am toying around with using a hand stitch and uneven edge for the binding. But I want to think about it for a while.

I am thinking about fabric in a new way. I feel like I am at the beginning of a very interesting path- not sure where it will take me, but happy to be going....
by JudyK

Sticking in my craw

An offhanded comment on a listsserve has my stomach twisting. I have seen this kind of comment before in a number of places and it is more common than I would like to think.
The subject usually surrounds finishing techniques- burying threads, backings, sleeves- the kind of tasks that make many of us shudder but we know we have to buck up and complete. I read about this kind of subject since I am always looking for better ways to finish my work- to make it look better, to be more efficient, to take less effort. And I spend a fair amount of time making sure the backs of my pieces look professional. I do bury most of my threads and my corner mitres come from years of tailoring. I hate making sleeves- but I always make sure they are properly constructed and finished.
So what's the big deal here? Reading a posting recently a comment was made to the effect,"Finish your back anyway you want. You are an artist. It's art and you can do whatever you want."
On the face of that I understand that this may be a simple reaction to the old strictures that require a certain number of stitches per inch, a specific kind of mitre, etc. We fondly refer to these rules as the "quilt police". But the inference here is that just because we may not agree with all the "rules" and simply because we may refer to ourselves as "artists" and not "quilters" it gives us permission to do whatever we want- and craftsmanship is allowed to be poo-poohed.
Well, I for one do not agree. I think every artist should take a certain amount of pride in the quality of presentation. I rarely see a piece of art in a gallery with a poorly stretched canvas. I have not seen blown glass with seams (unless it is intentional) or sculpture that is wobbly and unbalanced. While there may deliberate actions that are taken to make a piece look a certain way, it is not out of laziness, or lack of skill. It is out of intent.
So when I hear a comment that says that an artist does not have to fuss with finishing- it bothers me. I think we often fight to be considered more than bed coverings, and some of that goes to impeccable craftsmanship. Yes, I know about all of the quilt competitions that may focus only on technique and not on concept or composition- and that is an extreme I also find untenable.
There has to be a happy medium- and yes, that is for the artist to decide. In my case, I bury most threads- except for the 1/4" tails left by the automatic knot on my Bernina. In that case my poor fingers can no longer handle burying hundreds of these and if the color thread I am using is not visible on the backing, I give myself a break. I want the level of craftsmanship on my pieces to be high, so I struggle with my bindings until they are flat, and I take time to make professional labels.
Ok. Now, that I have gotten that off my chest I can return to burying knots on a 90" x 90" beast.
by JudyK

Summer endings

I'm sitting on my porch, a place where I have spent the summer watching so many hummingbirds and butterflies that I lost count. Bees are healthy on my property, and we are constantly busy tearing down honeysuckle vines that threaten to strangle my two favorite dogwood trees. Our dear friends have departed over the weekend and many of the summer visitors to Lewes are packing up and leaving to go back to their busy lives in DC or Philly. And I mourn the loss of a summer gone too fast.

I did not accomplish all that I set out to accomplish. I had grand plans for several new compositions and I had wanted to start a new series. Five steps in Morocco dashed my plans but I would rate the summer a success nevertheless. I do not think I am a particularly good patient- basically since I have little patience for idleness. But enforced rest showed me a different side of myself.

I am not to content to rest so I occupied myself with some "fun" projects. I have long had an immense wall of fabric strips and I was bound and determined to whittle it down. That, I found, was an exercise in futility but it did allow me to play around with strip piecing which I found I was able to do with one hand. Ironing was against the rules but I found that I could lift the iron with my left hand, iron with my right hand and then turn it right side up with my left hand... a bit laborious but it worked. I spent many fine hours piecing fabric and assembling scrap quilts. As one fellow quilter said," Quite lovely but nothing ground breaking." I know that. But "ground breaking" was not in the cards this summer and "pretty" ended up being the word of the day. And in the end, I will end up with two nice bed quilts. I worried that I was wasting time, but had to give in to the fact that this was what I could do.
I was able to crop, with the help of my dear friend Robin, a very large piece that I have been working on. I could not pin it together but it waits for me the next time I return. And, I did manage one new composition that is coming home with me with the hopes that I will get the go ahead from my surgeon to do more heavy lifting with my right hand.

I learned this summer that I am totally comfortable being a solitary soul. Maybe I am too comfortable- but I spent days- actually weeks- alone with Barley and made off fine. I am happy in the studio and feel like I am shedding some of the frenetic quality that has dominated my personality for so long. Is that age or just getting comfortable being alone? I worry about re-entry to city life and all that waits for me in DC.

It has been a fine summer although I ate too few good tomatoes, ears of corn or BBQ. I did not put up the bushels of peaches that normally takes us through winter, and I did not make it down to the beach for all the sunsets I promised myself.

I have much to look forward to. A wonderful family bar mitzvah in two weeks, our traditional Rosh Hashana gathering at our house, a visit from my daughter, and hopefully a few details released on my son's engagement and eventual wedding. I love when the family is together, and we have so much to celebrate.

September. Beginning of the school year. Time to buckle down and look back on the lazy days of summer. I have ideas of a new series about my mother swirling in my head- not ready yet for my design walls. I have experiments to do with my indigo fabrics, and more investigation into kakishibu.
I may let my scrap quilts languish on the walls of my Lewes studio- waiting for time when I need to play. But they served me well and I will finish them. The school year is starting and I am ready.

by JudyK


You have to listen to this. Sol Lewitt's letter to Eva Hesse. It says it all.

by JudyK

Cultural appropriation

I am getting adept at working with my left hand with assistance from my right hand. I have been a brave soldier and toughed out 6 weeks with no driving and being marooned at my studio. I want to kvetch and complain and bitch about it... but then there is Houston. The unimaginable happens and everything that happens to you seems irrelevant and easy. The complaints dry up. The irritation subsides. And I realize how lucky I am. Really really lucky and fortunate. And when one realizes that the chaos for the victims is just beginning... well it can make a gal weep.

 I have spent the summer, fruitfully but not as planned. I really can not cut much or lift much right now. So I have been composing some, but mostly making parts for my scrap quilt. I have worked with my Japanese fabrics- which it turns out is a lot thicker and tougher than it looks- so hand quilting it takes a strength I do not yet have. But I am getting comfortable with ragged edges, strange textures, and stiff unbendable fabrics. It is a learning experience.

Along the way I have mused about cultural appropriation. I know there have been lots of chatter online regarding artists that may use items or issues from other cultures in their art. And I do not know which side of the fence I stand. But I do know that I have been thinking about it as I work on some of my new pieces.

I am working with lots of Japanese fabrics- mostly dyed with persimmon and some that have been made into sake bags. Studying how these bags are put together reveals a lot about the hand stitching that was used. And I am keeping some of the repaired areas and incorporating them into the work. This is not a fake boro piece- so I do not feel uncomfortable creating a "boro wannabe." But I do wonder if using the fabrics and some of the stitching techniques is really mine to use. Of course I am putting my own spin on this, and other than the fact that the fabric comes from Japan and China I doubt that most people would identify it as culturally Japanese... but still I think about it.

When does "borrowing" become "appropriation"? When does "influence" become "theft"? No answers here... but something that I think about as I sit in my studio and work.

by JudyK


I have tried to process Charlottesville and have failed. I have cried, read every news article that I have found, read countless posts on FB and still I have no words.

I think the image that took by breathe and energy away was the line of KKK and Nazis holding torches in a processional on Friday night. Evil personified.  I never expected to see anything like that again in my lifetime. Perhaps in the 1950s or 60s. Perhaps in old documentaries on racism in the South. But not in 2017. Not where racist bigots are proudly screaming their vile bile, armed to the teeth with weapons and shields.

And our leadership. Not just the President. Where is the leadership in our country that remains muzzled, afraid of twitter shaming, afraid of alienating their base base? Where are the voices unequivocally condemning what our nation witnessed? Where are the voices in our leadership that should be calling for the end of this buffoon? Why are we putting up with behavior that we would not countenance from a 5 year old?

I was no fan of George Bush- either of them, or Ronald Reagan. I  have had little use for most of the ultra conservative politicians. But I know that while I disagreed with their political stances, they are good men who acted out of conscience. They never incited people to revolt out of hatred and bias. And non of them would have allowed this to happen.

Like so many I have found myself sad and without adequate words. But I know that this sadness and silence can exist no more. I have mourned for a few days and now I have to find a way to translate my feelings into action. It starts tomorrow.


I'm keeping myself busy not using my right hand. My spirits are ok. Stiff upper lip and all. I have invented some activities that get me out of the house- like photographing details around my neighborhood- which gets me walking and looking. I'm hand sewing some stuff with my left hand.

But, and this is a big BUT, I have a sense of dread that I am losing time. I worry about pieces that I have in progress- when will I finish them and will they be old by then? I worry about new work- when can I even think about starting new pieces? I worry about being lost and invisible. I see people moving on and I know right now I am simply staying in the same place. I worry about work I have just sent to the photographer- it is all so different and I am not sure it is any good.

I feel uncomfortable that I am in between several series right now- where my voice is changing and with doubts that I am producing anything worth looking at. I was in the process of moving on from my Conflict series when I went on vacation. Now I am worried that I will either backslide or worse- produce nothing at all.

I hate that I am not 40 years old with my art career spanning in front of me. And I am angry that I am losing time sewing with my left hand to keep boredom at the door. I look at the work I am producing and wonder if I would give it a second thought if I was able to work with two hands. Probably not.

I am being strong and positive to everyone around me, it is just the inner doubts have time to be heard when I am not fully occupied. I do not want to wallow in self pity since I actually think that I am rather lucky to emerged from the fall with just a broken wrist- and this is not a serious problem. But what seems to be broken in addition to my wrist is some self confidence. I hear the hobgoblins of doubt whispering and wondering why I did not receive this prize or get into that show. And usually the sound of my Bernina humming along will dispel these thoughts, right now they seem amplified.

by JudyK

My left hand

So it turns out I have been using my wrist more than I should even though I really have been pretty much pain free. My surgeon told me not to do anything at all for a week although I am quite handy doing stuff with my left hand, and i am typing this with one hand which will explain the lack of capitalization.
surgery went well and the pain has been manageable. Having an arm block was weird...staring at a numb lifeless appendage for 24 hours that would not do anything my brain commanded. it was like having a bologna attached to my right arm. i was relieved when I started to be able to move my arm and wriggle my fingers.
I got the "great idea" to do a piece with my left hand and using the bandage that I get in Fes. It was fairly stinky and actually pretty easy to stitch with one hand. But it proves to me that anesthesia stays in the body for a while and it is important not to make decisions during this time frame. Boy, it is possible to make some really ugly stuff while under the influence.

 The other weird part was being without my wedding band for a few days. I felt positively naked. Dave told me not to get any strange ideas about picking up surgeons since I was ringless.
One does discover the important parts of life when one is forced to slow down. Like family and friends, moderation, simplicity and the necessity for laughter. And so I leave you with a photo of how Dave "fixed" our broken doorknob in the hopes laughter will help
you get through the day.

by JudyK


Graffiti on a wall/Tangier
Over 35 years ago Dave and I went to Morocco for 3 weeks. It was a wonderful trip and when we had the chance to return with our flights paid for, we jumped at the chance.
Morocco is a visual feast and I am going to try and capture our visit in 15 photos- one for everyday we were there. If you want to see more images I posted some on Instagram and on Facebook. But if I had to post just fifteen images here is what I would show.
Our bedroom in Tangier

Blue painted walls of Chefchaouen

Every meal starts with plates of Moroccan salads- usually cold.  Olives and bread are served at every meal.

Where there is no water there is no green.
For the most part the countryside is brown 
except in the mountains that are covered with cedar forests. 
Flocks of sheep and goats are always crossing the highway.

Inside courtyard in Fes. The most beautiful parts of the houses are on the inside. 

A fish lunch in Tangier

Thread market. All the silk thread is hand spun and hand dyed. Each merchant has a small stall in the Moroccan version of a mall. The sewing, dyeing and spinning is done by the men. 

Lush fabrics are used inside the house- not for dresses.

Painted wooden doors- all geometric. There are no "pictorial" scenes on older buildings. 

Narrow "streets" that look plain on the outside mask beautiful courtyards.
Donkeys and pushcarts ferry materials around since there are no cars.
Heavy cedar doors with iron decoration
Fes is the city of fountains. The mosaics are all hand cut and hand glazed. 

Fes- children's game- fishing for soda
Four kinds of figs. $1 buys you a bucket of figs.


The NYTimes today ran a good column in the health section on ways to remain resilient in middle age, and while I probably am over middle age, the column rang true.

The two days before our wonderful trip to Morocco ended I fell down 5 metal stairs. Yesterday I was scheduled to have surgery on Friday for a broken wrist- and told that I would not be able to drive or sew for a month. Right now my broken arm is in a splint and is itching like crazy.

I'm not really that concerned about the surgery- it's fairly common- but not being able to do much with my right hand has me scrambling to figure out how to occupy the next 5 weeks without lifting more than one pound in my right hand. I will be in a cast or splint for that long and it has made me appreciate the small things- like putting on a bra or pulling up one's pants. Cutting food is coming along but using a fork is a ways away.... And Dave has been a complete trouper helping out with everything. Taking a shower without getting the splint wet takes some prep and I have not yet attempted to wash my hair- that's tomorrow's challenge.

I am determined to do as much as I can- and so I started to make a list of the things I can do in the next month to keep myself occupied.
1. Walk- but not with the dog
2. Clean drawers- today I cleaned 4 drawers that really needed to be sorted out. I never knew I had so many nail cutters or stray batteries. I figure this activity could keep me busy for a few days.
3. Sort thread and wind bobbins
4. Read and listen to audiobooks- which I will do but I am not sure I can do that for hours on end.
5. Yoga is out right now- but perhaps meditation might help get through some of the rough patches
6. I am going to see if I can manage hand sewing- if I can- then there are a number of pieces I can work on. But right now my hand hurts just typing this.
7. Binge on pinterest and instagram. After all if not now, when?
8. Read the paper cover to cover (without screaming or crying)
9. Organize my photos
10. Try to blog more.

OK. So there are ten things I can do, and I have to make sure that I do not do them all in the first week before the surgery. Your suggestions are welcome. And I will read and re-read the Resilience column to make sure I do not whine.

by JudyK