If you’ve read much of this blog, you’ll realize that until 2018 I was a college professor, lost in the whirlwind of conflicting thoughts… I was a complete novice at business, though I took a great course and do know how to sew and design pretty things. But still… even the MBA in a Box (which still sits on my shelf) was intimidating, and I felt like a failure–or completely INSANE to be doing what I do–quite often. And if you’ve ever tried to create anything or start a small business, you’ll also empathize and feel a surge of joy right now, on hearing that I JUST MADE MY FIRST BIG SALE today! The All Star Seattle Quilt (above) sold after just one day on Etsy!
So now, I’m riding on the wind, as I look forward to a wonderful session of T’ai chi, after the exhilarating Water Taxi ride to the waterfront… and it’s not even raining (right now).
All Star Seattle Quilts nos. 2 and 3 are underway and will feature the T-shirts of more local favorites! No. 2 will feature Pegasus Books, Easy Street Records, and Beanfish Tayaki; No. 3 will feature Elliott Bay Books, Easy Street Records, and Communion Restaurant. preorders available now! (6-8 weeks)
It’s been pretty damp out here lately. It’s easy to let your spirits fall flat and feel dreary. Even the computer sends out small, slightly ominous messages of warning, in the right-hand corner of the screen.
Yet I take heart in Emerson’s words this morning: “I am thankful for small mercies.” The beauty of green lush scenery and the ever-changing skies, the humorous way my computer seems to be speaking, commiserating about the weather… it’s all so endearing, so regular, so northwestern. It’s life happening right before our eyes. The passage which follows in Emerson rings strangely familiar too, to readers of Michael Singer and other contemporary writers on consciousness:
“The new molecular philosophy shows astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom, shows that the world is all outside; it has no inside.”
Emerson also reminds us, like Singer in Living Untethered (just got my copy and loving it!) that:
“Life’s chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find, without question. .. To fill the hour–that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.”
“Life is a tempest of fancies, and the only ballast I know is a respect to the present hour. … we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are.”
— from Emerson, “Experience” in Selected Writings, pp. 350-352.
And then there’s “All Star Seattle Quilt” No. 1, finished yesterday! It was fun to stitch in some of my favorite natural scenes and landmarks from this city I love so much… and to blend them with fabrics from the many cultures which make this such a quirky, lively place to be: African block prints, Vietnamese tigers, Japanese cranes in flight, Mexican flowers in bloom–we have so much to be grateful for, in this outpost on the far western side of the country.
Hint: those T-shirts and the tiny pin represent local landmarks which will be featured in “All Star Seattle Quilts” Nos. 2 and 3, coming for summer!
And now, about that weather…
Feeling blah and still aching from the shoulder where I crashed down, quite incorrectly, during a speedy Aikido roll on Monday, I was surprised and encouraged by these lines discovered during my morning reading, and so I share them for you.
“Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man, imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events.”
“God enters by a private door into every individual.”
“Our spontaneous action is always the best.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Intellect” in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Modern Library edition, p. 293-94.
Hang in there. You are not alone.
And some pretty pictures to remind us of what lovely things we can hold and create and appreciate, with our hands and simply by walking outside in nature, despite being shipwrecked in morality!
Featured is Alice in Wonderland Quilt No. 4, photographed yesterday at Green Lake in Seattle, WA.
Hello again readers,
I’m as surprised as the next person to see that I’m still in the grips of face mask mania, 111 days later. As the hilarious (yet dead serious) comedian and fellow seamstress Kristina Wong pointed out yesterday in a cool event hosted by Creative Capital, and my own experience has confirmed (see letter from Debbie), it does seem that something is wrong in this country, when senior citizens–our teachers, our parents, our beloved elders and fellow humans–must appeal to strangers for the protection they need from a dire plague. Hmmm.
At any rate, the face mask sewing continues, as does my desire to start producing the Respect Quilts announced some days ago! Some progress has been made, as you’ll see in the pics below. They show the fabrics I’ve gathered and the embellishments made to the Harlem Toile de Jouy by Sheila Bridges Design in NYC. (I especially enjoyed making the woman look like a teacher!)
Another day, another link in our connections, another chance for hope…
Guess I missed the tip yesterday, about going blank for a day. Don’t really agree anyway: it is better to sustain, rather than refrain. So today I searched online for ways to buy things I need from black-owned businesses in my local area, Seattle. What a revelation! I found Our Fabric Stash, a shop owned and run by Deborah Boone, a black woman whose vision and work are AWESOME. In consultation with a homeless person of her acquaintance, she created a “Homeless Sleep Care Cushion” kit (see video here) which anyone can buy and sew at home. It makes a warm, waterproof, comforting cushion suitable for use on the street. One can then donate it to a homeless person, or bring the finished product to the Our Fabric Stash shop in the Pike Place Market for distribution to the homeless in Seattle. She also sells fabric on a consignment basis, which is a smart and visionary way to sustain the ecosystem among creators.
I bought a few of these adorable patches for my new “Respect” quilts, and thanks to the owner’s excellent communication, I was able to purchase via email some African fabrics and this nice combo of cottons to honor a friend’s fondness for Bob Marley and reggae music!
In the meantime, the HGBG offer remains: this week only (til June 7): a personalized Honey Girl quilt can be yours for only $100. Reserve yours now, by dropping me a line! Lead time 3-6 months.
Must make more face masks now!
fyi, yesterday’s face mask production:
Still overwhelmed, still eager to help, still confused and upset like you all. While walking about the hills this morning, however, I realized a way that I can help: I can purchase goods from African-American businesses. And so can you. This is a tangible way to tell our fellow citizens that we care.
I searched a bit online and found D’Iyanu (dee-ya-nu), a ready-to-wear bold print clothing line offering quality, trendy African inspired fashion at affordable prices, in Norristown, PA. I cannot wait to receive the gorgeous Kesi African print bag I just bought, maybe as a gift… but maybe not! (on sale now for just $44.99).
Finding a black-owned fabric store was helped by this article: “Black Owned Businesses to Support Right Now” by Hadley Keller on HouseBeautiful.com . I found some fabulous Harlem Toile de Jouy fabric (below, right) from Sheila Bridges Design. That will feature in the new “Respect” quilts I’m designing, alongside the “Respect existence” patches I bought yesterday from La Ciénaga, a feminist seller in Sevilla, Spain.
Also sort of useful was this article, “Etsy Makers to Support in Honor of Black History Month.” That led me to xnasozi, seller of some beautiful pillows but not of fabric. And when I clicked the #blacklivesmatter tag, it sent me back to an article about Etsy’s corporate efforts but there was no way to mount a useful search for black-owned businesses on Etsy. Frustrating! Meanwhile a reply to my letter to D’IYANU, directed me to look for Ankara African fabrics which led to Cynthia O in Austin, TX and her store, Afriqueclothingstore. Yay! Success at last! I purchased some gorgeous Ankara fabric from her, below, and now I really must get back to those face masks orders that await.
Remember, the offer still holds: this week people may order a personalized quilt to be made by me, including a “Respect” quilt, at Honey Girl quilts for only $100 (3-6 month lead time.) Use the Contact form to reserve yours!
And yesterday’s face mask production fyi:
Moral of the story: spend some money at black-owned businesses and show them you care! spending money can be a form of activism, too.
How cool is that! to see that the kinds of face masks I make—with cotton ties, in stylish prints—are literally in vogue! (Ahem, theirs cost $40, while mine are still only $5. After June 1, my new model has 3-ply and an adorable Honey Girl logo label, for just $15 each.)
p.s. It may seem strange, but I am just loving this work. I thought it might be tedious but it’s not, and I’ve been sewing face masks every day since April 2! The massive numbers of masks I’ve been making (350 or so) and constant repetition of the same exacting tasks, have pushed me to pay even closer attention to the work. “Flow” happens all the time in this quiet house in a quiet neighborhood by the sea.
[T’ai chi, exercise, and lovely cuisine, evening entertainment in agreeable company also help!]
It has been fun to combine color and patterns and see the surprising results (who knew grey thread could be such a sweet influence on black and white?!). The constant creativity has made me impatient to get back to arty quilts again, and take things to a different dimension, tell whole stories in thread…
Do you ever wonder why sewing is such a passion? Why it is so satisfying to create fine stitched work? Or to handle the smooth fabric and admire the tightly-woven, straight seams? If you suspect it’s connected to our desire for order, control, and symmetry, I agree. And I’d wager such longings explain the story of our mythic ancestress, Clotho, the Fate, who spins the thread of human life.
Clotho is one of our earliest fore-mothers, in a long line of women stitching. My history is probably like yours in some ways. I bet if you thought about your own family, you might find similar traditions of sewing, embroidery, quilting, or at least mending clothes (remember darning socks on a lightbulb?!)–arts and skills which are making a comeback at present, it seems… in this new Depression era.
My love of sewing is closely connected to my mother’s teachings, who learned it from her mother in Portland, OR, who likely learned it from her German-born mother. (That’s grandma as a tot, second from bottom right, and her mom sitting behind her with a baby on her lap.)
Some of my fondest teenage memories have to do with sewing. (OK, I know! We were sewing store geeks!) Since I lived in the Bryant neighborhood and my friend lived in Laurelhurst, it was easy. We’d ride our bikes down to Stitch in Time, down by the U Village (before the U Village was chic), and spend hours designing our own special looks (Betsey Johnson was our idol), buying the fabrics, and then riding uphill—steeply—to our houses at the top of hills, to admire our stashes and make stuff. Both of us had learned it from our mothers with the help of Home Ed class at school. (Home Ed actually has a fascinating history and provides many key skills. I wish they’d put such “vocational” topics back into circulation in HS.)
I am so attached to this heritage that I kept using grandma’s wrought-iron sewing machine (a 1928 White Rotary, above) until, after multiple attempts to repair it and after getting machine oil all over my hands one too many times, I sadly gave it up. (It’s still in the garage, of course.) My new machine, an industrial model Juki, was recommended by my sister-in-law, a fellow aficionado of textiles, who actually runs a flourishing interior design business in Seattle.
This is clearly a matriarchy of knowledge and skill, a source of power. Just look at our ancestor, Clotho, and her sisters!
Clotho is a mythological figure. In ancient Greek mythology, she is the one of the Three Fates or Moirai. Her role is a spinner; as she spins thread, she brings people to life. In this tapestry, called The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates, you can see how the three Fates work together. Her sister Fates, Lachesis and Atropos, draw out the thread of life (Lachesis) and cut it (Atropos). Thread represented human life and the decisions of Clotho and her sisters–how and when to begin, prolong, and end life–thus represented the fate of all people in society.*
WOW! That is one powerful sisterhood
I love how my quilts are now speaking to the face masks: Here is yesterday’s mask production, followed by two quilts from pre-COVID-19 days:
See how the ginkgo tree green, and the blue cranes, from “Kimono Silk Quilt no. 2” (above, left) have now shown up in face masks? Also visible are face masks made of the black and white chessboard fabric, and black polka dots, from “Alice in Wonderland” small quilt no.1 (above, right). My stash is literally walking out the door! (not to worry, there’s plenty more)
Who cares if it’s geeky? Stitch on, sisters and nieces, near and far!
With love to Andrea, Shellie, and Jessie
info and imagery from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clotho and tapestry: Flemish, 1510-1520, Victorian and Albert Museum, London.
By This mediaUser:PriorymanOriginal workUnknown artist – Image by w:User:Prioryman, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53491807
Since nothing killed my spirit in the news today (or perhaps I’ve just become inured to the awfulness), my mind floated along peacefully during the short, sunny, steep walk and back up to our perch on the mountaintop. I felt like the luckiest person in the world! My gaze turned to another favorite book of Asian art, a book dedicated to Bada Shanren, to capture the peaceful thoughtfulness.
Chinese painter Bada Shanren (1626-1705) is the artist; born into the Ming imperial family, he fled and became a Buddhist monk before re-emerging into public life later, after 30 years. During the period when he created Lotus and Ducks, he was already a worldly man in his 70s.
Lotus and Ducks (pictured) is a hanging scroll of ink on paper, ca. 1696. It is absolutely hypnotic once you start gazing at it. “Yes, awfulness exists,” the ducks darkly gaze. But a quiet feeling of Zen awareness is also here for the taking–it flows through the lotus waving gently in the breeze (or is it rippling water?).
The last lines of the inscription capture the feelings perfectly, in their vague and hazy way of conjuring an image of natural beauty and hope amidst the wreckage caused by humans.
“Today we heave a sigh:
Wolves are besting tigers, bear gives birth to fox,
Long in dream, a butterfly comes fluttering along.” *
* Bada Shanren, trans. Stephen D. Allee, Lotus and Ducks, ca. 1696, in catalogue of In Pursuit of Heavenly Harmony: Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren from the Estate of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, ed. Joseph Chang and Qianshen Bai, Catalogue by Stephen D. Allee (Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art and Weatherhill, Inc., 2003), p. 66.
Thanks for giving us this beautiful book when it first came out, Steve! I’m so glad to have the opportunity to read it peacefully and enjoy discovering Bada Shanren in this quiet time (of quarantine).
Fyi: yesterday’s face mask production: