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art conflict creativity design generosity quilts social media work

Day 111: update on face masks and Respect quilt

Letter from Debbie in Bellevue July 2020Hello 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…

 

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American literature art conflict creativity quilts wisdom

day 79: follow his words–Chad Sanders, that is

Hey readers,

Exhausted, heart-sick, anxious and wretched? Me too. But we need to get over it. I got a surge of new energy–and humility–this morning from reading the powerful article in the New York Times Op-Ed section by Chad Sanders (author of the forthcoming book, Black Magic). The article is accompanied by the image above, by Hanna Barczyk, which says it all: hey white folks, stop drowning black people in your crocodile tears!

Basically, Sanders is here to chastise us–white people like me who’ve written to our black friends this week–and to explain why our messages are misguided and tiring. Black people are drowning in our smug letters and texts, he says. Moreover, he points out that us telling people, “Don’t feel the need to respond,” is wrong on all accounts: it is oppressive,  condescending and not appreciated by the recipient. (How would you like it if someone told you how to feel? or not to feel?)

Most usefully, he provides instructions on what we CAN do, if we want to do something meaningful.  As he writes, “please, stop sending #love. Stop sending positive vibes. Stop sending your thoughts. Here are three suggestions on more immediately impactful things to offer instead:

  1. Money: To funds that pay legal fees for black people who are unjustly arrested, imprisoned or killed or to black politicians running for office.
  2. Texts: To your relatives and loved ones telling them that you will not be visiting them or answering phone calls until they take significant action in supporting black lives either through protest or financial contributions.
  3. Protection: To fellow black protesters who are at greater risk of harm during demonstrations.”*

*Chad Sanders, “White Friends, Fight Anti-Blackness,” New York Times (6/6/20): A21.

Being a good student, I immediately got out my wallet and visited the link on Anti-Racist and Social Justice Resources of my favorite local public radio station, KEXP. After studying some options, I chose to donate $100 to National Bail Out. I like their slim organization–run by volunteers–and their clear mission: this is a “Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. We are people who have been impacted by cages — either by being in them ourselves or witnessing our families and loved ones be encaged. We are queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant.”  Learn more at www.nationalbailout.org.

national bail out

In conclusion, please excuse me, black friends, if I annoyed you or wasted your time with my emails this week. And I thank you, Chad Sanders, for helping me understand how I can help with funding organizations like National Bail Out. On a lighter note, I’m thrilled to see one of my clients wearing one of my face masks to a local demonstration!  (Looking good, Shep!)

Shep at protest with HG face mask on June 5 2020

p.s. I’m still moving forward on plans for the “Respect” quilt project, and the special offer of a Honey Girl quilt for only $100 is still good for one more day!  See day 73 for details.

Respectfully yours,

Julia

fyi: no face masks made yesterday, but production resumes today…

Categories
American literature art conflict creativity friendship quilts work

day 78, a way forward: the Respect quilt

Hello readers,

I’m excited today to announce a new idea afoot and to request any feedback you may have to share about the “Respect” quilt project which was inspired by the many beautiful fabrics I’ve purchased from Black-owned businesses around the USA this week (above):

The “Respect” quilt project: allies at work

The “Respect” quilt is a result of Black and white creators working together to honor Black women’s beauty, history, and resilience.

The first one, underway, is being created by a former teacher, a white woman, for a former student of hers, a Black woman in South Bend, Indiana. When in her class at age 15, the young woman wrote and illustrated a short story, Overcoming Adversity, which stayed in the mind of her teacher all these years. (Discussions are afoot about revising it and publishing it with Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC.)

The “Respect” quilt features African fabrics (waxes and Ankara cottons), Afrocentric fabrics, such as Harlem Toile de Jouy designed by Sheila Bridges (NYC), and other fabrics purchased from African-American business women across the USA.  It is the intention to celebrate and honor black womanhood that we all share.

Ideas? email: juliawsea@gmail.com

And yesterdays’ face mask production fyi, the final batch for North Seattle College! (if you look carefully, you’ll see that all 45 masks made over the past days are uniquely different, to honor the diverse identities of the No. Sea. College faculty, staff and students!):

Face masks made on June 4 2020

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creativity design quilts social media sustainability work

day 76, same as yesterday, but local connections!

Hey readers,

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!

Bob Marley colors cotton from Our Fabric Stash

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:

face masks made on June 2 2020

Categories
art creativity design quilts social media

day 75, spending money is a form of activism too

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).

accessories-kesi-african-print-bag-with-embossed-vegan-leather-yellow-red-fans-1_1000x

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:

Face masks made June 1 2020

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.

 

 

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American literature art conflict creativity death quilts work

day 74, same as yesterday

Can’t think of anything better than to repeat myself, on this sad moment in American life.

Dear reader,

I know that you are suffering. That is why I’m writing. I want to remind you that your life matters, your mind matters, your potential matters. Your words and actions matter. All the people who have died matter, and we will remember them, and keep demanding an end to the violence. And if you would like a face mask to wear during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, or a quilt to celebrate a life, let me know. I can help with that. (Quilts $100 today only; lead time 3-6 months.)

Thank you.

With hope and solidarity,

Julia   (use the Contact form to communicate requests for masks or quilt information, or just to chat. I’ll check in frequently.)

p.s. sorry for such a minute response to what is really a shattering moment in American history, but apart from nothing—symbolic silence—I could not think of anything worth writing. It’s all out there in the news, I can only offer face masks or quilts, and a few words of comfort.

Honey Girl quilts, normally $499.99, just $100 this week only!

(That is Nick’s high school graduation quilt, June 2009; apologies for the out-of-focus photo)

***

and fyi, yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks made on May 31 2020

Categories
conflict creativity death quilts Zen philosophy

day 73: dear country, let me help

Today dawns on a weary, frightened populace as we look around at a nation torn apart by so many calamities. It is overwhelming. I seek to respond but don’t know how, apart from shedding some tears for the civil rights movement we felt was so wonderful while I was growing up, and all the hopes now dashed again, proven wrong yet again. I’m especially worried for my black women friends who are raising sons in this toxic environment. But I am really sorry for all of us, because today you and I are suffering.  Even if we think we’re exempt / immune /numb and incapable of taking in any more horrors, we are suffering. I turn to the Buddhist writings of Thich Nhat Hanh for guidance. I’ve been thinking and singing in my head the Billy Swan song, “I Can Help,” for hours.  Clearly, it would do me good to do you good. But how?

Here is what I learned from the Buddhist:

“When we are suffering, we have a strong need for the presence of the person we love. If we are suffering and the man or woman we love ignores us, then we suffer more. So what we can do—and right away—is to manifest our true presence to the beloved person and say the mantra with force: ‘Dear one, I know that you are suffering; that is why I am here for you.’”*

Today, we need love all around. Maybe you’re missing THE person you love. OK, can’t help with that. But I can be one person speaking up to you today with a friendly gesture that is real.

Dear reader,

I know that you are suffering. That is why I’m writing. I want to remind you that your life matters, your mind matters, your potential matters. Your words and actions matter. All the people who have died matter, and we will remember them, and keep demanding an end to the violence. And if you would like a face mask to wear during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, or quilt to celebrate life, let me know. I can help with that. (Quilts $100 today only; lead time 3-6 months.)

Thank you.

With hope and solidarity,

Julia   (use the Contact form to communicate requests for masks or quilt information, or just to chat. I’ll check in frequently.)

p.s. sorry for such a minute response to what is really a shattering moment in American history, but apart from nothing—symbolic silence—I could not think of anything worth writing. It’s all out there in the news, I can only offer face masks or quilts, and a few words of comfort.  But remembering Billy Swan, I just had to say, “let me help”.

***

Here are a few examples of memory quilts from the past, fyi

and fyi, Yesterday’s face mask production

Face masks made on May 30 2020

*Thich Nhat Hanh, “Love is Being Present,” Right Here with You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships, ed. Andrea Miller and the editors of the Shambhala Sun (Boston, Shambhala, 2011), 7.

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art creativity music quilts wisdom

day 55, on slowness and detail

“If you think you’re boring your audience, go slower not faster,” wrote Gustav Mahler (Austrian, 1860-1911), who was addressing the art of composing and playing classical music. I’ve found the same to be true with sewing, doing research, understanding current events, or other tasks. When I’m bored or exasperated, I slow down and focus on ever smaller bits of the world. Delving into detail makes things more fascinating. (The zeal for detail can also lead deep into rabbit holes of irrelevant knowledge, beware!)
When I slow down my sewing, the face masks take on a new aura: they are not merely discardable gear for emergency wear, but rather tiny tributes to everyday life and the beauty of the mundane. Case in point, the four masks produced yesterday (after hours of work), featuring two matching masks for a special little girl and her mom, and the two Limited edition styles–the Honey Girl logo and “Seattle Sunrise”):

Face masks produced on May 12 2020

P.s. welcome to week 9 of Shelter-in-Place (woohoo!), with the Japanese Kimono Silk Quilt no. 1 in the background…

Week 9 in window

Slow down, and see if it works for you too.  No matter what you do, tomorrow will be here soon.

Until then,

your friend in cyberspace

Categories
American literature art creativity English literature friendship happiness humor quilts

day 48, frivolous thoughts

If today’s newspaper were a living creature, it would come wrapped in a terrifying miasma of toxic effects. “Hot Zones Shift, Leaving No Hope for a Speedy End,” moans one headline, “Mystery Illness Linked to Virus Sickens Young,” screams another, and rounding out page one is an in-depth bleeding wound: “Trials of a Pennsylvania Street as Contagion and Fear Sped In.” Yet deep inside the guts of the paper, on page C5, is a heart beating wildly, “spellbound by desire and imagination.” Brought to us from an American poet named Wayne Koestenbaum, who I immediately imagined being friends with–he would be a prickly, intense, hilarious kind of friend, I think.

wayne_koestenbaum_pic

I seized upon the review of Wayne Koestenbaum’s new book, Figure It Out, the way a shipwreck victim might pull herself into a lifeboat, with relief and delight to be on familiar ground again, among the living. I love the whole article, and send out thanks to Parul Sehgal for such a fine interpretation of what must be a hard book to read. But it is the first paragraph that really got me:

“Here’s Something Strange: as babies learn to speak, they don’t merely imitate adult speech. They often produce phonemes—units of sound—not found in any known language: complex vowels, consonants and clicks. The linguist Roman Jakobson called this stage of language acquisition ‘tongue delirium’.”

TONGUE DELIRIUM!  WHAT A DELIGHTFUL THOUGHT!

He goes on to discuss what that means when an adult tries to recapture it in writing, because that is Wayne Koestenbaum’s gift, noting Lewis Carroll among others.

“AHA,” I thought, thinking of my Alice in Wonderland quilts, and the happy moments spent with that book. There’s where we go next. So many choices!

 

There is the delightful song of the Mock Turtle, for example, which begins, “’Will you walk a little faster?’ said a whiting to a snail, / There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail. / See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance! / They are waiting on the shingle—will you come and join the dance? / Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?’”*

mock turtle

Or there is the impotent rage of the Red Queen, when Alice replies that she does not know the identity of the cards on the ground: “’How should I know?’ said Alice, surprised at her own courage. ‘It’s no business of mine.’ The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming, ‘Off with her head! Off with—’ ‘Nonsense!’ said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the Queen was silent.”

The Mad Hatter’s song is very pleasant, sing it with me now: “’Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! / How I wonder what you’re at!’”

Let us all ponder deeply the Cheshire Cat. As Alice says, “I’ve often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’”

Tennel_Cheshire_proof

Of course, no foray into frivolous thoughts is complete without a few lines, at least from  “Jabberwocky,” (from Through the Looking-Glass): “‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: / All mimsy were the borogroves, / And the mome raths outgrabe./ Beware the Jabberwocky, my son! / The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! / Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun / The frumious Bandersnatch!”

And lastly, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” must be read aloud RIGHT NOW!, so it can stick in your head all day long:

The Walrus and the Carpenter / Walked on a mile or so, / And when they rested on a rock / Conveniently low: / And all the little Oysters stood / And waited in a row. / “The time has come,” the Walrus said, / “To talk of many things: / Of shoes–and ships–and sealing wax–/ Of cabbages–and kings–/ And why the sea is boiling hot–/ And whether pigs have wings…”

(this right before he and the Carpenter ate them all with bread and butter. LOL)

I don’t know about you, but I feel refreshed!  Those funny words created the effect of a “bain de mots” (word-bath, just as mingling with a group is known as prendre un bain de foule). A departure from grim headlines takes us back to a part of our brain that also needs companionship… the universe of unknown, imaginary, frivolous thoughts. Why not go there today?

(P.s. you just did).

___

Fyi, yesterday’s face masks:

Masks produced on May 5 2020

 

*Lewis Carroll, song of the Mock Turtle, p. 102; the Queen’s rage, p. 82; the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, p. 73; the Cheshire Cat, p. 67; “Jabberwocky,” p. 148; “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” p. 185.  From The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, ed. Martin Gardner, illus. John Tenniel (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).

 

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American literature art creativity design nature quilts trees wisdom

day seven: on time and its vicissitudes

Yesterday I got the best present for these cloistered times: a huge English dictionary (in two volumes!) and a book on psychology by William James. These generous gifts from a new friend (thanks, Emma!) have already improved my life and arguably improved our dinner-table conversation. According to me, anyway. Our resident Millennial rolled his eyes about my newfound enthusiasm for etymologies, saying “OK Boomer.”  Go figure. 

Those gifts have inspired today’s thoughts on time and its vicissitudes. But first, let’s all remember that our lives had vicissitudes well before this crisis! Perhaps it’s the lack of vicissitudes that’s making us miserable? More on that below… let’s recall what the word means:

*Vicissitude (Etymology: Latin vicissitudo, from vicissim, “by turns” + preposition -tude [forming an abstract noun, as altitude, exactitude, solitude]

  1. Reciprocation, return, an alternation, a regular change (Rare)
  2. The fact or liability of change occurring in a specified thing or area; an instance of this.
  3. Change or mutability regarded as a natural process or tendency in human affairs.
  4. In pl. Changes in circumstances; uncertainties or variations of fortune or outcome.

Aha! It is the lack of apparent change, the sameness, of life under coronavirus that makes the time feel so long. Let’s play a mind game to test that: try to grab the now.  You’ll find you have to continually say, “Ok now!” “No, now!” “Now!” “NOW NOW NOW NOW!” because as soon as you speak the word, it is already no longer it.  But that does not make it any more interesting.

The great lecturer and pioneer in psychology, William James (1842-1910) articulates that paradox nicely:

“Let anyone try, I will not say to arrest, but to notice or attend to, the present moment of time. One of the most baffling experiences occurs. Where is it, this present? It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.”

“Reflection leads us to the conclusion that it must exist, but that it does exist can never be a fact of our immediate experience. The only fact of our immediate experience is what has been well called ‘the specious’ present, a sort of saddle-back of time with a certain length of its own, on which we sit perched, and from which we look in two directions into time.  … with a bow and a stern, as it were—a rearward- and a forward-looking end.”**

Then why is the present is so boring?  Back to vicissitudes.  As James writes,

“A day full of excitement, with no pause, is said to pass ‘ere we know it.’ On the contrary, a day full of waiting, of unsatisfied desire for change, will seem a small eternity. Tœdium, ennui, Langweile, boredom, are words for which, probably, every language known to man has its equivalent. It comes about whenever, from the relative emptiness of content of a tract of time, we grow attentive to the passage of time itself. Expecting, and being ready for, a new impression to succeed; when it fails to come, we get an empty time instead of it, and such experiences, ceaselessly renewed, make us most formidably aware of the extent of mere time itself.”

He suggests another experiment:  “Close your eyes and simply wait to hear somebody tell you that a minute has elapsed, and the full length of your leisure with it seems incredible.  … The odiousness of the whole experience comes from its insipidity; for stimulation is the indispensable requisite for pleasure in an experience, and the feeling of bare time is the least stimulating experience we can have. The sensation of tedium is a protest, says Volkmann, against the entire present.”

If tedium is a protest against the lack of stimulation inherent in our current “Lockdown,” “Stay at Home” or “Shelter-in-Place” lifestyles, what can we do?  Aha, the dictionary again comes to the rescue!  Sometimes understanding a word can lead to an action to activate it or prevent it. To avoid the enemy–insipidity–we must know what it looks and feels like.

Insipid*** (Etymology:  comes from the French insipide or late Latin insipidus, formed as IN– [prefixed to adjectives to express negation or privation]+ sapidus, [savory, delicious, prudent, or wise])

  1. Adjective. 1. Tasteless, having only a slight taste, lacking flavor.
  2. Lacking liveliness; dull, uninteresting.
  3. Devoid of intelligence or judgment; stupid; foolish.
  4. Noun. An insipid person or thing; a person who is deficient in sense, spirit, etc.

The answer to insipidity–that is, boredom– is to find things that are opposite to all of the words above. We turn to the word Interest.

Interest**** (Etymology: from Latin interest, it makes a difference, it concerns, it matters]

Many meanings follow, but for us it is nos. 8 & 9 that matter

  1. A state of feeling in which one wishes to pay particular attention to a thing or person; (a feeling of) curiosity or concern.
  2. The quality or power of arousing such a feeling: the quality of being interesting.

CONCLUSION!  To change the dull into the savory, without moving beyond our homes or speaking with strangers, we must change our perspectives.  We must find something that arouses the feeling of curiosity. Take one thing about your life and change it.  For me, I went outside and took a new photo of our window with the sign, from a slightly different angle. The new photo hides the damage on the window frame and ushers in the view of lovely young buds poking out of a tree branch. Now this photo journal will also track the progress of spring!

Week 2 photo detail Mar 26

I’m also creating a new quilt design, by channeling memories of travel and experimentation in a stream-of-consciousness for a young woman far away. These squares show how I’ve deconstructed Alice in Wonderland by stitching some key moments from the book (where Alice puts the key in the door, meets the hookah-smoking caterpillar and follows the anxious rabbit) into a patchwork that includes scraps of one of her old dresses, surrounded by scenes of Paris and a cityscape by night, trees, French words, and a crane for long life and good luck.

Quilt in progress Mar 26 2020

Wishing you an interest-ing day!  And see ya in the a.m.!

 

P.S. Interesting. (Etymology interest + suffix ing [forming nouns from verbs, by analogy denoting a) verbal action [i.e. fighting, swearing, blackberrying, or an instance of it, as wedding], or an occupation or skill [i.e. banking, fencing, glassblowing]. Our goal is to create a skill out of being curious with the banal….

 

*The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), vol. 2, p. 3532.

** William James, Psychology: The Briefer Course, ed. Gordon Allport (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), pp. 147-152.

***The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 1, p. 1387.

**** Op.cit., vol. 1, p. 1400.