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American literature art children creativity French literature humor music nature quilts

Only a real idiot can have this much fun! (homage to Julio Cortázar)

Reading Julio Cortázar’s essay, “Only a Real Idiot” yesterday, I felt such a joyfully liberating surge of life energy, for he captured how I feel, on seeing a hummingbird scratch his neck with his tiny foot like a dog, or a cornflower in glorious blue abandon alongside gritty Rainier Avenue, or José González in concert. Or my classmates doing Aikido at sunset, a Chinese busker twanging strange melodies at Hing Hay Park, or Toots and the Maytalls when they were here, so long ago in the pre-pandemic past…

“I am entertained, deeply moved; the dialogues or the dancers’ motions seem like supernatural visions to me. I applaud wildly, and sometimes the tears well up in my eyes or I laugh until I have to pee; in any event, I am glad to be alive and to have had this opportunity to go to the theater or to the movies or to an exhibition, anywhere extraordinary people make or show things never before imagined, where they invent a place of revelation or communication, something that washes away the moments when nothing is happening, nothing but what always happens.” (“Only a Real Idiot” in Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, p. 62)

It’s all about enthusiasm.

My latest creation–to be unveiled next week at West Seattle’s Summerfest!–is the Luxury Troll Boudoir. (If ever there were a folly, this is it!)

Luxury Troll Boudoirs in progress, HGBG workshop, West Seattle (7/5/22)

— Set in a picturesque cigar box, each features a troll doll with its own quilt, snuggled into a little bed made of vintage satin
— Comes with a booklet, Beautiful Thoughts for the Boudoir, with quotes and portraits by five inspiring French and American women writers
— Suitable for children or nostalgia lovers of any age

Coming soon to the HGBG shop on etsy!

Author portrait courtesy of https://aldianews.com/en/culture/books-and-authors/cortazar-movies

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art cats creativity design dogs friendship happiness quilts trees wisdom

small mercies

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…

Categories
American literature art creativity design happiness health quilts wisdom

Emerson on the human condition

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.

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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…

 

Categories
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

Categories
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.