Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Lives They Loved

I posted this elsewhere but will make it my last here in 2013


The Lives They Loved

The NY Sunday Times magazine runs a feature at the end of each year called "The Lives They Loved". If you go there prepare to lose a lot of time and be deeply moved.

 I don't know if my submittal made the cut, they must receive thousands, but here is what I sent. It was very hard to keep it to the two hundred word limit.

"Jimmy made me laugh and I'm a tough comedy customer.

From the first day we met his mission was to make me happy, to hear me laugh. He wasn't a joke teller – it was all lightning wit and the gift of knowing just which funny bone to tickle. He would whisper something bawdy in my ear just to see me pretend to be a prude all the while peeing myself with laughter.

People were always glad to see or hear from him because they knew that at some point in the conversation there would be genuine laughter. He was a construction superintendent, the guy
 who is caught between management and labor and he always took pride in his ability to bring everyone around to his way of seeing and doing things. I think they wanted to share in his boundless sense of fun and good humor.

He was a wonderful father to our sons Colin and Jake and I'm so glad that he passed on his amazing gift of laughter to them both. Now, whenever I really laugh at something I hear his
 booming laughter in my heart I'm sure that he sent that moment my way with his love."  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Karma VI

Changed my mind about hard mounting this one mostly because I couldn't find the right sized canvas. It's faced and signed and ready to go.
details here.

"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” 

― David MitchellCloud Atlas

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Solstice Eve, 2013

Solstice Eve 2012
Hand appliqued and embroidered vintage hand dyed cloth, 14"x20", faced and signed, ready for framing.

 I will be taking silent bids via email (deborah@lacativa.com) until midnight on New Years Eve.

Please put SE BID in the subject line.

The opening bid is $86.47  US. Shipping included.

Friday, December 27, 2013

being bothered

While I was looking for something to face this with I was bothered by something about it and took it back to the sewing chair to study.

 I don't consciously compose my work, I generally select scraps of cloth and just move them around relative to one another until I like what I see.  People find things in my work that I never intended and that's ok.  Early on, I did acknowledge the figure front and center. What bothered me was that it was a solitary figure so I brought some other beings into play.

Much is written about the healing power of making art. I don't know about making any healing art myself but I've recently been given a piece of art that makes me smile every time I look at it.  I think you are really onto something here Bamboota.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the gift

It's no surprise that this holiday season has been very hard for our little family.  Anytime someone says" What do you want for Christmas" our answer is "to turn back the clock and have Jimmy with us again, whole and happy". The best we can do is have a hug and a weep and then get on with life as he would have wanted us to.

After a very bad day yesterday I resolved to do better and started picking at boxes of papers; sorting, saving, discarding. As if the pile next to my bed was not enough, I went to the closet and took down a small box I knew contained old cards, letters and the boys' baby books inside - things I knew would make me smile. At the bottom, I found a another box with a few trinkets and this silver spoon bracelet.  I thought it was lost and gone and told one of my sisters-in-law so just the other day.

I had it made for Jimmy when we first got together. The inscription is "Keep on Trying", the title of a short, sweet love song by Poco that he introduced me to.
 A song about persistence and a belief in the redemptive power of true love.

 He used to wear it all the time but broke it twice at work. Twice repaired, it got relegated to "formal wear" meaning weddings and holidays and hadn't thought about it for years. I thought it was gone forever.

Merry Christmas my darlin'. Thank you.

Quick, take a picture..

"Solstice Eve"   14"x20"

Is that sun smiling from the east ?

Done is good. I'm going to face this with something appropriate, work my signature and date into it and then part with it, quickly.
Details and finished photos later in the week. The studio beckons and there is work to do.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday rain

Time stands still for a while...and it's ok. The violent weather that was promised never materialized but the rain seems to have moved in to stay. We are snug.

Friday, December 20, 2013

a hug from afar

     The cloth speaks what the heart cannot find words for............thanks Jude.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

stitching with Jesse & Walt redux

I've been saving this little tea towel for something and this struggled into being late last night. It was approved and basted at dawn and has been keeping me company for a few hours now.

We rest.

We wake and repeat...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Libra at work

What I know Jimmy would want most for all of us is to find our feet. For me, that would be getting back into the studio in a significant way. I'm looking to find a balance between the warm draw of living in the past and stepping into the future mindfully.

Although I've been stitching here and there on little fripperies,  nothing comes to mind when I look at the design walls. Not even the desire to see. The studio is in total chaos - this one linear foot of wall space remains an inspiration complete with a fiber blessing by Grace of the West.

Once it warms up a bit, I'll work at restoring order and give the raw materials a chance to inspire.

My finances are in as much chaos as the studio so a lot of those raw materials will soon be available in the store.

There are really only so many hours in any day and I think I have other things on the horizon that are not wrapped in cloth and making.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Yesterday was a particularly difficult day . Acknowledging condolences, piles of paperwork, digging through personal archaeology were all contributing factors to the extra melancholy. Thanks to both my sons for rescuing the day. Jake came by midmorning and they needed feeding so I made a hearty soup and biscuits and when Colin returned from the laundromat they took the dead clothes dryer up to the street (where it was grabbed up by scrappers in minutes!) and hooked up a used but working one that Jake had in storage under the house. Needful, useful things to deal with, pass the time and remember.  I'm better today.

When Jimmy and I were first married, like many newlyweds we were p-o-o-r. A week with swiss to go on the baloney sandwiches was a really good one. That first year together we waited until 7 or 8 on Christmas eve to go the tree lot and see what was left. (We both came from family traditions of not putting up or decorating a tree until Christmas eve.) You knew you were grown up when Mom let you help decorate.

The lot was closed and line of scraggly, forlorn looking leftover trees leaned up against the front of the hardware store where a hand lettered sign said "FREE".  We had been ready to pay a whole five dollars!  (This picture was taken many years later when I always had to restrain him from getting a tree that was taller than I could reach to the top since decorating was my assignment.)

We stuffed the Charlie Brown Christmas tree through one passenger window on the Dart and pulled it out through the opposite door when it got back to our first apartment together at Skyview cottages in Mohegan Lake, NY. The place was so small we had to set the tree up in a corner of the kitchen and block it off with the two chairs to keep Shag from knocking it over (again). The next morning I found a diamond ring in the bottom of my stocking and Jimmy asked me to marry him.
Here we are at my family's house later that day showing off my ring and making our intentions known.

Friday, December 13, 2013

contented confinement

It's just too cold to get the studio up to warm enough and I'm coming down with a cold myself. For now I'll continue hanging stars in this firmament. I've given up on the notion of somehow darkening the sky but I keep thinking about the song lyric "the stars in your sky are the stars in mine" and keep finding places in the sky that need more stars.

And this little holiday looking trinket continues and it has me thinking about what I need to put together a "learn to embroider" kit for a five year old little girl that I've not yet met.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gates of Grace

And speaking of mummies, I pulled this one off the too-large canvas that I had nailed it to because I've never been happy with it's value weaknesses.

It's been sealed under matte acrylic so I'm going to have to concoct some kind of acrylic wash to make the changes I want.

Time to drag the heater back into the studio.

missed summer

"Missed Summer" 11x14

Just warming up to my old mummification technique.

Here's the tutorial.

The first piece shown there went on to Art Quilt Elements and never came home. Not lost but sold. Turns out it's a pretty effective way of presenting smaller, hand stitched fiber art.

This one is now available on the store page.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Karma VI

"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” 

― David MitchellCloud Atlas

Calling this one done except I'm off to find a 20"x 20" canvas so I can mount it permanently.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


         "Memories Feast" from 2009. The piece that saved Christmas.
detail from Memories Feast

Sunday, December 08, 2013

dear friends and family

I really should check myself before I post here lest you all think I'm coming unhinged. It's all true for a few minutes out of every hour and then I dry my eyes and busy myself anyway I can whether the muse moves me or not. 

There's been a lot of rooting and rummaging. We were big on stuffing things in boxes to be dealt with another day. The days are here my dear. The other day Colin and I drove into Atlanta to take most of Jim's winter and working wardrobe to an outreach program for homeless veterans. I know he would approve.

There was an actual breakfast this morning and Jake has taken up his fathers Sunday mission of making sure I have the NY Sunday times which I parse out over the course of the whole week. I've been working on our deteriorating photo archives the best I know how with an ancient version of Paint Shop Pro dreading the day when the next version of Windows will render it senseless and I have to purchase and learn something new.
Ewok costume by y'rs trly

It's been wet and cold here so I decided an old fashioned spaghetti dinner was in order so while Jesse& Walt cooked meth on the tube, I cooked up a batch of sauce and meatballs that will carry us through most of the week in one form or another. 

Later it was Earl Gray and cinnamon scones in the study for a good long stitch with cats in attendance and  Downton Abbey and then Beloved for background.

Thank you all for your compassion, support and love while I am in sadland. (Thanks for that Steve, your perfect description of this time and place)

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Who was she

..all full of exuberance and extravagance?

Without thinking about the answer I would have once said "wife, mother, artist" Now I have to redefine my life and maybe not use any of those words for the time being.
Find a broader perspective.

There are baskets of beautiful cloth everywhere. At least I can still see the beauty in each piece even if I have no inclination to make. Anything. Food and clean clothing is almost too much. If it wasn't for Colin, I would have given up cooking altogether and gone raw by now.
Thank the force for Chinese takeout.

Monday, December 02, 2013

a pause for bearings

I feel like my life has been swept from under me but

I am a strong swimmer.

Friday, November 29, 2013

back in the studio - updated

Thanks for all the orders that have rolled in since I posted this. I will be sending everything out first class USPS on Monday morning so you should be seeing the goodies before the end of the week.

....after a fashion.

Years ago I wrote my own Quilters Prayer.  I'm sure it's not what people were looking for when they googled the words but to me it was never more true than now.

I'd much rather see my cloth in the hands of other artists right now so I spent the morning packing up a squad of fat baggies and will continue making them available through the holidays over at Random Acts of Dyeness. If you are sending one as a gift, make sure I have the right shipping address and I will make the package festive for you, no extra charge.

Doing what I always do when the muse has fled, shaking my moneymaker,
tis the season or so they say.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Colin and I will be spending Thanksgiving with Jake & Missy and her wonderful tribe who have folded us in with warmth and kindness.

My heartfelt thanks to all of the friends and family afar who have reached out to us with messages and prayers of condolence. Every word, every gesture has meant a great deal to us.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

vigil cloth

It's going to take a lot of time to discover just how damaged/changed I am.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


After a very long and trying day I am doing some 

wayfinding with the soft and easy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


After Jimmy came home from the hospital last week Voodoo was on constant vigil with him, mostly sleeping between his feet but once or twice a day stalking around the perimeter of the bed. 

 Not normally a lap cat, he has become one in The past months, needy and vocal in his demands for attention. I was thinking that it was just part of his dotage but he has taken on this guard duty with a fierce gravity that forces one to admit that animals have a knowing beyond human capabilities

When the priest came to give Jim last rites Voodoo sat at attention at the foot of the bed and his golden gaze moved from Jim to the priest and back again, over and over during the recitation. No wonder, no amazement just a steady watchfulness over his charge and the proceedings.

Bereft, he has transferred his need for contact to either myself or Colin, whomever has a warm lap in his moment of need.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Freebird now

Colin, Jimmy and Jake
Jimmy passed away peacefully around noon yesterday here at home.

We were all here with him and he will remain the largest part of my heart forever.

This was taken the day before Jake and Missy's wedding. He was so happy to have made it there well enough to enjoy the weekend. We all were.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

half hearted

Jim had a serious setback late Monday night and we went by ambulance to the hospital.  

After tests and scans his doctors have agreed that any further treatment of his cancer would be not in his best interest and we are now focusing on his comfort and quality of life.

I can't thank the wonderful team of professionals at the hospital enough, although I will find the time and a way in the future. We are now in the hands of a hospice care program and will continue to live in the Golden now together, here at home, as long as love allows.

Monday, November 11, 2013

winter light

I was going to sit out on the deck yesterday and stitch a while but I could tell that the sun running lower in the sky these days would not clear the trees that stubbornly hang on to their now mangy leaves.

So, like the cats will, I pulled my rocker over into the big bent rectangle of light coming through the back door and sat there, shifting the chair every few minutes as the patch of light and warmth made it's transit.  Jimmy was napping and "Band of Brothers" ran in it's entirety on TV yesterday and I just sat with my back to the screen and let the music and dialogue take me as I worked.

I'm going to try to stay with this one until it's finished, soon. soon. While rooting in the bottom of the bottomless basket for my cell phone I found the missing piece which will be nest on the roster of things to tackle.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

outside comes in

I've brought most of my houseplants  up to Jim's sitting room into the east facing window. There's probably a lizard or two in there but time will tell.

This Christmas cactus is a great grand daughter sprung from stems from my mother's plants  that I brought down from NY years ago. She has made a fine recovery from the day one of the cats decided to climb up on it and mash it into a cozy nest.

It's been a tough week for Jim physically and emotionally..the wedding, the travel, strange foods and round of chemo tossed on top just for fun. 
This weekend we rest.

Friday, November 08, 2013

works in progress

Although I set it aside for a while, I've come to recognize that I need to do this work, this art, for the sake of my own well being. Even if I don't always get enough sleep, even if I can't get a balanced meal,  I must take a few minutes and stitch.

Who knew you could stash your sanity in a river grass basket?

There's a clutch of twenty inch square vintage damask dinner napkins in the closet that I held back from the summers dyefests. They make great, controlled starting places. Boundaries are important to me right now.

As I make up fat baggies for the store I'm pulling out little treats and tidbits of cloth to keep for my own stash, a snip here, a sweet little passage there..most of  these will become part of the Vigil series.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

devilish details

It gets too easy to fall into the cloth. Tighter and tighter into the warp and weft and all things on the periphery  fall away and lose meaning.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

vigil stitching

It may not come to anything but it has a different feel. Everything feels different now. I call this "vigil stitching"; I was up most of two nights in a row with Jim.

The festivities took a toll on him and yesterday's chemo hit him hard even though his docs were happy with his numbers going into the treatment. He is better today than yesterday which is all I could ask.

One more wedding shot, my most favorite so far; my son standing with the official,  his face when he first saw his bride.