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February 19, 2013


Panthera tigris (Tiger), pieced handkerchief linen,cotton

Panthera tigris (Tiger), pieced handkerchief linen,cotton

Last week, a friend lured me into a memory game with questions about my life at a randomly chosen age.  I was assigned 29.  Astrologers know this fateful passage as the first Saturn return in people’s lives. It’s a make or break year, marked by many who didn’t get to 30, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain among them.  I obviously made it through to the other side, but this little game has stirred up all kinds of memories.  Here goes:

  • Where I lived: Seattle, Capitol Hill to be exact.
  • I drove: a red Volkswagen Rabbit.
  • My heart belonged to: I’m pleading the Fifth on this one, to protect the innocent, of which I wasn’t one.  Adventurous, maybe, but careless is probably more accurate.
  • I worked: in my studio and at Woodland Park Zoo, and how those places overlapped was the most interesting part of 29.

By then, I’d been in Seattle 3 years, and was successfully making my living as a wearable artist.  I sold my work in galleries all over the country, and although I wasn’t on the road to fame and fortune, I could pay bills and buy fabric.

I also had the freedom to pursue another passion.  Before I even set foot in the art museum in my new hometown, I was a regular at Woodland Park Zoo.  I volunteered, undertook docent training, and then was offered a paid position.  It was a magical experience.   Even though I was spending less time in my studio, and often showed up for fittings wearing my zoo uniform and rubber boots, I had new energy for design.

Up until then, my work was characterized by elegant, sharp angles pieced into garments and accessories.  It was, as gallery owners described it, “architectural.”  But the convergence of two influences changed the way I perceived the potential of fabric.  The first came out of the fashion houses in Tokyo.  Generous new shapes by designers Issey Miyake and Comme des Garcons captured my imagination at the exact same time my wearable clients asked for more movement in their clothing.

And then there were all those animals I worked with at the zoo.  I wanted to create fur and feathers out of fabric, and captured their texture and patterns with layers of torn edges.  I draped fabric to suggest wings, or gathered it to suggest volume.  One season, I was selected to show a collection of wearables inspired by big cats in a juried Designed to Wear event in Portland.  The following year, my 29th, I was invited back, and this time, the theme was birds.  I Magnin displayed the collection for another week, and I was thrilled to be noticed by more than one art critic.

Redwing Blackbird, satin and silk

Redwing Blackbird, satin and silk

It was the last time I participated in a big fashion show.  Shortly after, everything fell to pieces.   My personal life was in chaos.  I moved out of my studio, gave away bags of fabric, keeping only what fit into a small storage locker.  After spending Christmas day at an oil spill clinic, I realized my work with captive animals was finished.  With gratitude to every being who had enriched my life, I left the zoo.

I spent the next two years working in a law office downtown.  It was a sabbatical of sorts, away from everything that was important to me.  Eventually, I set up a new studio, and began volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic.  Without hitting the “pause button,” I probably wouldn’t have found my way to a new artistic medium, or back to animals.  But still, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had stayed the course.

And that is a particularly interesting question to ponder as I hurtle towards my second Saturn return.  This one is about mastery and integration.  At the masterful age of 29 x 2:

  • I live in Shoreline, Washington.
  • I drive a 20 year old Toyota pick up truck.
  • My heart belongs to: Denice Taylor, and our animal family.
  • I work: as Executive Director at Third Place Commons.  I also have not one, but two studio spaces where I can create collages and sew.  I have just launched Pieceable Kingdom, and am starting to do volunteer work with rescued cats.

After all these years, life is still a work in progress, and I am both grateful and curious.  So, now it is your turn.  Care to share memories of a significant year in your life?

Corvids of a Feather

February 7, 2013


Chicken, Esther Woolfson's Rook

Chicken, Esther Woolfson’s Rook

When my partner and I moved into our house in the dead of winter six years ago, we quickly became aware of two sad crows in our back yard.  The male’s vision was occluded with a film over one of his eyes, and he struggled to navigate and feed himself.  His mate had a deep cut across her throat, most likely from eating out of a sharp-edged can.   We concluded that these pathetic birds were old and in their final season of life.  With pity, we fed them cat food and peanuts, expecting each supper to be their last.

By spring, they looked better.  As the male’s eye improved and he started to caw with more energy, we named him Roarke.  The female’s neck healed, and with better nutrition, she transformed into the sleek beauty we call Giselle.  They thrived during the summer, and by the time we celebrated our first anniversary in the house, our resident crows were healthy and content.  The next spring, they produced offspring, as they have every year since. Roarke and Giselle are part of our extended family, and I can say they have taught me more about birds than any class I’ve ever taken.

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Welcome to Pieceable Kingdom!

February 2, 2013


Ellie Marie & Her Quilt

Ellie Marie & Her Quilt

Welcome to the Pieceable Kingdom!  Today marks the launch of my new website, timed to coincide with Imbolc, or Candlemas.  In Celtic tradition, early February heralds the beginning of spring.  As darkness begins to give way to longer days, the first lambs are born, and snowdrops break through the frozen soil, intrepid and delicate symbols of renewed life.

This is a season of initiation, and for me, one of gratitude. Every new project deserves a caring midwife, and no one could have brought Pieceable Kingdom into the world with more creativity and patience than Christine Stoll.  Christine and I have been friends for more than a decade, and have supported each other through countless changes in our lives.  What joy it has been to watch my friend embrace her creativity.  What luck to have her design my website!

The last year has been one of reconnection for me, and I am grateful to Purrfect Pals for inspiring me to bring all I can to work on behalf of cats once again.  This wonderful organization is doing rescue work the right way, and I look forward to many collaborative projects.  I am especially appreciative of John Bartlett, foster dad to more than thirty litters of kittens, the most recent ones on the screen of computers around the world.  John’s generosity reminded me that every act of interspecies kindness ripples out in all directions.

And finally, I would like to thank a special cat.  When I first stumbled into the Critter Room last year, John was fostering the Scientist Family.  Every one of them captured my imagination, but none more than mother Marie (Curie).  Still very much a kitten herself, she was rescued from the street by a concerned couple, had 4 kittens, and raised them on camera until they were old enough to be put up for adoption.

Before it was her turn to be adopted, Marie went back to Purrfect Pals for some much-needed rest and recuperation.  As a way to wish her well, I made a quilt, which accompanied her a few months later into her forever home.  And what a perfect home she found.  Ellie Marie, as she is now known, has brought great happiness into the life of her new person, a lovely woman whose husband of 57 years had recently passed away.  This is what she says about Ellie Marie: “She is such a cuddle bug. She jumps up on my lap and rubs her face on mine and hums me all the secret cat songs she knows, and she knows a lot.

And this, my friends, is just the beginning of secret cat songs in the Pieceable Kingdom.  Thank you for listening to them with me.