New tour! New studio! New work! Same ol’ red hair and smiling face.

There's room to SIT DOWN in my new studio!

There’s room to SIT DOWN in my new studio!
I have lots of NEW WORK, too!

I have lots of NEW WORK, too!
New antique box mini-shrines!

New antique box mini-shrines!
New framed fiber pieces, too!

New framed fiber pieces, too!

I’m delighted to be a new artist (#30) on the prestigious Sonoma County Art Trailes, a self-guided tour through the open studios of more than 175 artists and craftspeople throughout…well, throughout Sonoma County.

The tour covers the next two weekends in October, Saturday and Sunday, 10-5, Oct. 10 & 11, and Oct. 17 & 18.

I’m in my new studio space! It’s a lot bigger than my former space. In fact, I’m in the space you had to walk through to GET to my former space. There’s a window! There’s room to turn around! There’s a sofa and everything! I even cleaned!! (This in itself is a noteworthy event.)

I have new framed fiber pieces, new small antique box ‘installations’, featuring my handmade artifacts and small sculptures. I have new jewelry, too.

So come on down to 300 South A Street in the SOFA arts district in Santa Rosa, between Sebastopol Ave. and Sonoma Ave. There are eight artists on the Tour here. I’m by myself, down Atlas Coffee Alley, down the side of Gallery 300. There will be many bright blue signs showing the way; look for the cerulean blue door in the alley, that’s me!  Studio #30.

For more information, visit where you can also download a copy of the catalog (if you don’t have one yet) and maps of all the studios. (The one with me on it is


Filed under Open studio announcement


Let’s talk about success for a minute.

When I first stood up for my artistic self, it was a powerful moment in my life. I set aside self-judgment, feelings of inadequacy, needing success, ALL the baggage that being a creative person in our culture carries.

The questions I asked myself were:

I see my young children, vital and grounded, full of potential to do anything they turn their mind to. Was I like that as a child??

How can I want my children to live a life filled with passion and fearless commitment to their highest self, and not want that for myself?

How will they know what that looks like, if I don’t show them?

My mantras were:

I have to be an artist, or I’ll die.

I don’t even care anymore if I’m a GOOD artist. I just have to do it.

If one person in a thousand likes my work, I’ll be happy.

In addition to taking my art seriously, I took the business of art seriously, too. I created a business plan, a strong artist statement, hired a professional photography (great images are EVERYTHING), taught myself how to write good press releases, and promoted the heck out of myself.

So, a few years later, I was juried into major high end fine craft shows. My work was juried into art and fine craft exhibits across the country, and my work was carried in 63 shops and galleries in several dozen states. My work was featured in dozens of books, magazines, and newspapers. I wrote regular columns for two craft magazines. I wrote a book for Lark Books.

And I still didn’t feel successful.

I wasn’t, compared to really famous artists and craftspeople. But I was already learning that many of the markers of ‘success’ in our culture can feel empty and hollow. And money–or at least LOTS of money–doesn’t necessarily follow, either.

I had done everything right. But it wasn’t working for me. I quit the fine craft show circuit. I cut way way back on my wholesale market (with help from the 2008 recession.)  I stopped applying to juried exhibits. (Oddly, I made just as much money doing one big craft show and holding two open studios a year.)

I’m not saying my good business sense muddied the waters. I believe you can be committed to creating good work, and committed to getting that work out into the world. I’m saying that I need to periodically examine my personal definition of ‘success’. What would success look like to me? And how will that change along the way?

I’ve also learned that we cannot possibly measure the effect of our art, work, our deeds, our words, in the world. For me, ‘faith’ means we do the right thing, the good thing, the kind thing, not because we’ll be rewarded, but because that’s what the world needs from us, whether we ever know it or not. We have to believe that we throw our little stone into the water, and the ripples travel to places we cannot see, may never see.  Some days it may seem that the world does not want my art. Coincidentally (or not), I’m usually feeling like a sulky four-year-old on those days. But I also know I still have to make it.

I’ve written over the past few years about this, doing many course-corrections along my way. And recently, one of my favorite writers, Martha Beck, put it succinctly in an article (Life’s Not Fair) published in the September 2015 issue of Oprah Magazine. (Here’s the link, but it’s not a direct link. Scroll down to the second article on this page, to What Redefining Virtue Can Teach You About Happiness.)

In a nutshell, Martha says, “Life’s not fair. It’s possible to face that fact with grace. You just have to stop expecting fate to dispense satisfying little packets of justice.”

It’s an astonishingly good article. I think you’ll be glad you read it.

And whenever I get jealous about how wise and wonderful and well-known Martha Beck is, I just go read one of her articles about that, too.


Filed under life lessons


The fig tree, doing its best to feed everybody. EVERYBODY.

The fig tree, doing its best to feed everybody. EVERYBODY.

We were so excited about the orange tree in our new backyard in Santa Rosa, we almost overlooked the fig tree. The orange tree had reverted to less appetizing oranges, probably from a failed graft, though one branch continues to product delicious oranges. The blossoms are sweet, and the oranges that are edible are wonderful. They ripen all at once, though, so there’s a feast of oranges for a day or two, and then….nada. (Although the orange tree also keeps its leaves all winter, so there’s that.)

The less-romantic fig tree, though, is quietly becoming more important to us. And I’m amazed by the also-quiet, yet deep life lessons it’s teaching me.

It loses its leaves in the fall, then leafs out again in the spring. I don’t remember the flowers. We had to learn when to pick the figs, though we’ve also learned that some people like figs at any stage of their ripening-ness. One friend even likes the withered ones that fall to the ground. He pinches out the insides and cooks them down a bit to make a jelly spread. I like the idea that the fruit of this tree can please so many people, all along its timeline.

It produces figs for well over a month or two, and lots of them. Every morning, I venture out to the back yard to harvest a small bowlful. Then a large bowlful. Now I’m at the grocery bag phase.

So the fig tree is generous with its fruit.

I give them to our neighbors, to friends of our neighbors, and to the crew down at Atlas Coffee Co.. Atlas Coffee was the first place we stopped on our first visit to Santa Rosa, in the heart of the city’s art district ( SOFA Arts District)long before we knew we’d be moving there. It was also our main station to look for our next home. We could hang out, chatting with the owner, James, and Sean, Cody and Ian, the coffee meisters. It was were we saw a sign in a window on the alley leading to the coffee shop, saying a studio space was available for rent. It was availabe soon, which is unusual for these popular spaces. I jumped at the opportunity, and I’m so glad I did.

So the figs are a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ to all the people who first made us feel ‘at home’ here.

There are some drawbacks to a fig tree. But there are lessons there, as well.

I’m slightly allergic to the sap, which is milky. So after a round of fig-picking, I have to wash off my arms and face, anywhere I’ve had contact with the fruit or the leaves. It also drops a lot of overripe figs, which have to be picked up before the ants and flies go too crazy. And what’s really frustrating is, the best figs are at the very top of the tree, way out of reach without a ladder.

I’ve learned a little itchy is worth the quiet, calming pursuit of fig picking. It reminds me not to take blessings and gifts for granted.

The ants and the flies, well, they have a place in the world. (Just not in my house, please.) And the birds can have the figs at the top, because they’ve been so good about not eating ALL the figs.

And here’s the incredible thing I’ve learned about fig trees:

At first I used a small ladder to try to get more figs. But after a couple near-falls, I realized I was risking a lot just to gather even more figs than could be eaten in a day! I gave it up.

But those branches I can’t reach? As the season progresses, the tree branchs actually begin to bow down, a bit more each day. Soon, the figs that were out of reach, are close enough to snag. The branches are often small and supple, too. I can use a hooked stick to pull some of them down even further, and gather those last ripe figs.

It takes my breathe away, that the tree actually bends to my desires. Yes, it could be the weight of the figs, of course. Except that not every fig-laden branch lowers itself.

Here we go with my fig tree metaphor. You knew it was coming, right?

As my brain buzzes with fears of lack (“I’ve lost my best, most faithful customers!” “I’ve lost most of my income, even the other things that brought in a steady bit of money!” “I have to PAY for a studio space now, what if we can’t continue to afford that??”), I think of the fig tree. Simply doing what fig trees do, growing into its space, adapting, and making enough figs for everyone I care about.

When I’m worried I’ll never achieve my dreams of fame and fortune, I think of this single fig tree, hidden behind a modest little house in an old neighborhood, giving us, and other creatures, shade, food, beauty, every single day. (And to be truthful, I know now I don’t WANT fame.) (Although a LITTLE fortune would be nice.)

When I envy the success of others, and when I think my slice of pie is smaller because theirs is bigger, I think of how the tree makes enough figs for everyone.

When I feel like I’m not in synch with the universe, when I’m anxious because I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do next, I think of how that tree brings its branches just a little lower, so I can pick more figs. Just like the universe has a way of bending just a little, to meet me halfway. Or, in the case of this California move, bending more than just a little! That generous nature astonishes me. It lifts me up when I stumble, and soothes me when I’m fearful.

I don’t know how old our tree is. Our house is just over a hundred years old, in a neighborhood originally settled by Italians. So its probably been around awhile, and hopefully has many more years to go. It’s surely been here before I was born, and be here long after I die.

I hope its lessons will continue to ripen, like its delicious fruit.


Filed under Lessons from the move

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Change: The Movie (The Move continues)

Even tiny changes can reflect big ideas.

My head’s been in a whirl the last few months. I think I’ve entered that stage in a move where it feels like my life feels like a dream. Not the great glow-y kind. The kind where I find myself picking up dog poop and I keep finding hamburger patties in the dirt and I think, “Geez, this is weird. Wait a minute…..Am I dreaming?!” (I was.)

On one hand, there’s all the wonderful, heady stuff that comes from a major life change (the good ones, that is.) We go for a drive and suddenly remember this is an incredibly beautiful area, and the ocean is half an hour away. There are the marvelous moments, like learning our resident hummingbird darts into his nighttime resting spot in our little tree in front of our front porch, at exactly the same time (relative to sunset) every night. We sit and watch for him almost every night, and get a tiny frisson of joy when we catch him in the act. (It helps that he sits in exactly the same branchlet on the tree, too.)

On the other hand, there is the sudden realization that there’s no one to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go out for a drink!” Not that I could, anyway. Since we’ve been here, I can barely stay up past 9 p.m. Sooo…no one to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go to Happy Hour for a drink!”

I miss lakes, and rivers. There are lakes and rivers here, but not so much after four years of drought. I miss thunderstorms.

(OTOOH, I don’t miss mosquitoes, black flies, humidity, nor the season of funny smells.)

A few days ago, I had the scariest change of all.

I should preface this by saying my “year” tends to begin and end at my birthday. That sounds pompous, and I don’t mean it that way, really, I don’t. It’s just that when I realized the cave of Lascaux was discovered very nearly on my birth date, and other big events that cause me to stop and gasp (my birthday is 9/11), I often have reason to stop and take my measure. This month has been the same.

I was making a ‘batch’ of horses, as I usually do. Over the years, I built up to making my animal totems in batches of up to, oh, a couple dozen or so at a shot. It made for real efficiency, shaping them all, doing all the manes at once, all the eyes at once, all the markings, etc. (Even in a good sales year, I average about $2 an hour. Maybe I should go work at McDonald’s…..) (Nah.)

Lately, the batches have gotten smaller, down to one dozen, then half a dozen.

This time, I stopped at one.  A feeling of revulsion overcame me. I was overwhelmed with this awful, awful thought:

I didn’t want to make any more batches of little horses.

That stopped me dead in my tracks. WHAT??!! What…is up with THAT??!!

But instead of panicking (what would I do without the heartstone of my work??!), I got quiet. I asked myself, where is this coming from? And what do I mean by that?

And thank the powers that be, it came to me:

I want to make one little horse at a time.

And so I did. I made two little horses that day. Each one, totally one at a time. Each got its own shaping, then its mane, then its eyes and nose, etc.

I then made other artifacts that take less ‘soul’, if you will, easier work, and popped the whole bunch in the convenction oven in my home studio.

This may not seem like a big change to you. It sure started out as a big change, but ended up being a very small change.

Or is it?

My horses have always ended up as completely individual and unique. For years, I’ve been telling folks how collectors look for ‘their horse’ when shopping.

I don’t know how to explain this, except that this, for some reason, feels even more important than ever. So important, I felt the need to slow down, to get calm, to get centered. To really see the power, and the blessing, inherent in everything I do.

There’s something growing here in California, something big. When people are attracted to my work, they fall hard. The things they tell me about it, are powerful. My internet sales are growing, from people back in New England who are either missing my work, or have recently discovered it. More and more people are telling me about how the work feels, on many levels.

It’s scary. Someone asked me why, and I couldn’t say. It’s something about, with my work having that power, comes great responsibility, something I don’t know how to handle personally. It feels like the time a bigger-than-life visitor exclaimed, “You’re a shaman! You’re a shaman!” when he first saw my work–like my work is bigger than I am. I’m not putting that right, but it was exciting, and wonderful, and scary at the same time. It was a powerful experience, and propelled me forward in ways I could not have imagined.

Something like that may be growing now. All I can do is listen. Pay attention.

The past year was all about realizing the harm brought into the world by people who don’t know what they don’t know.

I wonder what this next year holds for me.


Filed under Lessons from the move


One of the memes in my artwork is best explained by a quote from one of my favorite books about Ice Age art, called Painters of the Caves by Patricia Lauber. She discusses the many theories about the purpose of ancient paintings in caves like Lascaux and Chauvet, most of which say more about our times and culture rather than theirs. She says the cave paintings and art are messages that were not addressed to us.

This concept says so much about our humanity. When presented with something we don’t understand fully, we create a story that explains it to our satisfaction.

But sometimes the story is wrong, or outdated, or simply cruel. I’m learning it takes great courage, and a willingness to be humble, to learn the true story. (Or perhaps I should say, the truest story.)

While I make my work, I’m constantly working in sets of numbers, colors, patterns–how many dots on this horse? How many lines? What is my favorite pattern of dots this month? How many beads in this color on this necklace, or on this decorative ‘drape’ on the sides of a wall hanging? I love odd numbers. Four is good, and five. Fourteen bothers me.

Afterwards, when I look at the finished piece, I see echoes of other patterns, some ancient and still unknown. The number of knots I put in a length of waxed linen remind me of the knotted cord language of the Incas.

When I see the dot pattern I’ve etched onto an artifact, I can almost remember what was inspiring me at that moment. When people ask me what the dots and markings mean, I ask them what they think. And their answers are always thoughtful, beautiful, wistful. “I think they’re constellations”, from a child. “Musical notation”, from a musician. “A map, a journey”, says another.

I use sticks from beaver dams to hang my fiber work. I’m fascinated by the patterns of their teeth marks. The pattern suggests a written message, a message we cannot read.

Beaver-chewed sticks, bug-chewed sticks, and lichen-etched sticks.

Beaver-chewed sticks, bug-chewed sticks, and lichen-etched sticks.

Today I came across videos of birds in flight. This haunting video of starlings in flight, for example. And this equally intriguing video of of birds’ flight ‘tracked’ in time.

So, two memes, or motifs, in my work:

So many hidden, mysterious messages around us, some random, to be sure. But others full of meaning to the creatures who make them, though certainly not made for us. Something that seems ordinary, that upon closer examination, is an exercise in wonder. An opportunity to see ourselves as just a small part of a world of daily miracles.

And the power of the stories we tell to make sense of our actions, our choices, our lives, the lives of others, and the world around us.


Filed under in my studio


True story: A year or so ago, I was working on a stack of ‘fragments’–smaller, raw-edged fiber pieces with my handmade artifacts. I left the stack near a window for a few days.

When I came back, there were funny burn marks on some of them. I realized a magnifying glass had focused the sun’s rays and scorched them. Yes. I nearly burned down my studio!

Now, after months of purging, packing, traveling, settling, unpacking, setting up, and moving my studio again two weeks ago….

I’m finally able to pick up where I left off with these two fragments. I had all the layers done, individually stitched in different colors of thread. I’ve attached the artifacts. Nothing left to do but….

Invest hours more of work into these!

I WANT them to look repaired, and so I was a little obvious about it. So I patched both of these pieces, using not-matching fabrics and threads. Hand-stiched them, because I haven’t quite figured out how to free-style quilt with the old sewing machine I picked up for my studio.

Can you see the repair? It's the tiny blue square above, to the right. I patched over the black base, and the blue square, and stitched periwinkle blue around the rust square.

Can you see the repair? It’s the tiny blue square above, to the right. I patched over the black base, and the blue square, and stitched periwinkle blue around the rust square.

I also repaired another square. Then I spent almost an hour just adding the right color of blue seed beads, and a few extra buttons. I never thought of this before, but I actually have to switch back and forth between hand sewing needles for each task, too. One needle for embroidery, another for handquilting, yet another for attaching seed beads–because a needle eye that is big enough to accommodate embroidery floss is usually way to big to go through a size 9o or 10o seed bead.

Can you find the repair in this piece?? The scorch mark again was about an inch long. It's just below the upper right hand corner of the yellow square, and extends into the rust colored square.

Can you find the repair in this piece?? The scorch mark again was about an inch long. It’s just below the upper right hand corner of the yellow square, and extends into the rust colored square.

Tomorrow I’ll add a few more handmade polymer buttons (which are in the oven right now!) I just ordered new shadow box frames for these, too.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with how much time and work goes into even these ‘simpler’ pieces. It’s so hard to price them afterwards. Usually I end up making $5 to $10 an hour, or less. Not including my supplies and materials.

Sometimes I think it would have been so much easier to just paint. But then I would miss the fabrics, the beads, the polymer work, the displays and the old wood boxes, the shadow boxes…. I love almost every step that goes into making these pieces, and I never stop tweaking them, perfecting them, adding yet another element of interest, until I actually sell them.

I’ll show the finished pieces later next week, I hope!

P.S. I ran out of little bones, so this morning I made more. They’re in the oven now.
I bet that’s a sentence you don’t see every day.


Filed under in my studio


One of the reasons we picked Santa Rosa, CA to settle in, is its diversity. There are all makes and models of people who live here, a variety of race, color, creed, sex, and socio-economic class. All very new and different to us after living 27 years in a college town in lily-white New Hampshire.

My husband lives in second-hand t-shirts–or even third-hand, who can tell? He wears them until the edges fray and the stitching unravels. (Remind me someday to tell you about our very first date.) Some mornings he takes a mini-sabbatical and heads off to a local coffee shop to research and write. He typically walks, and schleps around a worn-out backpack filled with his phone, laptop, and other necessities. And sometimes he puts off getting a haircut for a few weeks.

Nothing notable about that in Keene, NH. But one day, he caught a glimpse of himself in a store window, and realized that in Santa Rosa, he looks like a homeless person.

That population is as diverse and unique as any other group of people. There are many ways people become homeless, especially in a city that’s seeing another spike in housing prices, and rents that are unimaginably high. Some folks have cars, and sleep in them. Some have dogs, and struggle to keep them fed, as well as themselves. Some push old grocery carts filled with their possessions, or stuff they can recycle. Some carry all their possessions in an assortment of garbage bags. Some stay in small groups, others range far and wide. Some are reserved and cautious, others can be in-your-face with their issues, although the latter is actually rare. Many more are invisible to us. Most stay close to available social services. Range too far, and they won’t get back in time to get a bed for the night.

The other thing we love about Santa Rosa is how the city government, and the communities it services, strive to work WITH this population, with compassion and respect.

Last week I spent hours in my studio, getting my new space set up and my work on display. I inherited an airconditioner and a microwave. Which means I can stop by my favorite neighborhood mini-mart store in the morning, pick up a delicious entree of pesto tortellini, or a tri-tip sandwich, or an enchilada, and heat it up and eat later in the day.

I made a such food stop there last week. While waiting in line, I saw a man carrying several trash bags, wandering around the store. He left before I got in line, or I would have offered to buy him lunch, too. I felt bad that I’d essentially done that ‘I-can’t-see-you-so-you’re-not-my-problem’ gaze we get when confronted by social issues we don’t think we can do anything about.

But I got a second chance to do the right thing. I saw him again on my way out of the parking lot. I had no cash, but I realized I had quite a stash of parking meter coins. I grabbed a small handful of quarters and rolled the window down.

I pulled up alongside him. “Hey, good morning! I don’t have much cash, but I have my parking money, if that will help…?” I held my handful of coins out to him.

He stopped and looked at me, and said, “What?”

I thought, oh no, I’ve embarrassed him. But I repeated my offer.

He was still confused, so I said, “I thought maybe you’d like to get something to eat? I saw you in the store a minute ago. All I have on my are these quarters.”

He started laughing.

“I WORK there!” he said. “I’m just taking the recycling out!”

Boy, was my face red. I apologized.

“No, that was really kind of you,” he said. “REALLY kind. You have a good day now.”

Sometimes even the appearance of a good deed can bring laughter to a dark and dreary world.


Filed under around the neighborhood