Category Archives: art project

Spring project finished

The labyrinth was printed on a cloth lining the entire floor of the church social hall, the size of a small high school gym.  One wall was lined with closets, the other with floor-to-ceiling windows facing west and the Bay.  I couldn’t help but walk the path thinking about my movements as though they were on a compass, first going north, then west, all the way around to the east and back to north again before the cycle repeated taking me to the center.

That was almost twenty years ago.  I was hooked.  I experienced the labyrinth as a metaphor for life’s journey, for a pilgrimage as well as a method for meditation. I loved hearing the soft pad of  footsteps as I moved across the floor, the pause and nod that happened when passing other sojourners.

This experience, as well as some reading I had been doing about Native American spirituality, inspired my first large fabric art piece.   I created a labyrinth with colors tinting the directions of the compass.  I didn’t really have a good place to hang it at the time so my church  displays it on the wall in the chapel that is home to our own small labyrinth.

The tickle to create a new labyrinth art piece has been building for a long time. Way back in March I found some fabric that called – no shouted! – for me to use it and my labyrinth tree was born.

The path of the tree limbs leads you from the trunk into and around the tree, to the center and out again.   I’ve been invited to put this on display in a church hallway with some of my photography in the fall.

a week of journeying

I am re-reading Luci Shaw’s book, Breath for the Bones, because I was invited to take part in a church youth group experience exploring the work of an artist.  I wanted to help the young people think about how art and faith connect.  Shaw poses two questions in the forward of her book, “How does faith inform art?” and “How can art animate faith?”  I love these questions and have been pondering them now for a month.

In her chapter on metaphor, Shaw writes: “Truth is a touchy topic, a daunting word….Because of its disconcerting abstraction, its largeness and inscrutability, we must choose symbols to make it seem more manageable, more concrete, more complete, more than simply propositional.” p. 40

Here are a few vignettes about a week punctuated by metaphor helping me think about truth:

The Sunday before last I finished a delightful book titled The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: A memoir, written by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, who became bed-ridden for a time by a strange viral illness.  The unwelcome gift of a land snail became a surprising metaphor for the author as she educated herself about this small guest during her convalescence.  June rains have brought these amber colored creatures with their “Cinnabon” shells to my own sidewalks and now that I know more about them, I find myself stooping in puddles to contemplate what they might teach me.

On Wednesday I decided at the last minute to attend our mid-week church service.  I hopped on my bike and journeyed safely over side walks through the 5 o’clock traffic to arrive a bit breathless but  just in time.  As I sidled into a pew and took a breath to calm myself I noticed the communion table was lined with ceramic mugs of every shape, size and color – and a few were broken.  Songs and liturgy about clay and potters and vessels themed the evening.  After the service I sat for awhile on the stair with a friend’s daughter. She is a special needs girl adopted from Guatemala.  I asked her which ceramic piece she had chosen to identify with that night. She pointed to a broken cup and although she is difficult to understand, I listened carefully as she explained why.  Metaphor speaks to even the youngest among us. I rode my bike slowly home thinking over our conversation.

Sunday came around again along with the parable of the sower and the mustard seed.  In his desire to challenge us to listen with new insight to this well known story, our pastor shared that the idea of planting a mustard seed was actually akin to us planting Scotch Broom in our back yards – a weed recently deemed noxious by our state.  He carried the metaphor further by asking us to compare ourselves to “dumb weeds” – those that grow tall and showy but with shallow roots or to “smart weeds” – those that grow close to the ground with deep and permeating roots. A group of us gathered afterwards to share our response to the service;  the power of the various metaphors supported these people with disparate backgrounds to communicate ideas and feelings with each other.

Later, I finally attended the youth meeting I mention above. Together we watched a video of the Scottish Eco-artist, Andy Goldsworthy, work his magic on a landscape.  While only a few of these students considered themselves artists, they were each involved in some hobby or activity and were able to relate to Goldsworthy’s expertise and enterprise.  Shooting hoops, playing the cello, acting in plays all demand a kind of skill which they could equate to creating art. These thoughtful students shared their perceptions on his work and pondered the questions I presented from  Luci Shaw’s book.  Once again, metaphor opened windows to wonder and understanding.

I’m almost done with the fabric art piece I started a few months ago.  It is a metaphorical piece but it is still working on me – so I will wait to write and share about  it.


When it comes to fire building, kindling matters.  As a young Girl Scout, I spent a long time gathering sticks “thinner than your fingers.”  While my friends would hurriedly lay their fire and begin to strike matches under a handful of kindling, I would fill my arms with the stuff before crouching with my match.

The same is true when it comes to starting new projects.  This weekend I spent time sketching plans for a new vest, knitting a swatch,  and gathering ideas and materials for a new fabric art piece. I’m so psyched!! (no hints except this picture!)

I wish I could begin striking matches tomorrow!  I’ve already cast on and begun my knitting – that will have to be enough until next weekend when I can spread out on the table and get to work!


I know that “transparency” is a buzz word and I am as irritated as anyone about artificial efforts to be transparent that are anything but.

But the quality that the word “transparent” describes in a relationship is a value I aspire to and when I am successful, it is an experience that feeds my spirit.

A few years ago I created a piece of fabric art that I call my “conversation box.”  Each side describes a type of interaction I sometimes find myself in when in relationship.

One side is a door because sometimes I need to knock a bit to get in.

Another side has a key hole, there are keys that hang below my box.  I have the keys, I just have to figure out which one will work.

One side is a mirror, because I might need to look harder at myself before entering into relationship.

The final side is a window, a tribute to the value of transparency I describe above.

experiencing art and discipline

I don’t know what I expected – and that is probably a good thing.  I came to the silk painting class eager to try something new but found the experience involved more than just doing something new, it also involved thinking, responding, acting in ways that are atypical for me.

I’ve been dabbling in painting on silk for the past year ever since my school participated in a silk banner project last year.  Painting on silk is somewhat unpredictable.  The liquid paint interacts on the fabric in interesting ways and even though the artist can use techniques for a certain effect, one never really knows what the final result will be.  That is what is challenging and fun about it.  I apply paint never knowing whether I’ll love it or hate it at the end of the day.

The goal of the class on Saturday was to paint something on silk in the morning leaving enough open space for painting Chinese calligraphy in the afternoon.  The silk painting teacher works with a Chinese friend of hers who teaches the calligraphy portion of the class.

So in the morning I was busy tracing on silk, choosing color and using motion and the magic of a wet brush on the absorbent silk. I felt myself let go of expectations and a desire for control and just experimented.

Then we had lunch and totally cleaned up the studio.

The tables were transformed with yards of thick felt and the calligrapher passed out her precious brushes of bamboo and rabbit hair and shallow dishes of creamy black ink.  She put on a CD of Chinese music and in halting English asked us to sit and be quiet for 3 minutes.  Church came over me and I closed my eyes and focused on breathing quietly.

Then she passed out rice paper and for the next hour she led us through each of the 8 strokes:  first talking us through the stroke as she demonstrated and then tracing her strokes with our brushes before repeating them several times on our own.

I had no idea that this form of calligraphy required such discipline with attendance to execution as well as form. What I love is the metaphor of each stroke – starting to one side, then up, to the middle, slowly, slowly painting to the edge of the stroke and then back to the middle.  Excepting the hook of course which requires a significant pause at the base before the flip of the hook.

Would that I could live with such precision – confident execution – coordinating body and soul!  And that is exactly the point of the calligraphy!

I ended up scrapping one of my pieces because of the paint job.   But I like this butterfly flag.  I dutifully traced the large symbol for harmony as I was instructed to and then our Chinese teacher gifted me by writing a poem about butterflies dancing.  It is a piece I will treasure for all that it symbolizes.