Susan L.


The person I am today was molded early in my life. I grew up on a farm in rural Ontario, Canada, one of four children. Most of what we needed, we grew in one form or other, and there was a long tradition of textile arts which was passed down from generation to generation. As a child, I remember learning how to knit and sew at the knees of my grandmother and mother. I always like making things; from cooking to doll clothes, to school projects. Farm life was tough, with little free time, and a level of guilt that was imposed if one was idle. Reading and music were acceptable deviations from the daily chores, and I nurtured these.

I studied home economics in college, and decided to pursue a Masters degree in Clothing and Textiles so I could teach at the college level, which I have done most of my life. I married at 23 and followed my husband on his career path. Two sons entered our world, and I enjoyed being a mom. As my boys reached their teens, the marriage started to become unsettled. My husband and I no longer could agree on many things, and in the end, we went our separate ways. Although I regret the loss of the family unit, I am much freer now in my heart and mind and I have learned through the years to be content in my world.

I have owned a business for over 25 years, through which I design and develop software that other textile artists use to create. It is pleasing to me to know that I have added to the realm of the tools available for design.


Most of my creative world revolves around projects that I can use in my teaching or for my business. I don’t make art to sell, but rather to test ideas. I have no standard starting point; it varies from project to project, and I like it that way. I have learned to be aware of the inspirations in the world around me, almost to a fault, as I am easily distracted. I truly enjoy the planning and thinking stages of a project. Harnessing my ideas takes discipline, and this seems to be the work in progress. Time is my biggest enemy, as there simply is never enough of it. My farm upbringing taught me to always be busy, which generally serves me well, but the older I get, the more I realize I need to find some level of balance.

In addition to the various textile arts I practise, I love to write. This is one area where I am proficient and efficient. It comes easily to me now and I have used this skill to supplement my income, although I generally consider income from writing as my mad money and use it to purchase art.

What do I care about?

I care about being creative; the act and process of it. I like learning new things and am always reading, exploring, and feeding my mind and soul. I believe I have hit a point, where I now must say ‘enough’. It is time to develop the skill of focus and transition from being good at many things, to being great at a few. I am at a point where I want to choose a one or two areas and delve deep. No matter what I do however, one of the most important things for me, professionally, is to share and inspire my students. I hope they take some part of what I teach with them in their lives, for if they do, I will feel that I have passed my art along.

Rayne V.

Part 1 History

My dad did carpentry and our home had beautiful handmade

 wood things like our cutting boards.  My mom was a professional seamstress and I remember helping to cut out patterns she set out on the floor.  I was a quiet introspective kid that loved books and hunted for gemstones.  I remember winning second place in

 a coloring contest when I was 9 and happy someone liked the fall pallet of colors I chose for the haunted house scene.  I drew cartoons about deer hunting and secretly put them in my dad’s hunting gear.


There were no art classes in the catholic school I attended.

  I finally took art classes in high school and at a local art league.  One of my high school paintings was accepted in a local student art show.  In college I studied Western Art History, Art Philosophy and Studio drawing work. I was inspired by teachers who

 came from other countries.  I loved reading classical literature from other cultures and I loved writing.  More than a good grade I was over the moon when one of the most difficult English professors wrote a compliment on my writing.

After college I had many jobs like working in a floral

 shop and being a nanny.  My favorite job was working as an ESL teacher and living in China for a year.  I went back to school for my elementary teaching certificate.  My best days were substituting for art teachers.  I had a long term placement as an art teacher

 for two schools, kindergarten through fifth grade.  One building didn’t even have an art room.  I never worked so hard and had the best time of my life.

 Part 2 Process

I’ve said it before I am an obsessive artist and there is nothing better than being on

 fire with an idea.  Part of the fire for a project has to be a challenge of time or skills.  Then midway through the project when you start to burn out you have to push through to the finish line.  The icing on the cake is when the same project points out

 a weakness and inspires you to improve a skill.  More than one time young love inspired an art or craft project.  For example my college boyfriend sent me a black and white photo which inspired this pointilism of him in front of the Washington DC cherry trees.

  I showed this drawing in one of my art classes for feedback.  Because the weak point of this project was the figure I signed up for figure drawing the next semester.  That’s a perfect art process for me.     

Part 3 Content

Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

Don’t die with your music still in you.

We are at our best when we are creating.  When you send

 your Art out to the world it’s like sending out your heart.  It’s terrifying, and makes me feel more alive than anything.  Being around people who are doing what they love to do is exhilarating.  Sharing what you love with others is better than anything.    

Jo Van L.

I am the middle child with two brothers. One is ten years younger that I am and the other is six years older. My father was a gregarious, fun loving, charismatic man with a very short attention span. We moved ten times before I left home for college. My mother was his help mate. She was organized. She packed and moved almost seamlessly.

Both parents loved to cook. They cooked excellent meals together. They loved to travel. I visited 48 states while growing up. I lived in south America for two years.

I began college as an art major. I panicked and did not think I could be an artist. Because of my age, and my family , I only know I had three choices: teacher, secretary or nurse. I chose teaching. I got a degree in education and a master’s degree in counseling because I wanted to understand my students better.

I met my husband my senior year in college and we married after my first year of teaching. After eight years of marriage we decided to have children. That decision scared me but now I cannot imagine my life without my children and my grandchildren. (I had two daughters and now have seven grandchildren).

I taught school for thirty years. I incorporated art into all my lessons. My favorite two years of teaching was a pre-K program. I was told as long as they knew the numbers and letters by spring, my curriculum was up to me. I loved the creativity. Every letter was introduced with a song and an art project. The children loved school and I loved teaching them.

When I was in 7th grade, I took a class at a sewing machine store in town. I made a dress. My mother would rip the mistakes out at night and fix them for me. She knew that I did not have the patience to fix them myself.

I also took knitting. It was too slow of a process for me.

I sewed my clothes for years. I had thematic “teacher dresses” with a school bus for the first day, a rainbow for teaching colors, a solar system to learn that etc.

When my children were little, I told my mother in law that I was going to quilt when I retire. She told me that I would not be any good if I waited until then. She bought me a “beginning quilting kit” with a rotary cutter, a ruler, and a mat. I book my first quilting class. I made a pillow and a king size bed quilt.

Because of my interest in Art, I discovered I wanted to create my own patterns. I did not want to copy others and I did not want to millions of the same blocks.

When I retired I took every quilt retreat I could.  This gave me an opportunity to learn and travel. Two of my most favorite things in life. I also began to take college level art classes in color theory, design, drawing, life drawing, water color and more.

In 2006 I found out I had a rare form of cancer in all places…my elbow. I was removed but it came back. Long story short. I am very fortunate…. six surgeries later. I have an artificial elbow and a hand that works!!!!! The lesson I learned is life can be short. Do not waste a minute. Take it by the horns and ride!

My goal to learn is still strong. I am still looking for value in my life. My family has moved to the other side of the US. Now is the time to concentrate on me.

Part 2:

I love making fabric. I like the “Christmas effect”. What I mean is that I love the surprise when you are dyeing a fabric and you open it up to see what has been created. I struggle with note taking and repeating processes. I do jot things down but really don’t look back on what I wrote. I like representation work. My pieces that I love, tell a story. It could be a story from the past, like grandma’s button box or from a trip…Have broken arm with travel.

My most common method is to create the image by fusing and then to sew and quilt at the same time. I enjoy adding hand stitches.

Do I have a voice? I don’t know I am struggling with that. My art is not static because I am always learning. I am always growing.

Part 3

What I care about. I care about people. I love my family, friends and strangers. I love interactions with people. I love travel because It exposes me to new people and new ideas. My whole soul needs tha arts, music and visual arts. Art is an escape into beauty and comfort.

I am a student of life. A good day is a day I have learned something new. 

Amber M.

History. Part One

I can divide my history into three parts: childhood, San Diego and Marin.

In 1959, the United states welcomed 3 Important Arrivals, Alaska, HI, and me. I was in San Diego, but the family moved me to San Bernardino/Riverside area early on,. San Bernardino, or as I like to call it, the Life Sucking Vortex of Despair and Disappointment -- LSV for short.

The predominant positive message I got from my parents was, "you are smart, probably smarter than most people. You are talented, probably more talented than most people. Now, go be smart and talented at stuff." Whatever my sister and I approached, we were expected to master it. My sister actually did this for most of our childhood. Actually, she still is mastering whatever she does, right now it's chickens. Don't ask. 

The predominant negative message I got was, "why can't you be more like…?" Where the '…' meant any number of incarnations that mirrored Mom. In other words, the predominant negative message was that mom could and did withhold her love if I strayed too far from being my mother's mirror.

As soon as I got the chance, I made my way back home to San Diego, where I spent the next 20 years of my life. I married, divorced, married, divorced, started college, ended college,… Pursued every artistic venue I could think of, including some weird little tubes I found at the craft store that call themselves fabric dye. Those could be squirted onto fabric in random patterns, then hit with a spray bottle of water and pushed in any direction I wanted. I found this fascinating. I also found beading fascinating, and counted cross stitch, and on and on and on -- things I've discussed before, including my proudest moments accessorizing costumes for the old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

Somewhere in my teens I had become addicted to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, anyhow the Southern California version. Too far for me to comfortably travel, and LA backwaters are very very hot in the late spring, a trip to Faire would wipe me out and on the way home I would swear "Never Again!" By the following February I'd be pining for the Faire-site.

I couldn't wait for the next year. Then the LA property sold and Faire moved to my old backyard in San Bernardino. And I was very very happy. It meant I could see my mom every time I came to Faire, and I could still go home to San Diego and sleep it off. When I came to Northern Faire, in Novato, California, I fell in love. When I woke up on a hay bale one October morning, cool weather, distant music, voices drifting on chilly breeze from far away, I looked up… Not 10 feet away from me – staring right into my eyes -- Bambi's mother. My jaw dropped and I fell in love. It took close to 30 years, but I finally got to Novato. As you might expect, by now the Faire site, five minutes away from where I am currently living, has long since been turned into a golf course. But I'm here. And Mark, the greatest love of my life, is here.

And finally, I've discovered what Fiber Art is all about. Thanks to marvelous enablers like Dharma trading Company, and thanks to inventive pioneers like Ann Johnston, Kerr Grabowski, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, and others, I have made great strides toward learning new techniques to replace old ones I've lost. And I love it! No more little two-ounce squirt bottles for me, I'm buying it by the pound! (And then I'm putting it into little 2-ounce squirt bottles, among other techniques.)

I think that brings us up-to-date with my history. I left out a lot, but I've addressed what I left out in other essays. For much of the time anyway. My artistic life at present is racing to master techniques before a degenerative disease takes them away.

Process, Part Two

Part two is about the process. Jane has this to say about what I need to do here. 

"How do you work and what do you love to do? This is the alignment aspect of the assignment. You've already done some of this work is part of chapter seven's assignment...What processes or techniques you find yourself using consistently as relates to your art practice?"

As I've said before, my talents and processes change with the weather and the progression of whatever's going on in my joints. All my life I've been turning fiber into bits of art with varying degrees of success, including beading and embroidery on historical and theatrical costumes. For the most part, I've had to give up on the small motor, fine handwork, in favor of machine oriented stitching, and the development of fabric surface design, but I can't imagine a time when I won't be making something. And there will be textiles involved. Colors too.

My love for dyeing fabric goes back to childhood, when the hippies were wearing tie-dye, and I wanted to wear it, too. I did the best I could with the materials I had at hand, and continued to do the best with what I had at hand for many many years. When I moved to a new town, discovered I was two blocks away from a dye warehouse, I finally got the chance to go crazy with every color I could possibly imagine – and that's what I've been doing ever since.

I use whatever process I can discover in order to put color, designs, patterns, or word on white cloth – usually cotton, because that's what I can afford.

I do batik with biodegradable soy wax; I pull paints and thickened dyes through thermofaxes and silk screens and stencils; I fold, clamp and stitch a la shibori; and I cook silk in the crockpot. What I love best about all of these processes, is that I don't have to be able to draw anything. As an artist, I've always felt limited by an inability to draw stuff convincingly.

I still find from time to time that I do need to do the small work, even though there is a vastly painful price to pay for it. I find it meditative to obsessively make tiny circles on paper; I find it restful to make swirly lettered alphabets in my sketchbook; I need the beautiful results that come from small stitches in silk when I make a Karimatsu pattern in shibori.

Someday, degenerative arthritis will take away this choice: right now, I choose not to be paralyzed before I become paralyzed.

Content, Part Three

Week 8, Part 3 of the Writing this week: Content.” What do you care about? This is your passion, also visited in chapter 7, and it isn’t cheating to go back and reread what you wrote then. Might be color. Might be war. There’s a lot in between and it’s all good. Just write it down.”

Notes feature:

Golden Gate, Golden State. I love California.

I need to talk about how I feel about California.

I can't imagine living anywhere but California. I was born here, live my life here, probably gonna die here. The furthest I've ever straight was to Ireland for my honeymoon. Beautiful place. I'm happy I went. I'm glad I came home. On the plane ride on the way home from Ireland, the theme song to local news station was running through my head: "makes no difference where I go/you're the best hometown I know – hello San Diego…" I've driven from San Diego to Sonoma and Napa Counties – no further north – and there are probably 200 or 300 miles beyond where I've landed that I've never even seen! And still, I can say without any hesitation, California is the best place anywhere. My friends moved from California to Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, and I still call them crazy! "But Amber, real estate is so much cheaper here!"… "Yeah, former Californian--because it's Oklahoma!"

Driving the length and breadth as far as I have done, I understand about the Golden State G capital S. At first, coming from Southern California, I expected that Golden State was a fancy marketing way of saying Brown. California is very very brown, especially in the summer months – which where I came from lasted from May to early October.

Then I drove from San Diego to Berkeley in April… The season of the California Poppy. Poppies grow everywhere in California – the side of the highway is painted gold with – well – gold! Not just beside every highway, but in every vacant place on every hillside – everywhere the sparse rain touches, poppies! Wow!

I've also always wondered about the Golden gate, why it's called that. The bridge is red. Is it just to coincide with the Golden State thing? Poppies are not especially plentiful in San Francisco, so why would it be called Golden gate?

And then one day I was crossing it at the right time, around sunset, and the entire bay – every thing I could see – shot through with the light just as brilliant gold as the fields of poppies in April! And I understood. And I fell in love.

Words. Everything about language – etymology, linguistics, usage, writing, reading,….you know: words.

I once impressed a college speech instructor with my choice of the Oxford English Dictionary as my favorite reference book in the library. He said no one had ever done a dictionary before, and he couldn't imagine how it could be interesting. My jaw dropped. How could it not be interesting? The Oxford English dictionary is 14 books of words. Every word in English language is traced through its history all the way back to its origins. Everything you could possibly want to know about everyone who has ever spoken the English language – and beyond – is contained there.

World history, geography, science, religion, literature, everything is there. Not just what we know now, but everything we've ever known, is contained in the Oxford English Dictionary, because every word is attached to something real.

Mark my favorite author --  and his words.

The cats – Bruiser and Circe – as well as those in Happy Memory

Family – including those who have Passed

Beautiful cloth

Amazing patterns that come from diverse sources and yet somehow remain similar: ice-dyed random fabric that looks remarkably like slabs of marble, for example

Thought that occurred from nowhere:

“That which we call God is exactly the same as that we identify as love – both too vast to comprehend, so we split it up and put familiar faces on it.

Small work makes me happy. I’m sorry, Psoriatic Arthritis, and the joints I’m trying to save: I just love the small work. I’m finding myself consciously choosing to do Zentangles instead of my writing, even though I gave myself some real trouble doing a Karamatsu stitch on silk for a loved one. I found myself making tiny circles for no good purpose on paper, doing Zentangles one after another -- and although my hand really wanted me to stop, my mind was happy and my heart was happy.

And last week I was tweezing my way through seed beads and bugles, trying to separate them, good lord a hopeless thankless task—it’s not like I’ll be using them for beading any time soon. I think I’ve come to an understanding about this, however. Sometimes it’s worth hauling out the old skills, pain and potential damage notwithstanding, if for no other reason than to reconnect with the small bits of meditative delight I always find when I do it.