Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Creativity, Childhood and Arts Education

Virginia Spiegel has just published a Blurb book entitled " Wild at the Edges: Inspiration from a Creative Life" which touches on her exploration of her artwork and her creative life. Her book couldn't have been more timely for me and I am about to order a copy to study and enjoy further.
Currently, I am thinking more and more about creativity and challenging oneself as I am taking an innovative class with the Canadian Embroiderers' Guild called The Broader View of Art. ( I will be blogging about this shortly - stay tuned). This class has given me much food for thought and taken me back to my early school years and ways in which my creativity was both encouraged and discouraged by various teachers and educational systems. I have also dug out old report cards etc. , which many years later have given me greater insight into myself and my creative development over the years. Having taught Creativity Workshops especially in relation to the Fiber Arts, I have an ongoing interest in the subject and especially how early childhood education has affected our creative processes and thinking.
There's a most interesting blog written by Richard Kessler, who is the Executive Director for The Center for Arts Education in New York. He writes on the importance of art education for children and how it affects their development, not just artistically but in life itself. Richard's take on things and his wonderful connection with fascinating artists, educators and scientists proves for valuable and insightful reading. Read his blog here:

Another terrific read is the book "The Element " by Ken Robinson Phd. who is one of the world's leading thinkers on creativity and self fulfillment. In addition to his book, you can view a fascinating and humorous clip on his thoughts about " Do schools kill creativity?" on You Tube

I hope you will enjoy exploring these gentlemen's take on the subject and reminisce about your own early development and how it affected your creativity both then and now. As always, your comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lampwork by Kirsty Naray

" They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. "
........Laurence Binyon

Please pause today to honour the memory of the brave servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, offer prayers for the safety of those still struggling to maintain peace in the world and give thanks for their unselfish sacrifices in order that we many continue to enjoy the rights and freedoms they have fought for and continue to fight for.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change and Textile Recycling

When I considered signing up for Blog Action Day, I wondered what I could really say or contribute in the way of something positive regarding the chosen topic " Climate Change". I'm not a hard core environmentalist or a " rocket scientist" with reams of research or data to offer up but like so many individuals, I can start to initiate change in my own home and local community.

What do I know best? - well being a person who creates with textiles on a daily basis, I have an appreciation and love for fabrics and fibre. However, the processes and manufacture of these very fabrics I adore is having a major negative impact on our world environment and is contributing to global warming and making detrimental changes to our climate.

Governments, manufacturers and environmental lobbyists are slowly creating changes to processes and years of neglect and mismanagement of the industry which has caused pollution, energy and water waste in astronomical and devastating quantities. But as individuals, how can we implement changes in our own back yards so to speak? Well, for myself, I can begin to share information with the public at large about the positive aspects of textile recycling.

I was shocked to discover that in Canada alone, there is an average of 7 kilograms of textile waste per person in our landfills and that accounts for 4% of all materials in Canadian landfills, while the average American throws away about 68 pounds of clothing and textiles in their garbage and dumps per year. Most of these articles are tossed because they are considered damaged, worn out, outgrown or out of fashion. We are indeed a throw away society. People no longer bother to sew on a button or replace a zipper or alter clothing. Home economics is no longer taught in the schools so children are not being educated in the skills necessary to carry out these tasks. Often both parents work outside of the home and it is economically far easier to replace an item than to make either the time or effort to repair it.

Alas, textile recycling programs are not as widely available in North America as other types of programs such as glass, paper or aluminum recycling but it would certainly not hurt to make enquiries as to the feasability of such a program in your community or to support said programs if they do in fact exist. It seems that more often than not, unwanted clothing and household textiles are either donated to charities or tragically end up in our landfill sites. Synthetic fibres will not decompose and while wool garments do, they produce methane gas which causes global warming. It is estimated that 38% of Canada's methane emmissions come from landfill sites.

So what can we do to make a difference? We can definitely take better care of our garments and household textiles by repairing or altering these items instead of disposing of them. We can be more aware, research and educate ourselves about the types of fabrics we are purchasing and attempt to buy more natural and organic materials and clothing.

Give your used and unwanted textiles to charities and thrift shops regardless of their condition. Items in poor shape can be recycled into rags for industry or can be shredded to make cushion fillings, carpet underlay and other forms of insulation. A large number of the world's population uses second hand clothes distributed by charitable organizations and the fabric from curtains and bed linens can be remade into apparel and accessories.

Consider donating textiles to church rummage sales or including them in your family garage sales. Think about the fun you could have by hosting clothing and textile swap parties with your friends -the giggles and comraderie alone would be worth it, while an old blouse or skirt no longer enjoyed by one of your buddies could look scintillating on someone else or make the perfect lining for a newly created purse, bag for shopping or other creative bent. Re-use older but still sturdy fabrics in quilts and household accessories such as runners, toss cushions, curtain tiebacks, or table coverings.

Encourage your children to take pride in their clothing and teach them to sew on a button or do minor repairs for themselves. Retro is " in" these days and perusing the aisles of your local thrift shop can unearth unknown treasures and camp clothing styles. The remaking or refashioning of clothing can be rewarding and fun and by using your imagination, you can create accessories and clothing from older style acquisitions which can result in a unique and individual wardrobe. You could be a trendsetter!

In conclusion, please consider the following:
Recycling textiles saves energy
Recycling textiles saves water
Recycling textiles saves natural resources
Recycling textiles reduces landfills
Recycling textiles can affect climate change

Surf the internet to find out more in depth about textile recycling and the positive affect it can have on our environment both locally and world wide.

Please click on the Blog Action Day badge in my side bar for more information and to connect to a myriad of other interesting and informative blogs taking action and providing information on the importance of climate change.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ta Da last......

We are pleased to present A Way to Women's Wellness 2010 Art Bra Calendar!

Cover Design "Days of Wine and Roses and You..." by Barbara Blankenship

Please check out our new site at:

The 2010 WTWW ArtBra Calendar will feature all newly designed ArtBras, complete with stories, and three spectacular crazy quilts. Net proceeds from the sale of the calendars will be donated to two cancer centers in Pennsylvania. A portion will be donated to the Fox Chase Women's Cancer Center mobile Mammography van, which will provide free mammograms to Philadelphia, PA neighborhoods. Proceeds will also be donated to the Lehigh Valley Breast Health Center in Allentown, PA for Survivor Services.

We expect this year's calendar to sell-out! Over 50% of the calendar printing has been sold to date so please get your orders in early to ensure your copy. Calendars are $14 US, printed with heavy-laminated covers and gorgeous photography.


MEET THE DESIGNERS at the WTWW ArtBra opening
exhibition at
BYERS CHOICE, October 2, 2009
in Chalfont, PA

All proceeds from the Exhibition Opening Cocktail Party will be donated to Fox Chase Women's Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA for breast cancer research. The WTWW ArtBras and Crazy Quilt Exhibition will be open through October 31, 2009.

Event Info

October 2, 2009 Cocktail Party
7 - 9 PM
Byers Choice, County Line Road, Chalfont, PA
Exhibition will be open from Oct 2-31, 2009

October 3, 2009
Calendar signing at the James A. Michener Art Museum
Doylestown, PA
October 4th
Calendar signing at Byers Choice, Chalfont, PA

Designers attending ~ Barbara Blankenship, Victoria Brown, Leonie Hartley-Hoover, Laurel Mazziotti, Stephanie Novatski, Brenda Wilson, and Julie Yonge.

Start your holiday shopping early and have the designers sign a calendar for you!

A Way to Women's Wellness, Inc

Friday, August 28, 2009

Busy Month

I am leaving Sunday for Kalamazoo, Michigan to spend five glorious days with Laura Cater-Woods and to break free and make some serious art. I have long wanted to study with her and I am psyched to go!

I will be home a couple of weeks and then off for three exciting days to the American Sewing Expo in Novi where I will spend some time with Koos van den Akker. I hope some of his glorious talent will rub off on me a little and inspire me to new heights. I also hope while there to meet up with my old mentor, Kenneth King, who has inspired and influenced my beadwork for many years.

In the interim, classes will commence at CEG where we are hoping for a wonderfully creative , stimulating year and the joy of being with old friends.

Not home long from the expo and it will be off to Pennsylvania for the grand opening of the WTWW Art Bra exhibit at Byers Choice along with the James A. Michener Art Museum events and a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my amazing friends and fellow Art Bra designers.

My go-to guys will be cat sitting and looking after affairs here in my absence ,bless them and probably enjoying a nice break from my female presence and the general chaos I seem to create. Thanks guys! Love you.

I hope to spend the rest of the year tying up loose ends, taking care of some family business and spending some quality time in the studio designing new
work and creating new classes.

So I will be quiet for a short time here on the blog but will be back soon with lots of news, inspiration and updates. In the meantime, stay well and continue to enjoy creating.

Byers Exhibit and James A Michener Art Museum

The Byers Bra designed and created by Victora Adams Brown

The art bras are once again stirring up a great deal of interest as we look to the fall and the month of October, which many of you are aware is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Byers Choice Ltd. in Doylestown PA. USA, is hosting a month long exhibit of the Art Bras featuring 35 WTWW ArtBras and three spectacular crazy quilts with some of the ArtBra designers, including myself, in attendance the weekend of October 2nd, 2009.

Friday, October 2nd at 7 pm join us for the Grand Opening of the Art Bra exhibit. Reservations are required and tickets can be obtained at 215-822-6700. There will be 2010 calendar signings at The Byers Choice gift shop Oct. 3rd from 10 a.m until noon and on Oct. 4th from 1pm - 3 pm. where you will have a chance to meet and chat to the artists.
On October 3rd from 1 to 3 pm the designers will be at the beautiful James A Michener Art Museum in Doylestown for a calendar signing and there you will get the opportunity to see Barbara Blankenship's "Grape Expectations" and my newest piece " Who's the Contemptible Scoundrel who Stole the Cork from my Lunch?" It will be a busy but fun time for sure and if you are in the area please drop by to see us and say hi. I'll keep you all apprised of the goings-on in further posts as the time draws near. I have been asked to keep " Contemptible Scoundrel" under wraps until the 2010 Art Bra calendar is ready to go but I think you will like this year's offering when it is finally unveiled.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fiberarts in the news

For those among you who enjoy knitting and perhaps poetry too, here's an interesting article on how a poet's words about a passion inspired an unusual challenge. I love it when I see how people push the boundaries and take on something that normally one would not think about doing. I look forward to seeing the finished product , learning what the poem will be and how impressive the size.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Art Bra Mania - Again!

Detail - Little Miss Dynamite, copyright LĂ©onie Hartley-Hoover

Well after a year's sabbatical, while everyone re-grouped and the hopes of a stable and generous sponsor was in the mix, there is wonderful news in that THERE WILL DEFINITELY BE A 2010 ART BRA CALENDAR!! For the time being, check out this link to Victoria Adams Brown's blog for initial news re the calendar. In deference to our amazing sponsor(s) we are laying low with revealing too much at present but stay tuned for exciting news re an exhibit and the 2010 calendar, which will be a doozey, let me tell you. There is much going on behind the scenes right now but we are all very excited and hope that many of our loyal and faithful followers of our work and calendars will be more than delighted when the news breaks officially. Thank you always for your continued support and interest in our breast cancer awareness programs and charitable efforts in the fight against breast cancer. We are truly grateful.
I can confirm that Somerset County Health Unit has generously loaned Little Miss Dynamite to be photographed for the 2010 calendar and we are grateful to them for their goodwill in working with us.
Please check in with our blogs for updates and future press releases.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peace,Tranquility and karma....

My third and fourth acquisitions from Collage Mania, "Peace" and "Tranquility" were created by another Chicago artist, Jacquie Stone. Now, my own personal imagery of peace and tranquility tend to embrace a myriad of blues and greens with touches of spiritual mauves, so what drove me to become so attached to Jacquie's Oriental, colorful renditions? I have to honestly say I was drawn like a moth to a flame by her creative use of texture and fabric manipulation in addition to both pieces being predominantly handwork.
Her unusual choice of background fabric set the pace and united both pieces of work. I totally appreciated the hand stitching that went into each piece and of course, the build up with beads was the crowning glory. The colors and shapes bring unity and harmony to these works and makes for an attractive pairing.
Once again I have to say that the colors are far more vibrant and outstanding in the flesh than they appear here.

Peace by Jacquie Stone

Detail bead and sequin clusters - Peace -

Detail of stitching and fabric manipulation - Peace -

I have always been drawn to artists with a flair for the unusual or those who are not afraid to create what they feel and make their pieces individual and outstanding. To me, these pieces of Jacquie's portray a sense of confidence and joy in the artist's work which in turn gives pleasure to the viewer.

Tranquility by Jacquie Stone

Stitch detail - Tranquility -

Fabric manipulation, embroidery and beading details - Tranquility -

Now for the KARMA - I purchased these two pieces based solely on their appeal to me with no prior knowledge of the artist. All I knew was she was from a surburb in Chicago not far from where my late friend, fiber artist Roxy Barkofsky was born and raised, Jacqui was involved in dog related charities much like Roxy was and she was donating her work in aid of a cancer charity that I had previously supported in Roxy's name.
After I had won my bids for Peace and Tranquility, I received an e mail from Jacquie which surprised and delighted me. She informed me thatshe had been one of my online beading students with (where students often go by christian names or user names) and she couldn't have been more pleased that I had selected her work to purchase. It was a lovely coincidence that gives me even greater pleasure in having Jacquie's work hanging in my home.

To view more of this multi-talented artist's work please check out Jacqui's site and her blog: Your comments re her work there or below on my blog are always appreciated.

Morocco via Texas

The second piece of art I acquired entitled" Moroccan Mirage" grabbed me immediately when I first laid eyes on it. I have long since childhood had a fascination with Morocco and it is one of those far away places I hope to be able to visit in my lifetime.

The artist Laura Osbun who hails from Corpus Christi, Texas, is a very unassuming lady, warm, sensitive and delightful to chat to. Laura shares my love for Moroccan architecture, in particular the splendid arches that catch the eye. It was those very arches that inspired Laura to create this exotic artwork that I now have hanging in my Marrakesh inspired bedroom, where I can get lost in it on a daily basis. I fear my photographic efforts do not do justice to the amazing and vibrant colors Laura has incorporated into this work:

Moroccan Mirage by Laura Osbun

Laura hand painted the sky fabric, then used" a sort of reverse applique with the help of an adhesive fusible" to create the colorful buildings. She said she enjoyed working the free motion stitching around the arches and buildings and then used watercolor pencils to draw shadows inside the arches, giving them depth.

Detail and Stitched Edging - Moroccan Mirage

Stitch detail Moroccan Mirage

Laura's donation to Fiberart for A Cause has special significance for her in that she lost her young son Christopher to leukemia and her partcipation in Collage mania was a tribute to him. To quote Laura" I made this piece in his memory because the creative process of it brought me enJOYment he filled me with during his short yet remarkable life."

Your beautiful tribute has brought joy to many others too Laura. Thank you for sharing your amazing talents with us and I am beyond thrilled to have your artwork grace my home.

Unfortunately for us, Laura does not currently have a blog or website as she says she is " still learning to be friends with this computer" but I understand she is boning up on her " Windows: Plain and Simple" book and before too long, with the encouragement of her friends, we are hoping she will join the blogging community where we can continue to enjoy her creative talents and warm personality. In the meantime, please feel free to give positive feedback to Laura through my comments section below.

More Healing Art, Featuring " Hands"

To continue with the healing art theme, I wish to share with you the first piece of art I purchased from Virginia Spiegel's Collage Mania. Please bear in mind that all three of the artists I will be featuring have given me permission to post their work and their work is copyrighted to them exclusively so I would ask that you please respect that.

Jeanette Thompson from Chicago is an artist through and through. By day, she is a high school art teacher and continues to pursue her own creative endeavors by night and on weekends. Jeanette's piece " Hands" hit a distinct cord with me as I have been struggling physically with some hand problems this past year so I have been rather focussed on hands and healing. But it was not just that factor that drew me to Jeanette's work but the positioning of the hands and the most intricate stitching that attracted me again and again to that page at CC. Hands was created on silk organza and free-motion stitched with variegated threads and the outer edges are zig zag stitched.

When speaking with Jeanette, she told me it was a favorite piece of her work and her inspiration for it was from a picture she saw in the newspaper. She said she connected with it, something to do with an artist making beautiful things with their hands and honoring them. She herself was quite pleased with the finished product and so she should be. Below you can see for yourselves:

Hands by Jeanette Thompson

It wasn't until I was physically able to see this piece of art up close and personal that I was able to appreciate the most intricate colored stitching and detail in the background:

Detailed background " Hands"

In particular, check out the stitching in the fingers of the hand:

Jeanette informed me that this was her first International piece but I am thinking there will be many more for this talented young lady. I am delighted to add this lovely piece of work to my collection. Thank you Jeanette.

For more of Jeanette's work and updates on her life and creative talents, including her recent experience at Turtle Moon Camp with Susan Shie, please check out her blog and be sure to leave her some positive feedback there or in the comments section here on mine.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Never underestimate the healing power of art

Scientific studies claim that art heals by changing one's physiology and attitude. The body's physiology changes from one of stress to one of relaxation, from one of anxieties and misgivings to one of creativity and inspiration. For many of us involved in the arts, we know this to be a fact for certain and many times our spirits and troubled minds have been lifted and eased as a result of an artistic encounter.

In early May, Virginia Spiegel once again featured her wonderful Fiberart for a Cause online charity auction"Collage Mania" benefitting the American Cancer Society and what fun it was! The pure joy of perusing all the prospective pieces took me away from a sadder time and place to a brief couple of days immersed in the exciting work of so many talented artists who gave their time and talents to the cause. The auction is now closed but Virginia has generously left the site up online for viewing and inspiration. You can view it here:

During the frenzied action of the auction, I was fortunate enough to land four pieces of art by three artists and their work definitely uplifted my soul. I am most grateful to Laura J. Osbun, Jeanette Thompson and Jacquie Stone, not only for their contributions to Virginia's efforts but for also giving me permission to share their work with all of you on my blog. Over the next few days, I will be featuring each of the four pieces I acquired and connecting you with the artists , their comments on their work and their sites and blogs. So please stay tuned for some interesting posts.

Congratulations to Virginia and her associates for raising over $18,000. in just two days for the American Cancer Society. After an astounding four years of commitment and goodwill, I wish Virginia a well deserved break with much peace and contentment as she now returns to her studio to pursue her own art.

Back to the future

Nothing like a stark dose of reality to shake life up. The last seven months seem to have flown by, yet in some ways seem an eternity and alas my artistic pursuits and creative life have been on hold due to the serious illness of a beloved family member.

Although I have a few hurdles still ahead of me, I will be slowly returning to blogging, pursuing my artistic endeavors and in the not too distant future, teaching again. I have missed the joys of interacting with and actively participating in the needlearts community. At this time, I wish to express my sincere thanks to so many of you who have reached out to encourage and lift me through these difficult times. Your love and support have buoyed me through some dark days and I am most appreciative of your friendship.

In updating my blog, I have made it easier for people to add comments and I encourage you to partcipate in my future posts.