Tag: art

A Single Sheet of Paper

She stops me, this incredible woman and artist I now know as Miki Willa, and tells me a story . . . this story:

“I knew what to do,” says Miki, “because I’ve watched Nancy express herself through pen and paper, though art.”

The Little Paper That Could

These are Vanessa’s marks. These size of the paper is about 3″ x 5″, while the size of the meaning is limitless, unmeasurable.

As Though That Isn’t Amazing In and Of Itself 

In 2014, when Kathy Loomis mentioned that there were still spots available in the Dorothy Caldwell workshop in Louisville. I put my name on a chair. Never one to sit still, I took In Our Own Language 3 along to work on during “down times”. Dorothy saw me stitching and asked me to kick the next day off by talking about In Our Own Language 3..

After the following morning’s impromptu presentation, a woman sitting behind me my now-friend Rosemary Claus-Gray suggested I write a book about my collaboration with Nancy to give other families hope and encouragement to find ways to communicate with their loved ones that don’t involve the spoken word. She even wrote the foreword to nudge me to get started.  Though I haven’t written the first word, I hold Rosemary’s foreward in a safe, special place so I can find it when I do shove all else aside and write this book. It will happen, Rosemary, I promise, Thank you for listening to your intuition and making the suggestion. And thank you, Miki, for changing lives with a single sheet of paper.

Quilts on Display at Sacred Threads 2019

2 women stand beside a quilt of the Buddha

Miki and Jeanne stand in front of Miki’s quilt Meeting the Buddha on the Path (48″ x 34″) on display at Sacred Threads 2019. When arranging ourselves for the photo, Miki placed me so that the Buddha’s hand touched my shoulder because the Buddha’s raised hand is a blessing offered. (And you thought the Buddha was doing “rabbit ears” behind me!) Ever since Miki told me that, I offer a silent blessing when waving to someone.

2 women stand beside a black quilt covered with colorful doodles and a little girl's white pinafore (dress)

Miki and Jeanne stand with Jeanne and Nancy’s quilt, Playground of Her Soul.

Isn’t it astonishing how much goodness happens when we pay attention?


Right this way for more 70273 Project videos.

The Engineer and the Artist Do Art Camp, Day One

Arcpots1 5

honestly, i wasn’t sure how much i’d like being at art camp with my husband. turns out i like being here together. i like it a lot. not only do i have somebody to sit with me at all meals plus a roommate i don’t have to worry about short-sheeting my bed or hanging my underwear on the flagpole or anything such as that, it’s great, big, huge, heartwarming fun to see his work, to see him create. he’s taking a pottery class called Turners & Burners: Folk Pottery of Southern Appalachia, and man is he productive. in the first 3 hours of class on day one, he threw 4 pots and a pitcher.

Arcpitcher1 2

“some aren’t smooth and round,” he says in a (surprisingly) apologetic tone.

“they’re wonky, andy” i tell him. “they’re the ones you would buy or at least gravitate to if somebody else made them.”

“i know,” he laughs.

[ :: ]

while andy was throwing pots, i was in a fiber class. not so much productivity for me on day one, but i did make this key:


and meet susan lenz (the instructor) in person – finally – and see some of her beautiful work up close:



and also meet rena wood, the textile artist-in-residence:



“i think of it like doodling with thread,” she says of this puddling effect:


this piece was done on a vintage tablecloth given to her by a woman who works here. rena dyed it black and started stitching:





and this piece was inspired by the loss of memory she saw in her grandfather. he was losing his memory as she was building hers:


[ :: ]

afterwards, there was a bonfire (complete with wine) then more walking hand-in-hand with andy as we strolled through the town.

you know, when i went to camp with my lifelong best friend, dianna, a few decades ago, my mother didn’t send me the first note or letter, even though i left a stack of self-addressed/stamped envelopes ready and waiting. as we settled into orientation, i get a text message from this same mother, asking me the name of the song that played when the ballerina jewelry box was opened. my goodness how things do change.

but hey, they don’t make me drink milk at this camp, so there.

of rice, ducks, water buffaloes, and musical instruments

In English that’s cute and endearing (though still quite difficult to understand even after 23 years in the US) Alexander Chen (known as the Master of Hyper-Realism because of his incredible attention to detail in his paintings) told of growing up in China and how at the age of 16, the Chinese government decided he would be a professional farmer. Chen was sent to a rice paddy where he planted 1, 2, 3, 4 rice plants this way, then turned and planted 1, 2, 3, 4 plants in a different way so as to allow the wind to blow through. Every day he and his co-farmers took 2500 ducks to the farm to eat bugs, and every night they took 2500 ducks back. From watching and counting the ducks, Chen learned to tell male and female ducks apart just by their heads. There were water buffalo, too – 25 of them that had to be herded back and forth daily. The young buffaloes were bad to wander off, but they always came back to their mothers. The older buffaloes were bad to wander off and keep going as long as the food held out. The more he talked, the more it became clear where he got his incredible attention to detail.

When he settled in San Francisco, he spent $700 and bought himself a Pinto. He took the car out for a spin, and quickly learned that it was good for about 100 miles. Knowing the limits of the Pinto, he began to take car trips within those parameters, and though a teacher taught him to sing “This land is your land, this land is my land,” he, like so many 16 year olds, credits his first car with teaching him about freedom.

[ ::: ]




When I left to take a walking break, I spied a painting by Anatole Krasnyansky that immediately made me think of Nancy and her drawings. Am I crazy? Maybe, but what I felt was thrilled.

[ ::: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers wishes Nancy’s drawings were as revered (and sold for as much money) as Krasnyansky’s paintings.

* The Krasnyansky painting is titled Music Scene.



After supper, Alfred Gockel walked up to a blank canvas and in less than 45 minutes, he’d filled it with bold color and rich symbols. For example, if you ever see one of his paintings that has a circle with a dot in it somewhere on the canvas, that’s your cue that he created that particular painting in front of an audience. Fish represent freedom to him because, according to Gockel, they are the only animal who can go around the world. He places mountains in many of his paintings as a tribute to Dali.

He asked if I wanted to take a picture with him. Said he loved my jacket then invited me to jump into his painting.

“That’s it,” I joked with him when we talked later. “I’m giving up stitching and taking up painting. It takes me an entire year to finish a piece, and it took you less than an hour.”




“Did you see me painting with two hands?” he asked. “It’s like playing the drums. I taught myself to paint with two hands because I needed to be faster, and I needed to be faster because my first wife had expensive tastes.”


Painting is my husband’s thing, something he and our children share an interest in and bond over.


This – this right here – is what revs my engine. I love that the husband and children share a hobby, I love listening to them talk about art and artists, and I love that they let me tag along and stitch in the background.

I hatched four good ideas as I watched and listened to Gockel. It seems cross-pollination is a good thing.


We’re spending an art weekend at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville. They have fantastic hot chocolate here.


And the sunsets aren’t bad either.



After taking Lisa Call’s Design Elements class, I am reworking the quilt that went to Ireland last year, making it horizontal instead of vertical, and letting the teardrop fall off the edge. Now that I have a look at the photo, though, the teardrop looks a little too large. I’ll check on that tomorrow and hope that it’s a camera thing. Oh, and this quilt has a new name, too: Apocrypha 1.

[ ::: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers apologizes for the fuzzy, poorly-lit photos and explains that it’s dark here at The Grove Park Inn. I mean, REALLY dark.

of likenesses and lightnesses


when my children were tots, we’d bundle them up and drive around looking at the christmas lights, refining our aesthetic senses, you know, each of us awarding our own best display award that grew more competitive every year under our increasingly trained and discerning eyes. just when i’d definitively declare that i preferred the white lights over the colored lights, we’d come upon a house that was obviously festooned by someone with a knack for design and a love for color. we all panted at the sight of trees (not christmas trees but plain ole’ yard trees) decked out in strands of white lights – initially because even with the gentlest breeze, they look like they’re twinkling and because they were ordinary yard trees pulled into the holiday celebration and what’s not to love about that), but it didn’t take all that long for us to pity the trees given a single, solitary strand of lights, poorly and thoughtlessly placed, preferring the trees lavished in white lights – so many it looked like they were an organic part of the tree, like they were well-lit lichen. (we developed a new degree of respect for the more miserly, haphazardly lit trees though, when we began to imagine them being dressed by a well-meaning but blind mother.)

when the children got too old for such things, andy and i weren’t nearly ready to bring this tradition to a close, so we bundled up my 90-something great aunts, put them in the backseat, and drove them around to look at christmas lights. one year, as we passed through the center of this town in south north central georgia (i’ll wait while you figure that out) (that’ll take too long, so a hint: it’s my clever way of saying “landlocked”) on the way to deliver them home, aunt lucy looked out the window at fayetteville’s main street awashed in well-lit snowflakes and said, “Irene, don’t the people who live on the water have the purtiest view?”

we had one or two trees in our own yard that we festooned with white lights annually, andy and i, and with the repeated effort, we learned how to apply them so that they didn’t look like what it were: trees dressed by a well-meaning but blind mother. as we struggled with ladders and branches and never enough lights, i remembered the year daddy outlined the roof of our house in blue lights. (using a single color instead of every hue in the crayon box simply wasn’t done in those days.) (mother was always cutting edge when it came to design.) daddy put those lights up and didn’t take them back down for something like 949 days.

an aside: that particular story remembered at that particular moment in that particular context is when i learned about what my friend jane cunningham calls reframing – a most helpful tool when dealing with family memories, if you catch my drift.


my christmas decorations this year include the red candle that kicked off this post (a free gift with purchase at a local antique store.) (using my highly trained and discerning eye, i chose the one that hadn’t been burned yet.) (the buckeyes were free, too.) (at lest i think they were.) and these two adorables created by my friend tom smith. i LOVE them, don’t you? there’s such a playful spirit about them. they’re just downright fun. the small santa with the black eye and the blue beard (reference to folktales or temperature, tom?) and the larger santa hobbled together from an assortment of tender scraps and bits. (just imagine this larger santa at the office christmas party. he’s probably the guy hanging out by the copy machine the entire time.) it’s the definition of art for me: taking something out of its intended use and giving it fresh life in a new context. now that i think about it, being friends with tom is like having christmas every day. he’s a treasured friend who challenges me with his thoughtful, well-placed questions that are always asked (or at least received) as gentle nudges and window openings (often windows that have long since been painted shut); delights me with our conversations (which often come together like his artwork – a gregarious pulling together of all sorts of odd things that initially seem unrelated); and encourages me with his keen insightfulness (that always makes me feel like he finds me intelligent and capable and maybe like he sees more in me than i present). (if you find yourself wondering if his mother was also a formidable teacher, you’d be right.)

you know, now that i think about it, what i’m really doing is decorating my studio with self portraits of and by tom. no lights required.

who’d’a thunk it

creation of the collage started on shaky ground – real shaky ground – and for a while it seemed that i would go through 2010 red-faced and collageless. i left my journal at home, see, the one i wanted to shelter the collage, and to make matters worse, my only magazines themed around fiber arts and pottery (not an oprah magazine in sight) (and how can a worthy collage be created without images and words from a staff who knows me. i mean, they really know me.) (which is odd, given that i am not a subscriber.) (or a regular reader, for that matter.)

but then i put on my martyr pants and got busy ripping, and before we got to the end of the 2nd season of lost dvd’s (the television show, i mean), i’d ripped past thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons of every. single. image. i’d ripped my way past looking for words and fonts. i’d ripped my way past justification and rationalization and a whole lotta’ other stuff that i can’t quite name.

now remember: i still didn’t have my journal

so i just crammed tucked the ripped images into my bag, figuring la-te-da i could throw it all away at home just as easily as i could fill the trashcan there, and i pretty much forgot about the whole thing until last night when i couldn’t sleep and couldn’t turn on the television without waking up the dog who would, in turn, wake up the husband who has to get up early so i try not to.

wake my husband up, i mean.

i tiptoed out of the bedroom, fished the ripped bits out of my bag, found my journal, got some glue, and sat down at the dining room table where i was immediately surprised by how many images i had. now you have to understand that spatial concepts is not my strongest intelligence by anybody’s measurement system, but any fool could see that all those images were not going to fit on a 2-page spread in my journal, and i didn’t feel like going downstairs in search of one of those big sheets of paper (and besides, where would i store it) (the collage, i mean), so i just started tearing off any superfluous paper, ripping it right on down to the quick.

to the essential image, i mean.


i eventually came to the last piece, and there i was: surprised again, this time by the hugeness of the discard pile (especially compared to the keypers). coveting wanting my little ole’ collage to be as pretty as emma james‘ vision board, i stuck my tongue out the side of my mouth and started laying the pieces out on the page. but then when i bit my tongue remembered that this is not about planning, i just started squirting glue and laying ’em down, and before i knew it, i was done. finished. collaged.

well, almost.

there was this one image in the discard pile that kept jumping out on the way to the trashcan, and when it leapt out for the third time, i said okay, fine and took it back and glued it onto a page all by itself.


i’m calling it the annex.

and here’s the really super trooper amazing part: by the time i crawled back into bed around 5 a.m., all the keypers – i mean, every last one of ’em – had found a home on the two-page spread in my journal.

and i even had a few spaces to boot.


just goes to show, doesn’t it . . .

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Allow me to introduce myself . . .

Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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