Tag: in our own language 1 (Page 1 of 17)

A Barn Dance, Kinda’





Today The Engineer took me out behind the barn –
Okay, he took me over TO the barn,
where we hung In Our Own Language #1



and In Our Own Language #2.


It is the first time I’ve seen
all three panels of
In Our Own Language #1 hung together,
and it is the first time I’ve seen
In Our Own Language #2 at all
because our ceilings are quite low
and we don’t even have enough floor space
for me to spread it out on the floor and
climb in a chair for a look.

A neighbor came by to see what we were doing
and declared the cloths “pretty”.
It was obvious he was eager
to get back to playing on
his new toy: the cutest little backhoe you ever saw.


In Our Own Language #1 is Nancy’s first set of drawings.


She drew them in June 2012.


There are 167 drawings in set 1.


In Our Own Language #2 is her second set of drawings


created in August 2012.


There are 454 drawings in set 2.

It was quite thrilling, really.

good things


The museum exhibit closed Saturday. Nancy wasn’t one bit interested in the cloth bearing her drawings in stitch. (As you can see here and in Angela’s post, Nancy was much more interested in smiling for the birdie.) I didn’t think she would make the connection or be interested in the cloth version of her drawings, but i hoped.


In Our Own Language, Set 1 is three panels, each measuring 59″ by 90″. Space being what it was, one panel hung in the main exhibit room, and the other two panels hung back in the museum’s classroom.

It was a moving exhibit. Time stood still, and tears fell abundantly as women paid homage to the women who inspire them . . . grandmothers, mothers, friends, teachers. You just never know how your words or deeds are going to change the course of somebody else’s life. So many touching stories, so many different kinds of art, all beautifully hung and displayed with space in between each piece to allow pauses needed to soak it all in.


These beautiful eggs were made by Florida Museum for Women Artists’ Executive Director, a young Crystal and her Baba (grandmother).


Just look at the beautiful edging on the cloth – this was stitched by Crystal’s Baba and imagine having something that your grandmother’s hands had stitched. Just look at the detail in these eggs and imagine creating those details by applying wax and dipping in dye then removing the wax. Just imagine the wisdom and stories shared in the time it took to make each egg.


Mona, Nancy’s teacher, came and brought her mother, then spent the entire time sitting with Nancy (Andy did get her a chair after I took this picture), keeping a blank page in front of her (because Nancy doesn’t have the fine motor skills to turn one page at a time) and to keep her from wandering off. I may suggest turning one page at a time as something we could put on Nancy’s support plan. They’re always looking for specific skills to work on.


It was interesting to be able to stand behind Nancy and watch the unfolding of her art from over her shoulder. I don’t know why, it just was. Though I didn’t have time to tell her about how and why I do things a certain way with Nancy, Mona instinctively knew to keep the drawings in order (I like to note the progressions, the development of each set of drawings) and to give Nancy a choice of only dark colors (to provide the contrast which makes for better scanned and printed images).

I had only two sketchbooks, and when I could see that Nancy was drawing faster than usual, I stepped outside and tore the pages of the second sketchbook in half. She finished the last drawing just as the last artist presented her work. Magical timing.

TheGirlsAndTheCloth(front row, l to r: Nancy (who finally notices the cloth) and Jeanne. back row, l to r: Mona and Angela. Photo by my husband/Nancy’s brother, Andy, who continues to offer unwavering and varied support. I don’t know what I’d do without him, and I hope I never have to find out.)

It was a good day. It was a very good day.

and this little pretty cried squee, squee, squee all the way to the museum

The first week in December, I had 167 pieces of cloth, each bearing a stitched version of one of Nancy’s scratchings. I posted the last one, then breathed a sigh of relief, prepared to set all stitching aside and delve into the holidays when everybody would light at our house for together time. Then along came an email from my friend Angela – a copy of a submission she sent to the Florida Museum for Women Artists for the exhibit called Applaud That Woman:

Dear Crystal,

I’m writing in response to your invitation to honor a woman who has influenced me: Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. Jeanne describes herself as ‘woman, wit, writer,’ and those things are true, but they only begin to scratch the surface of the talents she offers to the world. Jeanne is a gifted writer and cloth artist, and she is also a champion of other women, an encourager, a community builder extraordinary.

If you have a project or a cause and Jeanne gets behind you, thank your lucky stars because you have found someone who will support you through those times when you need someone to care about it more than you care about it yourself. And if your voice isn’t very loud or one that the world will readily hear, Jeanne will amplify it and magnify and translate it for you and with you.

Jeanne has a number of projects in the works, as you will see if you check out her blog, but the one I want to showcase here is her “In Our Own Language” project. In these pieces, Jeanne collaborates with her developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy. Jeanne provides the pens and paper, Nancy provides the sketches, Jeanne stitches the sketches. And then she sends them out into the world for other people to photograph and send back. This project is quintessential Jeanne – voice to the voiceless, generous, creator of community and beauty.

Jeanne inspires me to create art and to be a better woman.

Best regards,

(Angela’s email inspires me to be a better woman cause I love her too much to make a liar out of her.)

Crystal said “Yes,” and I had until 1/16/13 to get this pulled together. Holidays and all.

It was stressful.

It was heavenly.

Other than one brief phone call I had with Lisa Call when I shared a quick sketch of a flash image I had with her to talk about field of vision and other design elements (she’s fluent, I’m not), there were no concrete ideas of what to do and no time to ponder and plan. I simply turned my hands loose and stood back to watch this magnificent process called creativity. Having a focus and a deadline was freeing, exhilarating. I don’t remember when I’ve had so much fun and been so blissfully contented and peaceful.


Even without a clear image of the finished piece, I knew I wanted the cloth to be thin, fragile as Nancy is. I wanted it to hang away from the wall so it would be responsive to people as they walk past, the movement representative of how we affect each other, even if we never realize it. The batiste I stitched each scratching on was heavier than I wanted, so I emailed Judy Martin to see if she had any ideas, and she told me about some cotton lawn fabric that sounded perfect. I ordered 10 yards (having absolutely no idea how much fabric I would need), and when it came in, I watched delightedly as my hands spread it out on the table and ripped a length off. Then I fiddled and grappled, finding my way to the next step.

I ripped the “margins” off each stitched rendering, and when I began to put them together, I decided it would be impossible to put all 167 into one cloth, so I divided them into thirds. (Using the word “decided” sounds like I sat and meticulously planned and figured and measured, but I did none of these things. My hands had no time to spend scratching my head. It’s just hard to assign words to this amazing process. The hands don’t need rulers, words, or to show their work.) (I think this is one reason I’ve been so long writing about it – words are totally inadequate.)



Letting the pieces flop and romp together, I thought of Nancy because she is a puzzle whiz, and this was like putting a puzzle together Nancy-style: without the box top to go by. I stitched each teardrop together first,


then stitched each teardrop onto the cloth background, doing short, arhymical stitches in between and around each stitched scratching.


I have this obsessive fascination with teardrops as reliquaries, as vessels, as containers, and it just won’t let go of me, so I shaped each third into a teardrop.

Envisioning vintage ladies’ hankies from the 50s and 60s (the era when Nancy was born), I thought the hankies would fill the space around the teardrop. I knew I’d need a lot of them, and having no time to visit nearly enough antique stores, I reached out to Susan Lenz who put out the call via her newsletter, and hankies began to fill my mailbox from delightful, generous, caring women like Merry Mary Ellington, Mother, Alison Chambers Carole Rothstein, Janett Rice, and Margaret Blank



I pulled an all-nighter (one of many) cutting, folding, and ironing the hankies. Tried letting them fill in all the white space around each teardrop, but quickly found that too overwhelming, too distracting, annoying . . .




and went with a single-row border instead.



Delivery deadline was Wednesday, 1/16/13, and there was absolutely no way I could put this baby in the hands of some postal employee and say “You be real careful now”, so we drove to Atlanta on 1/15, spent the night with my Mother (where I pulled another all-nighter stitching the hanging sleeves) and flew to Florida Wednesday morning, 1/16. We checked into the hotel, and while Andy (my adorable, supportive husband without whom none of this would have been possible because he stepped right up and without any prompting or pleading, he took over all the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, pet duties bill paying, and more) went to the local home improvement store to fetch curtain rods, eye hooks, and fishing line, then came back to sand and put it altogether, I attached the sleeves on the back of each panel.



And off we scooted to the museum . . .


which was closed. But we went out to celebrate anyway.




The next morning found us up and out (relatively) early, and at last, In Our Own Language, Set 1 was delivered.





A week later, Andy, Mother, my nephew TJ, and I flew down for the opening reception (Friday, 1/25/13) and well, let’s just go with “ta-da” why don’t we.

For so many reasons, in so many ways, this has been the most amazing experience . . . and there’s absolutely no way I could have ever done it without the love and support and assistance and encouragement of so many people. Until I can think of a better way to convey it: From every cockle of my heart, thank you.

[ ::: ]

I’ve been wanting to share this for weeks now, and what finally motivated me to take the sticky note off the wall and spend the time pulling it all together and deal with the photos and pat around in the dark for the they’re-totally-inadequate-anyway words is to be a part of Nina Marie’s Off The Wall Friday.

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.

Envoy 97: Alana Sheeren



Wearing her Envoy hat, Alana Sheeren writes:

This is the beach at the end of my lane. The dunes behind me are my favorite place to sit and meditate, or simply stare at the ocean and hand her my problems. They’re also the best spot for hide and seek.

It’s a peaceful beach. Not a lot of people, even at the height of summer. Magical dolphin sightings are semi-frequent and we saw whales breaching earlier this year. I think Nancy might like it here, digging toes and fingers into sand.

It is home for me. And I am grateful to share it with you.


Isn’t she beautiful?

I met Alana on twitter around the end of 2009 or beginning of 2010. The first correspondence I remember having with Alana was when she posted a question about schooling young children. Having pretty definite ideas on that, and feeling safe enough to voice them to a woman I barely, barely, barely knew, I put in my 2-cents worth. A friendship bloomed from that little tweet exchange that happened lifetimes ago. So much has happened since then. So much grief, so much growth, so much glowing. Alana has been through so much – life has thrown things at her that would break some folks, and she has weathered them with grace and wisdom and an openness that’s quite formidable and moving.

She’s now offering her experience, her knowledge, her gifts of comfort and concern and support in tele-retreats, the occasional on site retreats, ebooks, and one-on-one togetherness. And it just so happens that today is the last day she’s offering her DIY Picking Up The Pieces at pay-what-you-will pricing, so scoot on over and help yourself.

Every Thursday, Alana hosts Transformation Talks, interviews with people she calls “someone who is a force for good in the world.” She spends about an hour talking to these folks about the transformative power of grief – and take it from me, you may not think so when you’re in the midst of it, but grief IS transformative. Alana never loses sight of that, and she’s doing all she can to make sure you don’t either. In whatever way you choose, Alana will hold you as you grief, reassuring you that there will be growth, that you will glow again eventually, and that grieving is a natural part of life whether anybody dies or not and that you don’t have to be embarrassed that you are grieving – that it can actually be a time of great growth and honing your intuition.

Can you tell I love her? Can you tell I love the goodness she’s spilling into the world? Go get to know her. Go snag yourself a copy of her DIY Picking Up the Pieces and sign up for her newsletter so you’ll be the first to know when she hosts another retreat. You can thank me later.

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.

more heart-blowing generosity




Today, more hankies from a delightful woman from Canada named Margaret Blank.

Your need for handkerchiefs was posted in Susan Lenz’s recent newsletter. I have very few coloured ones – one black with white embroidery, one plain red (scarlet) and one deep royal blue with embroidery (one corner missing as I put it in a crazy patch block). she writes. However, I also have 4 tea towels which might work for you. They (and the hankies) come from my mother – but really, more accurately, from *her* mother. I’ve been keeping them to do something with them, but as they aren’t white (most of the stack I have are white, many embroidered or decorated with lace edging)…well, you know! J And no one knows what to do with the towels when you put them out. They are meant to be hand towels but so pretty and we are so used to terry cloth…So I am happy to let you have them for such a worthy project.




And I, Margaret, am humbled and grateful and downright tickled to accept these beautiful, special cloths and make them a part of this project. Thank you.

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.

if at first you don’t succeed . . .


Mistakes were made, forms were lost, deadlines came and went, but today – finally – Nancy is at the new place where she will spend weekdays in the presence of Penny, a woman Nancy deeply loves, a woman who deeply loves Nancy in return.


Tenacious follow-up is what got Nancy on the van this morning, and it’s what landed these hankies in my studio. Merry Me (you know here as Envoy #113) hadn’t heard from me about a couple of envelopes she sent, so she asked if I’d received them. They’d fallen beside the seat – so glad she asked. Who knows when we would’ve happened upon them?

“The white handkerchief with the pink daisies came from my mom’s dresser drawer. It may have belonged to one of my grandmothers as I do not remember Mom using them. Although I have a faint memory of one always being neatly folded in her sequined cocktail purse. It may not go with your project, but if you can use it, I’d be thrilled to be a part of it,” she writes. I am quite touched and more than a little thrilled to include the three hankies Merry Me went in search of at an antique store and the white hankie passed down through her matriarchal lineage. Thank you, Sugar.


In a separate (also previously lost between the seats, along with a couple of bills and holiday cards) envelope were three skeins of purple floss Merry Me found, fruits from her pre-holiday organizational efforts. They’re all color #550 – the very color I use for this project. She also included an article on the delights of disorganization. That woman is funny. Merry Me, I mean.

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.





set 1 begins to come together. it’s fun, putting them together like a puzzle. nancy is quite good with puzzles, you know. holding fistfuls of pieces in her hand, thumping each piece three times when she finds where it goes.

Happy New Year.


She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.

just ask


Several months ago, I came across the blog of an artist named Susan Lenz. We swapped the occasional comments back and forth, and I quickly became inspired with her deep well of creativity, her impressive productivity, her resourcefulness, and her generosity. When I found myself in need of more hankies, I emailed her asking if she knew where a girl like me might be able to get her hands on some vintage ladies hankies. Susan got right back to me and offered to put an “artist in need” blurb in the sidebar of her newsletter, and she went one step further and posted about this project on one of her blogs.

In addition to the comments left on her blog post, I’ve received several emails and envelopes filled with supportive notes and hankies.

Like this beauty from Janett Rice:


and these delights from Carole Rothstein:


They all make me smile, and this one from Carole makes me chortle right out loud:


I only have snail mail and email addresses for Carole and Janett, and you can bet I’ll be emailing soon to see if they have blogs that I can link to. Stay tuned. I’ve added a sidebar category called Bearers to give credit and appreciation to those who bring hankies and other shades of support to the project. Thank you Susan and Janett and Carole.

And hey, if y’all have some vintage ladies hankies you’d like to contribute, please send then on to Jeanne Hewell-Chambers/POB 994/Cashiers, NC 28717. I need the pretty soon, though. Will explain later.

Christmas Eve Eve (Sunday, 12/23) we trekked to nearby Asheville for a walk about. The Grovewood Gallery was our last stop before supper, and after an afternoon of visiting the Asheville Art Museum and three other galleries, I was tired and opted to stay downstairs while my son, Kipp, went upstairs for a lookabout. He hadn’t been up there a nano before he texted me saying “Come hither and come quickly. I’ve found something you’re going to love.” He was right, as usual: upstairs there were three walls filled with some of my favorite pieces of Susan’s work.

May we all go forward into a new year in agreement that we’ll ask when we need help, receive requests with grace and cheerfulness, and offer assistance in any way possible when we have a chance to help another artist create her visions.

Happy, happy New Year, y’all.

She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.


other projects (cloth and non-cloth) have demanded full use of my clock lately, but today, we hear from envoy marnie gloor . . . who happens to be in the next room as i write this. she’s the OSM (other special woman) in my son kipp’s life, and they are here to spend the holidays with us. what a treat that is.

i first heard of marnie via phone calls from kipp seeking advice and suggestions on how to ask her out. they’d been together in groups, and he wanted to move it to the next level. i first met marnie in july of 2011 when kipp brought her home for a visit. marnie has a beautiful, non-stop smile and an openness and love for kipp that makes her a kindred spirit. she loves art and is quite knowledgeable (which is most enjoyable for someone like me who’s unschooled in such things).

i love what marnie did with #98. love it. her accompanying quote is from yoko ono:

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Marnie  Nancy


She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning.



soon i will begin to pull together the set 1 stitched renderings.


right now, there are three different sizes. initially, i wanted to be true to the size of the paper and the size of the drawing. now i realize the larger cloths need to be reduced in size else i wind up with a cloth that could swaddle the entire world.


even then, this promises to be a cloth of substantial proportions. i ordered the backing cloth today. i hope i ordered enough.

it’s exciting to think about the cloth in its finished form.

it’s scary thinking about stitching something so large.

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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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