Tag: in our own language 3 (Page 1 of 2)

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.

Nancy Responds to Our Collaboration

A question I am frequently asked  is “What does Nancy think about you stitching her drawings?” And the answer is: “I haven’t a clue, not an inkling.”

She doesn’t give any verbal or physical indication that she understands or even recognizes that I am stitching her marks, that we are in collaboration. My only indicator is how our relationship has changed since June 2012 when she began drawing and I began stitching her drawings. In the 39 years I’d known and loved Nancy prior to June 2012, I was an aside existing in the shadow of The Engineer (a.k.a. Andy) because you see, Nancy has always loved Andy more than I love pocketbooks. “Andy, Andy, Andy,” she would say through her face-sized smile, her love and adoration due in part to the natural bond of affection and in part from her Mother’s influence. Mrs. Chambers – or Mama C as I often called her – talked adoringly of Andy, and Nancy followed suit. Though it stung at times, I always understood that Mrs. C’s first concern was for Nancy’s well being. She knew that Andy would always be in Nancy’s life, and regardless of how many years we had on the books, I was still a question mark that she couldn’t afford to invest in wholeheartedly.

Nevertheless, Mama C knew I loved Nancy with every nano-inch of my heart. She made that obvious. When the institution where Nancy lived contacted Mrs. C asking permission to sterilize Nancy (at least they asked, right?), she invited me to lunch to talk about it. When it was time to move Nancy to another facility, she asked me to go down and have a look then let her know my thoughts. When she was in the hospital and couldn’t attend Nancy’s Parents’ Day, I assured her we would go, and when she was on her deathbed, I told Andy that the best gift we could give his mother was to go visit Nancy, take her some strawberries and cookies “for the friends” like Mrs. C. always did, then go back to the hospital with reassurances, stories, and photos of Nancy’s well being. Yes, it didn’t take all that long for Mrs. C. to believe my assurances that Nancy would always be taken care of (something Mr. C. didn’t invest in until he was on his dying bed), and while maybe there was no doubt about that, I would never be blood kin. I get that.

So Nancy was obvious in her love for Andy and tolerated me. That’s how it went for the longest time. Then came June 2012 when the drawings and stitchings began, and since then there are signs that Nancy, too,  believes I do and always will love her. I am included in her love talk. I am now considered a “pretty good girl” (Nancy’s highest compliment). She wants to hold my hand when we go walking. She turns to talk to me when we’re in the car. Our togetherness is decorated with signs that I have gained her trust and love, and I credit it all to art.

As to what she thinks about our collaboration, as to her response to seeing her drawings in stitch, I haven’t a clue, so yesterday I asked Andy to show her In Our Own Language 3 on exhibit at the Ross Art Museum on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University while I recorded her reaction. Have a look, and let me turn the question back on you. What do you see? What’s your interpretation of her reaction? What do you think she thinks / how do you think she feels about our collaboration?

 

In Our Own Language 3 at the Ross Art Museum in Ohio

Y’all know I haven’t had a minute’s regret about launching The 70273 Project. Not a single minutes much as a nano. And yet . . .  a few months ago I found myself going splat.

Splat, I tell you.

I lost myself in the forest of systems and forms and communications and tallying and spreadsheets and planning.  I was putting in the hours, but I just couldn’t catch up – something that wears heavily on an accomplishment-oriented gal – and the next thing you know, I caught myself mourning.

Yes, mourning.

I mourned the loss of my sense of humor. I mourned the loss of my creativity. I mourned the loss of my Self. Never one to stew in a vat of victim-flavored self pity for long, I started poking around, and when I found a Call for Entries for an exhibit at the Ross Art Museum called See My Voice, I sprang, took photos, completed the application, and mashed the Submit button. Several weeks later, the email came: 2 out of the 3 pieces I submitted were juried in!

Meet In Our Own Language 3

 

and Apocrypha 4

For those of you who don’t know, since June 2012, I stitch the drawings – the marks – made by my sister-in-law Nancy. Every time we visit her (about every-other month), The Engineer and I leave a box or two (10ish reams) of paper and bring home the drawings she’s made since our last visit. I bring them home, archive and title them, then I set about stitching. Once I’ve stitched every drawing in a set, the piece becomes part of the In Our Own Language Series. This third piece contains 274 stitched drawings. Apocrypha 4 is a single drawing from her first set of marks.

Taking 3 of the 5 days we had at home between trips, The Engineer and I scampered up to the Ross Art Museum in Delaware, Ohio for a look-see with our own eyes. It was worth it, y’all. It was  totally worth it. Not only were we accepted, our pieces hung with some exquisite pieces of fiber art created by some prestigious Makers . . .

Like Susan Shie, for example, of whom I’ve been a long-devoted fan
(And for the record, I’m pointing, not touching.)

And Maria Shell.
Color me another long-time devotee.

and Nancy Gamon: Prospecting

and Jo Thomas, Bittersweet the Rose

and Linda Strowbridge, Splintered

and Tasha Owen, Carnival

and Claire Murray Adams, Anonymous Makers
to name a few.

And though I’m certainly not looking for things to do, I’ve begun 2 more pieces that are yet to be titled and must be completed by this fall. But don’t you fret. I promise not to let The 70273 Project run completely off the rails. I’ll just pull 2-3 all-nighters every week, and y’all, losing the sleep will be totally worth it.

Totally.

Click here to read more about In Our Own Language 1

Here for more about In Our Own Language 2

And here for more about In Our Own Language 3

Then there’s In Our Own Language 16 in which we took a bit of a detour

determined

Iool3a

i’ve never exhibited except when invited so i know nothing of the world of submitting for shows, but i recently saw this call for art, you see. the theme is drawing, and they’re open to any kind of drawing: representation or non-representational. when i first saw the notice, i knew in my bones this is a place
for nancy and me to put forth our collaboration. perhaps nancy’s drawings will be accepted here, as in welcomed with open mind and heart and seen as marks of expression, marks of meaning.

i’d finished with In Our Own Language 3, but then i removed 50 – yes: f-i-f-t-y – stitched drawings because i knew it would be better – as in more visually pleasing – if i did. but, let me tell you: it was hard to snip those threads, and harder still to stitch them a second time.

this call for art motivates me. time is nigh. i have only 4 days to stitch the remaining 36 drawings.

Iool3b

i lost a couple of weeks helping prepare mother for her move. it’s hard to fit my life in sometimes. but today, i’m fortified again. and stitching like you wouldn’t believe. the weather is threatening to tinker with the electric, and if it does, i’m prepare to stitch by candlelight. it won’t be the first time that’s been done.

Onward

Sometimes onward means going back
or stepping into The Great Unknown . . .

Nancyfall2014a

Recent photos of Nancy taken by Mona Diethrick
indicate that she’s moved from drawing to something else.
Arranging?

Nancyfall2014b

Bringing order?

Nancyfall2014c

Maybe a type of mosaics?

Nancyfall2014d

One thing’s for sure: her work as an artist is evolving.
And I’m just tickled
and intrigued
and thrilled.

Iool3b

Meanwhile back on the ranch,

Iool3a

I pick up where I left off on
In Our Own Language 3,

Iool3c

restitching the 50 drawings
I removed to give me a nice, generous border.
Is it just me, or are the days getting shorter?
And I don’t mean on account of the season or time change.
I distinctly remember getting more done
in the days of years gone by.

~~~~~~~ Backstory ~~~~~~~

Since June 2012:
She, Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-law draws.
I, Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her, stitch her drawings.

Click here to see more In Our Own Language 1
and here for In Our Own Language 2
and you guessed it – here for In Our Own Language 3.

~~~~~~~

This post is part of Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday.

Scratch

iool3c.JPG

This weekend,
I suffered a flare-up of the ever-familiar
doubt,
fueled and fanned by the never far away question
“Do I even have a voice to call my own?”

iool3d.JPG

Having spent my life as a teacher,
a mother,
a wife,
a daughter –
having written plenty of personal histories
been a freelance graphic designer helping folks look good in print
edited books penned by other women
now stitching Nancy’s drawings,
I can’t help but wonder:
do I lose my voice by giving other women their voice?

iool3h.JPG

Is my voice one of back-up,
second string,
bridesmaid?
Is that as good as it gets for me?

My maternal grandmother made biscuits from scratch three times a day.
Folks devoured them enthusiastically (even when cold)
and praised her name with reverence and awe.

Do I have anything original and worthwhile to say from scratch?

IOOL4.038.jpg

IOOL4.024
IOOL4.035.jpg

Having almost finished In Our Own Language 3 (shown in photos above),
I begin stitching In Our Own Language 4.
95 drawings made in November 2012
in which Nancy wrote her name
then covered it up,
camouflaged it,
hid it.

a weekend well spent

dolly parton sings “it’s just a little bitty puissant country place, nothin’ much to see.” the words she uses to describe what is reported to be the best little whorehouse in texas are the same words i use to describe The Dissenter’s Chapel (a.k.a. my studio).

(but i don’t sing it.)

(you’re welcome.)

Andybuilds

Before1

Cubby2

i spent the weekend (re)organizing my studio for the umpteenth time
after andy (my fabulous husband)
built me some cubbies that my fabric now calls home.
in a studio this small,
when you move one thing,
you move everything.
and everything must serve multiple uses.

Quiltbase1

quilts, for example,

Mannequin2

become a pedestal for the mannequin that wears not one but two party frocks.
(there’s another one underneath this periwinkle beauty.)

having so much in plain sight
makes for a constant battle between
inspiration
and visual clutter.
on my list of things to think about
is how to attach a shade to the
new cubbies.
maybe i can even find a way for it
to double as a designing wall.

Flower2

Flower3

even with all the reorganizing,
i still took walks
to get my steps in, you know

Iool3

and i finished
stitching all the drawings (271, but who’s counting)
for In Our Own Language 3.

Iool3borderfabricandthread

tomorrow i start fiddling around
with this fabric and this hand dyed thread
to figure out the border.

in the home stretch . . . well actually, sliding into third base is more like it

Iool31

as i stitch, i wonder what nancy’s thinking as she draws.
what she’s trying to say.

Iool3b

i marvel at how most of her drawings are one stroke.
she puts the pen to the paper
and doesn’t pick it up till she’s finished
with that particular drawing.
the “x” tells me which side is the top.

i have 37 of the 271 drawings left to stitch
on In Our Own Language 3.
if i stitch 4 drawings a day, i’ll be starting on the border before the end of the month.
join me in a squeal of excited anticipation?

Bigassmoth

miss luna moth came to visit my studio last week.
thank goodness she stayed on the other side of the glass
cause you know: moths and cloths don’t exactly go together like a horse and carriage.
but then i guess that depends on whether you’re asking me or the moth.

///

susan lenz, one of the most prolific artists i know,
tagged me in her blog post today. go here
to read more about her process and what she’s currently up to
(she really does turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.)
and stop back by next monday when i’ll answer the questions
about process and productivity.

getting organized and taking stock

Stackofnancysdrawings04july2014

where other girls wore pretty necklaces and lanyards they braided at summer camp, i wore the cutest little brownie camera you ever saw. you know, the kind you had to lick the base of the flash bulbs to ensure they’d go off when you snapped a picture. i guess i’ve always been the family historian, and once upon a decade, i earned my living as a personal historian, recording stories about a person, then sifting through their photos and documents, eventually pulling everything together into a book.

at the suggestion of several people i met at that workshop a few weeks ago, i’ve started writing a book about nancy. one day last week i took stock of her drawings. turns out i have 11 sets (remember, a set = the drawings i bring home from a visit with her), and the numbers look like this:

set 1 – 6/2012 – 167 drawings
set 2 – 8/2012 – 454 drawings
set 3 – 10/2012 – 271 drawings
set 4 – 11/2012 – 94 drawings (we were with her only one day that time)
set 5 – 3/2013 – 162 drawings
set 6 – 3/13/2013 to 7/13/2013 – 366 drawings (these are drawings she made at her day program
set 7 – 7/2013 – 35 drawings
set 8 – 7/2013 to 11/2013 – 279 drawings
set 9 – 11/2013 – 102 drawings
set 10 – 12/2013 to 6/2014 – 889 drawings (yes, really)
set 11 – 6/2014 – 257 drawings

i ordered binders and page protectors to store them in instead of the rubber band method currently in use. next week, i’ll get them in the binders, and i’ll scan the sets i haven’t yet scanned. i’m kinda’ excited to be able to look at the drawings while slipping through a book. every time i look at them through a different lens, i see different things.

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meanwhile, i continue working on In Our Own Language 3. last week i figured i could have it completed by the end of july. now that’s funny and proof that i live in a fantasy world.

It’s Not That They’re Not Cute, but . . .

Iool3a

I’d just never make a good hamster, running around on that same wheel day in and day out. Living in that well-lit but tiny little castle. No lists of things to mark through to make me feel productive, like I’ve accomplished something. I’d be cranky, real, real cranky.

So when I’m stitching one of the In Our Own Language pieces – the series in which I stitch every single one of Nancy’s drawings* – I create a system or risk shopping for sales of bales of cedar shavings to stuff in my pillowcase and socks.

There were 167 drawings in In Our Own Language 1; 454 in In Our Own Language 2; and 271 in In Our Own Language 3 (I’m currently working on IOOL 3). Now it’s true that 271 sounds like not so much after stitching 454, but I get discouraged rather quickly. I need traction, so here’s what I do:

System2

I divided the drawings into groups of 50, putting each group into a separate envelope. Manageable milestones, you know. Markers. Attainable bites of the elephant. Then I set a goal of stitching a minimum of 25 drawings each week**, and I track my progress by logging the date and the numbers on the envelope. I also note the time spent stitching so I can estimate how long it takes me to stitch each drawing – that’s just for my own interest. And to maybe offer as bonus points on any pop quiz I toss out. I’m bad to do pop quizzes.

So now you have it: Jeanne’s Anti-Hamster System. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you a bedtime story about the actual stitching. Or maybe I’ll just bring you a glass of warm milk. We’ll see.

~~~~~~~

* Nancy is my 54 year old developmentally disabled sister-in-law. Every time we visit Nancy, she draws, and I bring home those drawings and stitch each drawing in the set, then each set becomes a cloth in the In Our Own Language series. Said another way: she draws, I stitch, we collaborate.

** I can usually stitch more than 25 in a week (even when traveling), but I don’t want to set myself up to fail, so I shoot in the medium range and treat it like I do my walking: my official goal is 10k steps a day, but my actual, unpublished (till now, anyway) goal is 12,500 steps/day. Why don’t I change the goal to 12,500, you might ask. Because I’m a sucker for the “You’re such an overachiever, Jeanne” messages my fitbit sends when I get over 10k steps.

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