Month: September 2007


We enjoyed beautiful, Indian summer weather this past weekend, and I took a photo break Sunday afternoon to capture some images of my bucolic little town where I work and live: Stow, Massachusetts.

When mishaps from the Big Dig aren’t backing things up (which is kind of a rare event these days), Stow is a mere forty-minute ride from Boston.  You’d never guess it’s so close by the looks of it. We’re one of Boston’s best kept secrets.  (Pictures below taken at “Little Farm.”)

Stow’s home to a state forest, a river, two traffic lights, five golf courses, a handful of farm stands, a couple of cool magazines, and three apple orchards.

On weekends, our streets are teeming with motorcycles and minivans as friends and families hail from New Hampshire to New Haven to come apple picking. Just listen to the names of some of the locally grown varieties: Russett, Golden Delicious, Vista Bella, Red Rome, Early Mac, Paula Red, Jonagold, Macoun, Ginger Gold, Red Delicious, Crab, Empire, Northern Spy, Winesap.

Meet Luther, a fifteen-year-old Golden who keeps busy as the “watch dog” at Carver Hill Orchards.

On Sunday, my husband and I stopped at Carver for a small basket of Cortlands and a bag of fresh peaches. When we returned home I brought some art supplies outside to our garden table, promptly plucked four apples from the basket, and sliced them in half—not for eating but for art-ing, of course.

Do you remember making apple prints as a kid? I do! That afternoon I spent a fun- and sun-filled hour transfer-dyeing and hand-dyeing apple prints onto Lutradur, muslin, Lokta paper, paper towels, and coffee filters. (The image below is a transfer-dyed coffee filter that I later stitched .)

Symmetrical, tart, curvaceous, ancient, crisp, and rich with meaning, the apple presents itself as a wonderful form to celebrate with paint and stitch (and I’ll certainly be exploring and playing with it while I’m cooped up during the winter months).

I ask you: Is there an image, symbol, motif, or theme  that has you running for your sketchpad and/or needle?  Have you created a series? Would love to hear about what you’ve done and if you have a link, please share.

Soon I’ll be posting a prelimimary schedule for the workshops for Make it University in Houston this fall.  (And I’ll be teaching a sampler workshop where we’ll be playing with a variety of coloring agents, papers, stabilizers, and stamping with what else? You guessed it!)

In Thanks

I’m simply overwhelmed with the outpouring of support I’ve gotten over the past week. Thanks everyone for the kind words on my father. I’ve been feeling a maelstrom of emotions: grief, of course, coupled with compassion for all of you dealing with cancer or caring for a loved one with cancer; gratified to hear so many will be making postcards for FFAC (thank you); and lastly, blessed to feel the love and friendship making its way through cyberspace.

One last word on my father. I flew down this past Wednesday to his house for a small gathering of friends and relatives. I kept composed fairly well until Sonny, a childhood friend of my dad’s arrived. Sonny was there during the final days of my dad’s life and I just sobbed on his shoulder as we sat in my father’s sitting room and Sonny told me all of the things my father said, experienced, and felt during those last days. Before my father fell into a coma, he turned to Sonny and between labored breaths said, “Sonny, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted to do in this life.”

When Sonny told me that, I quieted some. I’m relieved that even though my dad died fairly young, he died fulfilled, and every time I’m feeling a wave of grief wash over me, I’m going to try and remember this.

With this also comes the realization—and determination—to make the absolute most of my life. And as I enjoy another birthday next month, I realize I’m. Not. Nearly. Done. Not even close.

After a week of mourning, I walked into my studio this Saturday morning with a vengeance to create, to choose to live a healthy life, to give my job all that I can, and to fiercely love and support my family and friends.

I’m so blessed to have this incredible job and to be part of the community that all of you create. Here at Quilting Arts LLC, we have a lot of exciting endeavors to plan for over the next few months, namely an increased publication schedule (more on that later), as well as the end-of-year celebration of Make It University/Make It U! this November in Houston. If you haven’t heard, Cloth Paper Scissors is collaborating with Quilts Inc. to put together an exciting gathering of mixed-media vendors and artists to offer mixed-media, paper, and bookbinding products, teach workshops, and share some interesting exhibits. And here’s where a little fun (and thanks to you) come in to play…

As I sit in my studio overflowing with hand-dyed fabrics, vintage findings, buttons, hand-dyed cheese cloth, painted tissue and coffee filters (great for stitching and collage), and other findings, I know I just wont be able use it all.  So I have a deal for you:

1.The first 30 people to answer the following question via the blog will receive an assortment of goodies from me.  If you see that you are in the first 30 responses, please **email** me your mailing address. It’s a bit time-consuming to track people down so please make sure to immediately follow up your blog response by emailing me at with your address.
2. Take the goodies I mail you and create a piece of art. You can make a fiber art postcard, a tiny quilt, a handmade book, a series of ATCs, a fabric bowl, fabric house, etc. And I’d be thrilled to pieces if you created an ATC for Make It University/Make It U!

3. Scan or take a photograph of your work and email the image to me at by Friday, October 13th. The image should be either a jpeg or gif file and be 72 DPI and less than 1 MB in size. Please only send me one picture in total.

Since I’m going to be sending all 30 people nearly the same items but in various colors, it’ll be interesting to see the different results. I’ll be posting some of the pictures on the blog, and it’s also quite possible that we’ll feature the different pieces of artwork in Houston in our booth in the Make It University/Make It U section. (If this happens I’ll post details at a later date.)

The question to be answered on the blog:
What special skill or series of work are you interested in perfecting or studying at the moment?  Making creative journals?  Free-motion quilting? Handmade books? Fabric bowls? Tell us what you’re doing, and if you have a website or blog to show us your work make sure to include the link.

Be well, everybody…


Countdown to MIU–Houston!

Make It University/Make It U! will be making its debut in Houston this fall November 2 – 5 at the International Quilt Festival, and I just launched the webpage with the schedule of workshops and events. I’ll be updating it weekly (at the very minimum) with more information on vendors, descriptions of the workshops, and other news.

You’ll see a workshop called “Surviving the Runway: The Ultimate Creative Challenge with Cloth Paper Scissors.”  You can probably guess where we’re going with this, and it will be a lot of fun for both those who get in the workshop and those who can watch on the sidelines! (We’re howling around the conference table as we plan this.) Be sure to bring your sense of humor!

I’ll also be on hand every day in the Quilting Arts/ Cloth Paper Scissors booth to answer questions, give demos, and help demystify articles and techniques that may still be a bit mysterious.

I really can’t wait for Houston to surround myself with all those beautiful quilts; I look forward to this every year.

Hope you’ll join us!  Be sure to tell your friends, and I’ll pass along more information as soon as I have it…

Happy New Year!

And a blessed one I hope it will be for everyone. I don’t have any new year’s resolutions, except to make efforts to spend more time in my studio and less on the net. (My guess is this is a common goal for many of us.)

After my father passed away last fall, I wanted to engage myself in a positive, cathartic activity (and learn something along the way), so I signed up for the Kemshall’s Creative Sketchbook course. I finally spent some time this past new years weekend working on the first module, and am enjoying the design exercises immensely.

In other news, now that many of us are stuck indoors for the next few months, had you given some thought to participating in our Quilting Arts 2008 Calendar “A Novel Idea” Challenge? The receive-by deadline is Friday, March 9th. Even if your quilt is not selected for the calendar, by participating in our challenge, it lets our editorial team familiarize ourselves with your artwork to see if we can feature your work in an upcoming issue of Quilting Arts. Hope you’ll participate!

Warm wishes for a joyful new year,

* Two stamps in this mini-journal page courtesy of Artgirlz.

Scribbling away

Time and time again I hear stories from friends and readers about creating art as a way of restoring inner calm, and it certainly holds true for me. I came back from my Phoenix trip only to learn that there was a grave family emergency on my hands and I needed to immediately depart for Virginia.

When I returned to Boston and a voluminous amount of paperwork and emails that had accumulated while away, I yearned to simply hold a crayon and scribble like mad. When I’m stressed, upset, or trying to work through a difficult problem, I don’t usually run for the nearest box of chocolates, nor do something as cerebral as write my thoughts down in a journal. Rather, I color. I don’t usually sketch anything discernible; I love to take three to four crayons in analogous colors and use simple, broad, child-like strokes across the page, then move the colors around with a damp cosmetic wedge to watch them blend and brighten. Instant gratification!

My first night back from Virginia, I grabbed an old hardcopy of a book I use for altered book pages, and started gluing sets of pages together to make them strong enough for coloring. I took crayons in warm, vibrant hues––burnt sienna, sunset red, rust, and purple––and scribbled away. As I was smearing the colors with a wet cosmetic wedge, the resulting mixtures were too bright for my taste, so I took a damp paper towel and tried to blot some of the color. In doing so, I accidentally ripped the top page, revealing the glued page below. I then got the idea to color the bottom page before adhering it to the second (top) page so that I could purposely rip the top page to reveal the colored page underneath. The resulting backgrounds are complex, colorful, and the illegible text reminds me of ancient, cryptic scrolls that have been buried for centuries in the sand.


Materials:Pages from a hardcover bookGolden Gel Medium (regular matte)Coloring agents of choice (I use Lyra Aquacolor crayons and Portfolio® watercolor soluble oil pastels.) Cosmetic wedges


Optional:Clorox® Bleach PenPearl-Ex Powders Shiva PaintstiksAdirondack Color Wash ® in Butterscotch from RangerWalnut Ink


1. Color the base page. (I suggest a fairly bright color such as butterscotch yellow.)2. Take another page and glue on top of the base page using gel medium.3. Scribble with crayons or oil pastels on the top page.4. With a damp cosmetic wedge, smear and mix the colors together. Allow the page to dry.

5. Rub sandpaper in spots, pulling bits of the top page off. Take your fingers and gently rip the top page in parts, revealing the page below.

Further options:

•You can further blend the colors of the top pages and bottom pages together by spraying both with walnut ink or color washes such as Adirondacks by Ranger. (I particularly like Butterscotch.)• Take a Clorox® bleach pen and create squiggles in areas. Allow to set for five minutes, then swipe these bleach spots with a paper towel.

• Take a damp paintbrush and dab some Pearl-Ex powders in metallic colors for a glittery effect.

Note: I have some alterations and expansions to this technique that I’ll be sharing at Make It University in Houston this fall. (More on M.I.U. later!)


So I ask you—what art activity do you do when you’re stressed? I invite you to respond to the blog, but if you’d also like your answer to be considered for print in Cloth Paper Scissors, feel free to fill out the questionnaire on this web page.

Happy coloring!

Interview with cover girl, Cheryl Prater

cheryl2_1-4334893 Are you pulling your hair out, wondering what you could possibly get your mother-in-law for her birthday? Just ask Cheryl Prater, daughter-in-law extraordinaire. If you haven’t seen the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors yet, Cheryl’s shares directions for her humorous mixed-media board game “Sixtyopoly,” a gift for her mother-in-law, Carol, celebrating her life so far.

Q: How did the idea for “Sixtyopoly” come about?
A: Well, I was under the gun because my mother-in-law had asked me to put together a memory shadow box as a gift to her brother, Tony.  She’d bought me the box and gave me all these wonderful items that belonged to her dad who died a couple of years ago.  The box really turned out great and I know she almost hated to give it to Tony.  Her sixtieth birthday was looming shortly thereafter, and I knew I had to create something really special for her to follow that.  I racked my brain for about three weeks, and after playing with a couple of items and making a couple of false starts until I made put that pouting Carol on the checkerboard.  The game idea flourished and it kind of took on a life of it’s own from there.

cps_cover2_1-2441423 Q: You must have a great relationship with your mother-in-law!
A: Yes, isn’t that crazy? (Laughing) I met my husband when I was 17, and met her shortly thereafter. Obviously seeing that she’s a 60-year-old mom now you can see how young she was when she had my husband, Mark. She said the nicest thing to Mark when she met me. She told him, “When I met Cheryl, this was the first of your girlfriends who is a real grown-up person.” She’s truly a strong person and has had an amazing life. I love her!

Q: How long did it take you to make “Sixtyopoly?”
A: Off and on about two months. It was hard because Carol and I talk everyday like I talk with my own mom. She’d ask me what I was working on in my studio, and I’d have to fib. It was so hard to keep a secret from her—I even tell her when I’m fighting with Mark. (She takes my side, of course!)

Q: When/how did you give it to her?
A: Well, she decided to throw herself a surprise 60th birthday party! It was really an excuse to have a reunion as her parents are both gone now. She has a sister and three brothers all throughout the country and wanted them to get together.


I unveiled it at the party; she was so blown away and so overcome that she started bawling.  She had to go into the house and wash her face, and she came back outside still crying so she went back into the house again.  The second time she came out, we had put on the aprons I had also made, and she cried some more. I didn’t know that she’d get that emotional about it, but we’ve been through so much together.


Q: Where is “Sixtyopoly” displayed?
A: In her home in a place of honor. She did read all the cards at the party but doesn’t play with it. People just wanted to look at it.


Q: So I take it you love mixed media and altered arts. What artists do you admire?
A: Claudine Hellmuth, Beryl Taylor, Debbi Crane, Lesley Riley, Michael DeMeng, Jane Powell at Random Arts, Teesha Moore, Lori Mika to name a few.

Q: Any skill you’re champing at the bit to learn?
A: Patience! The most dreaded words in any art workshop are “let dry.” I am the most impatient person!

Q: What was it like getting notified that you were cover?

A: Kinda’ like the day I had the ultrasound and found out I was having twins. And waiting for this issue to come out was like waiting the 13 days I was in labor. And it was more painful waiting for the magazine!

Well, with two twin boys and by being a cover girl, it sounds like all good things in Cheryl’s life were worth the wait.

If you’d like to connect with Cheryl check out her blog. Our January/February issue is now available on newsstands.