09 December 2009

Botswana Show

Here are a few photos of the Botswanacraft Gallery in Gaborone, Botswana.  Cindy Friedman of Fiber Revolution organized the event and transported all the quilts to and from Africa.    The show ran from November 12th – 20th, 2009.

This is the second time Fiber Rev has teamed up with Kalahari Quilts in Gaborone.


(images: a glimpse of the beautiful open-air gallery where the Fiber Revolution exhibition was displayed, along with ethnic dolls made by local artist Puni Mosinyi)



By now most of the exhibition pieces have been returned to the artists.  The exceptions were: one of Cindy’s own work, which was gifted to the Museum, and 2 that were sold: a gorgeous composition entitled “Hibiscus” by Jutta Halpin and my very own “Elephant”.


02 November 2009

Something Inspiring



I took this photo two weeks ago, during a very nice walk in North Easton, Massachusetts.  These are the days when I feel lucky to live in New England. 

29 October 2009

Brand new work: Elephant, Botswana



“Elephant” was inspired by a photo of a bull elephant,  captured on film by Chuck Babbitt, in the Savuti Camp, Botswana (used with his permission).  Chuck has generously shared his work with me and allowed me to visit beautiful & exotic locations through his photography.

This quilt will be traveling along with Fiber Revolution to an exhibition in Gaborone, Botswana.  This is the second time the artists from Fiber Rev have teamed up with Kalahari Quilts and the Botswanacraft Gallery.







photo_elephantDetailSee the original inspiration for this quilt, and other
examples of Chuck Babbitt's photos here:
Babbitt Photography

28 October 2009

Seventh & Final in the Yale/Af-Am series: Friendship



The final installment of the 7-quilt Yale Af-Am project is “Friendship & Support”.  This piece illustrates the different fraternities & sororities in the House, professional/career guidance such as Black Graduate Network (BGN), and support organizations like Prism and Students of Mixed Heritage and Culture.









27 October 2009

Quilt 6: Community


The second is “Community”, representing the House’s dedication to social issues, inside and outside the University campus.  Some of these resident groups include Visions of Virtue, Black Church at Yale and Campus against Racial Violence.



25 October 2009

Quilt 5: The Arts

Arts These next three compositions celebrate the different resident groups that have a home at the Afro-American Cultural Center.  The first one is entitled “The Arts”, representing creative pursuits: music, dance, choir and literature. 

Some of the groups represented here are The Yale Gospel Choir, Heritage Theatre Ensemble, Sphere Magazine and Nzinga Dancers.



22 October 2009

Quilt 4: Anniversary


The fourth chronological quilt represents only the year 2009, marking the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the House.

(see image, upper left)

A quote by Kurt Schmoke (class of 1971) in the upper section reads “You are older than we are, and more experienced.  We want guidance from you, moral leadership.  On behalf of my fellow students, I beg you to give it to us.”  Kurt said these words to school administrators nearly 30 years ago, but students today want the same things from their role models.



You may notice a lot of “empty” space in this quilt.  This was intentionally done in order to offer a special opportunity to alumni.  The blank areas are quilted using a coordinating colored thread.  Organizers of the event asked me if there was a way for students and alumni to be part of the timeline in some way.  We worked out an idea for people to sign the last quilt with permanent marking pens.  During Alumni Weekend, students and alumni will sign the quilt and write personal messages or quotes right onto the fabric.


quilt4detailfaceIt’s definitely a first for me, to encouraging people to take a Sharpie marker to my artwork!  But in the end it will be a keepsake for the House and a nice way to mark this special anniversary.  Hopefully I will be able to get a photo of this panel after it has been signed.


The left sections list House Directors, and the phrase “Beneficiaries to Benefactors”.   Graduates are encouraged to give back to the community and to upcoming students. 

(Detail image: close up on one of the graduates)




(Detail image, lower left:  Two African masks, the de facto House Logo.  This image, drawn here with quilt stitching, is prevalent on the House’s website and on many event programs, flyers, etc.).



20 October 2009

Quilt #3 - “A Larger Community”


Third installment, Quilt 3: “Forming a Larger Community”

This period in AFAM's history was marked by the increasing opposition to Apartheid and a new focus on artistic expression. The largest square depicts the South African flag using silhouettes of people marching in protest.  During this time the House was experiencing a period of increased Social Awareness, Global Identity, Empowerment and inclusion of different ethnicities within the resident groups.  Other important traditions were started during this time as well, such as the Ogilvie, Robinson, DeChabert Leadership Forum – named for 3 of the 4 original founders of the House and Cabaret Weekend – AFAM’s collaboration with Yale’s School of Drama, playwright August Wilson and Director Lloyd Richards.

Next up: the 4th panel in the chronological timeline (Anniversary/ Celebration of Students and Alumni)

19 October 2009

Timeline- Quilt #2 “Founding”

Here is the 2nd installment of the AfAm timeline. It's called "Founding", and represents roughly the 1960’s and 70’s.  Technically, AFAM was founded in 1969 at another location but moved to 211 Park Street (shown here) a year later. But this is the address that everyone associates with the House.  2Founding_blogOver the years students and alumni have grown to love the place, working hard to raise funds to renovate it, restoring the facade and improving the interior facilities.  So I could not have created a panel for this time period without a portrait of the House as its main feature.

Other important events during this time were: the establishment of the Black Church at Yale (BCAY), and the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY), as well as the creation of an African American Studies degree program, the first one of its kind in the Ivy League.



…Not to complain but it's not easy to create a building out of fabric!!!  That was a first for me.  A detail of the building is shown below.

In 1964, Yale admitted fourteen African American students into its degree programs, a record number at the time.  Quilted within the house’s roof walls are the names of these men from the class of 1968, as well as upperclassmen Craig Foster ‘69 and Glenn DeChabert ‘70 (who along with Armstead Robinson ‘68 and Donald Ogilvie ‘68 are considered the House Founders). 

2Foundingdetail_blogI stitched them into the architecture of this fabric House because they provided the foundation for the Black Student Alliance at Yale and the Afro American Cultural Center.


Stay tuned… next up is Quilt 3: A Larger Community

18 October 2009

New Work: Fiber Art Timeline

Alumni Weekend at Yale is a busy one – especially at 211 Park Street.  The Afro American Cultural Center is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of its founding.  Events for students and alumni include speeches, table discussions, movie screenings, performances by singing and dancing troupes… as well as an exhibition of 7 art quilts by yours truly.

I was so proud to be able to work on this project.  It taught me a lot about the history of Connecticut and Yale University and gave me an insight into the incredible contributions of African American students in the Ivy League school.  The Afro American Cultural Center is more than a building.  The students, faculty and alumni call it “The House” and it is more like a home than an institution.  This building has represented at different times in history, a sanctuary for students who sometimes feel ostracized, a friendly gathering place for holiday parties and performance art, a safe environment for students to relax and be themselves, and a center for social and political action.

Of course the history of Black Life at Yale cannot be illustrated in just 7 panels.  But students David Lindsey, Chelsea Allen and Diana Ofosu provided me with an extensive amount of factual information, and worked with me to highlight key events.  I cannot thank them enough for all their help.  Assistant Dean Pamela George, Director of the Af-Am Cultural Center, hired me to create this fabric timeline and gave me complete artistic freedom to work on it.  I was honored that Dean George saw my work and invited me to play a small role in the House’s Anniversary celebration.

Quilt1_prehistory_blogIt is my sincere hope that each student and alumnus viewing these quilts will see a bit of themselves in the artwork.  Whatever their graduation year, I hope they will find inspiration, pride and fond memories within these fabric images.

I’m excited that I can now share photos of the 7 piece collection.  Quilt 1, entitled “Pre-History: Opening of the Gates”, represents the first Black students to attend Yale.  This was long before the establishment of the Afro American Cultural Center, but a timeline of the House cannot overlook the contributions of these individual pioneers.   For example: 1834-1839 James Pennington (left side of quilt, middle) was not allowed to officially enroll at Yale, but he audited classes and went on to become a minister and successful author.  1874 Edward Bouchet (top left corner) enrolled & graduated with a degree in Physics, then continued on to become the first African American to earn a PhD.   This piece includes quotes & dates, and stitched into the quilting are words that reflect the attributes of these men (Achievement, integrity, hero, courage, vision) etc.  014

Diana mentioned she walks through these very gates going to campus every day (detail left).  It’s amazing to think that the first African American students walked through the same gates over a century ago.  


Check back soon to see the next quilt in the House’s timeline: “Founding: 211 Park Street”.

13 October 2009


I took my mom over to the Leever Atrium during off hours, just to give her a look at the Fiber Snapshots exhibit.  It’s a very nice room although a little spooky with no people walking through.  But the lonely environment was great for taking pictures.  :-)


(upper left) 

My mom walking through the exhibition. 








(lower left)

Here’s the long view of the Atrium Gallery.  The wall on the left is slightly curved, so it’s hard to see the artwork in this shot.  Over on the right are stairs to the Fine Arts Center, as well as wall-length windows for natural, indirect light.  Back toward the far wall you’ll see chairs & a podium.  That’s where we’ll have the gallery talk.

If you are not on the mailing list for a postcard, here are the details:

NVCC/ Ruth Leever Atrium Gallery will host Kate Themel for a Gallery Talk about her quilted artwork on  November 19th from 11:00am – 1:30pm followed by a light reception and refreshments.

For directions to NVCC (Waterbury Campus), visit

30 September 2009

Next Challenge – A Celebration of History

Well the NVCC show is up and running and I’m already well into the next project.  I’ve been commissioned to create 7 quilts as a fiber art timeline for Yale University’s Afro-American Cultural Center, otherwise known as AfAm or just “The House”.  Today, three are complete and the fourth is nearly complete. 

Four of the 7 quilts make up the chronological timeline, starting in pre-House history (1800s); the Founding of the House (1960s, 70s), Modern History (1980s – 2008) and the last one dedicated to the 40th Anniversary – highlighting leadership and alumni. 

The remaining three quilts will be a celebration of Resident Groups, past and present.   They are organized into 3 categories: 1.“The Arts”- Theater/Music/Choir/Literature; 2.“Academics & Friendship”- Frats/Sororities/Professional Development/Multi-Ethnic Groups & Support; and 3.“Community Ties”- Literacy/Volunteer/Social Action.  As you might have guessed, this is a very busy house that enriches the lives of people of all races.

The whole collection will be revealed on Alumni Weekend, October 16-18th.   That might explain why I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks.  Every free moment I have is spent working on this important project.   I have to say this is the most ambitious project I’ve ever taken on due to the number of quilts and short deadline.  But I love working on it.  Sometimes I’ll spend 8-10 hours at a stretch, on Saturdays & Sundays (thanks Hubby for babysitting!) and still I feel like I could do even more without getting burnt out. 

However, since the 40th Anniversary of The House is a very special event and this timeline will have personal meaning to many of the alumni, I won’t be posting photos of the finished collection until after they see it.  So even though I’m VERY excited and honored to have been asked to do this, and can’t wait to show them off, I don’t want to preempt the Alumni events by showing the work early. 

Since Yale’s Alumni Weekend is not an open-to-the-public event, there may not be an opportunity for people to see the collection in person.  But I promise to post complete collection photos after October 18th.  Stay tuned!!

03 September 2009

Framing up the “Fiber Snapshots” Show

prayer_frameBLOG So far I have one done.  It’s a time consuming process, attaching the quilt to archival backing using tiny invisible stitches to hold it in place.  Then matting & framing…. luckily I don’t have 50 to do.  :-)

I started with “Prayer for Peace”…. just because I really like it and I thought it would look nice with the white mat & black frame.  Normally I wouldn’t use a mat with a framed quilt, but keeping with the photographic style of the show it works.

Reminder:  Fiber Snapshots opens at the Leever Atrium Gallery at Naugatuck Community College (NVCC) on September 25th and runs until November 20th.

NVCC is located at 750 Chase Parkway / Waterbury CT / 06708

27 August 2009

Fiber Snapshots

It’s deadline time so I’m calling the end of “Creative Challenge 2009”...  The final collection will be:

  • Just For the Fun of it
  • Prayer for Peace
  • Woman
  • Healthy Relationship
  • Unity of Purpose
  • Honest Day’s Work
  • Abundance
  • Show Off
  • Muscle Memory

You might have noticed “Near Miss” or the Lightning Storm is not included.  It may be good enough to hang in some show but just doesn’t fit this one.  So these 10 make up the quilted Fiber Snapshots exhibition.  Visit NVCC’s Leever Atrium Gallery between September 25th and November 20th to see them in person!

If you’d like to receive a postcard for this and other exhibitions, please join our mailing list (scroll down to the bottom of this page to use the contact form).  Thanks!

24 August 2009

Finished: Welder

It was hard to photograph this one because of the metallic thread. Some of the sparkle is getting lost with the flash. But it's a little easier to see the stitching in the detail shot (hopefully). This may be my last one since the show will start in September.

This week I've started work on a new commission project. This one is pretty enormous, 9 individual quilts due in mid-October. No signs of things slowing down until then, so I'll still be working on overdrive.

I'm still struggling with a name for the "Challenge" collection, and I really need to settle on something so I can get promotional postcards in time. I think I like the idea of Snapshots in Time... but is there a more exciting way of putting it?

The concept is definitely taking shape as little snapshots, or moments in time, etc. They illustrate a moment captured or frozen... Not sure how to describe the collection.
Need help... Comments are welcome!

15 August 2009

Progress: A Day's Work

Despite the title, it's going to take more than a day to complete this quilt. It's a work in progress; I just started quilting the other day but haven't had a chance to get back to it yet. So far I've added a few strands of metallic thread, which I like. I'll be adding a lot more to fill in the area of the sparks. (detail photo below)
It's based on a welder, who represents the idea of doing an day's work for a day's pay. In some ways, learning a trade and working with one's hands for a living is becoming a lost "art".

30 July 2009

New Work: Strawberry finished

Just finished. :-)
I was thinking about starting another plant-life one, this time a tree. Maybe it's because things are starting to bloom around the garden; we're seeing some tomatoes and squash coming to life, and the peas & lettuce have been going strong for weeks. I've been enjoying the outdoors lately (in between thunderstorms).

My original plan for the next quilt was for a portrait but I'm just not sure if I'm up to doing it. I have a picture of my dad that I've been saving for years. Every once in a while I consider making a quilted portrait but keep putting it off. It has to be done well, with the right colors, the right size... guess I haven't decided on the perfect composition yet.

28 July 2009

Work in Progress: Strawberry

As the summer progresses, I'm finding less time for studio work. Too many other projects & events going on. Well, here is this week's update. "Strawberry" is put together and waiting to be quilted (probably this week). It's based on a photo I took last summer in Croatia. They had these delicious wild strawberries - juicy, red and super sweet. Another working title could be "Summer Slacking" because this composition is just sweet & fun and reminds me of a relaxing day in July.

The next project is definitely going to be another portrait but I need time & space to focus before I start that one.

21 July 2009

New Work: Muscle Memory

"Muscle Memory" is based on the concept of learned movements and patterns that become "hardwired" in our brains.
Athletes, dancers and musicians have this ability due to years of practice and repetition. Even if they are away from their sport or craft for years, they can pick it right back up and play. Their bodies seem to move automatically; they know what to do without consciously thinking.
Inspired by a photo by my good friend, photographer Joe Putrock.
The hands are jazz pianist Lee Shaw's.

19 July 2009

New Work: Show Off

I have been working with pretty strict color palettes lately, a lot of neutrals... guess I just had to break out those saturated hand dyed colors! I also used several colors of thread, quilted to nearly an obsessive-compulsion just because they're so fun to look at.
(detail photo right)

The composition is based on a photo of red-petalled Brown-eyed Susans. I took the photo in my friend Becky's beautiful garden. This group of red and orange petals stood out from a field of regular (yellow) Brown-eyed Susans. I couldn't take my eyes off them; why did they develop these colors? Clearly the yellow ones were surviving just as well. So how did this change happen in their plant genes? Maybe they're just showing off.

12 July 2009

Work in Progress

Well some weeks are more productive than others I guess. I didn't get a chance to finish a quilt this week but in keeping with my weekly commitment, here's a photo of the latest work in progress. If you can't tell what it is yet... I'm not going to tell you. But this photo gives an idea of how these quilts are built. Right now I have 6 layers done.
Typically my quilts have anywhere from 6 to 10 layers by the end. After that the quilt stitching adds more texture and sometimes additional colors & shapes.

Hopefully I'll be able to finish this during the week. Stay tuned to see it come together.

05 July 2009

New Work: Prayer for Peace

It was a productive weekend; I was able to finish this one in two (long) days. Prayer for Peace was inspired by a Bahai prayer, which is sewn into the quilt by free-motion stitching. (detail photo below)

An excerpt reads:

"O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.
O God! Establish the Most Great Peace.
Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together." ~Abdu'l Baha'


Depending on your monitor, the stitching may be hard to see. I used white thread on a white background. The words are not meant to be "in your face", the first thing you see. They can't even be detected from a distance. Instead, the prayer can only be seen if you get up close, and still it's only a whisper.

The image of the person is based on a portrait photo by Marcello Goretti

This quilt is part of the 2009 Blogger’s Quilt Festivalsidebarlogo

02 July 2009

New Work: Tigershark

This lovely creature was captured on film by Chuck Babbitt (used with his permission). I used Chuck's photo as a guide while creating this new composition. Although I've never seen or touched a real live shark, I do have a healthy respect for them and prefer to encounter them on fabric instead of in the ocean.
Tigershark is constructed entirely of hand-dyed cotton and thread with the exception of a layer of tulle over the shark's body. Tulle is a very fine acrylic mesh or netting. It keeps the small pieces of fabric lying nice and flat and also has (what I imagine is) a kind of "shark skin" texture.

See the original inspiration for Tigershark and other examples of Chuck Babbitt's photos here:
Image Pro: Chuck Babbitt Photography

27 June 2009

New Work: Gears

Based on a collection of cogs, wheels and gears, this one is called "Unity of Purpose". The challenge was in representing a precise, sharply defined metal object using soft, slightly fraying fabric and imprecise stitches. What I couldn't do with bits of material I tried to define with free-motion thread drawing. Up close it's a mass of quilting stitches but if you back up and squint your eyes it starts to look like something.

On a side note: I'm trying not to buy new fabric for every project, so this month I've been trying to break out those fabrics & colors that I never used because I thought they were kinda "ugly". My personal subtitle for this one is "How many ugly colors does it take to make something pretty?"

21 June 2009

New Work: Just for the Fun of it

This composition is based on a photo that my brother took back in 2000. He snapped the picture as my son was spinning around in an office chair & laughing. I'll never forget that day because we were all at my mom's house after the sudden death of my father. My sweet 4 year old boy was a welcome distraction. His screams & laughter caught on and pretty soon we were all giggling.

updated lightning

Well, this one is quilted and finished except for the binding. But I'm still not sure if it really works. It's just not "lightningy" enough. HOWEVER, I don't have time to sit and stew about it. So I'm off to do the next one. Time will tell if I like this one better later. As the show date draws closer, it may or may not make the cut.

12 June 2009

Creative Challenge Update: HoneyBee

My mom was generous enough to visit (and babysit) for a couple days this week, leaving me time to work in the studio. I'm so grateful to her for the uninterrupted time, I'm considering naming this bee after her. :-)
Thank you Mom!!
I really like how the bee turned out; I was trying to achieve a fuzzy look with the stitching. The hand-dyed colors work well for the flowers and I like how the stamens are intertwined with the bee's legs. Still... I'm just not sure if these two images work together or compete with each other. I can't shake the feeling of "is this about the bee or the flowers?"
I'm working on different colors of binding to see if a small frame around it would unify the design. Anyway, I'll leave that for now. After a few weeks I'll take another look and see if I get a different impression.

08 June 2009

Side Tracked

Why is it that whenever I have a block of time to "work" I find myself fresh out of ideas? I was suffering from a bout of "Quilter's Block" pardon the pun.
Luckily I am teaching my class tomorrow, the last one in a 5-week series on portraits in fabric.
Just for a fun project we are doing cartoony self-portraits. I asked my students to think about something that is clearly identifiable either in their personality or their physical appearance. The idea is to exaggerate that and come up with a design to poke fun at ourselves.
So here's mine. A few days ago I had my hair "high-lighted". I'm sure many of you ladies know what I mean by this: the process of lightening your hair is more of an art than a science. The strength of the chemicals, the length of time you leave them in, the original color of your hair and its Ph level or whatever.... You never know how it's working until they take those foily things out.
Normally I like surprises but this time YIKES! They're a little bright, you might say. I'm sure they'll tone down over time or at least it will eventually grow out. But for now I have brown hair with electric orange-yellow streaks around my face. Being very pale in complexion, I'm not sure this is really working for me. Anyway, every time I do a double take in the mirror it just makes me laugh.
I entitled my self portrait "It's just HAIR". More of a reminder to myself to stop taking everything so seriously. And it's also a way to stop myself from just grabbing the scissors chopping my hair off as I am tempted to do sometimes. :-)

07 June 2009

Creative Challenge - Update 2

Okay, this one is basically assembled but not yet quilted. I'm thinking of doing a short series entitled "Boys". They are based on my own sons but I plan to vary the skin colors because boys' antics are almost universal. The one on the left depicts my older son flipping & jumping off a concrete pier into the water below. Other possible compositions include climbing trees, balancing on a railing... pretty much anything that is fun and makes your mother cringe.

30 May 2009

Creative Challenge

This fall, a solo exhibition of my quilted artwork will be on display at the Leever Atrium Gallery (part of Naugatuck Valley Community College). My goal is to have 12 to 15 completely new quilts by then... which means I'll be putting the creative process into high gear for the next few months!
The show begins September 25th 2009. That gives me roughly 16 weeks to create an entire collection. I have one 'mostly' done so far. (See photo, left)
I haven't done the binding or hanging mechanism on the back. But I usually leave that stuff until the last minute.
SO here's the challenge: I want to get a new 15x20 quilt finished about every week to 10 days. The Challenge Begins NOW
Check back to see my progress...
Note: "Woman" was based on a photo by Wojtek Dziedzic, used with his permission. The original photo can be seen on Mr. Dziedzic's portfolio on

22 January 2009

Meet the Artists - Trunk Show

As a member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates), I had the privilege of submitting this small art quilt for their traveling show. We were asked to provide a 9.5" square art quilt that represents our personal vision or special technique. Leaf Shadow is an example of my current obsession: creating the illusion of light using fabric.

From SAQA's Press Room:
"SAQA is almost 20 years old, with more than 2200 members from all over the world. The Exhibition Committee wanted to make that world a little smaller by introducing ourselves to each other through our artwork. As part of our 20th Anniversary celebration, we are planning "Meet SAQA's Artists: SAQA's 20th Anniversary Trunk Show." These works will be available for travel to each of our regions, upon request, during our 20th Anniversary celebration. The regions may share them with their members and use them to showcase SAQA and its mission.

A portion of "Meet SAQA's Artists" will then be selected to become an important study collection at the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. IQSC is devoted to the preservation, study and exhibition of quilts and to sharing its resources with the public. The donation of the selected works from the "Meet SAQA's Artists" project will create an important archive representing both SAQA and the artists who are working in the studio art quilt medium in 2009-a historical benchmark to assist future historians, academics, writers and others tracking the art quilt movement. To have a permanent, archived collection of representative work at the IQSC and the University is an important realization of SAQA's educational mission."

The exhibition begins May 18th-24th, 2009 in Athens Ohio and will travel around the USA for one year.