Archive for ‘July, 2014’

Creative Group Fun


Cheers for a few more little dreams come true!  Yesterday, five friends gathered at Ann’s place out in the country to play together, making stuff.  (After a potluck, of course.)  Ann shared with us the impressive collection of gourds she’d grown and dried.  She set out cool tools like her dremel and woodburning pen, covered her kitchen table in washable towels to make a work surface, and let us all pick a gourd and start creating.  OH MY GOODNESS was it fun!  I mean really fun— I conquered my fear of the dremel tool, used a woodburner for the first time since I was about 11 years old, explored a new-to-me gourd “canvas,” found out what gourd seeds look like, and loved being with my friends and partner in the process.  Such a satisfying day.

Ann, gourd gardener and host

Ann, gourd gardener and host

Here’s the dreams-come-true part:  I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who had a group of friends playing around with creativity on a Saturday afternoon, and really loving it.  For a lot of years, that sounded too awkward or hard to put together, or too much like the work I do hosting arts and spirituality workshops.  Or I thought I didn’t have a big enough or good enough space for it.  Or I was moving too fast to take the time.  But today I just had to tell you– it’s not that hard and it’s totally worth it to experience this much joyful, engaged ease, right in your kitchen or living room.  And it’s FREE, beyond the gas to get there, a few supplies, and a side-dish.  The tricks are: making an effort to live slowly enough (at least sometimes) to give a half a day to an adventure, being willing to be messy and try something new, and to ask some friends along.  (Ok, the potluck might actually be a requirement too… but even that was a super-simple feast yesterday.)

Vicky's "My Beautiful Chicken"

Vicky’s “My Beautiful Chicken”

It was Holly’s idea to invite these friends to meet every six weeks or so for creative exploration.  We’ve totally loved the times we’ve gathered so far.  Sometimes we do old fashioned “Show & Tell” with each other, sharing whatever we’ve been creating lately on our own.  Other times one of us organizes a project, like collage-making at our house, or this terrific chance to make gourd art that Ann gave our group.  Who knows what we’ll do next, but I’m already looking forward to it!  Truly, these simple pleasures improve my life a hundred times over.

What’s more, when I read the wonderful book I’m enjoying right now, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down, by Christian McEwen, I can smile and nod in agreement, rather than cast my eyes wistfully to the ceiling in longing like I used to do.  These days I’m deeply grateful I’m not just hoping for a slower, richer, creative life… some of it happened just yesterday.

When might you try your own version of creative play time?  I can’t recommend it enough.

Click on the pictures to see the details, and leave a comment about your own explorations!

With blessing and joy–  Melanie

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It’s Something About Joy


Hurrah!!  I’m delighted with my latest fabric experiment, inspired by a simple painting.  After last week’s process, blue waves, and a final a few tweaks to finish the design, it was time for a title… (always the hardest part for me).  My partner, Holly, asked me, “Well, what’s this one about?”  And I answered, “I think it’s something about joy.”  It stuck!  Something About Joy, it is, and I hope it feels contagiously joyful for you too.

I love the motion of this art, and the energy.  The fabric makes it warm and immediate, and its collage-like assembly gives it a “now” feeling somehow.

Also, in these recent images I seem to be processing a lot about incorporating the “stuff” of life, or the hard, jumbly parts.  They get their own layer here, made of scrap bits, and yet they become almost a ground from which all the other flow and radiance emerges.  Hmm… lots to ponder there about how I might accept and even build on the daily challenges and ‘interruptions’ that might actually be supporting and surrounding the sacredness of life, right in the middle of it!

Joyous day to you–  Melanie

Art Print available


Front detail

Front detail


Back detail

Back detail


Painting that inspired the fabric art

Painting that inspired the fabric art

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Painting with Fabric


Cue the festive fabric project— antidote to the big push of the SDI Emerging Wisdom Conference and this difficult year of my partner Holly’s health challenges.  Turns out I couldn’t wait to try translating a simple acrylic sketch painting into a loose fabric scrap mandala.  Here’s a peek at the behind-the-scenes process, mid-way through this current experiment painting with fabric.

First, the sketch painting–  I just loved the shapes and vibrant color that showed up from my brush during a contemplative workshop, beautifully led by Sarah Kotchian and Donna O’Neill.  Can you tell that those two hours were a blessed oasis in the middle of the SDI conference?  My joy practically radiated off the page!  Here’s a snapshot of the painting:


When I couldn’t stop looking at my little painting (and loving it), I thought, “Why not try to convey that same energy in fabric?”  I was right to try– it’s super fun!  I built the background of the mandala first, with off-whites.


Cutting the gorgeous fabric shapes (below) reminds me of children’s book author Eric Carle, who paints his own paper and shapes it into collage.  (Carle’s The Tiny Seed is one of my favorites.  I received a copy from my friend Aaron Pruitt several years ago as a reminder that my work makes a difference.  Thanks, Aaron.)  I hoped to keep my cuts and shapes loose and a little messy, like Carle’s.  That’s good spiritual practice for me, since I can get too fussy and exact, which cramps the energy!


I love using lots of scraps of fabric from former projects, so I get the added bonus of mini-trips down memory lane.  Red from Sue Joiner’s Pentecost Stole, green from the Passion of the Earth project, etc.

Another surprisingly satisfying element in my fabric work are these messy micro-scraps.  They seem to represent the junk or challenge of life, and the irony is, they always end up being beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the  image.

This time, the grid of sewing lines over all these little pieces reminds me of a net.  I’m trying to slow down and be mindful these days, catching more of the lovely bits I might otherwise miss.


“But wait,” you might ask, “How did you sew down all those little bits of fabric and thread?  Wouldn’t they wiggle around too much or get caught in your sewing machine?”  Yes they would, except for– check this out– the tissue paper method!  I cut a piece of tissue to cover all the loose bits, pinned it down, then sewed right over the whole thing enough to tack down the pieces.  The tissue tore away, then I added more sewing on top to keep bits in place.



Finally, the threads on the back tell their own story.  Too bad these will be covered up in the end, when I mount the piece.  Well, maybe we all need a bit of mystery inside…Fabric-Work-again-4

Here’s the front-side image so far:


Next I’ll add blue watery waves at the bottom, giving a sense of peace and holding to the image.  I’ll get to decide whether it’s finished at that point…  to resist my usual temptation to add complication or detail.  I think this one might want to stay more simple and raw, uncomplicated.  We’ll see!

Hope you enjoyed the process tour, and I’ll look forward to sharing the finished image….

Colorful, messy life blessings to you!


UPDATE 7-9-14:  I’ve finished this image!  See the It’s Something About Joy blog post.

UPDATE 9-5-14:  Original Art for Sale