About Laverne Zabielski & Truly Wearable Art
Why do I want you to experience wearable art?
For the energy
And it’s uniqueness to match the uniqueness of your personality.
Your uniqueness, gleaned from your full life,
is your most desirable asset.
Your power tool.
I, too, have had a full life.
Rather than react, which comes from the gut,
I have learned to pause and respond, which comes from the heart.
I have learned to express my self fully.
I am living a creative life.
You know you have something to say
You are strong in your convictions and
You express them through your work which you perform with integrity
You are in your most powerful place.
Maybe in the past you were not at ease with your body
Or the way you carried your self
Or the way you talked about your beliefs and opinions or values.
Now you are beyond all that.
Let me help you realize and acknowledge that it’s time
For adventure and serenity
Calm and intrigue
We know life is complicated
We know life needs to be experienced
I will be your “go girl”
I will whisper your beauty
It is time now to let go and unleash
Express yourself fully, boldly
You are in control
You have hutzpah and
Let me help you feed it
The woman desiring to feed her
hungry hutzpah knows.
she knows who she is
where she was going.
You are the kind of woman who is full of wisdom
You are presenting yourself to life
Vibrant and bold
All the color
All the flavors of emotions, creativity,
Of a life lived
are coming out
Your friends gather around
You have wisdom to share
Your elixir is desired
Everything you’ve gone through in your life
Your joy, sorrow
has made you rich with life’s color
you have become the full
I give you another tool
to express yourself
to bring out your fullness
to unleash what you really want to give to the world
What I have for you is not a piece of clothing
It is art
It makes you feel
lovely, elegant, playful, sensual, beautiful, and colorful.
It fills you with energy
It presents the unique you
Your most valuable asset
Your power tool
Your uniqueness is why people listen to you,
want to know more about you.
What I have for you
Is a designer statement piece.
How I came to be who I am and do what I do
It was the lipstick floating on toilet paper that gave my mother away. When she put that red across her lips, it not only changed her face, it changed her stance when she stood at the stove and stirred.
When I first received the call from the emergency room nurse on September 11, 1998, I assumed she was telling me the worst so I wouldn’t be getting my hopes up. I listened as she stated my 26 year old son's condition: collapsed lung, paralyzed, no brain damage. I knew Donnie would pull through. And I knew I was strong and in control. I marched through those steel gray emergency room doors as if to say: Come on Donnie we can handle this, let’s go on home. Of course we couldn’t—not with all those tubes and that paralysis. The first thing he said to me, the very first thing was, “I’m sorry.” That was before all the tubes were inserted and I’m sure neither one of us knew it would be weeks before any real conversation would take place and that I would learn to read lips and tell him things from some place inside me that could only be spoken then. Several weeks later as he became stronger and only a few tubes remained in his arm and his throat and other hidden places under sheets that I could never see, we moved on to the mundane. Who will care for his dog while he’s in the hospital and can he live on his own, even if he is paralyzed? I didn’t even ask, can he? I simply assumed.
We got a note from Danny John’s teacher. I mean, he’s only three and a half.
“It’s the sillies,” she said. “He’s got the sillies. Won’t settle down and do his work. He’s just too silly. Doesn’t seem to know what is socially unacceptable.”
So this is how he turned out—too silly. “What is socially unacceptable, anyway?” I ask.
“Playing in his food,” she answers.
“Interesting,” I say, “considering his favorite friend is an artist and she calls food ‘art’ and Hershey’s syrup ‘food paint.’ Maybe he’s making food art?”
“And about his hair. Maybe it would be better if he didn’t get it cut so short. It disrupts the class. The children gather around him. ‘What did you do to your hair?’ They ask and they all want to touch it.”
Oh my god, they want to touch him? He’s the one who wants it cut so short. Do you think it could be he likes being touched?
So this is how he turned out—too silly, having too much fun, and he likes to be touched.
What is socially unacceptable, anyway?
Johnny does important work at eighteen months. I wash the kitchen floor. I’m with Johnny and with Johnny is where I want to be. I wash the kitchen floor and get it clean. Johnny climbs up on a chair he has pushed up to the counter. He gets a dishrag and brings it to me. He wants to help. He has important work to do. He has his rag and he wants to do his important work of washing floors. I concentrate on washing the kitchen floor as he concentrates on washing the kitchen floor. Nothing is more important than anything else, and the floors are clean. I begin to prepare the dinner. I take out the chicken, wash and dry it and Johnny pushes the chair up to the counter to do important work. He takes the dishes out of the dish drainer and I brown the chicken. He puts the dishes in the sink, and I brown the chicken. Johnny does the important work of putting clean dishes back into the sink. I walk out the back door to put the dirty rags in the laundry and Johnny closes the dryer door for me. The towels are dry. I take them out of the dryer and Johnny closes the dryer door for me. I open the dryer door, put the wet towels in and Johnny closes the dryer door for me. Johnny does the important work of closing the dryer door. I add spices to the chicken. Johnny sleeps as I write.
Sitting at the kitchen table, my face is on fire. Allergy? Or is it stress? I can barely write. My wrists won’t move. I just took Dana to the airport. She’s been living with her father for the past nine years. One week just wasn’t enough. I cried for being such a shitty mother, for leaving her when she was five, for her wanting me to come back and I never did, for not hearing her sing in the choir, for not seeing her lead cheers or play basketball, for not being there when she came home from school, for not listening to her tell me what’s going on in her life. Tears rolled down my face. Salt set my skin on fire. One week just wasn’t enough.
First, my mother made sections, laid the rag across her finger and combed smooth the silky strands, wrapped them down, under, up and around, tying a knot then sliding her finger out. The next morning she untied each one—chocolate swirls. Pulling them back, I sat, pretty,
“Take shorthand and typing,” my Daddy said. “Girls don’t need college if they marry a good man.”
Daddy was a Tech-Sgt. in the USAF. He drove a cab at night.
“But Daddy . . .”
“Take shorthand and typing,” he said again, “that way if something happens to your husband, you can always get a job as a secretary.” I didn’t want to be a secretary. I wanted to be a teacher.
“Girls don’t need to go to college to raise babies and besides we haven’t got the money,” my Daddy said.
Passion: it’s what takes over and what I covet. If it’s not passion in sex, it’s passion in art or ideas. It doesn’t matter, as long as it overtakes me, drives me, makes me feel . . . I have to. I must.
Where the Universe Rides
I’m riding that wave, that simultaneous, vibrating wave,
weaving warm, rose and wet.
The cave of our ancestry’s beckoning to you, inviting you in.
The doorway’s expanding, opening wide;
pink petal flowers, flaunting each side.
Come in little darling, be wrapped around tight
My fingertips tingle to touch you tonight—
to feel your stillness underneath
give rise to taste from my tongue’s touch
that I never knew you would want so much
As we ride rivers,
skim mountains, run with the flow
our eyes stare beyond that everyday look
to that place inside where the universe
When I feel the wind on my skin there is an ache in my chest that calls to me, tugging at my arms, pulling me into it’s sensuous embrace. I pack silk and dye in preparation for my journey to the farm. We are moving there to grow old. In small, incremental stages, we will put our life behind us, piece by piece. Each trip down I carry one belonging with me. Today I’ll take my flower-covered Sadler teapot. I’ll leave one artifact behind; the old wooden porch swing by the back door. I’ve asked each child to pick one thing and take it now; a piece of jewelry that hangs on my walls, a painting from my art class or one of my handmade artist books. Last week we installed the wood stove. Larry sculpted a glistening copper chimney. Later we climbed the roof, nailed metal roofing down, then gathered wood off the mountain. And stacked a woodpile. During the evening I processed the silk I had dyed earlier. Wrapped in newsprint, heat set the dye as the silk steamed in the old canner on the wood stove. I love hanging the freshly rinsed silks in the barn, the contrast between the rawness of the wood, its roughness and the softness of the silk, sensuously moving as the wind blows through the cracks in the barn. I am in awe of the individually wrapped and twisted silks, saturated with dye that hang from nails spread across old planks— the way the dye drips on the paper beneath making another artwork all of its own from the colors that bleed and drip into curvilinear lines making soft amorphous shapes. It doesn’t matter that the barn is dirty. It does not interfere with the process. I have deliberately chosen a process that can be flexible. These are the things that make the rhythm of my art apparent. The way I swing the big barn doors open and prop them with an iron rod. The way I move up to the long table Lester tied tobacco on when he owned the farm. The way I envision silk eventually hanging like tobacco from the ceiling, blowing in the wind making a silent sound instead of the rustle of dried tobacco leaves. My dance saunters over to the wood stove. I stoke the fire while silk steams, setting the dye, keeping the color brilliant. The hues vary as the seasons change and I gaze through the open barn doors onto the valley and let the colors in the field, the trees, or the reflections in the pond guide me in the choices of colors for that day. This is the gift I love most to share—my ability to arrange life so that art is always there to be woven in as time permits. And time will always permit. One must be ready.
WHY I MUST MAKE ART
I began as a writer, writing the truth about my experiences, no matter how painful. As my children became teenagers, I became a visual artist. This is when I learned having something to create in process at all times will get through the hard times. While much thought and contemplation goes into visualizing a piece of art or project, the actual tasks for completion are somewhat routine and can be completed in the midst of chaos; wrapping, dyeing, steaming, rinsing, ironing and then finishing the edges to create truly wearable art which is vividly layered and intrinsically contains the stories of my life.
WHERE I COME FROM
I am the oldest of seven children born to Grace Laverne Tilson Zabielski who was raised on a cotton farm in west Texas, and Raymond Frank Zabielski, the son of Polish immigrants to Chicago; the mother of five children, stepmother of six, and the grandmother of two. As an artist I am committed to creating opportunities for others to discover their passion for self-expression.
In 2004 I received my MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. I studied Japanese Shibori silk dyeing with Arturo Alonzo Sandoval at the University of Kentucky. Fiber art and artist books have been exhibited at The Friedman Chapman Gallery in Louisville, KY, MS Rezny Gallery, The Singletary Center for the Arts, University of Kentucky, Carneigie Center for Literacy and Learning and Artsplace Gallery, Lexington, KY, and Claypool-Young Art Gallery, Morehead State University, KY. Creative non-fiction essays and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including: The American Voice, High Performance, The Sun, Now and Then, and Southern Exposure. "The Garden Girls' Letters and Journal," my memoir, was published in 2006 by Wind Publications.
In 2004 I received my MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. I studied Japanese Shibori silk dyeing with Arturo Alonzo Sandoval at the University of Kentucky. In 1998 a friend suggested that I learn to dye silk so I could make covers for the hand made books I read from when I was doing performance readings of my poetry. Four weeks after classes started my 26 year old son had a paralyzing accident. I remember that at that moment I had to make a decision. At first, I was going to quit school and take care of him. Then I realized, his condition was not going away. It was forever and we both had to learn to live an independent life. I stayed in school and placed my experiences in the intensive care waiting room into the silk I was dyeing. I had to simplify what I was to learn, there were so many colors, so many techniques. I made another decision to focus on one technique. One palette. I chose arashi shibori, a palette of shades, and created, not only silk covers for my books, but also wearable art for my performances.
For me, art is an interactive life experience. Rather than react, which comes from the gut, I prefer to respond, which comes from the heart. When I live in that brief pause between reacting and responding, I am living a creative life. For instance, when working on a piece of fabric, if I spill some dye, rather than react, and toss the piece, I respond and consider how to work this new phenomenon into the finished art.
I began as a writer, writing the truth about my experiences, no matter how painful. As my children became teenagers, I became a visual artist. While much thought and contemplation goes into visualizing a piece of art, the actual tasks for completion are somewhat routine and can be completed in the midst of chaos; wrapping, dyeing, steaming, rinsing, ironing and then finishing the edges to create truly wearable art which is vividly layered and intrinsically contains the stories of my life.
In my memoir, The Garden Girls’ Letters and Journal, using a form of organic discussion, I created an interactive “performative” dialogue. My wearable art is my expression of the visual facet of this layered conversation. Because of the amount of energy involved in the creative process this energy is still present in the finished art and the wearer of my art is only moments away from my story.
Ultimately, my hope is that my art inspires you to ask questions. This is the first step to becoming an artist. What if . . . ? I’m not a big believer in talent. What produces creative results is desire and the willingness to take risks.
Currently I live in a cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. My inspiration comes from hiking in the woods and trying to figure out how to capture the colors I see.
Fiber art and artist books have been exhibited at The Friedman Chapman Galleryin Louisville, KY, MS Rezny Gallery, The Singletary Center for the Arts, University of Kentucky, Carneigie Center for Literacy and Learning and Artsplace Gallery, Lexington, KY, and Claypool-Young Art Gallery, Morehead State University, KY.
Creative non-fiction essays and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including: The American Voice, High Performance, The Sun, Now and Then, and Southern Exposure.
"The Garden Girls' Letters and Journal," my memoir, was published in 2006 by Wind Publications.