Creative Lineage

I'm not saying my mother didn't judge. She just never asked a lot of questions. That was her gift.

We lived in Perry, Kansas in a rented farmhouse when I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. Later we moved to Topeka. I rode the bus to the downtown library, spent hours perusing and choosing between Laura and Willa Cather. Then rode the bus home anxious to devour their stories. Laura lived in Kansas also. Therefore, in my mind, we were connected. In my mind we had a personal relationship. It was 1958.

Thirty years later I read Of Women Born by Adrienne Rich. Her edict for women to write the truth about their experiences no matter how painful became my mandate. I was validated. I wrote short, suscinct poems describing my life, then shared them in a community writing class taught by my feminist friend, Lucinda. Feeling Like a Shitty Mother. Discovering the Other Woman. Defining Rape to my Sixteen Year Old Daughter. Lucinda read my work and said, "this woman has something to say.

I read my first poems at an open mic at a bar. Since a number of my poems were about sex, I dressed sexy. Classy sexy. With a slight edge. Not trashy. I dressed to be seen and to be heard. Tables in the front circled the mic. A spotlight defined the stage. An audience gathered, prepared to listen. In the back, a silhouette of men sat at the bar engaged in a low chatter as the poetry reading began. I walked into the light, leaned into the mic and said in a clear voice, soft, yet firm, "this poem is on discovering the other woman." The entire bar fell silent.

I spoke. I was heard. I listened to the applause. I read more poems. I was serious, and yet I heard unexpected laughter. I paused, gazed at the women sitting at the tables in front of me. Why are they laughing? I asked myself, silently. This is my life. Then I realized it was a laughter of recognition.

Yes, this is my life and it is your life and in the absurd details, we are one. We are connected. We have nothing to fear. I let the laughter wash over me as one sordid detail after another revealed itself. After heartbreaking decisions appeared next to painful despair giving birth to a temper tantrum so outrageous there was nothing left but humor and laughter and the revelation of the degrees to which the absurd rules.

In 1989 I went to the Women Writers Conference at the University of Kentucky. I attended a Spiderwomen Theater performance. In a dramatic moment towards the end the women turned to the audience, pointed their fingers at us and said, "tell your own story." My mission was defined. In 1990 I organized poetry readings. I was seeking women with the courage to walk to the mic. I asked if they wanted to read their poems. I wasn't interested in credentials. There was no editorial intervention. I didn't ask any other questions.

Today, I create art to wear for women who don't need to answer questions.

Botanical Print Silk Devore Crop Top

Botanical Print Silk Devore Crop Top

Notice Everything

I made a fire this morning 

not that it's cold outside 

I just like the glow 

and the little bit of heat 

a small fire brings 

Shibori dyed silk jacquard poncho

Shibori dyed silk jacquard poncho

It is raining 

actually more like a drizzle 

I took Highlin' for a walk 

along the path 

into the woods 

it's our regular walk

the path is worn 

wet leaves have smashed into mud 

Botanical prints,  leaves on silk

Botanical prints,  leaves on silk

I am careful not to slip 

I have fallen three times

a warning to walk more carefully 

well of course 

isn't that what we are always supposed to be doing 

walk carefully 

not as in be careful you might say the wrong thing

make the wrong move 

as in walk carefully and notice

everything

During this morning's walk

there was broken glass 

on a green, moss covered rock  

it was placed there carefully

that is not uncommon 

broken glass on the trail

I frequently place chipped or broken dishes in the woods 

a form of installation

a dinner party 

Shibori dyed silk poncho

Shibori dyed silk poncho

This glass was more shattered 

than my usual place settings 

and it was on its own earthy green rock

I don't remember placing if there 

could it have been Larry

has he taken up my recycling, upcycling, repurposing penchant

Upcycled jean jacket with felted wool and silk

Upcycled jean jacket with felted wool and silk

Could it have been a guest 

should I ask 

should I seek an answer

could it have been a stranger on our path 

that would be disturbing 

I will wait and wonder 

ponder 

enjoy its beauty 

the contrast

That was the message in Catherine's photo blog

that is her mission 

to notice everything 

just outside her door 

and photograph it 

I will notice everything

just outside my door

I will see with my words

How to Buy Art to Wear

What I know about you is that you are passionate, you have wisdom from a life well lived, you express what you know with authority and you desire intimacy.

"Our souls crave intimacy"—Erwin Raphael McManus

In order to know what to buy think about how you intend to wear your art;

casually

or for special occasions?

What fabrics are you drawn to; heavier silks like crepe and charmeuse, uber light paj or devore burn-out, medium nuno felted wool, rayon and linen or heavier hemp and wool?

Think about color. Not particular colors. Palettes. Are you the tones of fall, shades of winter, pale tints of spring of bright summer? Are you cool or warm?

My wearables are loose fitting, tribal in design. Their function is to accent the colors and layers you are already wearing. They are meant to be comfortable, first. They are designed to add texture and movement, to sculpt a particular silhouette.  They are meant to be worn.

When you clothe your body, you are sculpting a vision you have of yourselves. A vision that is beautiful and strong, luscious, sensuous and sensual, curvilinear, voluptuous and soft, assured and confident, fluid and flowing.

The textures, shapes and colors you place on your body tell a story and becomes your sculpture.  They are all in response to the  many messages you have received and written. 

When you choose to wear art, you step outside your traditional decision making process into a realm of unlimited possibilities. In order to do so you must ask yourself a few basic questions.

What is my bottom line? 

This is not directly about money but it can be if you don't want to waste money buying beautiful wearable art you never wear. You want to know what is most important to your self expression.  Mine is shape and function. Whatever I wear, the the shape must reflect a silhouette I desire, it must be comfortable and make me feel beautiful. 

I want what you place on your body to be in harmony with the world that surrounds you. The reason that is challenging is because there are so many man-made colors, it can get complicated and conflicting with the natural terrain and all her colors. All my shapes and colors are meant to compliment and contrast the world surrounding you, the colorful world of Mother Nature, her curvaceous lines and soft belly.

You Are The Designer

How to design your wearable art collection

 

1.  Embrace Your Body

Listen to friends and Mother Nature

 

2.  Take a stand

You know who you are.  

Experience has been your teacher.

Wear a statement piece of wearable art.

 

3.  Tell your own story

Walk your talk. 

You are no longer living what you know, 

you are authoring your life in advance of living it. 

 

4. Define your principles

Repeat what you like

Be inclusive

Maintain equilibrium

Hold to a constant standard

Live the rhythm of your own drum

 Keep it simple with basic essentials

Determine your bottom line.

 

5.  Know your elements

color, value, texture, line, shape

 

What colors do you like?

Define your palette 

 

What’s your season?  

Manifest contrast, strong values, 

soft and bold, light and dark

 

What do you feel? 

Experience texture

silky and coarse

 

Shape your message  

 

 What’s your line? 

What’s my story?

Walking in the woods yesterday, I saw the brown color I am shibori  dyeing for a mother of the bride statement kimono and dress.  It was in the leaves left over from last fall; deep, rich, rusty, copper, with a touch of dark, forest green.

Even though the leaves were from last fall, now aged into late spring, they held their vibrancy. Who would think that the colors of spring would include the age of fall?  Clearly, every color can be found any season. And you can wear any color, given all the shades, tones, lights and brights to choose. How did I get on my color path, my artful path, my path of self expression?  

I let go. 

One day when I was on my lunch hour from my first office job, I stepped inside a store that sold a more expensive line of clothing than I was inclined to buy.  I was 20. I was a Sears’ girl. I decided that I would try on pants and blouses that were bright and brilliant. The pants were orange and fuchsia.  They were each paired with a floral blouse. They were not the bright and brilliant colors of summer.  They were subtly toned, as the leaves are when they slowly change.  Not my usual choice. 

It was a risky step. 

I gazed in the mirror and said to myself, “I hate this. This is not me.” I have strong opinions. I bought it, anyway. I was tired of buying the same styles and colors. I wanted to feel what it was like to wear something different.  

A relatively safe risk. 

My dad loved it! I never thought of him as a stylish person in his USAF uniform or week-end overalls. In hindsight, as I peer into his old black and white photographs, I discover he had a very strong sense of composition. His was not the only compliment I received. This began my journey, not only of exploring colors, also in taking risks with self-expression.

All colors are part of nature.  

Find yourself in the rainbow. It is very large, full and forgiving, as you are. 

You can wear any color.  It’s not about what looks good on you, it’s about what makes you feel wonderful. You are part of nature. In order to determine your place in the rainbow, remember your favorite season.  Find it by listening to your body.  To what season are you most drawn? Listen to your friends and their compliments. Write it all down.  

Are you spring where the colors are soft, or summer, where the colors are bright, bold, and brilliant? Are you sometimes a little of both? Getting to know your self through color is the exciting journey you are now poised to embark upon.  

Are you most present in the toned leaves of fall and their bright counterpart, jewels against the sky?  Are you in your element in the deep rich and luscious shades of winter, the depth of spruce, and burgundy?  

All these seasons come and go, as you do. 

You know what you like, what feels good.  

Begin with your favorite season, where memories have lived the fullest. Coffee, chocolate, semi sweet, bitter or milky? It’s the season you are drawn to that will determine your palette. 

How do you choose your palette?  

Ask, “What do I like?”  

Today I start with brown. Deep dark, aged, fall leaf, brown.  Browns emerge from all colors. The brown I am seeking emerges from yellow and purple, her compliment. They create copper and rust. As the exploration continues, many colors appear. And as you explore, they become your colors, ready to mix and match and enjoy. They will tell your story.

You can wear any color. It’s easy.  Nature has already begun to cleanse your canvas when she added grey to your hair.  If you, too, choose to add color, are you more drawn to yellow or blue based colors? If you have highlights, are they gold or ash?

Let’s collaborate?  Tell me what you feel.  This is how you will tell me who you are.  What do you like?  How tall are you?  How full are your hips?  What are the colors of your skin, your eyes, your hair, (is it dyed or natural)? The answer to these questions are the beginning of our designing your personal statement piece of wearable art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who do you think you are?

photo by Anna Esposito

photo by Anna Esposito

Who do you think you are?

A friend and I were editing her short story. It was based on her rural childhood, filled with details and dialogue that was unique to her roots. 

“You should read this at your next county picnic,” I suggested. “It’s very good.”

She shook her head, slowly. “I could never do that,” she said. “They would all ask, ‘Who does she think she is?’”

I was stunned. All these years, I had thought I was the only one who carried that little question inside my head.

Easter, 1957

Easter, 1957

Who does she think she is?

I don’t think my immigrant grandmother was a Polish princess, but she acted like royalty, with her plastic covered sofa and fur coat. And my mother’s parents weren't rich either, living on a small west Texas cotton farm.  When we went to visit, we always dressed up when we went to town. It was not only my grandmother’s way of keeping alive the heritage she was proud of, it was also her way of teaching us to always put our best foot forward, no matter the circumstances of our everyday life.  

“You know who you are, honey,” was implied, if not spoken.

The tone changes when you exchange 

think 

for 

know

 

Locks

First, Mother made sections

laid a rag across her finger

combed smooth

the silky strands

wrapped them down, under,

up and around

tying a knot

sliding her finger out.

 

Next morning

she untied each one

chocolate swirls

pulling them back

I sat, pretty

Laverne Zabielski, 1951

Laverne Zabielski, 1951

Who do you want to be?

Words are powerful. And rewriting our stories takes time. 

The year I graduated from Rome Free Academy in Rome, New York, 1964, my Dad was stationed at Griffith Air Force Base. That summer between my sophomore and junior year I decided to change my whole style. First thing I did was remove my glasses. I couldn’t see without them but I felt I looked a whole lot better. They had just come out with them and I wanted them, too, but they cost eighty dollars and that was with our base discount. They’d be twice that off base so I had to get them before I graduated from high school or I wouldn’t qualify for the discount anymore. And it was me who would have to come up with the eighty dollars. That would require a lot of babysitting so I started figuring ways to talk myself out of wanting contacts. For one thing I’d heard about the getting used to them part and, I didn’t too much like the idea of going through all of that. 

The second thing I did moving to a new base was that I decided not to be shy anymore. I didn’t know if you could just up and do something like that, just decide not be shy. I always figured shy was something you were born with but I figured I’d give it a try. I borrowed a white, low cut, sleeveless, cinched waist, circular-skirt dress from Lorraine. I had a suntan from being a water safety assistant at the pool all summer and that white dress next to my dark tan and no glasses, well, when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe it was me.

We were going to a CAP dance, Civil Air Patrol. It was an outside dance and since I had this new attitude about not being shy, it must have worked because these cadets and airmen were asking me to dance. It might have had something to do with the fact that guys outnumbered girls ten to one, but I didn’t think about that at the time. I just said yes and danced.

Many years later in 1977 when I opened my own hair design business, Om Hair Designs, “Who do you want to be?” became the question I asked my clients, either directly or indirectly, before I could create a haircut that embraced their lifestyle.  We were in a transition.  The weekly appointment of a wash and set was slowly being replaced with hair cuts that would last six weeks andwe could shampoo and blow dry ourselves.  Freedom for full self expression was desired and it had to be easy.

At Om, such designs was our forte: precision haircuts that could be easily shampooed, blown dried and would look good all day, even on a windy day or after making love! When I asked myself that question, I always added, comfortable. 

I began to design my looks from the shoes up. 

I want the comfortable flowing skirts and dresses, felted jackets, boleros and dusters.  I like tight jeans, even though my belly is fuller. And comfortable shoes.  Now when I hear that question, "Who do I think I am?" I answer,

"This is who I am and I am comfortable."

Dyed silk and merino jacket, wet felted and prefelted on the FeltLOOM

Dyed silk and merino jacket, wet felted and prefelted on the FeltLOOM