When drizzling dye
read the flow of colors
the way a kayaker reads
the flow of the river.
When drizzling dye
read the flow of colors
the way a kayaker reads
the flow of the river.
There was a secret ingredient for creating my world. I had moved to a city where nobody knew my name. This gave me freedom. I could be anyone I wanted. I never had to explain myself to someone from my past. That little voice from my childhood that asked, "who do you think you are?" Was replaced with, "I know who I am."
I embraced the concept, I own this place. Not as in I own the whole city. I owned my identity that inhabited this place. Take me as I dress.
It's a stance, a posture, the way you walk, the way you set your eyes on the road ahead, your gaze, accompanied by a smile. A confident smile that says, "Hi." A tender smile that says, "underneath I know we're the same. Our hearts beat. Our heart peeks out."
It was a posture that took me downtown for celebratory parades, or on strolls through the park with toddlers and then without when they became teens and wandered on their own. When our car was stolen we rode bikes, a baby seat on the back. In winter I rode my bike wearing a L.L. Bean down coat that covered my artsy haircutting fashion. During the summer I rode my bike to the farmers market wearing a flowing white gauze dress. I dressed for the day. Form followed function. Once after work I went to a Halloween party. Someone said you're supposed to come in costume. I said I am in costume.
I am at home. I defined my borders and they were safe. Take me as I dress.
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.
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
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
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
not as in be careful you might say the wrong thing
make the wrong move
as in walk carefully and notice
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
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
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
enjoy its beauty
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
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;
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.
Listen to friends and Mother Nature
You know who you are.
Experience has been your teacher.
Wear a statement piece of wearable art.
Walk your talk.
You are no longer living what you know,
you are authoring your life in advance of living it.
Repeat what you like
Hold to a constant standard
Live the rhythm of your own drum
Keep it simple with basic essentials
Determine your bottom line.
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?
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?
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.
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
First, Mother made sections
laid a rag across her finger
the silky strands
wrapped them down, under,
up and around
tying a knot
sliding her finger out.
she untied each one
pulling them back
I sat, pretty
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."
Laverne Zabielski, artist, designer and writer, studied fiber art with Arturo Alonzo Sandavol at
the University of Kentucky, Lexington and received her
MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.
PRAISE FOR LAVERNE
"Everything about your email newsletter gave me a lift. It makes me happy and gives me hope for our world knowing people like you are living and creating beauty and sharing what you know."
"I rekindled my interest in journaling after attending your writers' retreat. Your wisdom that emotions can only be transcribed by personal reflections sank deeply with me."
"What a beautiful gift of silk! Even more than the gift, I loved the note card and the note itself! I’ve reread it several times! Thank you thank you thank you!"
"What an incredible, mouth dropping open, delightful surprise I got in the mail. When I opened it in the lovely wrapped tissue, with even a shiny cord around that, I was tickled, with a one sided Popeye squint. The scarf is luxuriously lovely. The colors are Perfect. The rich deep brilliance of the blues make me smile all the way from inside. And the purple always feels royal to me."
" I so appreciate your insights on us women who can dress and lead a beautiful fufilling life after 70. I love my life now. It is free, open, enchanting, beautiful, and each blessed morning is a grand delight."
"As always, I think your work is stunning, beautiful, full of life, spirit, soul and united with the universe. These new botanical prints are just that. United to the universe."
"Thank you Laverne - the workshop was great and I have lots of thoughts and ideas about future ambitions on the FeltLoom. It was so much fun, the time just slipped away and you were a real inspiration for discovery and process."
"I feel wonderful and special each time I wear your art."
"Not only are you; a true inspiration and love your philosophy, but your work is stunning! Keep it up! Go girl go!"
"Thanks for making me feel young and lovely!"
“Your beautiful scarf arrived and it some of your best work. It truly is magic. I am proud of you and delighted to have had a front row seat in observing your metamorphic evolution as a fabric artist. Laverne, you truly astound me.”
“Thank you for the very personal journal. It arrived at a time most needed as transcendental things often due. We all have work to do, if we are alive and growing and your inspiration continues to help me peel my onion.”
"Your color palette is unmatched by anyone and your passion and spirit means a great deal to me. I feel ablessed to have something worked by your hands and heart. I am by no means a beauty queen, but your work makes me feel lovely and wonderful. You may receive expressions of gratitude but maybe not as heartfelt as this... Thank you so much for your time and energy."
"I love your words and writings as much as I adore your clothing.......You are a rare raven...spreading your wings and embracing creative flair as you travel thru the Universe."
"I want to thank you for the compliments I received when I wore the scarf I purchased at the fashion show event. I went to a meeting in Louisville and at least six people came up to me to comment on my beautiful scarf. The work you do is amazing and I appreciate the attention it brings to the wearer! Thanks Laverne!"
"This past Saturday, I wore the floral jacket I got from you a few years ago, to a Gala. It was gorgeous! It was just the right touch to my long black dress. Thank you for making me feel like a “hit” at such a joyous occasion. I truly enjoyed wearing your art to this fancy, black tie event."
“Having an interest in felt after dappling in wet and nuno felting, I took two FeltLoom classes under the guidance of Laverne Zabielski. Inspired, I also have completed the Sibori dying class. More than a teacher, Laverne Zabielski mentors and guides her students through art theory and color theory while demonstrating the process of the art form she is teaching.
“Laverne’s teaching methods are based upon sound educational pedagogy, demonstrating, explaining, and collaborating. After displaying examples of FeltLoom products and listening to her students, Laverne introduced some wool rovings, silk, and ribbon embellishments that could be incorporated into the silk and wool batting scarf that would be created in the beginning FeltLoom class. Reminding students of the color wheel and simple art theory concepts to help guide us in designing our pieces.
“I left my first class with Laverne, inspired and empowered, believing in myself as a creator of art.
“Since the first class, with guidance from Laverne and the magic of the FeltLoom, I’ve made a shawl and then repurposed nuno felting scarves, I completed a 4’ x 6’ wall hanging. I’m looking forward to expanding my Sibori dying abilities. Laverne Zabielski is unique, being a creative, skilled artist and teacher.” —Peggy W.