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

Take Me As I  Dress

Living a layered life is my modus operandi, M.O. By layering everything, as it occurs I let the thread reveal itself.  And it always will if I stay true to myself, my ideas. I embrace the mantra "go with the flow." As ideas arise, I layer them onto my many canvases; my work, my art, my writing. I allow them to be part of each composition. I trust the process. Amy Krause Rosenthal says, "Pay attention to what you pay attention to." (1) I listen to my body and pay attention. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this flow in an interview with Wired magazine as, ". . . being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." (2)

I made the decision to flow when I first discovered the art world. I didn't come from an artsy family. My father was a sergeant in the Air Force, drove a cab at night. My mother was a stay-at-home mom raising seven children.

Looking back, I see that my parents did have an eye for harmony and balance. A sense of personal style. I can see it in the the way my mother, Grace Laverne Tilson, set the table for Sunday dinner. Or in the dresses she sewed. Looking at her smile I can see that she was proud.

The photographs my father, Ray Zabielski, captured revealed his aesthetic intentions and his values; Japanese children posed in front of their home in an abandoned bomb shelter, Tachikawa Air Force Base housing in the background, Dad's shadow in the field.

My first exposure to visual art occurred right after I started writing poetry. I met a woman who was a painter. Recently divorced, she lived on a limited budget. She had a bohemian style, wearing flowing woolen skirts and long sweaters she had knit.  In her old two story house she kept the thermostat set at 65 degrees. It was chilly as I sat for the portrait she drew. It was different than a photograph. It captured a softness, a tenderness I had never seen in a photograph. It wasn't the reflection I would see in the mirror. I liked it. Her passion and expertise inspired me. 

portrait by Judith Kuehne

portrait by Judith Kuehne

"It takes time," she said, "a lot of time to be an artist."

I became discouraged. Time, I did not have, not with kids and a hair design business. Yet, I also had a"don’t tell me what to do" M.O. I would find a way. Writing was my art form. No matter what, I would write. Even if it meant I could only write short poems in ten minute spurts, waiting for water to boil. I had stories to tell. I was on a mission having read "Of Woman Born" by Adrianne Rich. Her edict was for women to write the truth about their experiences, no matter how painful. Through our words people will know the truth about women. Margaret Atwood call this "the literature of witness." (3)

Herstory

My great grandfather

converted over 500 Indians

to Christianity,

my mother said.

My great grandmother

birthed seven children

in eleven years.

My mother didn’t know that.

(c) 1989

Flow was clear when I opened Om Hair Designs in an old English Tudor building near downtown. Every view was a work of art. The leaded windows. Archways leading from room to room. We chose a color palette for the decor and for the designers. They made intentional, artistic statements in what they wore. Black, white, burgundy and silver. Our hair design team was cohesive. We studied hair cutting and styling techniques that produced effortless designs. Our clients left confident, our way of saying sexy, sensuous, unapologetically feminine. A look women want but won't admit.

My work was my life, my art. I dressed for the day. I was, as Viola Davis said at this years Oscars, "Take me as I am." I wore the same ensemble to work, to dinner, to meetings, to a party. There was no time for “freshening up.” Take me as I am was my M.O. I wore lots of black and layered it with a palette of colors that worked for me. They enhanced my stance. A stance made manifest in 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 the same tenderness I saw in my mother's face after she put lipstick on right before my dad came home from work. 

Impression

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.

(c) 1989

Even shoes became part of my art form. It didn't take long for comfort to drive every decision. Standing up all day was painful.

First came wedged heels followed by color coordinated tennis shoes. Next came custom cowboy boots, handmade in Matador, a small west Texas town. They were black and matched all my outfits. "Anything goes" became my fashion statement M.O. When I dressed for the day, I chose what to wear from the shoes up. Since I had already defined my color palette, it didn't take long for "anything goes" to always work.

Black polyester jump suit with a rhinestone zipper tucked into cowboy boots worked.

Burgundy red mini skirt, white peasant blouse, and straw hat with cowboy boots worked.

Tight jeans, black chiffon tunic and silver choker with cowboy boots worked.

When asked why he like New York City, German illustrator, Christoph Neimann said, ". . . there is only one city in your life you go to by yourself and you own that place. There was no uncle, no parents that paved the way. It was like my place." (4)

That was my secret ingredient for creating the world that I owned. I had moved to a city where nobody knew my name. I could be anyone. 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 am Laverne Zabielski, poet, writer, hair designer."

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. In winter I rode my bike with a baby seat on the back to work. I wore a down coat that covered my artsy haircutting fashion. During the summer I rode my bike to the farmer's market wearing a flowing white, gauze skirt. I dressed for the day.

Form followed function. 

Once, I went to a Halloween party after work. Someone said, "You're supposed to come in costume." 

I said, "I am in costume."

Take me as I dress. 

Take me as I am. 

(1) https://mobile.twitter.com/missamykr/status/312564535242395648

(2) Geirland, John, "Go With The Flow," interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. WIRED, 4.09. September, 1996.

(3) Atwood, Margaret. "on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump." New York Times, March 10, 2017.

(4) "The Art of Design." Christoph Niemann, Illustrator. season 1, episode 1. Netflix, www.https://www.netflix.com/watch/80093803?trackId=14170286&tctx=1%2C0%2C1451ee72-97c2-4f5c-b96e-fdc6e771d0d5-5264249

The Dress, The ER, The Intention

Recently, I read that we can set an intention without necessarily knowing how we are going to accomplish it. I have had that experience regarding dying silk. There has been considerable interest in creating botanical prints on fabric. I wanted to learn to formulate some of those colors. After several attempts that I considered unsuccessful, I tossed the pieces of the dyed silk aside and moved on. Recently a friend taught me how to do the botanical printing. Another intention I have had in the back of my mind is finding ways to upcycle clothing? After completing a botanical print on an old shirt, I saw the previously dyed silk and layered it with the shirt and was amazed that I had accomplished what I had envisioned without consciously doing it step-by-step.

I realize this can also apply to my writing. There is power in setting my intention of what I want to communicate. Then I let the path reveal itself while I keep writing. . . .

I can handle this. You can handle this. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.

These phrases seem to be a motif for me, and my children. Maybe it’s my inconvenient truth, the message that we can handle more than we think. Not that I haven’t crumbled. As I explore dress in my past and my present, I can’t help but think it makes a difference, not only for ourselves, also for those around us. On September 11, 1998, I specifically remember the part dress played as the day unfolded.

The Dress, 9-11-98

It was a long, black, rayon dress with a v-neck, tiny flowers scattered about and several buttons, each one different. A narrow ruffle edged the collar and down the front. Several gores gave it a flare, creating a swing with each step. I wore a simple necklace. I was implementing a recent decision to take my work, my life, and self-expression more serious and dress for the day each day.

There was flaunt in my walk when I arrived at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning to teach my writing class, and there was satisfaction in my stride when I entered The Salon to cut hair. A message was waiting on the answering machine. I returned the call before I began my haircut. No big deal, I was sure. “Collapsed lung. Paralyzed. No brain damage.” The doctor said. I listened, calmly, even though. . . . I finished the haircut I had just begun. I had to. I knew I was strong and in control. At the hospital, 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.

I can handle this. You can handle this. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.

My intention has been set.

 

 

 

Provocative

"Laverne, we would like to make a video of you reading your poetry on a horse farm." 

(note: there are no horses in this photo, only cows.) 

Of course, I said yes and dressed for the occasion. 

I always dress up for poetry readings. It is the most important work I do. I wore a black 40s style, cinched waist dress, heels and a hat, carried a backpack for my poetry and lipstick, and my music stand to hold my papers while reading. 

(note: wind) 

I read The Night I was the Woman in the Red Tights and Black Mini Dress, a poem about the pursuit of a one-night stand. It explores missed opportunity and the labeling of women who enjoy touch as a whore and a slut and I wonder, “What do we call such men?”

Several issues were addressed in the poem. In the video, “The Southern Sex,” they cut to the last stanza, a close up on my face where I say, 

"So I said yes
yes I want to
I want to be a whore
and touch
just pure touch
no dinner
no drinks
just touch.”

Frequently, people come up to me and say, "You know I was in a hotel in Kansas City (or somewhere) channel surfing and I saw you in a video." 

I smile. I know the choice for the close up missed the point of the poem. I am not flustered. I had said what needed to me said.

That was in 1983. I don't know if I feel like I still have the same freedom to be so cavalier with my words. Things have changed. I am more cautious in my golden years.

(note: I am hesitant to use the word golden) 

I prefer Christiane Northup’s suggestion of the ageless goddess; she who “rejects ageism and owns her beauty.”

I’ve become more aware of the power of statement dressing. Now is the time to claim our power with the stance we take. Words often have a limited audience. The poem stays tucked away, waiting for publication. When you dress to be seen, a statement is made as soon as you walk into the room. You know your statement because you have already written your story.  You have asked yourself the question, “Who do I want to be?” To publish is to make public. Your statement poem is published every time you are seen.

I am

who I am

is who I am. 

As I explore dress in my past and my present, I can’t help but think that it makes a difference, and that the way we dress is, not only for ourselves, it is for those around us. Be precise in what gets shared. Be unapologetic in your feminine expression from the inside out. Follow your natural curvilinear lines; eliminate crew necks, embrace v-neck or slightly scooped. Never apologize for who you are. Stand tall.  Every raw and ecstatic experience of life that has preceded this moment has created the women you have become.

Wear what you are afraid to wear. 
Your statement will be bold.

(Note: There was no dinner, no drinks, no touch that night.)

My mind had become my sex. My mind is what turned me on. I was in pursuit of a poem.

The complete poem:

The Night I was the Woman in the Red Tights and Black Mini Dress

“Good girls don’t”
so I did
I’m tired of being a “good girl” all the time

it was six years ago
he was the star
and he asked me
me? I had thought
not that I wasn’t trying to be attractive
even a little sexy
so I smiled
and he invited me to dinner

then I started thinking
you know how men are
they only want “one thing”
and “good girls” don’t give “it” to them
even if they wanted to
but I said no

I couldn’t
I just couldn’t
after all what would my mother say
and the priest
or my husband
heavin’ forbid?

they would all call me a whore
or even worse
a prostitute

what’s the difference?
a whore does it for fun
a prostitute does it for money

you know
sorta as in
being married
and he works hard for the money
and she gives him the “they only want one thing” thing

so I had to say no
and I’ve regretted it all these years

what would it have been like? I wondered
you know how it is
when there is something you really want
and you imagine it
and fantasize it
and then one day
the opportunity actually presents itself
and you turn it down!

the pits!

so last week-end
there I was
nearing the possibility
that the opportunity might present itself
one more time

I really doubted it
I was six years older now
he would certainly be more interested in the younger women
I wore my red tights and black min dress anyway

and then he did
he asked me

this is it
this is the “moment you’ve been waiting for” moment

so say it
say yes
you know you want to

“You asked me that same question six years ago”
I reminded him

“And what was your answer then? He asked

“I’d like to think you’d have remembered
if my answer had been yes”
I said and knew then where I was headed

so say it
say yes
you know you want to

“I don’t have any birth control,” I said instead
and he did

“I didn’t shave my legs”

“No problem”

so say it
just go ahead and say it
say yes
you know you want to

so I did
I said yes
yes I want to
I want to be a whore

and touch
just pure touch
not dinner
no drinks
just touch.

PS Nothing happened that night other than conversation. It was a poem I was pursuing.

Ripe and Tough

What pages were torn out of the journal? No one will ever know, tossed to the floor, not crumbled, no chance of going insane as Hemingway suggested. Do you think he began to crumble his pages before his depression and eventual suicide as implied in the movie we watched last night "Hemingway & Gellhorn." Being kind to ourselves, my husband and I are reading Hemingway out loud to each other. We skipped last night and watched a movie instead. Not sure it was a good idea. And, I'm not sure aboutNicole Kidman's bright red lipstick as she portrayed Gellhorn during her war correspondent days. Was it a fashion statement? Was it to imply that she was ripe in contrast to her later years when she wore no lipstick on at all? Or that she was tough, could handle anything? As an ageless goddess I am in my later years. I like to wear red lipstick. For me it's about color and balance and brightness. Today I will iron red fabric. A bright rusty red. Silk and linen. Ripe and tough.

2017 Palette

I explored the suggested pallet for 2017. Then I tried to formulate all the variety of colors. Added a little bit more black here, more water there. Every experiment became another shade to use in my collection. I love it.

This season I've create a pre-order opportunity. Instead of trying to anticipate what is needed and wanted, I'm dying lots of fabric so that I can create the piece you need. 

Bolero

Jacket

Poncho

Scarf

Shawl

Tunic dress

3EF7E95C-D47D-499D-B3EB-D080AEEDFA72.JPG

Poncho  

IMG_3610.JPG

Colors to choose  

IMG_3599.JPG

Seeking shape

What's Right

This is part of a two week online writing course with Jena Schwartz, January 9 to January 19, 2017.

“This is where we meet. We write alone, yes. But this is the space where we get to “see” each other and witness each other’s creative process as we move through the prompts and see what emerges.” Jena Schwartz

 

What feels right?

        My commitment, again, to write more regularly feels right. I cleaned my space for you, created your own little corner in the loft, where I sew, and sometimes sleep, when I fear my tossing and turning will keep Larry awake, which happens, actually, more often than not. In the early morning, I frequently crawl back under the flannel covers and nestle my naked body into the curve of his heat and softness. That feels right.

     The unclogged drain also feels right. It was a three day ordeal. The kitchen sink. Coconut oil, we are convinced, was the culprit. Google it.

     What feels most right was the lack of cussing. Larry is a gentle man, an awesome lover, a great cook, just to mention a few of his wonderful traits. But the cussing, has become more than I can handle.

     It was while Mary and I were hanging my show, "Ensemble, a Layering of Color," in her gallery that I recognized how much Larry's cussing has penetrated my body. Mary was on a ladder attempting to toss fishing line over a steel rod so I could drape fabric onto a pole. She missed. Instantly my body braced in anticipation for her cussing. She never cusses. There was no reason for me to react. It was a remnant reaction to Larry's reaction as he pulled the auger out of the pipe, filled the drain with water and nothing flowed. 

    When I got home and Larry showed me his new automated auger and plastic tubing for filling with hot water and detailed his next strategy for breaking through the coconut oil, I took a stand. No cussing I said. I told him about the incident in the gallery. I warned him. If he cussed, I would spray him with cold water. He was humble and nodded in agreement.

     He complied. When the auger got stuck, he paused, rested, tried again.

Speak What You Know

My 70th birthday.

From this point on I am an Ageless Goddess. I speak what I know, with authority. 

Back in the old days, (I get to say that, now) I invented the Garden Girls to accompany me on my quest to live the layered life of an artist.

What does it take to become a Garden Girl?

A desire made manifest, to discuss intimacy, passion, wisdom, and authority.

I like that word, authority: to recognize I am a competent force. There are some things I know, having lived a long life. I distinguish authority from arrogance. I do not believe that I am better or smarter or more important then others. Today, I revisit my Garden Girls. I listen to their wisdom as they explore authority.

The Garden Girls are at an early morning gathering in the woods. No one is clear as to the plan or the direction. Spider-woven fairy handkerchiefs sprinkled in grass lead the way as we follow the instructions on Honeyrose’s invitation: Listen to your intuition and breathe deeply. 

Each girl arrives in her own time. Wearing my straw hat I blaze a trail cutting away wineberry brambles. Rose, the writer, tucks red flowers in her mushroom hat. She brings dried apricots and almonds. Clove, the teacher, wraps a turquoise scarf around her neck and dons a ruffled headdress. Her gift is vanilla macaroon granola. Nettles, the gardener in a chestnut cap, arranges a bouquet of orange pansies.

Echinacea, the healer flaunting yellow in a button hat, supplies homemade croissants. Gardenia, the poet wearing a silk bandana, serves roasted dandelion tea. Lily, the silk painter crowned with yellow orange glitter, carries in paints. Lavender in purple braids is empty handed, of course; she’s the philosopher. And Artemisia, old, wise and playful in a bark beret, brings violets and greens. (The secret ingredient for achieving a powerful menopause). 

Honeyrose, the woman I am to become, says, “Our life is not our circumstances, our life is our story.” 

I gather the Garden Girls to discuss concerns significant not only to our selves but to every weed, tree and shrub that surrounds us. What I want to know is when does the voice of authority arrive, speculation end, and assertion begin?

Our altar in the woods is a large multi-level out-cropping of smooth rocks. We each find a place for the gifts we brought, then begin looking for our perfect spot to sit and speak and receive each other’s messages. As far as I can tell everyone is accounted for. 

Honeyrose reads from Sage, the thinker’s, latest letter. “Freedom is the ability to create passion,” Sage wrote. She had become a ritual queen in a colony of women up north. Rose has a picture of her back home on her own altar wearing a twisted green head band. “And our passion,” Honeyrose enunciates, “gets stirred every time we choose freely.”

“What does Sage mean ‘choose freely’?” Gardenia asks, cradling herself between trunks of sycamore trees, sipping roasted dandelion tea.

“She means,” Echinacea answers, breaking croissants in half, “we find passion when we take a risk and choose what we want.”

“When I grow up,” Rose says, “I want to be like Sage.”

“And how’s that?” Honeyrose asks. Reaching into a red velvet bag she pulls out small scraps of torn paper and places them on the altar. Then to keep them from blowing in the wind and in preparation for uncovering stories, she layers on pencils, one for each of us just in case we forgot to bring our own. 

“What is it about Sage you yearn for?” Gardenia asks.

“For one,” Rose says, “her authority. She speaks and she thinks and she lives with authority. I feel it in her words, I hear it in her tone, and when I look at her picture on my altar, I see it in her face. What I want to know is when did she begin to speak with such strength?” Using her walking stick, Rose pushes dried leaves, sticks and moss off a flat rock, creating the perfect place, with a view of the pond through the trees, on which to sit and ponder.

“For me,” Clove says, “authority begins when I listen closely to the feelings in my body, like when my heart pounds and I know that I must speak.”

Rose motions to Clove that there is room for two on her rock. They munch on granola, apricots and almonds.

“Feelings?” Lavender questions. “Are they intimate?” Lavender likes to ask philosophical questions.

“Of course they’re intimate,” Clove says. “When you’re close to your feelings you’re close to your body and when you’re close to your body you’re always intimate.”

“But first you have to listen,” Lily reminds us as she places her jar of umber paint among the gifts on the altar and lays a small sable paintbrush beside it.

“And be silent,” Nettles adds adjusting her pansy bouquet.

Fuchsia, my sensuous muse, arrives late to the gathering. Draped in feathers, she brings navel oranges. Her pink, flower-petaled drip is sensual, and her questions are always seductive. 

“Can intimacy occur without sex?” she asks, placing her oranges in a circle of small branches.

“Well of course,” Echinacea, Nettles and Clove respond quickly with authority.

“How?” I ask. “I know about intimacy in sex. That place of getting close, real close, face to face, where you can feel and smell the breath, where you can see the tiniest hairs on the stillest arm, where you can climb inside another’s rhythm, where you have no other thought but the thought of that tender moment. What I want to know about is what happens when ideas sift and filter, words penetrate the soul? Is that intimate?” Picking up an orange, I peel a slice then pass it to Clove. 

Honeyrose stares up at the trees. Her colors are brilliant, precise and in immaculate order. “When ideas sift and filter,” she says, “words penetrate your soul, the place where intimacy grows. Then you can . . .”

“Listen to your body,” Clove chimes in.

Honeyrose nods, “And speak what you know.” She affirms.

Sitting down on an old sycamore stump her voice softens. “Authority,” she continues, “is to articulate with passion—using your power tone—the stories only Garden Girls know.” Since Honeyrose is the woman I am to become, I listen very closely. 

Lily dips her sable brush into umber paint and places it on a scrap of torn paper. One by one we each make our own umber marks. In the rustle of branches I can hear the echo of Honeyrose’s edict, “Speak what you know,” as I close my eyes and see the darkness. In the light upon my eyelids leaves fall, one by one, each leaf floating as when a word comes for a poem. 

“Every time you tell your story,” Honeyrose begins to chant, “you create a stance and become the author of your life. But you must also surrender,” she emphasizes then pauses, “to the mundane. And remember. Your life is not your circumstances. Your life is your story. Your circumstances are the matter your stories come from. Author them.”

We all begin to write. 

My memoir, "The Garden Girls' Letters and Journal" was published in 2006 by Wind Publications

Memory of Color

Growing up, there were always flowers, as evidenced in photos or memories.

My mother, Grace, grew red roses in front of the two bedroom, added onto to make four, ranch, on Eveningside Drive in Topeka. Purple irises bloomed on the side and pale blue bachelor buttons gathered across the back along the fence.

In Tachikawa, Japan she learned Ikibana, the art of flower arrangement.  They graced the buffet and changed weekly.

A hedge of red roses framed the front yard of the old frame house in Roaring Springs, Texas where the man who invented the cotton gin once lived. As the years passed and the hedge thickened, cars passed slowly by just to see Grace's roses.

Suddenly, my cabin is filled with orchids. It just happened. All I do is place three ice cubes in each pot, weekly. It must be the light. Our cabin is filled with light.

Everything about me, all my memories show up in my shibori art to wear.  Today in velvet I see orchids and roses and green leaves.

Remembering the Past

Remembering the past, I review old journals. Circumstances may change. The process, however remains the same.

2005

I packed silk and dye in preparation for my journey to the cabin. 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. 

Today it is my getaway. 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. 

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 old table where tobacco was tied long ago. 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. 

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.

Off the Beaten Path

Bourbon Barrel Table by Donnie Wittler

My dad was a T/sgt in the USAF. On week ends, when he was stationed in Japan, he developed photographs in his dark room in the closet.  He had a good eye, I now see in hindsight.    

"Take shorthand and typing," he said.  "If something happens to your husband, you can always get a job as a secretary." He was practical.

I got a job as a service representative at Illinois Bell Telephone in Wheaton, a wealthy suburb west of Chicago. The commuter train ran through the middle of town and quaint shops framed each side. They were the kind of shops you just knew were expensive. I was a Sears or JC Penny's girl. 

One day, on my lunch hour, I found myself, standing on carpet in one of those softly lit boutiques. There were perfectly placed mirrors and racks of color coordinated clothing, that draped. Being out of my element, I decided to try on something different. Linen pants. Two pairs. One in bright orange, the other, fuchsia with matching floral blouses.  I stared in the mirror, bright and sixties bold. I hate this, I said. And I bought both outfits. I knew if I chose what I liked, it would be more of the same, only expensive. 

My dad loved it! He's not one to usually comment on clothing. For some reason, his reaction affected me. It's not that I needed his approval. There was just something different in his intensity. I was never the same after that compliment. And neither was my style. 

Tachikawa, Japan, photo by Ray Zabielski

Vision Quest

The iridescent leaves shimmer in morning light 

moisture clinging to each dried leaf 

drizzling rain a soft serenade. 

the making of space for winter has begun 

the forest opens up 

more tall willowy tree trunks appear 

we walk deeper the dogs and I 

they ever grateful for this privilege they demand 

wagging their tails waiting as I arise 

the brandy of browns and deep burgundy 

await my vision quest for meaning of each new day 

affirming the love I have for life 

balanced between growing awareness as each day passes 

that every life has a beginning and end

a transition so subtleyet instant 

as in one day as I walk the trees are green the next Golden

how did that happen so suddenly, I ask

I must pay better attention, I warn

my footsteps are no longer spring soft on the path of grass and dirt

they crinkle, crunch a deep serenade 

the brandy of browns and deep burgundy 

await my vision quest for meaning of each new day 

You Will Love This

It may sound trite when I say I make my art for you. I don't know you personally. I do know about you. I know about your desire for passion and wisdom. To express your long earned authority. And for intimacy, those close connections you find in family and friends where you can just be you and express yourself freely with no concern for being judged or criticized or need to defend your beliefs 

In these ways we are the same. We have lived long. We have courted danger. We have loved life.

What makes us unique is our failures have not brought us down. We stand tall and walk forward knowing we have something to pass on. We have a legacy

So it is not trite when I guide my vibrant shibori silk under the needle, watch it ripple and gather graciously, marvel at its beauty, ponder how ravishing it is and know that you are going to love wearing the art I create. 

I am not praising me. I am praising the inner workings of my soul that has brought all the pieces of creating together to make this masterpiece. Yes, in that moment, when exquisite colors have found their way into my silk. I am thrilled and can't wait to share it with you.

A form of my inner life is embodied in the fabrics I take into my hands and shapes each piece. and I say, “you will love this.”

It is not trite 

You will love this!

You will love this!

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.

Just Be

 The way the light lingers, the leaves slowly fall, reminds me another season is eminent.  Colors will change brilliantly. I take each step slowly. The year has passed quickly. Yellow is also a fall shade and when I add black to my formulas, olive appears. 

Define Your Principles

They apply to all aspects of life, even what you wear.

Repetition. 

 I repeat what I like.  Such repetition creates movement and rhythm. It makes each day interesting. It makes what I do interesting.  Nature has this repetition.  The waves, the leaves the bark on the trees.  It's why I like shibori.

Be inclusive.

I add variety. Hence I will never be bored and every ensemble with be exciting.

Maintain equilibrium.

That balance I seek in day to day life can also be manifest in what I wear. Sometimes subtle, sometimes bold

Hold to a constant standard.

Keep things in proportion. This is the hard part. I tend to over react.

Live the rhythm to my own drum.  

This is where my strut lives. Where I ask and answer regularly, "Who do I think I am?"  Forty years ago the answer was Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, now it's Nanjo from the film Atelier.

Keep it simple with basic essentials.

No crew necks. Lots of v-necks.  Always comfortable.

Determine your bottom line.

Most importantly: know what you want. I want to keep communicating.

 

Dress to be Seen

My designs are for women with a certain level of self-confidence

They want to just be

just be beautiful

they don’t want to have to try

yet, they want to self-express

through their words

and their style

they are frugal with their money

they want a style that is unique and comfortable

a look that is cohesive

they want efficiency without loosing their sensuality

 

Quotes from the Japanese film, Atelier

(I love this film)

Me: Why do women have to try so hard to be beautiful? 

Atelier: It is human history. Throughout history women in Asia, Africa, North and South American, and of course Europe, all women, in every age and every pace, have been trying tone beautiful all through their existence human’s have bee admiring the beautify of women.

 

Me: It's all about the drape.

Atelier: Do you understand the beauty of hiding? Lingerie is fascinating because it is enigmatic. 

Me: You are fascinating because you are enigmatic: difficult to interpret or understand; mysterious.

 

Me: Are you saying you can't make a statement because you are poor?

Atelier: Don’t underestimate the poor. You’re not poor. You look poor.

 

Me: Remember your elements, know your principles and anything is possible.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Long Learning

I am by no means impeccable, nor is the art I create, perfect.  No matter how hard I try, there is always a flaw, somewhere.  I don’t let it stop me, however. I respond creatively, then move on to the next piece and try again.  I learned my pursuit of perfection from Mr. Blackburn, my instructor in barber college.    

In 1973 at Aurora Barber College I learned the fundamentals of barbering and anatomy in the back room and practiced on customers in the barber shop in the front of the building located on a side street of the low rent district of downtown Aurora. 

On the first day of school I was assigned chair 29, the last chair. I would eventually make my way to the first chair. Each week as students graduated, we packed up our things and moved up to the next chair. Customers knew that if they asked for the 25 cent hair cut they might get someone who had just begun school. You could start anytime. The winos and bums (we call them “homeless” now) made that choice. Fifty cents was a little better. The odds were your barber had some experience, and of course, a dollar got you first, second or third chair—someone who was about to graduate.

“Chair 29!” I heard my chair called over the intercom. Wearing my turquoise smock over my orange-and-brown tweed mini skirt, my shag haircut pulled back softly, I rose out of my chair. (It’s what we all did, sat in our chairs, read The Practice and Science of Standard Barbering and studied the muscles and bones of the face and head while we waited for our chair number to be called.) I unfolded my perfectly creased chair cloth, moved behind my chair and stared as a scruffy old man sauntered down the long narrow aisle. As I watched him coming toward me, I wondered if he knew I had never cut a head of hair in my life. He didn’t say anything at first, as he settled himself in the chair. I draped him with the black and white striped chair cloth, wrapped a neck strip around his neck according to sanitation regulations and tightened the cloth with a silver clip I kept in my smock’s breast pocket. As I pumped the chair higher, he said, “Give me a regular.” This was code: taper in the back, clean up the sides, a little off the top. Most regular customers of a barber school know enough not to ask the last chair for a shave. 

Mr. Blackburn, the owner and head teacher, ran his school strictly, demanding punctuality and cleanliness. Sanitation was maintained with a few drops of a blue solution called Barbercide poured in to a glass jar containing our combs. Little tablets of formaldehyde were stored inside our tool drawers where we kept our shears and clippers. Fragrant bottles of Pinaud Clubman shave cream and talcum powder glistened on our back bars. At the end of each day before anyone could leave, we each stood behind our chairs while Mr. Blackburn paced slowly down the aisle eyeing the chrome base of each chair for hair still remaining after we swept. He wore black pants and a crisp white shirt everyday. Each morning a different student styled his gray hair in a pompadour by using a brush and blow dryer. He, of course, only trusted students in chairs one, two, or three for a haircut. 

My grandfather, Julius Zabielski, was a Polish immigrant to Chicago in 1917. I married a barber, became a barber, a hair salon owner and eventually a wearable art designer.  There is a connection.  Notice the posture.

Bessie Zabielski had her own style.  She, too, immigrated from Poland to Chicago in 1917.  Coincidentally I wore the same style hat in my first poetry reading and I love flared skirts.   

When Racism Speaks

Be still and listen, my grandmother said.

This is my reawakened arena for healing and self-care, personally and for the planet.
Less pontificating.

I was in a meeting last week.  There was tension.  The ending was uncomfortable. I felt silenced. Many felt there was no resolution.

How could there be? The topic was epic. Racism.
The time small. Two hours.

What do I remember?

Only the stories. None of the opining, preaching and lecturing.

I remember the story a black woman told about her fear of driving alone late at night on dark county roads in South Carolina. A fear I, as a white woman, seldom experience.

I remember the story another woman of color told of mounting fear for her five sons after watching a documentary on lynchings.

And I remember the frustration a woman from Honduras shared at frequently being invited to be on boards of organizations but soon realizing she was a token, she had no real voice.

At first, after the residue from the meeting drifted away, I resolved never to speak again. My stories felt insignificant in light of all these women had experienced.

As the days passed, my courage began to rise.  I must speak, I affirmed. I must rise each day, dress for being seen, for being heard and be prepared to speak if necessary.

Every day demands the courage to speak and when I have drawn to me all my allies and power tools, my thoughts are clear.  Even my work jeans and bandanas become power tools for statement making when chosen consciously.

Each day that I step into is to be seized and made magnificent.  I will not hold back for fear of being insignificant. After being still and listening, I will speak boldly when necessary.

These are the things my grandmother taught when we went to visit in her tiny house on the edge of the cotton field in west Texas.  Always dress up when you go to town, she said.

This is what grandmothers teach, even if they birthed no children of their own. They have lived long. They have experience. They are wise.

Be still and listen.

Balance

Usually when I think of hot flash, I think red. In hindsight, I think green. It’s been awhile since I have had a hot flash, however, the things I learned during that time are tremendous.

The transition occurred naturally in my body signifying a new beginning was about to happen. A time to take care of me. The children would soon be grown and on their own. I remember that time well. It was like the color green, a time of growth and balance. A time of growth into a mature, wise woman. A time to balance past desires and future dreams. 

I remember standing in the University of Kentucky bookstore. I had just enrolled in classes, a returning student, excited to enter this mental world of thinking, studying, validating opinions, discovering new ones, making art, when suddenly my body began to heat up. Little beads of perspiration appeared. 

It was uncomfortable. My back pack was slung across my body which was covered with many layers; a vest, a sweater, a jacket, a scarf around my neck. The heat continued to rise. There was nothing I could do. 

At home I could strip down. Not here, in the bookstore. In my helplessness I saw I had no control. I saw endurance. I stood there, the heat continued rising. Within that moment I recognized an endurance I intended to embrace.  

This was the beginning of a new period of growth that I would not resist, that I would embrace fully and become the wise woman I was meant to be. It just happens. There is no avoiding it.  

I am the mother.  I told the caller on the phone seeking to speak with the mother in charge.

I am in charge. I know what I am doing. Oh what a glorious balanced path to reach. As I walk in the woods this morning I see that the green cannot get any greener.  This is the color I seek to capture.