Monday, July 9, 2018

My Muse

I really believe in the special powers of a Muse. As far as we have been told, the idea of a muse started in Classical European Mythology. In Greek and Roman Mythology each of the nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, over the arts and sciences. It is hard for me to believe that African people (the oldest people on the planet) never thought of or had the notion of a power that governed the creative acts first. 

I liked this definition better: a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. This must be what the Yoruba people call Osun. A personified force! That is what African stories are full of the personification of inanimate objects. We often find many ideas that the Classical Europeans came up with were really appropriated from African cultures and I strongly believe that this is one of those borrowed ideas.

If there are numerous paintings and drawings of Olga, who served as Picasso's muse for many years, then we must have had our own muses that survived in pictures somewhere, but history has failed to say so.

So, with all that said, I want to introduce my new series that I simply call "Muses". I  have O.V. Brantley to thank for the idea. The Atlanta Quilt Festival is celebrating 10 years of beautiful quilts and workshops. We were all asked to create a 10"x10" work of art to commemorate the milestone. I mumbled to myself and contested to O.V. I never thought I would work so small, but I tried it and liked it. 

I decided on several kinds of muses. Some of them are taken from the ideas in the book - "The Women Who Fly", while others were taken from the long haired ladies of the  book - "Scrap Easy." They are all feisty with a lot of energy to give. Each little quilt has it's own detailed applique, special embellishment and it's own personality.

 No two are identical, because they are meticulously hand crafted in order to be the source of inspiration for all your endeavors.Let me know the one that you want at

Friday, June 8, 2018

Inspiration 3

Just the other day someone asked me, "where do you get your inspiration?" I started to think about it and all the things I had already written in this blog came to mind. One main thing still stands-- I give myself permission to use all the pictures that are in my memory. Lately my thoughts have been on women. With the new "Me Too Movement" and "Times Up Movement" upon us- I have been even more aware of the need to uplift women.

So I look at all kinds of still pictures of women. I watch women doing all kinds of things. I watch women when they are doing nothing at all. I watch women taking care of the kids, riding the bus, driving the car, cooking the food. I watch them wear black hair- red hair- gold hair- gray hair. I watch them work. I watch them take a quick break. I watch them laugh, I watch them cry, I watch them walk, I watch them stand in flat shoes-in high heels- open toed shoes- open heeled shoes- tennis shoes or slippers. I watch them sitting and waiting. I watch women touch their cheek when they are surprised or cover their mouths for a big full laugh. I watch women slip in and out of a coat, a sweater, a shawl or jacket. I watch them rejoice and lament.

Most of all I watch women step in a big mess and then work their way through it all. Sometimes they step out of it so gracefully that you didn't even realize that there was a mess. I am watching for the Good (God) in them. When I see it, I catalog that in my memory. I go to my little work station and try to emulate what I have seen. I try to show that sparkle in the eyes or that flash of light from the grin or the softness in her curves. I try to show hardness made gentle and vice versa.

"Where do you find your images?" I see images everywhere. I love looking at clouds and trying to figure out if it is the shape of something I recognize. I guess I started with this game of "find an image in the clouds" when I was a very young girl. On any lazy day in the country, my sister and I laid in the grass and watched the clouds change shape. The thrill of it all was to finally see an elephant or a man riding a horse or a baby girl sitting on the edge of the cloud.

Sometimes I see that flash of goodness in an instant and then it fades away. I rewind that image in my mind so I can show that flash of goodness that may have been buried by the years of torment and pain, of hard work and struggle, of giving and then giving some more, of being short changed, of being cheated, of being ripped off, of being abused, of being swindled and of being imposed on.

That flash shows up while standing waist high in a field of cotton and still able to look up and see the glory of the sunset. I know it sounds like a bunch of looking and watching but it's true. And the good news is that I see the goodness (Godness) everywhere. That is where I get my inspiration and images from.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Women Who Fly

I haven't told you about the my latest book. It is "The Women Who Fly" and a really good read. This book includes twenty quilts and the stories that accompany them. The stories tell of struggle, pain, disappointment, loss and finally self-discovery.

I don't usually delve into politics but the women in this book decided that there were some subjects that they wanted to touch on. I started out with the idea of making twenty quilts for an exhibit and it turned into much much more. I went inside myself and saw some of my story, then the subjects of the quilts took me inside themselves and shared their intimate struggles. When I finally set down to write their stories which were intertwined with my own, I saw a universal truth about women's resilience emerge.
The women who fly took me to the depths of my feelings and then allowed me to soar above the clouds with them as we found our own peace.

The exhibit debuted in Lawrence, Kansas at the National African American Quilt Convention in July 2017. I was so proud to share these strong women with the world. They are by no means the full extent of the pain women experience. I would go so far to say that they are the tip of the iceberg, but we are at least beginning to chip away at it. We as women have the unfortunate subtle training to disdain one another, to pull each other down and generally compete against each other. It is time that we learn to hold each other close. We have to start to be dear friends because we don't know what each one of us has gone through. Stop judging and start loving. 

The quilts took a year to make, which was quite a feat for me. I literally worked night and day. I started out with a list of quilts that I wanted to make. That changed as the time went along. Some stories pushed their way to the front of the line while others dropped off.  Some backgrounds started
out as traditional quilts and then turned into abstracts. I had an opportunity to explore a lot of different colors that helped tell the story of the personalities, even Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddam got into the mix. I loved writing about her because I was so very familiar with the anguish that went along with the Civil Rights movement. Annell Ponder was my cousin on the front line of many of those marches and jail time. I sat right at my Aunt's feet as she worried about Annell's well-being.

More dancers ended up in the series than any other occupation. I don't know if it is because I love to dance or if the dancers just came forth as our mechanism for letting go of frustration. I studied butterfly wings because I thought they were more apropos than bird wings since the butterfly goes through a stage of developing it's wings. We, women, go through our stages of developing our own wings and ability to soar beyond our circumstances. The beauty and the different nuances in the wings clearly spoke to our distinctions.

The first quilt I made in the series ended up being the last story that I wrote. I kept asking her to tell me her story and nothing but the blank quilt stared back at me. After I finished with everyone else, she quietly said, "I had two great loves in my life." Really, where do I go with that? What does that mean and is there a story of pain behind those loves, before those loves, after those loves? What? That little tidbit did not help me any. I kept working and looking over at the quilt, knowing that the story would have to come to me soon because my closing deadline was quickly approaching.

Then one morning I woke up and I knew the whole story. I knew her pain, I knew all her children, I knew the men she had loved and I knew how she got her wings. Subconsciously, I knew why women had wings and she said, "Only Women Have Wings."

Book excerpt: "Mom opened the door and I dove into her arms. I jumped at that hug before I knew it. She was not usually a hugger. She gave back a halfhearted hug. It didn't take me long to come to my senses and remember where I was. I let go slowly.

"I was someone else in my new life. I was loved by my friends and family. I had forgotten this terrible place with its cold glaring accusatory walls staring at me. I forgot that we didn't exchange hugs or show any other sign of caring."

I hope you will give this book a chance to delight you, make you laugh, make you cry and connect with you on some deeper level. Hug your mom, hug your sister, hug your friend, hug your daughter, your co-worker and maybe even a stranger. Who knows maybe we can be the healing in the world that we dream of.

Purchase today at

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Yes I love orange.  So many people have asked me if orange is my favorite color. Well yes it is. Love that color. It is like a bright spot in the middle of my day. Lifts me right up anytime. I think it has gotten a bad reputation.

The Witty Bunny says: "You're deeply compassionate and kind. Your big heart makes you an angel here on earth, and you bring great and peaceful vibes everywhere." I can't say whether I am really an angel on earth that brings peaceful vibes everywhere but I try.

There are some people that do not like the color orange because it is attached to Halloween. I am sorry that a color is banished to the dark side because a group of people have attached it to a particular holiday. I am one of those people that love bright colors. Well, truthfully, I love all colors. Bright yellow/gold and orange are my absolute favorites. Sometimes I even wear red.

When I make quilts my first choice is always orange, then I think better of it because it seems that the majority of the population (that might want to buy a quilt) like more muted colors. I have to tone it down. I'm one of those people that gets excited when Mr. Sun peeks in the window early in the morning, but there are others who wear a mask just so they don't see the sun. And that is okay.

The differences in people is what makes the world go around. I'll continue to slip it in here and there in my quilts and I will wear it as much as I can. You should try it sometimes.

 I kept this quilt for myself.
Life is full of so many wonderful colors that we can all celebrate. Orange is my favorite. I'll be somewhere indulging in orange and wearing a smile. And if all goes well I will bring great and peaceful vibes everywhere.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Never A Dull Moment

Writer's block is something I have heard about but never had it happen to me. I think it is because I am forever thinking and coming up with new ideas. There is never enough time to write it all down. Now that I am quilting it is even worse. I am always working on something new and longing for more time to finish.

Some days I envy people who can work on one thing at a time and never stray away. I confess that I have tried that a couple of times myself. I was not successful with it because while I was working on one thing another piece of fabric was calling to me from the rack.

I love it when people ask me, "Soooo what are you working on?" I hesitate and take a deep breath. All kinds of projects run through my brain quickly and I figure out which one to say. Of course, I am always working on two or more things. Sometimes I have to put one up on the design wall and look at it for a long time, while I figure out either what to do next or what is not working. So while that was is hanging on the wall, I keep working on something else--glancing at the design wall every now and then.

Deadlines seem to be like little creatures chasing me through a forest thicket in the dead of night. I awake knowing what I want to work on and then I realize that the quilt on the design wall is due by the end of next week. So I switch my thinking around and get to work on the deadline piece while pushing the other one aside. Booooo.....

So now I am working on yet another new quilt. The idea for this quilt came to my mind but it was only an idea. I had not designed it or anything. Then last week I found out that it was due by Friday.I shifted into overdrive. Once I got the idea together I got stuck trying to figure out the background. Now you know how I feel about showing my work in progress. I know that I am always going to change something and I am not sure you will understand that. Here goes nothing. It started like this. 

I saw this wonderful faux leather fabric the other day and knew right away that I wanted to use it to make the shoes. I have also been looking at this fabric with the musical notes on it for a long time. This was going to be a great opportunity to use it. It is going to be nothing short of a miracle if I can finish this thing by Friday.

While I was working on this my mind kept slipping to some black and white fabric that I bought at Mary Jo's last year. I have been trying to ignore it because I know that I have other deadlines. Finally I gave in a little and made a background hoping that it will leave me alone long enough to finish Friday's project.

I think that appeased the idea for a minute. However, I woke up this morning thinking about it again. Now it is a fight with what I want to do and what I have to do. I am sure what I have to do will win this one. Sorry lovely black and white idea.

Moving right along with the Friday idea. Just the right fabric was in my stash for the jacket. I can't wait to get back to it today. If I can make the head in two days then I may make it. 

But wait- I still have to go grocery shopping, attend the family reunion, cook a lot of food so we can eat at the reunion and clean for a big event at my house, not to mention keep my grandchildren in the middle of any or all of that. Well anyway, I have the body/suit almost finished. There is never a dull moment around here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Inspired by Her

I have been exploring what inspires me and I found women to be the number one inspiration. I look at the work I have done and I always  feel like it is overwhelmingly feminine. I find myself saying that I need to do some men to balance out what I have. One day I was watching this video of Bisa Butler talking about why she is drawn to work with men images.  As I listened to her, I realized that I am drawn to work with women.

Why? The first thought I had was because my mother died when I was young and I was internally seeking to fill that void. I think that is true. The second thought I had was that so many really great women have been in my life and influenced my thoughts and actions. That is very true as well. Lastly, I thought that women are the largest subject of my work because I can relate so wholeheartedly to their pain. And that is the biggest reason of all that I am inspired to create work that gives women a voice that I think we so desperately need.

We seemed to be hard wired to fall down and get back up, while making very little fuss about it. I remember hearing someone say about Mammograms that if men had to suffer something as uncomfortable as that - another method would be quickly devised. Then I heard much talk circulating about how uncomfortable a prostate exam was. I stress WAS. Now men can get a prostate check through a simple blood test. No more probing. Wow, we are still being pressed into a flat iron without the heat.

I explored some of that inspiration in the book "Inspired by Her". I talk about many of the great women who inspired my life from my friends mothers, my sisters, my teachers and my cousins. I realized that their stories and my stories merged. I have felt their pain along with my own. I have felt their complexity along with my own. I have rejoiced and cried along side so many of them. 

Janice Liddell wrote a beautiful play called "Who Will Cry For Lena." When I saw that play I realized that it is so important that we tell our stories. No one can do it for us and we are the best ones to do it. Our stories are important. If we don't tell our stories the younger generations will think that what they are experiencing is new and special to them and their circumstances. They will wrongly think that they are the only ones that have ever gone through what they are going through. They will think that there are no answers for us. We have not been taught to share our stories but that has to change. Otherwise others will think that nothing can change and it can. That change starts with us, speaking up telling our stories whether it be in prose, short stories, plays, novels and of course pictorial art.

I first started with my hat ladies. It must have been because those were some of my earliest memories of strong women in the church. Women who dressed so lovely and wore awesome hats that I looked up at as a young child. 

Then I think I wanted to show that we rejoice. We really know how to rejoice. We dance, we celebrate and we leave our pain on earth sometime and fly above it all. So I did a lot of dancing work.


That brought me to the next book "The Women Who Fly" which gave me the chance to talk seriously about some of our falling down and getting back up. I encourage women to first acknowledge that your story is important, to you, to me, to young women, to men and believe it or not to the world.


Let's tell those stories ladies!!!! Let's inspire each other!!!! Let's hold each other close!!!!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Inspiration Everywhere 2

It has been a week and I have done nothing but watched myself. I felt like I was standing outside my own head trying to figure out what was inspiring me. Some years ago, I heard someone (I want to say it was Isaac Hayes but not sure anymore) say that whatever your work is -you should be an expert in that. You should study and learn as much as you can about what you are doing.

So I since I was quilting, I jumped in. I figured I was least adept at color therapy. I studied what I could find on color therapy and realized again that it lacked something for me. I studied the differences in how cultures used colors. That is when I found my true color inspiration. Don'ts get me wrong, I'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Some of the basic information about color is helpful; like which colors work well with other colors etc...  I found a feeling in colors that with the right placement made it feel like music. It was like a syncopated beat that repeated itself in my design. I moved away from the quiet soft spoken quilts that played classical music in the symphony halls. I wanted color to dance the Fanga and Yabara dances in my quilts. I wanted the drum to carry the bottom heartbeat of the rhythm with indigo and navy blue. When I wanted them to spring into movement I added bright yellows, golds and especially orange. Color plays an important part of my inspiration process. 

Then shapes. The realization of how shapes effect us goes into my process as well. It is not something that I think through but when I put it up on the design board and walk away, it hits me. I say to myself, maybe a few circles will lighten the feeling or more bold lines will stabilize this picture. Not to mention the triangles, squares, and so on.

I don't want to say that I watch everything but I do. I watch people (all ages). I watch cars, nature, fashions, shoes, food, sports, hair styles, musicians, musical instruments, door knobs, art in public places, how the furniture is laid out in a room, tea cup or mug, everything. The trick to watching everything is to not look crazy doing it. Ha ha ha ha. Look and then look away. Get real quiet so people don't realizing you are studying things.

And most of all give credit to your own experiences and make beautiful pictures of your friends. Like I do. It may seem like I am all over the place but really I am enjoying doing the pictures I want to do and making my own statement.