Monday, February 14, 2011


I attended a book signing party on Saturday night. I was pleasantly surprised to know that the physical book has not died the final death. People who actually want the feel and comfort of a real book in their hands still exist.
The Apex Museum on Auburn Ave. was packed with fans of M. Ayodele Heath. In case you haven't heard of it, the Apex museum is entirely devoted to African American history in order to promote cultural awareness and societal contributions by African Americans in Georgia.

I was impressed with the crowd and Ayodele himself. Good company, good performances and good food always make for a pleasant experience. Let me first say that Ayodele's entire family was there to support him. That alone was impressive and I know how much it means to an artist to have that support. Then a multitude of friends and one of his professors. I found some friends of mine in the crowd.

The MC Chezon Jackson was just what you would want: funny, informative, articulate and gracious. I walked in just as Gypsee Yo, a native of Albania, was opening up with some of her great poems. She has received standing ovations on multiple continents, having competed in slams worldwide, including National Poetry Slam 2006 and 2007, Individual World Poetry Slam 2006, and the first ever Women of the World Poetry Slam 2008. She fired the whole crowd up and brought us to our feet.
Gypsee Yo was followed by Emmy Nominee Jon Goode. Jon represents a refreshing change-up to traditional performance poetry, and has established himself as one of the most influential and positive voices in the African American community. Jon's laid back blend of humor and levity have propelled his career and made him one of the most sought after talents of our generation. I wasn't ready. I had not been forewarned. Not only did he have a satirical humor but also slipped up behind you to surprise you with a double meaning in every word. Gypsee Yo and Jon Goode stirred up the crowd for Ayodele.

Then Ayodele burst onto center stage. He performed many poems from his book. He was awesome. I think my favorite was the poem about the Bird family name. If you have the opportunity to see him perform, don't miss it. I was so happy that I made the effort to make it.

M. Ayodele Heath, an Atlanta native, is the recipient of an Emerging Artist grant from the Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs. A performance poet who holds an MFA from New England College, Ayodele has been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem and the Caversham Centre for Artists in South Africa. His first book, Otherness, is available on Brick Road Poetry Press.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Visual Tribute to Oprah Winfrey

The other day I received an email with a title called, "The Book Is Ready!" It seemed to have happened so fast. It was just last fall when the call went out to artists. I set out to make my quilt in a two month window. Finding just the right look on Oprah's face and then on Gayle's face was a challenge. The image I had in my mind didn't exist, at least not in public pictures. I wanted my piece to tell the story of close friends sharing a secret, a story, a laugh together. Of course I couldn't find that picture because it would have to be a private moment and I wanted to capture a private moment between friends. I happen to know what that is like. I have been blessed with some really good friends in my life and have shared some really good laughter, secrets, stories and just plain fun.

I have to admit that I had some help finding just the right look. But when I did, I knew it was right. The hair for both ladies turned out to be much more involved than I thought it would be. At first I layered the colors of fabrics in. Although it is difficult to see on the picture, I did a lot of thread painting on the hair. Then building the faces was next. I achieved a really good reproduction of Oprah's mouth but had a lot of trouble with Gayle's. I just have to keep working at it.

After I finished the faces and hair, I decided on the color of their dresses. Then I worked on the background. I asked my son and daughter for help. I love asking them because they give me such honest opinions. Finally I hand dyed some fabric in order to keep the background from being so stark.

Making this piece gave me a chance to express my idea about Gayle and Oprah's friendship, but it also gave me a chance to pay homage to some of the great best friends I have had through several stages of my life. People come into your life just as you need them and stay as long as you need them and they need you.

Which brings me to my second piece, where my first real friendship started with my sister. This quilt is about friendship, Easter Sunday, and bangs. We all remember the bangs. So many people have told me how closely they can relate to this quilt. The baby doll socks and patent leather shoes, the frilly dresses and the hair experience. I made the hair on this quilt with braided yarn. It took me a good amount of time to braid it and an even longer time to sew each braid to the quilt. The dresses were fun. It took me back to making doll clothes as a little girl with all the skill I have as an accomplished seamstress. Many people have asked me where did I have the little dresses.
I sent the pictures in and waited. It seemed like time really flew after that. The next thing I knew I was accepted into the book. That alone was a tremendous honor. I feel so blessed to have been one of the few artist accepted into this book.

Now the book is ready. I am proud and honored to have three pieces in the book. Click here and peruse the book You can order your own copy today.

Public Library

The Atlanta Central Library Downtown Branch with African Americans for the Arts presented it's annual Black History program called "Out of Many One". It runs from January 30-February 25, 2011. We were at the opening reception on February 3, 2010. Pamela Diana and Charles Coad performed among the beautifully displayed art. I was so proud to be a part of this exhibit.

Something really wonderful happened for me. I saw these tile pieces that I thought were so beautiful and well done. I kept telling Elaine how great this artist was, since I play around at tiling now and then. About a half hour later the artist came in and I said, "you look familiar." She said you taught a tile workshop last year at the Arts Exchange. I said yes, that is where I know you from. She said yes you taught me to tile. Wow! This is really a time when the student took it and ran way past the teacher. I was just so amazed that she got it. She really understood the intricacies of making it art.
I try to live by a story I heard about Miriam Makeba. I am not sure it is true or where I heard it from now. Very young Miriam was walking to the Laundromat one day when she heard this beautiful music coming from a basement of a house she was passing. She went to the window and peeked in. She saw a lady with her back to the window playing a piano. Miriam decided that day that she would become a musician. The lady never knew the influence she had on Miriam. We may never know the effects of our actions on others.
Be sure to get by and see this exhibit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great Quilt Block

I am always excited when I find a great quilt block that
is versatile. I first saw this block in a quilt that a friend had done. It takes on an even different look when many of these blocks are sewn together. I made just the block alone as a wall hanging and called it "Gradual Expansion #1 & #2. The first one was an experiment with some brown and beige fabrics that I had bought. Then I thought I would do this wonderful swirl effect with gradations of the same color on each corner. Each one was fun. I like the surprise of what turns out. Sometimes it is exactly what I thought it would be and many times it is a great surprise. Some better and some worse. I usually pick the worse ones out and start over.
I am also fascinated that it tricks the eye into thinking that it is sewn on a curve, but it is really straight triangles. I am always on the look for fun blocks like this one. One day I am going to put it together in a full bed quilt. That will be something to write about!