Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I have been making small books and wall pieces that include favorite poems sporadically for about twenty years now. They are almost always conceived of as a gift for a particular person. I am working on one now and it has given me time to reflect about how deep and intimate the process of making something for someone is. The time of making is also time to think about the other person, remember shared moments and hold that other person in a tangible but ethereal way. We do it when we cook or sew or burn a cd - we take our time and fill it with connection.

One of my many majors during my first year at RISD was illustration. I never ended up pursuing it though my pieces are often illustrations of my personal, unwritten narratives. I have always found the best illustrations are ones that expand upon the writer's words and capture a something however simple that can't be expressed in words. The visualization exists in the space between the words which makes poetry especially satisfying to work with since the spaces are larger.

I make my objects as containers for the writers' voices, a material place for the words to rest. I make them as containers for my love, a material place for it to rest as well. I hold the words - often hand lettering the poem so the shaping of the letters become part of my hand memory.

I never sell these pieces and rarely photograph them. For one thing I borrow the poetry without obtaining permission from the poets. And the impulse to make a piece is not only about creating my own images but also about expressing the bond between me and the recipient. I like to think of them like little boats floating away - delicate threads connecting them to me and creating a web.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This winter I've taken a break from my usual studio work and have been playing around with some fabrics that my friend Katy Helman has printed with imagery generated from her students' drawings. I've been stitching the fabrics together, creating vignettes and then combining them with other fabrics to create clothing - children's clothing, women's clothing - overalls, skirts, prom dresses.

Now it is time to exhibit these pieces and of course that means finding bodies to put them on. Which brings up the thorny issue of body shapes and sizes and the difficult reality that clothes show better on some than others. And bodies move in many directions which is a good thing but . . .

The last time I did this much sewing and fitting, it was for costumes for a production with nine women at the Opera House. Nine very different female bodies, young, old, curvy, broad it was such a relief to get to the one NYC actress - a "perfect" size 8. As a designer, my job was easier on a standardized form but . . .

Growing up with my share of media-inspired ideas about the female body and beauty, I worked hard to love of my non-standardized body in my feminist 20s and enjoy its strength and health since then but . . .

I still think a few more inches in height, a few fewer pounds in weight would make clothes look better. And now I layer on the struggles of my beautiful, short, curvy daughter to find teen fashions that fit and I rail once again against industrial stereotyping.

Barbie and I both turn fifty this year - along with two favorite cousins. I think those of us who aren't made of plastic are glad that our bodies reflect our lives, the bearing of children, the joy of movement, the power of age . . . and very glad that our feet can stand flat against the earth as well as bend into sexy heels.

And I am so ready to return to inanimate forms- preferably rectangles!