Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blue Hawaii Wristlet (by Kim's Crafty Apple)

Spring Flowers Quilt (by Kim's Crafty Apple)

Interview with Kim (Kim's Crafty Apple)

Many quilters I know are deeply connected to family and friends. Perhaps because of the slow, often meditative rhythms of cutting, piecing, quilting and binding a blanket or wall-hanging, quilters have a built in opportunity to think about and reflect upon the people who will receive the finished piece.

Kim, of Kim's Crafty Apple, is no exception. She is a member of the Quiltsy Team and graciously shared some insights about quilting, creativity and family life.

"I've been blessed with an undramatic life," Kim says, "and extremely lucky to not have anything very traumatic affect my life so far."

An undramatic life, however, does not mean life is dull. "I recently retired from my full time job as a civil engineer," Kim continues, "and am currently a stay-at-home mom of two small baby girls."

Kim opened her Etsy shop in February 2008. It is a place where creativity blossoms in the form of quilts, pillow cases, onsies, rompers, dresses, t-shirts and the like. "I have been creating things my entire life," she says, "and whenever possible, I choose to make my own instead of buying something."

Kim's "Spring Flower Quilt" (pictured in the photo above) won the Etsy Baby Spring Fling Challenge earlier this year.

Kim works in many different mediums: beads, wire, fabric, paint. "Anything and everything," she says. "The variety of things that I create helps to keep me motivated and inspired. If I get bored by quilting, I make bracelets or rings for a while, or I paint pictures or whatever. I am always creating SOMETHING."

"The name of my store," Kim says, "comes from the fact that I am part of a family-owned and operated apple orchard." Lapacek's Orchard, when open for the season, offers freshly picked apples, freshly pressed apple cider (unpasteurized and no preservatives), hand-dipped caramel apples and more. "When I first started dating my now-husband, his family let me display my jewelry in the apple store. It went over better than I ever expected. I have continued to create things to sell during apple season."

"I am also proud to sell a few items made by my mother-in-law, Diane, and my sister-in-law, Karma. I lucked out when I married into an extremely talented family!" The long-arm quilting on many of the quilts you see in Kim's shop was done by her aunt-in-law, Barb, from Quilts by Barb. "Make sure you check out her shop," Kim says, "for more amazing quilts!"

In April 2009, Kim opened a second Etsy shop called The Apple. Here you will find a wide array of earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings.

Along with raising two small girls, quilting, jewelry making, and helping out at the apple orchard, Kim is also involved with a fundraiser in her community each year for Cure Kids Cancer. "Hearing the stories of families that have had to deal with this just breaks my heart. I have two beautiful and vibrant girls of my own. I can't even imagine how families get through this type of tragedy."

When Kim is feeling crabby or sad, she turns to her family and to her work for support. "As I've said before, I haven't really had that many challenges in life...yet. I'll be interested to see how I handle them."

For inspiration and a chance to escape for a little while, Kim turns to her favorite fiction books. "Losing myself in a story is the best escape from the world for me. I have a tie for my all time favorites: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Two Books I can read over and over."

"Music can always pull my mood up," Kim continues, "I really like a little bit of everything. If you were to listen to my play list on random, you would be so confused--Andrew Lloyd Webber to Green Day to Black Eyed Peas to Ben Harper to Colbie Caillat to Metallica...a little of everything!"

As to what shoes Kim wears? "I would have to say I have a split-shoe personality. I am a city girl transplanted in an orchard. I enjoy being outside but I really am not a fan of bugs or dirt...I'll get dirty if I have to but I would prefer not to. I LOVE to get dressed up when the opportunity arises but it doesn't happen often. I still remember in college calling up my best friend and saying, 'I have mascara on...we're going to the bar!' That being said my shoes would be a TEVA and a fancy, fun high heel."

You may find out more about Kim's work in her quilt shop, jewelry shop or on her blog

For more information about Lapacek's Orchard, visit their website or blog.

Kim is a member of the following:

Carried Away Bag Team
Design Style Guide Team
Etsy Baby
Etsy Mom Street Team
Quiltsy Team
Wisconsin Street Team

What Shoes Kim Wears

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lunch is For Losers

I was chatting with some people online yesterday. I mentioned I was going to leave the chatroom to get some lunch. Someone responded "Sojourn, lunch is for losers." It was, in her estimation, more rewarding to deprive yourself of food all day and have just one meal at dinner. "Eating during the day," this person continued, "is weak."

I could not disagree more. I responded by saying, "Food is my friend."

She then went on to suggest the "No shadow diet" and, since this was a new concept to me, explained (incorrectly) that vegans "eat only foods that cast no shadow." This was, in her perception, "A highly recommended diet." Since everything on earth casts a shadow, I did not follow her reasoning.

I recognize this as the language of someone with an eating disorder. Misconceptions. Rigid rules about when and what to eat. Diminishing the act of preparing and eating food. Depriving oneself and using food as reward or punishment. Making food into a black-white dichotomy of good and evil, strength and weakness.

I persisted in my responses: I like food. I like to eat. Food is my friend. And, soon, other people were chiming in that, they too like to eat. The person finally, unconvincingly said, yeah, she liked food, too. She was only joking. I did not believe her.

This interaction made me feel sad for the people--men and women, boys and girls--who suffer with eating disorders. I do not know too many people who have never gained or lost weight in the course of life's ups and downs. But, it seems to me a serious and dangerous threat to one's well-being when food and the concept of nourishing one's self gets distorted to this degree.

I understand issues with weight and with food are very complex--well beyond my expertise and experience. I, personally, felt a wide range of emotions around food at different times in my life.

I grew up thinking I was fat, though pictures of me in childhood reveal I was not. I gained weight in college. Lost it. Lost a bunch of weight during my marriage and subsequent divorce. Stayed a fairly healthy weight for a while. Had my breakdown, felt depressed and tired for a long time and gained three sizes. And, now, having focused a great deal of energy on my emotional well-being, am slowly working my way (through exercise and an increasing interest in cooking and eating healthier foods) back to a better weight for my height and age.

I never hated food or experienced anorexia or bulimia. I do not know that I thought much about food at all. I saw food as pragmatic and not as the wondrous substance it is. I understand, now, that food is just part of a whole way of being. What I put into my body sustains me, gives me a quick energy boost or makes me feel a strange combination of being hyper or anxious and lethargic at the same time.

Soda makes me feel sick. Red meat leaves a heaviness in the pit of my stomach. Chicken or turkey settles me down. Fresh vegetables--especially brussel sprouts, lately--make my heart sing. Protein from eggs or nuts sets me up well for the day. I feel solid and satisfied. I enjoy the texture and tang of various cheeses. Bread and chocolate are still my comfort foods. I love cooking with and for friends and family. I make pretty decent homemade soups and pizza.

It was only when I became more in tuned with my emotional, physical and spiritual well-being I began to understand that food--and the acts of preparing and eating it--is such an important aspect of the day. Like taking a walk to clear my head, cooking a meal and then sitting down to enjoy it is not just something I am "supposed" to do. It is a way for me to honor my life and life's energy.

"Lunch is for losers?" On the contrary, I find eating when I am hungry is an act of great strength and respect for my body's needs. I find it infinitely fascinating and rewarding to listen to and understand my body's cravings for and responses to food. As with anything else in life, I can always learn more about nutrition, cooking and growing foods (my hope is to have a house some day and start a garden). I find a deep happiness and comfort when I give my body the nutrients it needs.

I have not stopped thinking about the chat since it happened.

I did not and could not respond to the person in the chatroom as I have here. Chatrooms are fast-moving and public in the way a blog is not. Chats are real-time and more like stream-of-consciousness expressions. People blurt out all kinds of things. Chats are not necessarily "conversations."

Writing this blog post is my way of offering a different perspective about food. I do not know if the person will find her way to this blog or be receptive to my ideas. I do hope and wish this person (and others who struggle to develop a healthy, viable relationship to food), one day finds the internal and external resources to challenge some beliefs she has developed around food. Perhaps these resources would help her explore the possibility that eating--and feeding one's self in emotional, spiritual and physical ways--is more complex and wondrous and life affirming than she might currently believe.

In any event, the brief interaction I had with this person touched me in a profound way. My heart goes out to her. I wish her well on her journey.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This N That Scrappy Quilt (by Dragonfly Stitches)

At The Aquarium (by Dragonfly Stitches)

Interview With Michelle (Dragonfly Stitches)

I have often thought quilting mimics life in that disparate pieces (cloth, moments in time) are sewn together to make something wholly unique and wonderful. Sometimes, every stitch and movement is planned. Sometimes, it feels like a struggle to get the right fabric or color to fit the pattern. Sometimes, intuition takes over and it is as if the quilt stitches itself together.

A while ago, I joined the Quiltsy Team on Etsy. This is an enthusiastic and generous group of people who share my love of fabric, color and technique. It is my distinct pleasure to interview Michelle of Dragonfly Stitches. Michelle has been quilting for 20 years and shared with me some insights on how quilting is truly the fabric of life.

"I take pieces of fabric that don't go together or have been discarded by others," Michelle tells me, "and put them together to make one unique and beautiful gift. My quilts are useful and made to love."

Michelle makes handmade one-of-a-kind quilts to snuggle up in, take to a dorm, put on a bed, create a memory or decorate your home. "Rarely artistic on purpose," Michelle continues, "my practical quilts reflect how I have blended my family together the right way and how life takes determination to use what we do have. Our children really influence me. They don't hesitate to ask mommy to buy a favorite piece of crazy fabric or try a new quilting design. Our youngest son, when he was four, challenged me to design what is now one of my most popular free motion quilting designs, Ziggy."

Michelle's passion for quilting began as a hobby when she was a child. For the past five years, she has transitioned her hobby into a business. "I sold my first quilt under the name Dragonfly Stitches in 2002. Each one of my quilts are unique. I do custom work and long arm quilting for others." She opened her Etsy shop in January, 2008.

Michelle is a stay-at-home mom of four, plus one. Hers is a blended family with three teenagers, one five year old and four year old. "I feel like being the mom of a blended family drives my work."

Along with quilting, Michelle is very concerned about and involved with children's mental health issues. "I have been an advocate for children with special needs for going on 16 years. My oldest son struggles with several disabilities and mental health issues. Fighting for him has become a way of life that has blossomed into an overall drive for children's rights. My step daughter has also inspired me to do more with children's rights due to the horrible mental situation she has gone and is going through."

Before Michell became a stay-at-home mom, she was a special education assistant for her local school. She spends a lot of time advocating for children and speaking to parents about how to better advocate for their child. "All my friends know that they can give a struggling parent my phone number and if possible I will drop everything to help them through their crisis."

Michelle has faced some difficult decisions and challenges in caring for her own children and these experiences help her understand and support others. It was especially difficult to leave her old support system when she moved and to establish new friends, services and networks. "They know how we struggled to allow my step daughter to become part of our family permanently and how disappointed we were when we lost."

Last year Michelle and her family made the hard decision to enroll her oldest son in a therapeutic living community out of state. "Helping other parents gives me strength to understand what it really takes to be the parent that special children need," Michelle offers. "I felt like I had let my son down until I realized that I had done what was best. A struggling child has become a successful child. My husband and I have dreamed about being foster parents for special needs children but that is a dream not realized yet as our own children have kept us plenty busy."

Michelle volunteers at Lifeline Pregnancy Center as a clothing sorter. She also spends a lot of time volunteering at her children's school--"Most other parents think I work there!"--and spends time with her middle son's Young Marine unit working to encourage youth to be their best. "The last two years I have received a Presidential Gold Award for community service."

"My biggest inspiration," Michelle continues, "is our youngest son. He is the best child a mother could ever have. He is never naughty and has this inner drive to be his best at everything he tries. Recently he wanted to learn to tie his shoes. It took many days but he would sit for hours trying to tie his shoes. The day he learned how, he untied and tied his shoes for anyone who would watch. He was so proud! Being our son's mother is so motivating because nothing is too big of a challenge for him and every obstacle is met with a sunny-get-it-done attitude. He was the reason I turned my love of quilting into a business. Being able to stay at home with him and not miss a thing is the best inspiration to make my business grow."

For further inspiration, Michelle listens to music and reads. "I love old school Alison Krauss. Her music is so uplifting and calming. I also enjoy Enya and Massive Attack, especially when I'm long arming. I can really get into a groove. I love to read Jane Yolen's dragon series to my boys before bed, but I especially love to read excerpts of her book, Not One Damselin Distress to our little daughter."

As to what shoes Michelle wears? "I'm a no shoes kind of girl so my favorite shoes are leather slip ons. That way they can come off every moment possible. You will also find me in a pair of bare nothing flip flops during warm weather. When I have to wear shoes that tie you can bet they will be my no frills white tennis shoes."

More information may be found about Michelle's work in her shop and online gallery.

Michelle is a member of the Quiltsy Team and Idaho Indie Works

What Shoes Michelle Wears

Photograph compliments of Michelle's four year old!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2:25 Minutes of Fame

Hey! That's me on TV!

Sharon Pelletier of WABI-TV5 in Maine interviewed me about my business last month. It aired last night (5/11/09). So exciting to be part of a news story that was...and is...good! Here's the link to the Channel 5 Story entitled "Quilter Gets Creative in Bad Economy."

Read and see the article here.


Public Comments on CPSIA Tracking Labels for Children's Products

Public Comments on CPSIA Section 103 - Tracking Labels for Children's Products, Parts 1-4 (PDF):>

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art, An Owl, An Egg and An Angel

As I sit here writing this, I am looking at an owl, an egg, and an angel and thinking about what art means to me personally. Broader still, I wonder what role art has in society? It is not such an easy question to answer.

I blow dust off the owl's head. It is a primitive, hand-carved brown painted owl with golden yellow eyes, and was given to me as a gift when I graduated from college 25 years ago. (Could time really pass so quickly?). As I hold the owl in my hand, I feel my friend's gentle kindness and wisdom welling up inside my heart and hear her voice in my head as if it were yesterday.

I take the egg from its bowl and think about my Ukrainian friend and her family; the kindness and patience they showed as I learned the ancient art form of Pysanky. I love the slow, meticulous process of designing an egg this way. Each color and symbol on the egg means something and, because of the way the wax is placed on the egg shell, you have to commit to the process. Even if the hot wax blotches the surface where you did not intend, you cannot simply wipe away your mistakes. You learn to live with it, understand it, adapt to it, and move on.

The angel, too, has its own history, though I received it as a gift just a few days ago. The statuette, a chiseled, simple, ivory, tan and brown piece of work, was given to me by a mentor and friend whose unwavering presence supported me through some of the roughest times of my life. The angel, with its simple form and design both reflect the generous spirit of my friend and aspects of the person I have grown to be. I cried when I opened the package.

These three items, perhaps not even "art" in the minds of some, symbolize for me what art is all about. Good art transcends the materials, the content, the structure of the piece--sometimes even the skill of the artist--and moves into the realm of the unspoken...a feeling...a sound...a resonance of some sort that simply cannot be expressed in words. It is a reflection of the human condition...a way of being in the world captured by the stroke of a brush, the closing or opening of an aperture, the cut of a knife into wood or stone, a stitch in fabric, or the molding of some substance into a form that cannot be expressed in any other way.

Success in art means achieving authenticity...if only for a moment: the shutting out and shutting off of life's internal and external critics and simply doing and being what is natural. It is not always a pleasant experience. Sometimes it is ugly or painful or frustrating or frightening, but it--authenticity in art--is a good and beautiful and necessary thing.

Because I believe we are all connected--with each other and the environments in which we live--I believe my art, my work in society, will reach the eyes and hearts of those who seek it. I am an introspective person and give a lot of thought to what I make and why. I see my art as a place-holder of sorts. It represents a place and place and time...that will not be experienced in the same way by any other living being. Rather than changing the face of art on a grand scale (like Michelangelo), I am completely enthralled by the idea of telling my story, through art, in a way that resonates with each individual who sees and responds to my work. Art for me involves a personal connection.

I read and see things every day that remind me how disjointed we are as a society. How far removed it seems we are from knowing and honoring the tenderness, sacredness and fragility of life! How discouraging and sad we humans can be at times. Does it really have to be this way?

I think, again, of the individuals who, through their generous gifts of art, touch my life profoundly. Art does not have to be some awesome revelation (though sometimes it is). Art can be as simple as an owl, an egg and an angel and have the power to--profoundly--change how we view the world.

I believe it is both a gift and a responsibility for today's artists to seek out and courageously, authentically, tell their own stories and to record what they see and feel in whatever medium they choose. Art is what brings us balance in a chaotic world. It brings us back into the realm of being human and gives us a connectedness with our selves and the life and lives around us that cannot be achieved in any other way.

And now, as I return my trinkets to their prospective places and go back to my own sketches, sewing machine, fabric and thread, I take a moment to thank my friends, the givers of such small and thoughtful gifts, for making every day a work of art.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Tracking Labels for Children's Products (CPSIA)

On August 14, 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was signed into law. Section 103 requires that, effective August 14, 2009, the manufacturer of a children’s product must place permanent distinguishing marks on the product and its packaging that provide certain identifying information. On February 26, 2009, the CPSC published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register requesting comments and information about implementation of this program. (Those written comments were due April 27, 2009).

The purpose of this forum is to offer the public an opportunity to present their comments and information to the CPSC staff in person. This event will provide an opportunity for attendees to briefly present relevant information, ideas, proposals, or concerns about the implementation of the tracking label program.

For more information about labeling and the public forum, please click on this link.