palate cleanser

Sometimes you just have to take a break from worry. And angst. And the sense that the world is degenerating into a chaotic mess. No amount of hopeful TED talks give solace.

This week I retreated into this make believe. Just some goofy guys. A nine patch of alternate realities.

Rock on.

Secret Life of Stones

I spent yesterday finalizing a piece that I will enter into Quilt National. I debated about the application. This piece is one of a series that I would like to show together one day. It was labor intensive, exploratory and challenging. The idea started while watching crowds and conversations.

Secret Life of Stones, stone, Paula Kovarik

Stones with holes speak with quiet voices. They cannot be heard yet they speak with passion. Buried in the sand or tumbling down a creak, their surfaces are worn. Their lives are an endless journey toward becoming a grain of sand. This is a dark piece on raw canvas. The minimalist treatment of line gives a stark representation of the conversations within.

And then there was the back. That back that speaks to the undergrowth of interpretation. The back that represents simplicity with chaos. I was sorely tempted to turn the whole piece around and present it as the final. Then I chose not to. Instead, as I wrapped the back in a shroud of black cotton I cut a peephole to the undercurrents. Because sometimes when people talk they say things that aren't as textured as their inner beliefs. They simplify, embroider and polish.

I will start a new grouping with the intention of revealing the raggedy undergrowth. Working as if from the back so that I can more clearly represent this idea. For now the back will be tidied up and the front will take center stage. Quacking, whispering, laughing, questioning, twirling and revealing a dialog that only they understand.

"Pillowcasing" the quilt by adding a fabric backing and turning the piece right side out protects the stitching while also hiding the chaos of the stitch.

Secret Life of Stones, detail, Paula Kovarik

It's magic time!

Arrowmont dining hall

I had the privilege of teaching a wonderful group of stitchers at Arrowmont for the past week. I am still overwhelmed by their talent, their insights and their willingness to laugh and share. I wish I had a picture of the food that was served, the music played and the wandering bear that we heard about. Arrowmont is a place of magic for artists.

We experimented with texture, line quality, composition and just plain fun. It was hard to keep up with what everyone created. There was such a flurry of activity.

Below are some of the practice pieces we played with during our stay. I don't have a pic of all of them, each of the artists created at least 4-5 practice squares and came away with a plan for how they might apply what they learned to their own work. I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

Though the chairs were a challenge the workspace was generous and light filled.

As one wise woman told me prior to my slide presentation...It's magic time! Bringing this talented group of individuals together for 5 days was a gift I will long remember.


Each day I practice. Sometimes until my skin vibrates. Then I rest and review. Often, the lines I am stitching reveal an inner dialog that is not exactly sunny in its disposition.

How to turn that around? Is the moon more mysterious than the sun in its power? Do my thoughts turn to darkness because of a natural inclination to pessimism? Are my observations tinted by the dismal current of events that churn away on our media channels every day? Bobbing along with the current can often yield surprising results. I avoid the saccharine but couldn't I just maybe find a little joy in the way I look at things?

Maybe it will take a little more practice.

seeking solace

I took this picture a few years ago. It speaks to my yearning for a community that gathers with compassion. Meeting on the town square used to be a way of sharing good news and consoling those with bad news. We would keep tabs on the latest births and nod in agreement at how difficult life can be. Lending a hand if need be. Touching each other with soft embraces.

Umbrella gathering, Paula Kovarik

Today the town square has been replaced by media channels that shout about our differences and post horrific news via 140 character soundbites. Even the weather channel is now called the Severe Weather Center. Our communications have been reduced to photos with captions, videos with click bait and two-thumbed typing with hashtags. Essayists have difficulty getting published because so many publications are being gobbled up and shut down by the mega corps. Our newspaper in Memphis is now going to be produced in Nashville. How can we possibly get a feel for community that way?

Dizzy, Secret Life of Stones, Paula Kovarik

And don't even get me started on the politicians who seem to revel in fear.

Propaganda, Secret Life of Stones, Paula Kovarik

Shelter, Secret Life of Stones, Paula Kovarik

How do we stop it? How do we get back to the slow consideration of each other? Can we remember that differences add texture and depth?

Secret Life of Stones, the back, Paula Kovarik