one stitch at a time

It's International Women's Day today, a day to reflect on how many stitches it takes to keep this world together. And how many women have nurtured, built and expanded the meanings of love and compassion in the world. Stitch by stitch, tear by tear, step by step. It requires perseverance and unending faith that we can and will make it better. History proves that with each dip into the depths there are resilient wills that move us forward. There are women who walk on despite overwhelming odds.

How can I contribute? What does my practice of art do to expand that goal?

I've been thinking about texture and how hand stitching is so different from machine stitching. The commitment that hand stitching requires is often too onerous for my sense of collapsed time. There are simply not enough hours in each day. Then I relent and ask myself why I think that getting a piece done in a timely manner is more important than just working on the piece regardless of how much time it takes.

So why do we think that these depths can be fixed in one news cycle? It's clear that we are a flawed species, still learning how to bring light instead of darkness to our world. How many artists, politicians, scientists, mothers and leaders will it take to change the course?

I've been working on Fallout for over two years. It is on my table again in response to our world leaders rattling their sabers. AGAIN.  I am adding "suture" stitches to each longitudinal line on the map. They are almost invisible but satisfy my need to add depth and thought.

I estimate that it will require about 1600 more stitches.

We are all witnesses to what is happening in the world. We can choose to persevere or we can bury our heads and deny the threats. As an artist I am compelled to speak, to work harder, to trudge on despite a feeling of hopelessness and loss. My stitches are adding to the voices that are shouting, crying, and laughing out loud. It's not much, I admit. But it's something. I am doing something to open a dialog. One stitch at a time.

These 9" x 9" studies allow me to experiment more freely with texture and stitch. And now that I have over 20 of them I can start to look at them as a body of work rather than experiments. I'll make one of these each week to continue the collection and plumb the depths of their variations. I see them as snapshots of human interactions.

How many solutions are out there? Can our world leaders find new ways of bringing light to the world instead of repeating the dark parts of history?

It is International Women's day and I hold faith in our wills, as women, to make this world a better place.

variety, as in: life; spice of

The spicy tang of variety seeped into my studio this week. I work in series. And I work in serious pursuit of message.

Sometimes I grow weary and feel like I am repeating myself. Other times I am overzealous and over my head. This I know: pursuit is the reason. The act of making, stitching, cutting, pressing and assembling fabrics and threads brings clarity to thought. Believe me, if you sit and stitch for three hours on a little scrap of canvas your mind travels, bends and surges. Here's a little gallery of what I worked on this past week:

I finished Beast this week. It is a ragged, angry blot that satisfied a certain itch within.

I removed some orange thread stitching on the center figure of Thugs and added some black flies to the background. Black flies bite.

Part of my Silent Witness series: Yes, but does it pass the smell test? is on the design board. I need to figure out how to finish the edges of these small pieces. But first I need to make lots more of them.

Liar, liar, rough cut. This greets me every morning.

This confection of polkadots and swirls satisfied my need to chill out and just let the thread tell me where to go.

I tested some colors and curves.

I used the leftovers from the curve tests to create this composition that I am calling Woof. Random acts of piecing netted a live dog with attitude.

Another Silent Witness piece in process, Disruptor. Hand stitching slowed down my thoughts and forced me to focus.


Clear the decks! Bring out the trumpets! Reshuffle the shelving! Close the doors! Breathe.

I need a brain blender to swirl all these thoughts together into a consistent puree. Where did I put that reset button?
  Beast , a work in progress, challenges me to leave the ragged ragged. No clean up required.

Beast, a work in progress, challenges me to leave the ragged ragged. No clean up required.

Dipped in early daffodils and icy evenings the moon shots and news jaunts are rousing lightning strikes to what I know is true. My desk and head are piled with idea roadmaps and diagrams. New books to read, new art to create. I'm in at seven and out at four every day breathless and stiff. Body aches ignored I pursue the frenzy because I know it will subside. And then what? Will all these ideas seem like a self conscious effort to put it all together? Or will it give me a clear path to stronger work?

Meanwhile I stitch. On pieces of anger and pieces of doubt and pieces of warning and pieces of angst.

Breathe. Reshuffle the shelving, sweep the scraps, fold the layers together for a whole.  I hesitate. Perhaps a simple, artful journey of color and stitch will clear the sinuses of my angst? Step away from the storm.

Polkadots rock.

  Polkadots Rock , a palate cleanser. I had to find some light in the darkness.

Polkadots Rock, a palate cleanser. I had to find some light in the darkness.

I'm working on an online shop to sell my quilts. Watch for that later this month.

I'm losing it.

After this morning's brief journey through the news I am looking for my brain reset button.

People in Ulan Bator are burning coal, plastic and tires to heat their homes. People from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria, Albania are dying on the shores of Europe in an effort to find safety from war and prosecution. Sovereign Indian nations are being trampled by oil oligarchs in North Dakota aided and abetted by our government. Water reserves everywhere are threatened with poisons from greedy industries. Refugees in Australia are fenced into offshore island prison camps. Scott Pruitt, an EPA enemy has been named to head the EPA. Young African-American boys are perceived as targets for an overzealous and racist population. Veterans of our army can't get medical coverage after cleaning up the Pacific atoll we bombed into oblivion during nuclear testing. Our new president taunts and preens in his narcissistic acrimony.

They say that if it hurts your heart make art. But there are days that I just can't face it. Days when the news chokes me with despair.  My friend Pat Pauly mentioned Mozart's Requiem today in her online journal. I want to offer the Kyrie, part of Mozart's Mass in C minor as balm to my darkening vision. Click on the feather to hear it for yourself.

And now I will breathe deep and proceed. After darkness comes the light.


Today marks the beginning of the arduous task of bringing people together regardless of beliefs, regardless of prejudices. The task now is to speak truth to power, recognize that government can be a force for good and also a tool for disaster. We live in a country of laws, checks and balances, and citizens who care.  I recognize that my truth may not be your truth. I will listen. And I will not be silent.

Here are my feelings: malaise, worry, trepidation, confusion. Is this what it feels like when black turns to white, lies become truth, thugs become leaders? It is a dark day. A day when all I can hope for is that bureaucracy forestalls disaster. Dark days beget dark thoughts. Looming edifices of oligarchs and predators march in to offices that purport to protect the meek, the under-served, and the threatened. I'm going to get this darkness out of my system soon but for now I wallow in it. I sink in disbelief. I am sad.

  Thugs , work-in-progress, Paula Kovarik

Thugs, work-in-progress, Paula Kovarik

Alternative hairstyles for the center figure: blockhead, firebrand, flipper.

Next in the series?

Liar, liar, a work-in-progress, Paula Kovarik