growing a vocabulary

I spent the week making little marks. obsessively. They were small imprints that wanted out of my head. It felt like an unknown language, one that had deeper beginnings.

Listening to interviews of world leaders, analysts, pundits and disruptors it came to me that we are all speaking in code. No one seems ready to find a common language to solve the chaos. There is only cacophony.

So here are my little marks. standing on their own.

I wanted to see how small I could actually make them. These measure about 1-1.5 inches. I used a cotton canvas cloth with extra batting for dimension.

The challenge of making each one different slowed me down. I couldn't do more that 20 at a time without finding myself repeating marks. Some look like things, some look like letter characters. I let the thread tell me their character.

I added density with hand-stitched detail.

Glyphs. 27"x 18". So many dialogs, so little listening. The piece is almost finished.

focus on something else

One of the goals I set for myself this year is to invite curators and other artists to my studio to show my work. I've spent about two months recording, measuring and carefully storing the quilts that I have done in the past 10 years. I'm running out of closets and storage materials. So the question I ask myself lately is "what's the point?"

What's the point of spending hours on 2 square inches of a three by four foot square of fabric pieces stitching in little stitches, little stitches, little stitches. What's the point of going back to an unfinished piece to see if the answer to the problem is there on the 50th time I look at it? What's the point of taxing my body with every stitch, every ironing chore, every patch? Wouldn't I be more useful at a soup kitchen? or children's reading group? or making more protest signs and organizing the resistance?

Am I being selfish by spending time within rather than spending time reaching out?

And I don't have the answer. So I focus on something else.

Focus on Something Else, 2017, 32" x 32"

Making art keeps me healthy. Making art releases demons. Making art makes sense of confusion and brings confusion to sense.

I am compelled to do it -- without regard to results. Without regard for where it takes me. And sometimes it takes me to dead ends. Where my brain is blinkered and stupefied.

deadend, paula kovarik

That's when I look for another way to make little stitches, little stitches, little stitches.

Then I can think about something else. Something quiet and consuming. Something that closes away the worries, the news, the predictions, the warnings and the opinions that litter my consciousness. Red stitch, black stitch, green stitch, blue.

So maybe the question shouldn't be "what's the point?" so much as "where to go from here?"


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.


The piece I was working on last week transformed before my eyes after several hours of experimental stitching. The cloth is an old circular tablecloth that I dyed with a spray bottle filled with watered down dye. It was going to be an underskirt for my nuclear testing piece that is languishing in the corner of the studio.
I pulled it out of the experiment pile last Friday and folded it in half, then cut it into two wedge pieces so that I could try some stitching ideas I had. The stitching exercise gave me some great textures. It started with random straight lines that went across the piece higgledy piggledy to anchor the cloth.

Then at each new bobbin I changed the color of the thread to add more interest. Eventually a wonky grid emerged. As the grid grew I noticed that at the junctions of the navy blue lines there was a sense of dominance. So I decided to reinforce that by starting a new line of thread (in black) that started at the juncture and traveled on in a wavy line across the piece. Letting the thread ends hang.

As the thread ends started to accumulate I had to figure out how to handle them. Bury them? let them hang? cut them off? Tie them together? I loved the extra texture the thread was giving me but the thread ends were obscuring the texture below so I decided to nail them down with a spiral of stitches and trim them off. It was then that I realized I had created a terrain of sorts with little focus points that could represent targets.

Laying the stitched cloth over the remaining wedge of fabric made me stop in my tracks. Suddenly it all made sense. This piece is about a land ravaged, surrendering to chaos and on the edge. The stitched piece created a shoreline over the second wedge.

The edges are raw. The threads are chaotic.

And now I am hand stitching trails, individuals and groups across the void. Moving them toward the calm and away from the chaos.

exuberant distractions

How can I resist these colors? Why am I sitting in front of computer instead of grazing idly through the parkscapes gathering up the color? Fall beckons. Make haste to the outdoors.

Hardy Ageratum and Henry's Garnet Sweetspire.

Hardy Ageratum and Henry's Garnet Sweetspire.

I will continue the hand stitching on this piece (The grass was greener) outside, in the lingering spectacle.

The grass was greener, detail, Paula Kovarik, 2015

A potential stitch pattern? Hyacinth Bean vine takes over the back deck.