Friday, June 23, 2017

Inspiration Found: Avery Island!


This spring, while in New Orleans, we took a side trip to Avery Island. The tour of how Tabasco Sauce is made was really interesting and we enjoyed the tasting afterward. Who knew that Tabasco flavored soft serve ice cream would taste so good?! Then we hopped in the car and roamed around the 170-acre garden with semitropical foliage while watching out for the sunbathing alligators that lined the Bayou Petite Anse. We were especially delighted encounter a rookery that was home to 1000's of snowy egrets. I could have watched them all day! As we walked back to the car seeing a feather on the ground reminded me of Psalm 91:3-5 --


Surely he will save you

    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,


Back in the studio we have created a series of work embellished with feathers as a reminder that God is shelter and a refuge when we are afraid. The psalmist likens God to a mother bird who protects her young. Isn't it wonderful that we can entrust ourselves to his protection? 


See the green stole here, the white stole here, and the table runner here.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Reading


We're ready to soak up the sunshine, take in the scents of the garden and relax with some interesting reading this summer. Here's what's stacked up for us:

  • Go Like Hell by A.J. Baime was recommended after we moved to Detroit for a job my husband took that was connected with the auto industry. It's been three years since that move. It's time to read this book that features the tale of the Ford company and other visionaries of the industry.
  • I Will Always Write Back by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka was recommended to me by my mother. She has enjoyed reading this at the same time her granddaughters have. I appreciate being up on what the younger set is enjoying and this title looks like it will be inspirational and give me something to converse with my nieces about. 
  • Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness and Seeing God in Everything by Chris Anderson I suspect will help me focus on small moments instead of getting swallowed up by the big picture. 
  • Wake Early by Mary Oliver is my chosen book of poetry for the summer. I don't naturally gravitate toward poetry but I keep trying at it. This is already proving to be an agreeable choice.
  • Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren was been started on a recent plane trip and I found that I was sad when the plane landed as I wanted to keep reading! I surmise this will be a nice compliment to Light When It Comes.
  • Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary by Gail Ramshaw was recommended to me by a client. Proof that I can continue to say I have the best clients! This lovely pastor saw the book on her shelf and thought of Carrot Top Studio! She wrote that -- This wonderful fat book by a liturgical scholar goes through biblical imagery and explores it both in Christian history and in present resonances (e.g., Family, Fire, Fish, Food....).    There are psalms, prayers, hymns, historical writings, along with her own musings.
  • The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak uses simple ingredients, whole grain flours and less refined sugars and looks like it will feed (pun intended) my creative side in the kitchen! 
What's on your summer book shelf? I'll meet you on the other side of the season to compare notes!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Inspired by New Orleans





Inspiration strikes in so many places. We were recently blessed with a long weekend in New Orleans where the inspiration seemed to be around every corner! What a vibrant, spirit filled city! We visited the oldest Catholic church in the country. it's history reflects all the different countries that have influenced this area. How about this beautiful anchor cross (right)? The symbol of hope is so appropriate for this city!

Additionally, music was around every corner. I actually don't know if I've ever experienced a place where the music was literally everywhere! What a joyful noise!
We took time to tour the Presbytere Louisiana State Museum. The exhibit "Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond" was informative and sobering. We learned so much more than what we recalled from watching the news from a distance when Katrina hit. It was very powerful and really made us think about the spirit of resilience. 

Although the entire exhibit was powerful and educational, the entryway really struck a chord. Hundreds of 'floating' glass bottles hang from the ceiling. They have messages curled up inside them. The artist, Mitchell Gaudet wants the viewer to feel as if they are bobbing up and down in the water. The bottles are protective vessels (of the messages) representing all of those that were touched by the water after Katrina. The bottles are interspersed with hands to represent the helpers. 


The magnolias were in bloom while we were visiting. These were yet another reminder of life as the blossoms screamed "look at the new growth" .... "it's beautiful!"


So upon our return we created a stole that encompasses some of these thoughts and impressions.  The new Ordinary Time stole in full, here! Here's a small detail--



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lent 2017: What We're Reading

I often have several books going at once and this Lent is no different. Here's what we're reading --

This Lent devotional/journal has been thought provoking. It's taken me to some places that aren't always comfortable. I appreciate that. And isn't that cover a lovely image? You can buy the art here
Pondering the art and writings in Lenten Meditations by James B. Janknegt has been a nice addition to my day. It uses Jesus's parables and I suspect it is a book I will return to over and over as the art is especially rich. 

And lastly my Bible study is working it's way through The Psalms for Today by Beth La Neel Tanner.  It's wasn't written specifically for Lent but I'm finding the understanding who God is through the Psalmist to be very fitting for a Lenten journey. And I must add that the questions at the end of each chapter are providing for good discussion.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Outside the Studio


We are just back from working in Haiti for a week. We remain grateful for your patience in shipping during times like this. I am finding the studio, our house and my life way too quiet. That's ironic as I'm a bit of an introvert and often crave quiet. In fact, creative inspiration often comes best to me in places of solitude such as a worship sanctuary, an art museum or a library. But what I think I'm actually missing is the rhythm and ritual of the sounds of Haiti. We wake to the guard unlocking the supply room that is below our bedroom, then the roosters begin to crow. Next the unique sound of the broom made from dried leaves scraping against the courtyard as the overnight fallen plant material is swept. The last of the morning sounds is the preschoolers running and enthusiastically cackling on their way to class. The rhythm of the sounds never fails. The predictability is comforting.

All this makes me think of the God given rhythm of work, rest and worship. With Jesus' life as a model for this we try to replicate it. So as I transition back into American ways this week I am reflecting on my life here. I obviously crave rhythm. And I am questioning how I am applying this to my walk with the Lord. It's always good to step outside of our "normal" as it gives us perspective. I remain thankful for our time in Haiti for this and many more reasons.
 
*photo-a Sabbath moment enjoying old and new friends after worship


Most of my work in Haiti this trip was focused on the library we started several years ago. Last week the book collection grew to 2950 books, I met the Haitian librarian and we formed a vision and plan for the use of the library at the mission school.It was fruitful and encouraging!

But what about the art? There are several artists on this team that are always looking for art projects to do with the students. This time was extra successful as a group of young men were introduced to bottle cap art. There is no trash collection in Haiti so things like bottle caps are found on the the ground in plentiful fashion. The boys hammered them into new shapes for keychains and necklaces. They were paid for their time and the items will be sold with the profits going back into the educational system at this school. New skills, free materials and money for education -- that's a win win!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

100 Day Project

A new calendar year usually causes me to evaluate or try something new. This year I'm trying the 100 day project that is popular with creative types. It's defined as:

It's a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is theprocess; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it's not about fetishizing finished products—it's about the process.

To stretch my technical skills and establish a new rhythm in my creative life I will be using Tula Pink's City book 100 Modern Quilt Blocks.  Hopefully I will become a more accrue piecer as I follow along with the author's directions to make 100 6 1/2" square quilt blocks. My two self imposed rules are to first use only fabric scraps from my stash and to use only warm colors. The color rule is only so that if I want to turn the blocks into a quilt there will be some cohesiveness based on the color theory.

Maybe you'll recognize some stole fabrics in these! Here are my first three blocks: 

The book is organized into shape collections such as squares, and triangles. The first section is crosses. Maybe some of these patterns will find their way into my Carrot Top Studio work too! Watch our Instagram and Facebook pages for updates as the days roll by!.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Welcome, Welcome Jesus Christ!

We're getting closer! The season we long await will be upon us shortly. How do you mark the twelve joyful days of the Christmas season?

For me, I'm thinking of apples this year. We live in Michigan where the apple crop is an important part of the economy and extra delicous. When I was a school teacher I often received apple ornaments to hang on our family tree. Today I think  an apple is lovely hung on a tree or present in Christmas decorations to remind us of Adam and Eve. It is a visual reminder of the connection between the tree of knowledge and the tree of the cross.

But there are twelve days! What else? We've been blogging for ten years so we dug into our past posts to find ...

A Christmas craft here.
Tidbits about nativities we display here. 
A reason for Christmas bells here
A recipe here. 

Additionally how about sharing scripture readings, stories or poetry. We so rarely take the time outside of worship to read aloud to each other. Here is a prayer/poem that I am drawn to right now:


Welcome, welcome, Jesus Christ our infant savior,

baby who makes every birth holy.
May w , who like the shepherds
have witnessed in the stable a new kind of love,
return to our work with joy.
May we, for whom the heavens have opened 
to proclaim that God is with us,
we who have fed on living bread
and drunk the wine of heaven,
go out to be instruments of your peace, day by day.


A New Zealand Prayer Book


May your Christmas celebration be joyful!

Italy! You Inspired Us!

We recently had the pleasure of traveling through a bit of Italy. The amount of inspiration made our mind spin! That's a good thing though. Right? Showing you some pictures will help me describe this experience:



The symbol of the pomegranate as "the church" has always been intriguing to us. Apparently it was over a thousand years ago also! We spied it on the church of San Pietro in Bologna. This encourages our love of using symbols in our fiber art at Carrot Top Studio.
Day after day the attention to details were impressive. It was in the way food was plated. We experienced it in how purchases were wrapped by shop owners. And in the many churches we visited the details were just so immense. These photos are from some of the columns in the crypt in the Duomo in Modena. Each column had a different topper! The artists that have gone before us encourage me to stretch creatively in our attention to detail. 
This was a detail of a front door in Florence. Wow! The craftsmanship! And of course we're drawn to this favorite flower of ours, the sunflower. Artistically the sunflower is interesting as it can represent "the son" or as a reminder of worship as it has a habit of following the sun as it grows. 
In Modena we stepped out of our church and museum visiting schedule to experience the art of some of the foods of this area. One stop found us learning from a balsamic vinegar farmer. The process and time it takes to make this product was fascinating but it was most touching to hear about the barrels of vinegar that were labeled with names. It takes 25 years to make balsamic vinegar and you need a starter of completed vinegar to begin a new batch. The farmer starts a barrel each time a grandchild is born. This enables the child to have their own vinegar and also the possibility of creating new product and income. My take away? Family and tradition is valuable and patience to wait (25 years!) for a worthy products pays off. 
There was light. The candlelight. The light over the farm fields as the sun rose and set. The clever church architecture to allow for light before there was electricity. And the light in the personalities of the Italian people we met as they showed great hospitality. 
The icons and niches and faith symbols that were scattered everywhere. This Mary was on the island of Murano outside of Venice. The island is known for it's hand blown glass artists. Interesting to note that Mary is wearing beaded necklaces here! But seriously, coming home I've been looking for symbols and details and inspiration in my everyday paths. I am missing things like turning a corner and stumbling upon a Mary such as this.  
The old and new can combine successfully! The ruins of the Palatino are currently dotted with art by contemporary artists. It works. It made me think of coexistence and acceptance.
This is part of the 85,000 square feet of mosaics in St. Marks Basilica in Venice. Each one of the tiles is the size of a contact lens. Un-be-lievable! The artists have my utmost respect. 
And even the treats like gelato were inspirational. The colors, presentation and variety were simply (sweetly) sensational. 
And last but certainly not least I'm guessing most people don't visit Italy to go fabric shopping. But I'm always curious how it's done in other places. The stores were so pristine and tidy.

We could have stayed in Italy so much longer as we only scratched the surface of this lovely place with so much history. But we're back in the studio and trying to apply what we absorbed into our life. We'll let you know when this touches our art with new products on the website!