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! 

Friday, September 02, 2016

Do You Know: The origin of the stole

The stole was first known as orarium a term derived from the Latin oro or "to pray." The change in name from orarion to stola took place in the ninth century but it wasn't until the 12th century that the new name "stole" became generally used. By the 16th century the stole had become a badge of the bishops, priest and deacons each of whom wore it over the shoulder in their own distinctive way.

The orarium was originally nine or ten feel long and a uniform two to three inches wide. We often worry about clergy that order Carrot Top Studio stoles that seem to be really long for fear that they'll trip going up the chancel steps. How did they walk while wearing these long stoles in the 12th century? In later years stoles were of a tapered shape and were sometimes finished with fringe or little bells. Pope Innocent III gave a religious significance to the stole, which was originally a secular garment, by calling it the "easy yoke of Christ."

At the end of the Middle Ages, the stole became altered to a shorter, wider shape with an excessive splaying at the ends. Today's trend of a narrower stole became current in the early part of the twentieth century. 

Today, in our studio, we see the stole to be a visual link to the Word. We thoughtfully move through the design process of choosing colors and symbols that might assist your ministry. And as the stole in throughout the ages, our stoles (and photography skills!) have evolved over the years. 
Left to right: Our first stole sold on eBay,
one of our first commissioned stoles, and the newest stole on our website.

*Thanks to Textile Art in the Church by Marion P. Ireland for this history

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rhythm: On the Ice and In Worship

I was recently with a friend in a store and we stumbled upon a toy zamboni. I recalled how when we moved to Pittsburgh and for the first time ever experienced life in a "hockey town." My son quickly fell in love with watching the work of the zamboni as it resurfaced the ice. I relayed the story and was thinking my precious child was unique. But my companion exclaimed, "who doesn't love the zamboni?!"


This caused me to reflect why? Time and time again the ritual is the same as the ice is scraped and then refreshed with clean water. We know what's going to happen. We understand the importance of the task so the skating can go on. Isn't this like worship? The rhythm imprints itself on us. We work at it over and over again. It allows us to be active with God. We are cleansed. We need it to happen.

I am thankful for the rhythm and ritual that God has modeled for us and called us to participate in. And therefore we enjoy creating products that honor the liturgical calendar. Rooted in history we cycle through the ritual of recalling and celebrating Jesus' life. There is a time for every season and this allows us the structure to honor our Lord and be refreshed in the rhythm over and over again. And like the zamboni we are all able to love this! Thank goodness.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

PCUSA 222nd General Assembly: Co-Moderator Stoles



We were humbled to be commissioned to create the stoles for the co-moderators of the Presbyterian Church USA 222nd General Assembly. The design of this stole grew out of references to the host city of Portland and the GA theme “The Hope in Our Calling” (Ephesians 1:18.) After researching the host city and the theme scripture the process started with a sketch that was tweaked after obtaining the client's input. The first thing on the stole was the PCUSA seal. Starting here gives the stole life and allows us to best visually balance the imagery around it. Next we audition paper patterns of the symbols to make sure the scale is correct. Finally fabrics get chosen and then sewn onto the base fabric. 

Elements of the symbolism on these stoles include:

 Anchor cross - a traditional symbol for hope (it's on the tip of the back neck.)

Sun - an artistic reference to “the son” used because our faith manifested through the son (Jesus Christ) allows us to have hope.

Mt. Hood - a Portland landmark. Perhaps the sight of this mountain will remind others of Mount Sinai where we learned of the importance of obedience in our relationship with God.

Portland skyline - to recall the 222nd GA location.

Fremont Bridge - Portland is known as the “City of Bridges.” The bridges make an impact on the landscape and allow for easy passage across the rivers. On this stole the bridge also symbolizes the bridging and coming together of the many ministries within Portland and in the greater PCUSA.

A river - Portland is located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. A river is symbolic to us as Christians as it speaks to Baptism. When we see the river may we remember the covenant made at our Baptism which has led us to the “hope in our calling.”

The earth -the place where we currently are rooted. It is the world we are called to live and work in. The earth is also a symbol of creation care and environmental issues which are infamous in Portland.

The rose - “City of Roses” is one of the nicknames for Portland because of the rose festival and rose test garden. The rose on this stole is shown in growth stages to represent “growing hope.” It is also interesting to note that the rose was an early Christian symbol found in Roman catacombs where it denoted paradise.

It was wonderful to be able to take on the challenge of such a story all on one stole! We pray that our work is a wonderful visual tool for the co-moderators as they continue their ministry the next 104 weeks!