Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Outside Carrot Top Studio: Time With Family & Life Lessons

Last week I ventured out of Carrot Top Studio to head East for time with family. Here's my mom (who I get my gift of color placement and love of fabrics from) and my daughter (who has a great artistic eye for photography) and that's my dear son making the photo bomb. His action is an example of the good fun we were able to have throughout the holiday. Life lesson: laughter is a gift.

Many of you have bought our peace and healing themed stoles that give back to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of my mother in law. We loaded the iPad with pictures from her past and enjoyed traveling down memory lane with her. She doesn't speak much anymore but it was interesting to see which images she'd react to by tapping on the screen with her hands. Life lesson: visual images can speak loudly.

Last Monday we spent time with my husband's Aunt Mary. She was the one that introduced my husband to the joy of trips into New York City for shopping, fine food, and a bit of Italian opera. In recent years we all loved eating strawberry ice cream with her as this particular food brought her little bits of joy. Aunt Mary was surprisingly called home as she slept that night. Life lesson: savor each moment and embrace those little bits of joy.

I write this on the 6th Day of Christmas. As Christians we can mark this day not just by thinking of the six geese a laying in the popular Christmas song but as the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1). My take away from a very full last week, logging 30 hours of driving, spending time with friends in our former hometown, cherishing time with family in three additional cities, and celebrating the life of a loved one leads me to the last life lesson: "He upholds all things by the word of his power." Hebrews 1:3. I am so grateful for God's love and the witness I have had to it this past week! 

P.S....it is great to be back in the studio....doing some cleaning out and goal setting this week! We'll be back with new inventory and plenty of ideas for 2015! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram (carrottopstudio) for the latest news!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What's New?

So you're curious as to what's new in the world of Carrot Top Studio? I'm bursting with joy that my son asked his girlfriend to marry him! We love this young lady and it's been exciting to watch their relationship grow over the last couple of years. And our dear daughter has returned from a semester abroad in Belize. She returns more mature and wiser to the ways of the world and the desires of the good Lord for the care of His creation. If you mentor anyone that is college aged I can highly recommend the Creation Care Study Program with campuses in Belize and New Zealand.  
These guys keep me on my toes when I'm not in the studio!
What? You were really asking about what's new in the studio? Ok! There's lots to share there too! We added three new designs to our Christmas ministry stole collection this season.
The 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' stole (on the left) is lovely first because we think the whimsical buildings echo the joy of the Christmas celebration. Secondly, some of the gold stars are created out of sheer gold fabric and then free motion stitched with variegated threads. They are on top of a silver dotted background which truly says that this stole and its message are special. The middle stole in the image above honors the names of Jesus that are foretold in the book of Isaiah. The holly echos the prophecy of the King we await as it symbolizes the crown of thorns that will eventually be worn at the Messiah's death. This death and eventual resurrection of course complete the story. The stems of the holly add an interesting detail being created out of softly textured yarns. Lastly, we've redesigned an old favorite seller with the nativity border stole. Often artists depict the nativity as if they were seeing it in their hometown. If that were Carrot Top Studio we'd have surrounded the stable with evergreens and the tall deciduous trees of Michigan. But for this design we've chosen the palm tree which might have actually existed in Bethlehem. 

May those that you minister to be blessed with meaningful visuals that help connect them to the story of Christmas. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Thanksgiving Tradition

Like many of you, later this week my family will gather around a table with friends and enjoy a meal together. We will give thanks for our many blessings-- small and large. Before we eat we will keep our tradition of sharing some of these things we are thankful for. We will honor the tradition in a way that dear friends taught us when we shared one Thanksgiving with them when we hardly even knew each other. At Carrot Top Studio we believe in combining symbols to enhance meaning. We believe the visual helps this message stay with us. Knowing that, if you read on you'll probably understand why we like this tradition.

First, the table is set for dinner and the meal is set out. Hot food items are covered with aluminum foil or lids to keep them warm (even thought that isn't visually appealing :)). An apple and a cutting knife is placed at the place setting of the person that will lead the time of thankfulness.

Secondly, the apple is recognized as a sign of God's creation. It is a reminder of how he provides for us. As the explanation is occurring the apple is being cut into exactly as many pieces as needed for one per person at the table.Everyone is reminded of the first thanksgiving in the United States where tradition tells us that people came together out of thankfulness to celebrate...like we are doing today. The apple slices are passed and everyone takes one. One apple for each person is a bit of thankfulness of everyone having their due and also a prayer of intercession for those that might not have enough this day.

Each person takes an apple slice as the plate is passed and  they speak of something they are thankful for. 

Lastly, after everyone has had a time to share, a closing blessing is said or sung. We lean toward the doxology but if there are a lot of little ones in attendance the "Johnny Appleseed" blessing works well. The leader then holds up their apple slice and declares, "let us eat this small token of the bounty we have been provided and be thankful." And the sharing of the meal commences.

Blessings for your Thanksgiving Day to our American clients. To our other clients worldwide we wish you moments of thanksgiving with those you love and/or blessings for harvest celebrations.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Book Review: The Season of the Nativity

My personality is well suited to seasons of preparation. Therefore I've always been more
drawn to Advent than Christmas. Annually, I traditionally purchase a book about or for Advent. This year I picked up The Season of the Nativity: Confession and Practices of an Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Extremist  and quickly suspected I would like it when the author Sybil MacBeth confessed it took a long time for her to learn to enjoy Christmas. This resonated with me and I now especially see the twelve days of Christmas in a new light. I've always been intrigued by how to mark this time but have found it challenging given that society celebrates Christmas day and then moves into after Christmas mall sales and signing up everyone for exercise classes for their New Year's resolutions. The author has given me enough encouragement that I suspect I will do better than that this go around.

What I appreciated most about this book is that there is something for everyone from the new Christian learning what the church year calendar is all about to someone that has been following a liturgical cycle for decades.  In fact MacBeth points out that because we are continuously evolving that's exactly why we can year after year relive and learn anew from the stories of our faith. Amen!

Lastly, I think it's splendid that there is attention given to Epiphany. Growing up all I knew was to put a bean in the cake and the one that ended up with that piece won. There is and deserves to be more than this. 

So now I prepare for the season of preparation and look forward to some new additions to my rhythm and routine of the days in Advent. How will you mark these days?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How We Got the Idea for This Stole

Do you ever look at Carrot Top Studio stoles and think "what were they thinking?" Our newest Ordinary Time design has a little back story. So it goes that my husband has just concluded his fiftieth year of life. At the beginning of this year I suggested we celebrate in small ways along the way and then conclude with a trip to a destination of his choice (that fit in my budget-of course:)). 

So one thing led to another and we found ourselves in AZ for a long weekend. I loved the drama of Sedona and the red rocks and Gary could hardly speak when first viewing the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. We departed this wonderful time of hiking and exploring a variety of creation that we'd not ever seen before simply in awe of how the earth was formed and how it has then transformed over time. 

Consequently I started envisioning creation images to place on a stole.When I think of creation I often turn to the beautiful words the Psalmists have handed down to us. Landing upon Psalm 95:1-6 my thoughts started to come together for how I would wield the scissors on the cloth and make the sewing machine work its magic. We think the result would be lovely for a Thanksgiving Eve worship service if you are one of our American clients. But it is a good buy because it's also fitting for the entirety of Ordinary Time. This stole is available in several lengths and is on the website here.
"O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Worship Can Be Foreign

I've always enjoyed worshiping in communities and churches that were not my home base. As you may know, my family (and studio)  moved from Pittsburgh to the Detroit area this summer. This has allowed a "season" of such visiting. There is much goodwill in Michigan and every single church we have worshiped in we have felt welcomed. Despite that through this process I've once again realized that sometimes you are a foreigner to the special rhythm, ritual, and even language of worship. We have experienced several things that have stood out in mind:

  • a parishioner patting my hand when I did something out of order in worship. It was the type of touch that reminded me that I was welcomed.
  • explanations as to how Communion elements would be served and why it was done that way.
  • description of the worship music printed in the bulletin prior to the order of worship....enlightening the reader to the history, meaning of the music and words and why they were relevant to this day.
  • lastly, yesterday prior to worship we experienced a verbal explanation of the music that would be included in worship. The anthem was later referred to in the sermon as to why it enhanced the meaning of the message. (BTW this is the song that was used and it was not only pleasing musically but the visual that it conjured up made it more powerful...."Stained Glass" by Joseph Martin and Heather Sorenson may be read about and heard here.).
Why do we write about this today? It makes me wonder how and when the visual messages of things like ministry stoles are included. Sometimes the message is very clear. But there are other instances when if you don't know the meaning of the symbol or for example why the sanctuary is decked in blue during Advent it's not going to help make an association to deepen our worshiping of the Lord.  I encourage you to incorporate the how and why of the visual cues of worship via the written or the spoken word. May the visual connection not be foreign!

Thursday, October 02, 2014


Maybe these frequently asked questions and their answers will better help you to get to know Carrot Top Studio, the way we work, and our products! 

How long does it take to receive a stole?
  • If you see it on the website it is in stock unless otherwise noted. We ship via USPS
    A new Advent limited
    edition stole. See it here.
    Priority mail within 24 hrs. of receiving your order. Delivery takes 2-3 business days.You will be notified of the tracking information so you can follow your shipment!
What if I need the stole sooner than that?
  • Email us or call (412-480-4193) and we'll invoice you if overnight shipping is available to your address. And then we'll get the shipment on its way!
Who makes these unique ministry stoles?
  • Jenny Gallo is the artist/designer/seamstress. It's basically a one woman show with occasional assistance from another person that sews or assists with shipping. 
Can I change something about a stole I see on the website?
  • We usually don't modify our in stock inventory. At times we can hem a stole to make it shorter if needed. This is dependent upon the stole's design and there is a small fee for this service.
How do I measure for a stole?
  • We measure from the middle back of the neck to the edge of the hem. 
  • If this is a gift think about the height of the person receiving the stole and about whether they will wear a robe or not. The stole looks best if it doesn't hang below the hem of the robe. Lastly, if the pastor, priest, minister, or wedding officiant will be walking up and down steps in the place that they lead in (like from the sanctuary floor up steps to the chancel) then a too long stole can be tripped upon.
Why can't I find the stole I saw on your website last week?
  • Our work is created in limited editions of 1-10 stoles per design. If we are selling a prototype we try to make note that this is one-of-a-kind. Therefore if you're interested you should know not to hesitate too long. Our busiest months are generally October, February, and May....these are times you shouldn't hesitate either as the inventory can change swiftly. With that said if you are seriously interested but your finances aren't ready please let us know and we'd be willing to hold a stole for you for a reasonable amount of time.
Do you accept commissions?
  • Occasionally we do accept commissions. It is mostly dependent upon the schedule if this is possible. Don't hesitate to float an idea past us. Sometimes your ideas can translate well into a limited edition. We find that you have good ideas and if you're willing to share the idea then we will put it into the limited edition line up when possible. 
Why are you called Carrot Top Studio?
  • Orange hair since birth + being called a "carrot top" during school years = the name for the studio. We've learned to embrace the teasing that used to make us blush!

Monday, September 22, 2014


The last few days have been full of remembering for my family and I as my father-in-law left
...a Christmas Eve, gathered around the table, telling stories

this earthly place and was called to a better one last Thursday. His wit and ability to tell a story or joke was supreme. Over the years much family time was spent around the dinner table listening to stories from his past be told. We'd heard them many times before but his enjoyment in remembering kept us on the edge of our seats with intrigue and usually much laughter. These stories and memories are comforting to us now and we will carry them forward into the generations to come.

I'm the kind of person that enjoys looking back, hearing about the past and learning from it. In this moment of my life when we've said good bye to the man we called "Sox" I am so thankful that God gives us the gift of story, recollection and gleaning knowledge from those that go before us. And maybe that's one reason I enjoy connecting God's Word through art on ministry stoles at Carrot Top Studio

symbols on ministry stoles tell the story of our faith
Story telling is powerful in so many ways. The stories engage us, give us hope, and they can awaken us. I realize that a stole on a pastor, minister, or priest isn't essential to the ministry. But our anticipation is that if it is your tradition to wear a clergy stole that it will be a tool that helps you tell the story of our faith.

*curious about this Advent stole? Read about it here.

*BTW-we called him "Sox" because of an incident in the golf course locker room...involving stinky socks....and that's just one of the stories!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Preparing for Advent

We're preparing for Advent. Are you? For us that means assessing our Carrot Top Studio clergy stole stock for what might be missing. It also means searching for inspiration for new ideas. The light bulb recently went off when we read about a shibori dying technique that we thought would translate well to an Advent stole.  Shibori is the Japanese art of shaped resist dyeing. The fabric is compressed by using wrapping, stitching or folding techniques that create a resist when dyeing the fabric; this is, the "resist" creates areas where the dye is not adsorbed into the fabric. The result is soft patterns that made us think of the stages of preparation we move through during the time prior to Christmas.

The technique we used required us to wrap fabric around a PVC pipe and then push it together to compress it. This creates the resist that forms the patterns and textured lines in the fabric.

Here is the resulting piece of yardage. Watch the website or our Facebook page for the stoles created from this beautiful cloth.

Do you have dreams of an Advent stole that isn't currently part of our collection? Tell us about it and we'll see if it fits into our repertoire.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Celebrating Creation: One Idea that Lasts the Church Year Calendar

Goodness from my farmer's market
As the seasons of nature change outside our Carrot Top Studio window we are reminded of the beauty and bounty of this world we live in. The leaves on many of our trees will soon be a visual feast for the eyes as they transform from greens to a splendid array of warm colors. I have just come home from the farmers market where I felt moved with thanksgiving for those that work hard to provide us an abundance of fresh produce.As the church what can we do to honor God's amazing creation? The list is long and I am way too unworthy to come up with every idea so today I'll focus on one that you might consider as you're planning for Advent....it actually starts with Thanksgiving or harvest time.

If you mark time with liturgically with the church year in your worship services can visualize this using an evergreen tree. During Thanksgiving worship (if you are in the US or Canada) include thankfulness for creation--even the trees that produce oxygen, clean the soil, provide shade and bear fruit. Then let the visual connections begin with Advent!  Display an evergreen tree during Advent. Each week it might slowly be filled with lights and ornaments leading up to Christmas. Chrismon symbols would be especially appropriate. On Epiphany the branches could be removed and burnt in an outdoor bonfire. This type of event would not only represent the magnificent light of the star that guided the Wise Men but also would provide enthusiasm to echo the feelings of those first worshipers. Ashes could then be collected for Ash Wednesday. The remaining trunk could be sawed in two to be formed into a cross to be used during Lent. Easter morning worship would allow worshipers to bring flowers to embellish the cross that had been wrapped in ivy. The ivy not only provides armature but as an evergreen it is a traditional symbol of God's everlasting love. This living cross is a celebration of the Resurrection and an inspirational visual.

A stole for Ordinary Time that honors the color changes of the seasons
While thinking about creation I will sign off with this... 

A Prayer of Awareness
Hildegard of Bingen

God is the foundation for everything
This God undertakes, God gives.
Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking. 

Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God.
This body is supported in every way through the earth. 

Thus the earth glorifies the power of God.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Visual Arts Teams in a Church

I believe in team work. I am a bit of an introvert and really like when I can work in the quiet space of the studio. But I also understand that we all have different gifts and bringing them together can be a wonderful thing! Carrot Top Studio actually got it's start due to a volunteer group project I led. My faith community's worship space was needing banners for the entire liturgical calendar and I was approached to take this on. I'd never done anything like this and felt that the work would be stronger coming from a group and this would also help the banners be representative of the church and not just of my work. 
The last set of banners we created at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA
Even if you can't make worship banners or other visual statements or art within your congregation there could (or should?!) be a group of congregants working together towards these efforts. Visual art can be a vital part of the church in worship, education and beyond. A team or committee could be formed to help this endeavor. This group should gather and consider their task through prayer, scripture, research regarding what other churches have done and discussion focusing on what the art will mean to the community. The group's focus should be well defined. This might sound counter intuitive to the creative process of the arts but artist, whether they admit it or not, work better with some structure to work in. Break the focus (worship, education, outreach, classes, a gallery, etc) into categories and then tasks. This list might end up being huge and if so it should then be prioritized. A visual arts team should be able to clearly define what will be accomplished with a timeline and budget for the goal. Nancy Chinn has a wonderful book with a chapter dedicated in more detail to this topic. Read about Spaces For Spirit here.
A Church art gallery 
Best wishes if including the visual arts is a new endeavor for your church! You never know where the effort might lead or help grow someones faith. I will forever be grateful for the suggestion that I help develop those first banners. That led to Carrot Top Studio the online business. We have morphed and grown and now focus our artistic efforts on ministry stoles for clergy, chaplains and wedding officiants and smaller works of fiber art. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Survey Says....

We recently began collecting data from our clients because they know best!  We're seeking insight regarding ideas for expanding our product line. New products would be created out of fabrics and symbols similar to our stoles but wouldn't be stoles. These might be purchased by clergy for their own use or be purchased by or for non-clergy as gifts. 

The current Carrot Top Studio survey only has one question and if you'd like to participle it will be open until August 12th. Complete the survey here. Thanks for your input!
detail of a table runner with the theme of 'dayenu'

Thursday, July 10, 2014

This Is Where We Create

If you've been reading along, you know that seven weeks ago my family relocated from Pittsburgh to the Detroit area. There have been many blessings surrounding our move. One of them is the new space that has become Carrot Top Studio. Here's a glimpse of the new studio and how we will use it--
This is where I sit to answer your emails, receive orders and blog. The morning sun shines in this window and by mid afternoon a wild, grey cat usually slinks by outside.
Sketching new designs will happen at this table.
The cutting and painting table is next to this. It is conveniently at standing height.
Small bits of fabric and yarn are gathered from these shelves. I love a bargain just like the next person and this shelving unit was a steal at the local thrift store!
Thread is stored where I can easily reach it on the wall shelves left of the sewing machine. To the right of the sewing machine is the ironing station that can be used while sitting at the machine or while standing on the opposite side. Larger pieces of fabric are stored on the bolt below the ironing table or folded in bins in the cube case. The art to the left of the window are pieces from my children's early explorations into creating.
Job tickets, inspiring images, words of good cheer and
our pattern pieces all hang out together.
Keeping order helps keep us productive!
On the left, our mannequin (Stella) kindly models works in progress. And on the right, photography for the website happens with the use of the design wall. Interesting to note that I made the fabric plant on the coffee table many years ago in a three dimensional design class in college. Even though I didn't recognize it at the time the fiber artist was obviously percolating within me!
The in stock inventory is stored in this armoire.
As the work day draws to an end you might find me here in one of these seats contemplating what is currently pinned on the white design wall, with a favorite book, or chatting about the day with a family member or friend. The art above the chair was created by one of my first students who was four years old and spoke only Japanese. We bonded over creating. Young Masumi was one of the first people to teach me that you don't need words to communicate. I like to think that the stoles we create for pastors, ministers, clergy, chaplains, and wedding officiants work like that also....they are a visual connection to the Word or the ministry that can be interpreted, appreciated and applied without the spoken word. Thanks for your patience while we've been in transition during this move.

Signing off to go draw, paint, sew, and more and more...

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Going Green

I recently moved into a new house and fiber arts studio. This has led me to be doing an unusual amount of surfing through decorating, organizing, and house maintenance websites. Today one thing led to another and I was reading about the color green being the new neutral in home decor. Even though I felt this came across as a bit of a marketing ploy to buy new paint for the walls I do agree with the article's claims that this hue has life, vitality and even joy and there are simply no rules to mixing the great variety of yellow greens, blue greens, light greens, olive greens, etc. etc.
Waterlilies and Japanese Bridge, Claude Monet, 1897
Historically green dates back at least to the Egyptians who obtained the pigment from Malachite. The Greeks introduced the first artificial version of green called verdigris.Thanks to strides in chemistry in the 18th century artists had a more complete range of green pigments to work with. This led to the Impressionists being able to paint all of those works outdoors while they were studying how atmospheric conditions touched their natural world.
A selection of our Ordinary Time ministry stoles
Given that professionally my art is centered on the church year calendar I think of the variety of greens we appreciate being able to explore while creating clergy stoles for Ordinary Time at Carrot Top Studio. I'd like to think that we don't do it for decorating reasons but that in the church we use this great variety of green as a symbol and visual connection to growth in our Christian lives and faith during these days between Pentecost and Advent. Along this line of thinking it is interesting to note that in Hebrew in the Old Testament, the same word for the color green also means young. I have many days I feel very young in trying to comprehend the mysteries of faith. Maybe I'm not the only one? So bring on the many greens! Make a visual connection to the Word. Honor Ordinary Time by making it extra-ordinary with a plethora of green.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Ministry Stole: A Glimpse of the Creative Process

Carrot Top Studio was honored to create the moderator's stole for the PCUSA 220st General Assembly. that was held in our hometown of Pittsburgh in 2012. Almost two years later, the day after my husband accepted a new job in Detroit, MI, the office of the G.A. called to offer us the commission for the next moderator's stole. The PCUSA G.A. of 2014 was interestingly to be convened in Detroit! The G.A. staff of course had no clue about the coincidence of my upcoming relocation so I was amazed but thrilled at this offer. The charge was to create a stole that reflected the host city in combination with a visual message of the assembly's theme scripture which was to be: May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13) It was with great pleasure that we researched what was to be our new home town to create this stole. What follows is a little bit of how the stole came to be and what the symbolism means...

The first component on the stole was to reflect the streets of downtown Detroit which, many years ago, were designed in a radial fashion. From the back tip to the front top third of the stole these lines were embroidered on the stole. It is subtle but it also represents the sun which in art history can be a symbol for "the son." To represent the theme scripture of Romans 15:13 on the back tip of the stole an anchor cross was used as a symbolize hope.
Swirls were hand painted on the front of the stole to represent joy and a white dove with a green laurel branch to symbolize peace was appliqued to the front.
The amazing architecture of Detroit is a symbol of rebirth, so the skyline is predominate on the border of the stole. The buildings are created out of fabrics that are imprinted with designs that echo the many Art Deco buildings in the city. We love subtle details like this!
Top: auditioning the pattern and fabrics. Bottom: the finished skyline.
The Detroit skyline is edged with the light blue Ambassador Bridge. This structure was built to bridge two countries but in this situation the bridge can also remind us of 2 Corinthians 5:20, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."

Lastly the stole border is capped off with a river. It can be seen as the Detroit River but it also evokes the many Biblical references of rivers such as entering promised land, transition from slavery to freedom, or of cleansing. The rivers were created with fabric from Kenya because the Presbytery of Detroit has a partnership with the church there in Thika.

We pray that this stole will be a worthy visual connection to the ministry of the moderator for the next two years.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Visual Connection to the Word: Creative Exercises

Visual connections like the ones that worship leaders make when they wear an overlay or
deacon's stole aren't the only way one can connect to the Word of the Lord. On this blog for Carrot Top Studio we try to examine as many visual connections as we can. Today we're thinking about creative exercises that could be incorporated into a group Bible study, sermon notes, or a personal time of meditation and reflection. Here's an exercise, for example:

  1. Read Luke 15:11-32 slowly three times.
  2. Which character in the story do you identify with? Imagine yourself in that person's place. What do you see, hear, smell, and feel?
  3. How does this story touch your heart? Draw something to represent what you have experienced.
For some teens and adults a drawing exercise can be scary if they haven't taken pencil to paper in this manner in many years. A good leader though can be a great model and source of reassurance that nobody is judging the drawing and that the exercise is worthy. So, as popular culture might say today....Stay calm AND Draw on!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Red Stoles: Working In a Series

Artists often work in series. They tackle one version of a particular item or theme over and over. This might bring artists like Monet to mind. For example, Monet's many paintings of the Rouen Cathedral were studies of how light were affecting the appearance of the cathedral. Interestingly the twenty paintings of the cathedral were meant to be exhibited together so that the viewer could also observe and learn from the twilight to dusk changes. 
Rouen Cathedral paintings by Claude Monet
At Carrot Top Studio we often work in a series as we are preparing for a change in the liturgical season. Thus our last ten days have been quite the combination of red fabrics, threads and yarns as we have been preparing for Pentecost and Ordinations by visually interpreting the scriptures surrounding these times in our church year. It is very stimulating to work this way as knowledge and experience amasses from contemplating one theme of the Word. For our clients we hope this means that the results of our stoles more clearly communicate telling, significant and important visual connections to those that you minister to. 

Here is a peek at what the last week or so have produced. 

To examine individual stoles please refer to this page on our website.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Visual Connections in Worship: Easter Sunday and the Season of Easter

How do you make a visual connection in worship beyond vestments, paraments and worship
This Easter joy stole
may be seen in full here.

banners during the Easter season? One way is to show that the message of Lent and Easter are interconnected. For example, if you have displayed a crown of thorns don't remove it from your worship space but simply add blossoms of white lilies as a symbol of the Resurrection. Additionally instead of removing Lent banners and cloths just add draping of white fabrics over them. Allowing some of the purple to show will remind us that Easter is the continuation of the story.

If you've used prayer stations or stations of the cross during Holy Week how can you include some of that imagery on Easter Sunday? Maybe you make the connection just by simply keeping the worship space darkened as services begin on Easter morning. A slow transition of adding light to the space will heighten the celebration of the Resurrection. This sort of "adding to" could occur with the musicians also. A musical worship team might begin with just one person in leadership and as worship is entered into the different musicians would become incorporated into their roles. The use of images on the big screen, so ever present today in many worship spaces, can also go from simple to complex, or black and white to full color to emphasize our entering into a season of joy, light and hope. 

Moreover, the expanse of lilies and other fresh flowers on Easter Sunday are often quite extraordinary and uplifting symbols of new life. But what carries the joy for the remaining fifty days until Pentecost? Maybe the choir sings from a different location than normal or there is drama incorporated into the worship because these are visual in addition to auditory components. The trick is to keep it simple so that new and different elements don't become entertainment to the point of the worshipers loosing site of why we are all gathered. Lastly, it is always wise to educate either verbally, through a children's moment or in print in the worship bulletin as to why something is new or different. Anything we can do to help the alleluias of Easter proclaim Christ's victory over sin and death will only deepen our great hope.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Visual Connections in Worship: Lent and Holy Week

As you know, last Sunday we crossed the halfway line for the season for Lent. This historically is known as Laetare Sunday. The word laetare has its roots in Latin and means "rejoice". I visited a church in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday. They were obviously observing Lent as noted by the liturgy, the music, and the pastors purple stoles. But when I looked at the flowers in the chancel I was at first unsettled because the bouquet was so bountiful and pink. This didn't seem right for a season that is supposed to be stripped down and bare. But then it dawned on me what Sunday it was and I realized the pink flowers represented the foretaste of Easter joy. It is the joy that can be found in the midst of trial. In this congregation, on this past Sunday, the message preached was based on the 23rd Psalm. The opening stanza is so familiar to us, "The Lord Is my Shepherd, I shall not want....." This passage became my mantra last month when my husband very unexpectedly lost his job. We had been feeling that God had been preparing us for change for the past year or so. But oh, my, this wasn't what we were expecting! We tried hard not to make this a "trial" but instead just a crossing of the valley. The valley that is spoken of in Psalm 23. So why were we worshiping in Detroit? Well it seems as if God has been preparing a place for us there. We are excited to see not only how God will use my husband professionally but also how we will serve in this new place and season of our life. Carrot Top Studio will hopefully not miss a beat as the studio will easily relocate. We will certainly share more about that is the days ahead.

Enough about my personal life! We now all carry on through the remainder of Lent. If you haven't done so already it is probably time to think about how you will make a visual connection in worship during Holy Week. Palms on the ground on Palm Sunday, inviting people to actually nail a prayer, confession or thought to a wood cross, or covering the Communion Table or altar with burlap cloth and a crown of thorns are a few items to consider beyond stoles and paraments. Good Friday lends itself to its own visual connections. Art work, sculpture and crosses are traditionally draped in black cloth on this somber day. Candles can be extinguished, flowers removed, and the traditional sanctuary cross might be removed and replaced with a rough tree trunk/branch cross. 

If you still need a stole for Lent the one pictured here reflecting the Palm parade would be a lovely choice going into Holy Week. It is on the website here. And if you're looking ahead to Easter and need a stole, the current in stock collection may be seen here. Next week's blog post will explore a few ideas fur the season of Easter that will make visual connections to the Word in worship.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Color of Lent

From the book Proclamation by Design, by Karmen Krahn and Leslie James:

Purple, the color of Lent, serves as a foundation for symbols of barrenness and brokenness. The worship space may be stripped of all other color and signs of life. Plants and flowers are not used during the season. Purple is the traditional color for Lent, but in some faith traditions the use of natural fabrics of brown, beige, or gray are used instead. Congregations that use purple at Advent should take care to use different hues at Lent.

Today on Ash Wednesday we will start setting the tone for the season: humility, simplicity, sobriety, and even sorrow. Why do so many churches use purple for Lent? Purple has been associated with royalty for centuries. Nature does not provide an easy means of dying fabric for purple. At the time of Christ's time on earth only the rich, mainly royalty, could afford it. So of course we further come to understand why the words of Mark 15:17 tell us, "They put a purple rode on Jesus, made a crown out of thorny branches and put it on his head." Lent is a  journey. And as we begin it, as we make the first step, we see--far, far away--the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. The reign of Christ the King.

If you still need a stole for Lent we offer a variety of appropriate purple vestments here. Shipping is via Priority mail within 24 hrs. of receiving your order.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Meet Our Shipping Assistant

I've ducked out of the studio this week to work with my brothers and sisters in Christ in Haiti. I'm assisting with the painting of a mural in the new library we are helping the Haitians build. Actually we're renovating and retrofitting a classroom that will be the first of two library rooms. And we're gathering the books and delivering them to these 2800 students that have a gusto for learning like I have seen no where else. The books are in Creole (the native language), in Spanish (because many speak it because the Dominican Republic is so close), in French (because the high school students learn this in school) and in English (because there is an initiative and interest in the students learning English to help further their education and job potential). 

I'm excited to introduce you to Sarah who will be handling shipping while we are gone for the week. Sarah is a friend that I have gotten to know first through my children (that means she passed the cool test), secondly by time spent walking our township nature trails together, and lastly because she is a specialist in library and information science. She has been instrumental in developing the collection on our Amazon book wish list for the library in Haiti. Sarah has also served in Haiti and that has allowed her to be sensitive to choosing books that are best suited to the children's cultural heritage and their conservative Christian upbringing. So roll out the red carpet for Sarah as she's now also on board to handling the Carrot Top Studio shipping while we are out of town. 

I'm the blog master of this mission team's trip so if you want to know more you may follow along here.

And p.s...you'll love knowing that even Sarah's dog Marley gets in on the act....here's the clever canine checking out our architect's plans for the library in Haiti while Sarah catalogs books one recent snowy afternoon!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gratitude for What You Do!

If we had a larger staff this is what we'd be doing when we think of you....

Really. We're just jumping for joy and wanted to thank you for choosing to purchase stoles that give back! In 2013 you helped us support:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Inside Carrot Top Studio

Never a dull moment in the studio and this past week has been especially full to the brim! We've made plans for and started work on new designs for Lenten stoles. Here's a sneak peak....

This one should be on the website on Monday or Tuesday. You can follow us on Facebook to see when it's ready to go.

I'm also preparing for my next trip to Haiti and the studio has become the collecting point for the 500+ books we'll take with us as we work on building the mission school a library. The titles are in English, French, Spanish and Haitian Creole. This is so exciting!

And sewing and designing is such a passion I actually do it in my leisure time too. Here's the current project...it will be a quilt for my son. The batik fabric is part of what he brought home after his semester in Uganda last year. This has been a nice creative challenge for me and it's been a joy to work with him on the design.

What have you been up to?