Friday, December 11, 2015

Our Latest Christmas Design: History Repeats Itself

Artists often find images, shapes, motifs, or themes repeating in their work. Sometimes it's because you are intentionally working in a series and other times it's more subliminal and is just because it's who you are. Over a decade ago we created our second ever set of banners. They were for our home congregation in Pennsylvania for the season of Christmas. They were a joy because we shared the stitching with a team of church members. Well, funny story ... we thought we liked the design until we saw them hanging up. There was just something not quite right! It was too close to Christmas to make an adjustment so we made peace and let them be. The artist is their own worst critic after all! Low and behold we didn't make note of the needed adjustment and near Christmas time the next year when the banners were pulled out to be ironed in preparation of their hanging our hearts sank to see that we'd forgotten. But then our adrenaline started running and with seven days before their timely hanging we took them back to the studio, cut, patched, and restitched. Voila, they were much improved! I'm not sure anyone else noticed but my heart felt the design was much improved. And we're humbled that those banners are still used today.

Fourteen years later we revisited the stars of those banners in our latest Christmas stole. We hope the whimsical nature of these stars evoke the joy, giddiness, awe, and anticipation that must have been felt when all who were involved in seeking Him that first Christmas saw the sign they had been waiting so long for.

You may see the entire Christmas stole here. And know that our shipping policy remains the same as usual -- we ship within 24 hrs. of receiving your order via Priority mail. Priority during this busy season is typical 3 business days.

We remain grateful for your support of our art. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Fine Art in Church

Using fine art, not just clip art or graphic art can add to the meaning of worship or deepen our connection to our faith outside of worship. Below is a piece for upcoming Christ the King Sunday. It could be used on it's own but would be even better for the viewer if a few guiding questions were asked to help the thought process. For example:

  • are you attracted to this work?
  • what is it that holds your interest?
  • does it remind you of anything? (a story, a memory, an idea?)
  • what is your eye first drawn to?
  • how do you think it was made?
  • what do you know about the culture of the time the artist made this?
  • do you recognize any symbols in this art?
  • can you extend the scene? what might have happened right prior or after this moment?

Christ in Judgement from Sant'Angelo in Formis, Italy, circa 1100   
If you are new to using art in your church you would probably enjoy the Grunewald Guild Podcast on this subject here. 
The Time Is Coming, Jenny Gallo, 2015
Carrot Top Studio mostly focuses it's art on liturgical stoles. But on occasion we branch out into art for church galleries or banners in worship. This advent we have one set of such art (shown above) available here. It is also available as a download with text for use as a devotional here

Monday, October 05, 2015

Advent Devotional

Our Advent fiber art project is being sold as a digital, downloadable, devotional! It is available with blue or purple art--you're choice. It is on our website here.

The Time Is Coming was created in 2015 to support the Advent season scripture of the Lectionary (Year C). The art was created by Jenny Gallo of Carrot Top Studio and the text was written by Rev. Dawn Carlson who who ministers at First Congregational Church, Terre Haute, Indiana. The work was a collaboration intended for a church art gallery, a public space suitable for quiet meditation or a worship sanctuary. This downloadable devotional allows the singular viewer to use the art and text on their own during the Advent season. 
The download includes an image and text for each of the four weeks of Advent. The text lists the scripture for each week, provides insight to the scripture in addition to thought provoking commentary and questions for life application consideration. "Sharing is usually caring" but not in this situation ... Please respect the work that has gone into the project and only download one per user. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Notes About Our Advent Art

We recently completed a series that that is available for use in an art gallery or worship space. It is available in blue as seen below and in purple as seen here. Each fiber art panel is 15 x 36" and is accompanied by the writing of Rev. Dawn Carlson. The writing is meant to guide the viewer through a quiet, meditative experience while observing the art during Advent. The scripture references are from the Lectionary (Year C).  
The Time Is Coming 
This is what we were thinking about when designing each panel (numbered left to right)--

1-A Time to Watch 
(Jeremiah 33:14-16  •  Psalm 25:1-10  •  1 Thessalonians 3:9-13  •  Luke 21:25-36)

Time and rhythm and cycles are represented by the big circle.
The righteous branch is the branch.
The swirls reference staying alert, activeness and energy.
The curved line at the bottom is a calling to wonder "what are you still waiting to see?"

2-A Time to Think
(Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4  •  Luke 1:68-79  •  Philippians 1:3-11  •  Luke 3:1-6)

The big circle is the messenger.
Light into darkness is around the big circle.
Peace is represented by the laurel branch.
The empty space symbolizes the wonderment of "where do we look for messengers?"

3-A Time to Come Home
(Zephaniah 3:14-20  •  Isaiah 12:2-6  •  Philippians 4:4-7  •  Luke 3:7-18)

The waves symbolize drawing water from the well and Baptism.
The large circle is restoration.
The small circles are rejoicing, expectation and/or wheat chaff.

4-A Time to Sing
(Micah 5:2-5a  •  Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80:1-7  •  Hebrews 10:5-10  •  Luke 1:39-45, (46-55))

The large circle says "here I am" or is symbolic of the womb or being filled with the Spirit.
The small circles are the flock.

Hope you may meditate on this work and find even more meaning beyond our original intention.

Advent: Worship Banner/Fiber Art for Gallery Display

Last spring we became interested in exploring a collaboration that allowed us to create art with that had accompanying written work. We were thrilled that Rev. Dawn Carlson was willing to work with us and share her gift of insight and writing. (You'll love her bio at the end of this post!) The studying of the scripture, the focusing on key words and phrases, and the sketching led to two sets of four piece art. One is in purple and one is in blue (scroll down to see the blue). They are intended to be used in an art gallery. But they certainly could be used in a worship space individually or all together. Each of the four pieces is 15 x 36". In several weeks we will add ministry stoles that coordinate with this art to our website.

Read more about the purple Advent banners here.
The process we walked through looked a little like this:

We sketched:

We explored new techniques:
These pieces will be offered in the near future on our website here.

We gathered supplies and stitched:
Thanks for helping with the ironing mom!
We ended up with two sets of art, and here is the blue one:
Read more about the blue Advent banners here.
The work can be read about and seen in greater detail on our website here.

A little about our collaborator... The "Rev. Dawn", as her congregation affectionately calls her, ministers at First Congregational Church (NACCC) in Terre Haute, Indiana, is a second career minister having spent another lifetime in education and special needs program development. She laughs that it all gave her amazingly useful skills for the ministry. Clearly, teaching middle school provides just what one needs for working with church boards and national committees and councils.  A native of south Texas, Dawn lives with her husband, John Kraft, along the western edge of Eastern Time where they enjoy reading, writing and shared devotion to baseball.  Dawn notes that her greatest teacher, aside from her 94 year old biblical scholar mom, is her 30 year old son, Alex, who has autism, a great sense of humor and teaches her daily about unconditional love.  Devoted to her diverse church family, Dawn enjoys planning themes for the church year and the varied writing opportunity it affords her – sermons, devotionals, and Bible studies.  Someday, however, she’ll return to her unfinished novel – about the retired CIA officer who pastors a Congregational church.

We loved working with you Rev. Dawn! 
Thanks for giving a bit of your summer for this project!

Next blog post will artistically dissect each panel based upon our inspiration.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

If you follow us on all of our social media outlets or read our blog posts you might know that this summer has been a little different for us. We are so thankful for your patience if we've had to delay a commission or a shipment. My father's battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma ended on Friday, August 21st. I was humbled to be with my mom and sister and brother while my dad journeyed through his last days in hospice. I have said good bye to other people in my lifetime but I learned so much more in this intimate experience. I have before recognized the circle of life but this walk took me further. I was especially touched by the death process having so many similarities to the birth process. It's hard work at times. There are rewards. There is a great roller coaster of emotion. It helps me to write and remember so here are a few more things that came to my mind during the last few weeks--
One of the ways Dad supported me as an adult,
was to embrace the ministries my family stood behind.
This picture was taken prior to a benefit for The Open Door  .

What I have been holding onto are memories of my dad doing simple, quiet, yet meaningful things. Such as:
  • Getting on the floor with me as a child to build blocks,
  • Taking me, as a preteen, out on the sailboat after his already full day at the office,
  • Mailing me articles about artists and museums that he thought might interest me as I was studying to be an art teacher,
  • Stopping at our house to shoot hoops (in a suit) with his grandchildren when he was passing through the town that I lived in,
  • Teaching men math so they could move forward professionally out of a transitional time in their life,
  • Using a hammer to build a house for someone that had never had an opportunity to be a homeowner.
  • Or making sure his bird feeders were always full.
Equally important he modeled being involved in the life of his church family. This was part of my growing up years and as an adult it was the center of many conversations.  I will miss being in his presence. We could just sit and be together and that was good. I am thankful that he is no longer sick but anticipate (God willing) seeing him in the place where everything is made new.

So now my family moves on. My mom will learn a new way of life. We will all look for ways to keep dad's memory alive for the generations to come. We will try to honor God by mimicking the activities of this good and faithful servant. I am feeling blessed to have had a dad that I can say that about.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Five Things I Learned This Summer

We're looking at the end of the summer season here at our studio in Michigan. I'm someone that likes to reflect. So here are the top five things I learned this summer:

  1. I'm a sucker for exploring new media. This summer I found Pentel Arts Fabric Fun Pastel Dye sticks and a Jacquard Syringe. The first will let me color an image onto a piece of fabric before we turn it into a stole in the same way a pastel artist colors onto a piece of paper. The later will be filled with textile paint so we can write on fabric. Now I need to find the time to play and explore. Stay tuned!
    circle explorations!
  2. When exploring our latest project for Advent we saw circles in our mind. These circles translated into exploring two new fiber art techniques. You will see them crop up on items on the website this fall. 
  3. I like a routine but this summer hasn't allowed for that as I've had quite a few days not in the studio. What I've learned from this is that I like really long days of work. And I have compensated for the days out by keeping long hours when I'm in. I have found I'm actually more creative this way! Who knew?
  4. The state of Wisconsin has really friendly people living in it. I ventured there for the first time several weeks ago because my son will be married there this fall. This really doesn't have anything to do with the studio but it is something I learned this summer!
  5. Lastly I've learned that God gives me the time that is needed to get done what is most important. My father has been battling cancer. I have been out of the studio a bit this summer spending time with him and my mom. This has been such a blessing to me personally. Being a small business owner I like to make sure that the business keeps happening. But, by and by I have had plenty of time with my parents and the stoles that have needed to get made have done so. Praise God.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Motivation for Including the Visual in Worship

The dwelling itself you must make out of ten curtains, making them of fine twisted linen,
We create in blue and purple!
Read about this stole here.
violet, purple, and scarlet materiel, with cherubs, the work of artist. -Exodus 26:1

Then Moses said to the Israelites: See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur; of the tribe of Judah, and has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge, and knowledge in every kind of craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab son of Abisamach, of the tribe of Dan. The Lord has filled them with skill to do every kind of work done by an artisan or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen, or by a weaver--by any sort of artisan or skilled designer. --Exodus 35: 30-35

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff and her hands hold the spindle. -Proverbs 31:13-19

Moses then called Bezalel and Ohaliab and every skillful one to whom the Lord had given skill, everyone whose heart was stirred to come to do the work; and they received from Moses all the freewill offerings that the Israelites had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. -Exodus 3: 2-3

All those with skill a month the workers made the tabernacle with ten curtains; they were made of fine twisted linen, and blue purple and crimson yarns, with cherubim skillfully worked into them. -Exodus 36:8-9

Friday, July 10, 2015

The ABC's of Carrot Top Studio (and Me)

This is just for fun, but maybe you'll also get to know us a little bit better! Here we go....

A: Carrot Top Studio AGE 11, Me AGE 51

B: BOOK on the studio coffee table is  Quilting With a Modern Slant and I'm listening to The Telling Room while I sew.

dear husbands enjoys the carrot cake
for each birthday

C: CARROT Top Studio became our business name because of the childhood teasing for my orange hair. And my favorite CARROT cake recipe is this one.

D: DELIGHTING in the three fawn that just ran past my studio window. 

E: EAGER to get to the farmer's market at the end of the day today. The colors and patterns are a visual feast for me and I also look forward to cooking with the fresh produce.

F: FEAR of heights except when in an airplane.

G: GRAY is a great neutral in Carrot Top Studio quilts and for me it's about 8% of my hair.

H: HOPE is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul (Emily Dickinson).

I: A couple spoonfuls of ICE CREAM is a treat of a mid afternoon snack at Carrot Top Studio. Shhh....don't tell!

J: JOY is a welcome challenge to try to depict in a ministry stole design. 

K: KITES....I like to fly them and that is a happy memory from my childhood.  In college for a three dimensional design class I built a kite that was larger than I and had hand dyed paper on it.

L: LOVE wins.

M: MIDDLE name: Louise. I was born in the southern part of the US and my parents thought they'd call me "Jenny Lou." They moved a year later. I'm glad.

N: NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.

O:'s my hair color. It's not red. Why do they call us redheads?

P: PAINTING is something I like to do on fabric. It takes me back to when I studied watercolors in high school.

Q: QUALITY wins over quantity in and out of the studio. For example, when I'm sneaking that mid afternoon ice cream I'd much rather have a bite of premium than a quart of store brand ice cream. (grin)

kayaking with my daughter

R: RELATING to people is sometimes a delight for me and at others a stress. That's probably why having an online business works well for me!

S: SUMMER fun: kayaking or hiking or working or eating outside.

T: I have learned to TRUST that God gives me enough time to conquer what I'm really supposed to be doing. I used to stress about time and schedules and don't really do that anymore. 

U: I am UPLIFTED in worship (especially when in Haiti), in a book store or an art museum.

V: VERSE, today Psalm 23:1...."the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

W: WEEDING out art supplies I no longer use or weeding the garden beds....both enjoyable activities

X: eXample...Grateful for so many people who have served as examples to me.

Y: I YEARN to have more time to practice YOGA. It challenges me and helps to keep me peaceful.

Z: ZIGZAG is a sewing stitch that I use quite a lot.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stoles in Action

If you are new to Carrot Top Studio and have any question about how our stoles look after they leave the studio OR if you are needing inspiration for a stole to add to your collection to keep your visual message fresh and new here are some of our favorite "in action" images: 
Thanks to those who share their photos with us. It's a real treat for an online business to see how and where their art is used.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: Water, Wind, Earth and Fire by Christine Valters Paintner

I prefer to be outside with the elements and I feel like my prayer life is constantly evolving so
when I discovered the book Water, Wind, Earth and Fire by Christine Valtres Paintner seemed like a logical choice for me. And it has not disappointed. The introduction actually had me hooked! 

The amount of thought provoking writing from the author in combination with the thoughts for so many different types of prayers, and inspirational quotes from a multitude of influential people is just the tip of the iceberg in this book. The book also includes ideas on how to get in touch with each element and questions for reflection.The sections of scripture are titled, "resting with God's word." That phrase in itself is restorative to me and such a lovely way of thinking about reading scripture.

Paintner is a contemplative artist and she has skillfully crafted this book with much thought and care. I can envision bits of it being used in worship, other pieces suitable for a retreat, a small group could choose to work through it together or of course it could be savored on one's own. It is the type of book that I feel that I can turn to again and again and gain new insight from it each time I do.

Friday, April 24, 2015

We're The Other Carrot Top!

My dad recently dialed up the studio hotline:

Jen, I had a Carrot Top Studio experience at the pharmacy today!

Oh, really Dad?

Yeah, I had my Carrot Top Studio fleece on and the pharmacist wanted to know if I'd just come back from Las Vegas. I had no idea what he was talking about!

(I chuckle)

He said he'd noticed the logo and asked if I'd heard the comedian. I still didn't know what he was talking about!

Well Dad, I hope you set him straight as to where your allegiance lies! Love you Dad!

Good humor runs in our family but we have nothing to do with the comedian Carrot Top. I do though wonder how the stand up would answer to the fact that a carrot 'top' is really bright green and  our hair is clearly orange. There's got to be a good chuckle out of that and I suspect we can both continue to enjoy the nickname working well as a business handle!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Working in Haiti

Early in March I made my sixth trip to The New Testament Mission which is 80 miles north of Port au Prince in LaCroix, Haiti. These trips always call for a bit of reflection. So here I go:

My friend, Jordeph
I continuously struggle that these trips are only one week long. Does our whisking in for such short amount of time hurt more than it helps? On Sunday after worship we had a chance to walk outside the mission compound. I was struck by how many people along the road called out my name or at least called out "bonsoir, Darby's mama!" as they have also gotten to know my daughter over the years. Their friendliness is so welcoming. Being invited to see these people's homes was such a gift of hospitality. I am slowly learning that we are building relationships and I pray that going forward I am open enough for this to be used in the best way.

It's great to report that I have witnessed "with many hands work can be light." The library project we've been working on the past several years has made great strides. With Americans and Haitians working side by side the second room was finished on this trip. It will service the high school students, teachers and pastors. Ten computers were installed to enhance their learning for research, listening to books in online libraries, and practicing their English and French skills. We left with the project taking a turn as the Haitian school superintendent and mission leadership are now taking the control in ideas and action. They are assuming the ownership and that is awesome!
The library
A clever baking tool
Working in Haiti always heightens my awareness of looking at everything as useful. As a generalization we throw way too much away in the United States. Part of our team was from a bakery in Pittsburgh. They were focused on helping to expand the use of the solar oven at the mission. So for example, when they discovered that a cake stand would be helpful to their work they made one from a non working ceiling fan fixture and some scraps of wood from the library furniture construction. Brilliant!

We had the joy of working on a sewing project for the first time while in Haiti. I learned many things with this but I will share just two for today: sewing on a treadle machine is harder than it looks but singing while you work makes even repetitive projects joyful. 
I'm looking forward to sewing with these young ladies again!
Lastly the community that is experienced on these trips is special. We live, work, and eat together. I am a bit of an introvert and need space and quiet. God has surprised me in that I've learned and now believe that living in community is important and stimulating to me despite my sometimes quiet, reclusive ways. The Haitians model community also. As we visited friends homes on Sunday afternoon I was struck by how many generations were living with their homes clustered together with shared laundry and cooking spaces. The school bell symbolizes community to me. It can be heard throughout the valley and rings at many points during the day. Everyone knows what each signal is for. It triggers the start of the day as the sun rises and the roosters are crowing, it is a call to come to school, it tells the teachers it's time to take a lunch break and I suspect there is more I have yet to learn. In Christianity a bell being rung can symbolize the presence of Christ. For churches a bell can be a call to the faithful. At this mission I feel as if the bell is a call to believers and a symbol of a common purpose to work and learn and worship together. It is good. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review: Crafting Calm

Carrot Top Studio dabble's a little on Pinterest.  Do you? I entered skeptically as I felt like we already had more than enough social media connections. But then the organizer, always looking for a good idea, connector in me was quickly hooked. One thing led to another and I was introduced to the work of Maggie Oman Shannon. How unique it is to find a ministry leader that focuses on creativity! I picked up her book Crafting Calm and was tickled to see the variety of projects, the connections for journaling and reflecting, the definitions and quotes and the lovely bibliography. There's enough in this little book that after I perused it from my local library I think I'm going to purchase it as it will be good to have on hand for a while. You might enjoy it for yourself, your christian education director at your church, your vacation Bible School coordinator (break free from the purchased VBS model!), or as a gift for a crafty critter you know and love. Thanks Maggie for bringing us something a little new and different!

About the photo--My latest crafting project-a little clutch just right for my phone and a lipstick. Book gem was found on my trip here. But thanks to Crafting Calm I might next try a Biblical Garden, a Talking Stick or Bread Meditation.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Visual Connections in Worship: Using Art on Transfiguration Sunday

There are so many ways to make visual connections in worship. There are the traditional methods such as the details in architecture, vestments, textiles and floral arrangements. And then there are the more contemporary such as the use of multimedia on the big screen, eNewsletters, and worship bulletin covers. Why not combine historical art into the more contemporary and incorporate images that are strong and relevant onto the big screen in worship, on the church website, or in social media? There are many wonderful resources such as Textweek that provide an outlet for images and inspiration. For example, if you are preparing a Transfiguration message this work by a Russian artist who painted in the Neoclassical style and was as renowned for his sketches as well as his paintings might be a worthy visual.
Transfiguration by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1824
Questions for thinking about Transfiguration

  • What do you see?
  • What colors are used? Are they warm or cool? How do they make you feel?
  • Do you see any shapes emerge based upon how the artist positioned the main characters? Might this be intentional? What does it mean for the story?
  • Is every part of the Biblical transfiguration story told in this painting?
  • If you could rename this painting what would you call it?
  • If you were the artist how would you have painted the story of the Transfiguration?
  • How does this painting relate to you?

The possibilities are really endless once you get into the habit of using images that go beyond clipart. Here's an example of a writer infusing art into their blog post. And an example from my friend Pastor Dave who places his sermons online in a blog after they are preached. The illustrations on the blog are the images he uses on the big screen in worship.

**Note-Just please remember to give the historical artist credit even if it is art of the public domain. If you are using work that is contemporary art make sure you have permission to share.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Jenny Gallo, Carrot Top Studio, Owner/Artist: An Interview

When did your creative awakening occur?
My parents recognized my artistic gift and fostered it first with Crayola's then later with more sophisticated art supplies and lessons.  Trips to art museums were always part of my life and I still feel energized the minute I walk into a museum or gallery.  So, the creativity has always been there but as I have aged I have been more receptive to this being part of me.  I was in my 30's before I really felt like I gave myself permission to create from the depths of my soul.
What talents do you have?
Artistically I can paint, sew, quilt, and create through collage (I love handmade papers from around the world).  Teaching is another gift.  I have enjoyed guiding many from the uninhibited preschool age child to the ever wise senior citizen.  Baking is favorite pastime.  I used to spend time at the pottery wheel forming clay into vessels. Now I knead bread dough instead of clay!  This is also probably why a day doesn't feel complete unless I've done a little digging in the garden dirt.
What elements draw you toward them?
I am drawn to texture and combinations of textures.  This is probably one reason why I love collage. Color is also inspirational, mood altering and stimulating for me.  When I taught elementary art I loved exposing the children to the depth and breadth of color.  Even construction paper comes in luscious colors and chartreuse, pumpkin, magenta, salmon, spring green and slate grey were always included in my yearly order!
When and why do you create?
As a small business owner  I appreciate the flexibility to my schedule but I create best when there is a rhythm and routine to my week days. I create because I feel I am called by God to do so.
What activates your creative energy?
I love reading. Often a walk through a book store or library will find me stumbling upon a text on a period of art or design history, symbolism or a technique that will spark the creative energy to flow.   I often set out to make one thing and it transforms as the process of using the materials and the spirit of creativity take over.  When it works it is a joyful journey.
Any creative rituals?
Turning the music on pouring a cup of coffee and indulging in a bit of chocolate are almost guaranteed to get things going!

Monday, January 12, 2015

I Wonder

From time to time I share bits and pieces of personal information and/or about the inside
This is where I'm writing you from today!
workings of Carrot Top Studio so you can get to know us better. In turn we know a little about you from email exchanges or by meeting you on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. But these many hours I'm spending inside these wintry days have caused me to be thinking about you...

I wonder what your favorite season of the church year is to add visual elements to in worship?

I wonder how many stoles you own?

I wonder if you bought all of your stoles at the time of Ordination or if you've added to the collection over the years?

I wonder if you buy your stoles or if you receive them as gifts?

I wonder if you like wearing stoles or if you do it only because of the tradition?

I wonder if you have a ritual or prayer or words when you put your stole on prior to leading in worship?

Leave your comments below or on our social media pages or email us here!