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!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: The Whispering Cloth

Stories are told through art in so many different ways. We aim to create ministry stoles at Carrot Top Studio that are pieces of wearable fiber art that tell a story through their colors and symbols. When we read about the tradition of the Hmong people in Southwest China's story cloth we felt a connection to their artistry.

Our curiosity led us to finding this children's book, The Whispering Cloth written by Pegi Deitz Shea. The illustrations are unique because some are watercolors and others are photographs of actual embroidered story cloth. They were created by Anita Riggio and You Yang. The book follows the story of a young girl who works out painful memories of her childhood by creating art in her story cloth. She is slowly and carefully taught her skill by her grandmother. This is a book about survival of a resilient group of refugees. The main characters grandmother is an example of love and wisdom.

I'd recommend this book to anyone that works with refugees, is a refugee, or to be used as a story starter for an art project. Additionally I could see it used in lessons of learning compassion, patience and loving one another in a variety of educational settings. I remain grateful that God has given us art and visual connections to learn from, to remember by, and  to grow through.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Our Favorite Blogs

We can learn and be inspired by reading. Therefore, today I thought I'd share some of our favorite blogs that we follow that pertain to Carrot Top Studio. Maybe they will inspire you for a bulletin cover, arts group within your church or feed your own artistic soul.

  • Susie Lubell is an illustrator. We like her whimsical style and dedication to her faith.
  • West of Here takes and shares the most stunning photographs and has the ability to hone in on what is most interesting. 
  • Julie Lonneman has an amazing way of sharing what she believes in her graphic art.
  • "Love God, Serve Others, Make it Beautiful!" is the motto of Valorie Sjodin who moves me with her detailed drawings (and her motto!)
Christian Art Associations chalk full of resources-
Stitching inspiration-
  • artists Karin Birch and  Claire Wellesley-Smith both stimulate my desire to add hand stitching to our stoles. Stay tuned to see if we progress in this direction!

Fabric inspiration-
  • A Stitch in Dye because she's got great style. 
  • Anna Maria Horner juggles a business, a family and also writes about her family's faith heritage. She also demonstrates how to mix patterned fabrics together. I appreciate all of that.
  • Artfabrik for fabric dying advice and igniting a desire to do so. 
  • Erin Wilson Quilts proves that you can make images simplified with fabric...something we have to think about when sewing on 5" widths.
And these help remind me of what is real-
  • Out of the Dust & Us reminds me of the world that is outside of my studio in Michigan. The added bonus is seeing the batik fabric of the clothes in their community. 
  • Cast Your Net uses art to help illustrate his sermons and his messages from the pulpit usually have a way of getting me to think twice.
  • For my home and kitchen I read the Radical Homemaker. I appreciate the way she is raising her family.
And then after a day in the studio I often unwind with a recipe inspired by Food 52. The creating goes on and on and on!

**p.s. The Feedly app makes following these blogs very easy. Maybe you'd like to add Carrot Top Studio to your feed? Wink. Wink.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Visual Art in Worship

Byzantine Icon of the Cursing of the Fig Tree
Reportedly 40-60% of people learn visually. Several Sunday's ago I saw this live out in worship. My home congregation sometimes uses fine art on the bulletin cover to connect to the liturgy of the day. We happened to sit down behind a family with two young boys. As we all got situated, I realized the mother and one son were talking about the bulletin cover art. It took everything in me for my former art educator soul not to squeal with delight. Inside the cover is a brief description of the art. This was not written for a five year old but the mother was breaking it apart and the son was pointing out components of the visual and asking questions. 

Worship commenced and we all settled into the rhythm. But then the visual made a connection to the Word! The gospel was being read and the child in front of me heard the words "fig tree" and despite his wiggling and seemingly not paying attention he was making a connection and nudged his mother to affirm that he knew!  I wanted to do cartwheels down he aisle! Hooray for these parents for bringing their children to church. God bless them for not dumbing the experience down and including them as best as they could.  And thank you God for showing us in your Word many examples of visuals, color, and textiles being used to help teach us your story.

I have always maintained that visuals like the work we do at Carrot Top Studio aren't essential for a relationship with our Lord or for worship. But I am thankful we have them. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sharing: A New Commissioned Stole Is Complete!

We recently completed a stole for a seminarian preparing for Ordination. She sought a piece that would reflect where she lived and served in Peurto Rico.It was fun to start with her own sketch and photos. When I work on a stole like this it makes me appreciate the many years as a young woman that I studied watercolor painting. As a general rule when you use watercolors you start with what is furthest in the background and work your way forward. This is because once the paint is down it can't be removed and it is not easily gone over. The commissioned stoles that we do that are like "story stoles" with a lot of appliqued pieces need to be figured out in this logical type of sequencing. It's a bit of a puzzle in the beginning but with careful planning it comes together nicely. Interesting how one opportunity from your past prepares you for the future! We've just completed the sketch for another story stole. You'll hear more about that this summer. #PCUSA #GA222 (spoiler alert :))

*Note 1-we love learning new things (especially about plants and food) and were pleased to be introduced to the seagrapes that are the large leaf plant with the interesting, clustered fruit. 

*Note 2-we had special permission to use the PCUSA seal, this one time