Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Working in a Series: The Sheep

Sometimes one idea in the studio builds upon another. That becomes a series and our latest endeavors  have been inspired by sheep and learning about Biblical shepherd imagery. Some of this resulted in items for Christmas! You may see the stole here and the parament/banner here

This summer we found a unique piece of fabric that gradated from cream to blush and had a border of vibrant green. And it was dotted with tiny bits of metallic gold! We were excited to buy a small piece to experiment with and pondered the usage for several months. The result is this one of a kind "sheep" themed stole in our Ordinary Time collection. Inspired by John 10:11-18 this cream colored stole depicts the joy of the knowledge that we have a Good Shepherd. He knows us and laid down his life for US! This is life giving and we can rejoice. The chest is embellished with a shepherd's cross. See it in full here. 

Looking for an "Elf on the Shelf" alternative to recommend to your young families? Keeping with the sheep theme of this newsletter, how about the "Shepherd's Treasure" as a faith based alternative? Too late? File it away for next year!
*we have no affiliation with this company

We hope the whimsical style of the sheep make you smile and that they help you make a visual connection to the story of our faith to those that you minister to. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Ministry Stoles: Using new techniques

It's artistically stimulating for us to experiment with new to us techniques and equipment. We recently revised mono-printing with a commercial printing plate called a gelli pate.

First we gathered our supplies. That's the gelli plate in the top left picture. Acrylic paints, stencils, stamps, things to press into the paint and brayers rounded out the gear.
After printing the fabrics we arranged them like a collage artist would do with papers. 
Adding details of overlapping fabrics and hand stitching was super fun.
And we ended up with this finished product! Read more about it on "peace and healing" stole collection on our website here

This took us back to several years ago when we did mono printing off of a homemade gelatin block. I recently dug into that fabric stash and put together this lively table runner. It's in our Etsy shop here!

Mono-printing is instantly gratifying. We're pleased with the results and hope to do more of this in the future!

Monday, October 02, 2017

Outside the Studio: Art Prize

After living in Michigan for three years we finally found our way to Grand Rapids for Art Prize. It was wonderful to witness this international art competition that weaves in and out of the majority of the city. It is the most attended art event in the world and what we'd deem to be a happy, thought provoking, family friendly event.

We were smitten to find a variety of participatory works of art. This is a wonderful way to draw the viewer into the experience. And we think this should/could be applied to art in faith based settings. For example the below "Let Go" by Pamela Alderman spoke of the ebb and flow that eventually brings us to healing. Viewers were invited to write about the healing process or what gives them hope on a small piece of tissue paper. They were then instructed to crumble it and throw it into the waves for it to be symbolically carried out to sea.

Art Prize venues include sidewalks, restaurants, hotels, and among other things churches. For example this sculpture, "Trees Will Clap" by Dave Vander Molen was outside St. Marks Episcopal. It is based upon Isaiah 55:12 and combined the visual with the 'clapping' sound of the leaves that symbolized harmony and unity.

We appreciated this tribute to aging and community. It is made out of corrugated cardboard. It is by Warren King and is titled Grandfather's Friend and Arrival Times.

And we even know one of the exhibiting artists! Here is our friend Lauren's work. I appreciated the mood that the artist created with the colors and brushstrokes. And remarkably she's only been painting for a short time! 

I enjoyed leaving a little Carrot Top Studio logo on the public art wall. Maybe another time there will be a more official entry into Art Prize from this studio. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Outside the Studio: The U.P.

Since moving to Michigan three years ago we've been hearing about the beauty of this state's Upper Peninsula and we finally made time to visit. I anticipated being awed by the abundance and variety of trees. And that was true! What surprised me was the water. From large to small lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls the water was inspiring to hear, touch, admire the clarity, and view so many different colors. For example, this photo is from Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The amber color of the water is derived from the tannins in the surrounding trees. The sound of it dropping over the 50 foot fall was powerful. And the patterns the foam made in the water recalled marbleized paper ... our Creator the artist at it again!

Many world religions celebrate the symbol of water. Christians use water in four different ways:
  • to recall birth,
  • to evoke death,
  • to typify renewal,
  • and to suggest washing.
Gail Ramshaw points out in her book Treasures Old and New, that water also functions as a symbol of one another in the church. Filled with the Spirit, we nourish one another. "We are a cup of water for one another ... Christ the water, incarnating God's water of creation, flows continuously in the Spirit, who waters the believers, who themselves become the spring of living water in the world."
Often when we are able to step outside the studio we are inspired to create. If you hadn't guessed already, we're working on a water themed stole. You can watch it's progress on Instagram or see the announcement of it's completion on Facebook. We aim to have it on the website next week!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What's With the Flying Geese?

Sorry-this stole is currently out of stock.

Our thinking about and creating with the symbolism of flying geese started with a request from a client and this image on an Ordination stole. But what does it mean?

You've probably observed geese flying in a V formation. By doing this the goose in front creates uplift for the one behind. This allows for much greater flying range for the entire group. Community is a good thing for geese and for us!

And then there is the bit of when the lead goose gets tired he falls to the back and another takes over as leader. Similar to what we learn from Ephesians 4:16 ... "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
How about all the squawking we here from a group of geese? That's reportedly encouragement! I have a friend from elementary Sunday School days. She's a great encourager. I especially appreciated how she always knew when to call me when my Dad was so sick with cancer. This spring it was her mom who was ill and I tried to be reciprocal with my own kind of squawking.

But encourage each other, day after day... (Hebrews 3:13)

(flying geese quilt block replica bottom right)
So we've carried on the flying geese imagery into our recent work. This time we adapted a traditional quilt block. We stumbled upon a historical use of this block on a recent bike ride in our hometown of Detroit. This is a sculpture honoring the underground railroad and the use of the flying geese patch as a hidden message that those looking for freedom were on the right path. 

Here are snippets of our Carrot Top Studio flying geese latest creations. They include a full length stole, a short chaplain's stole and a table runner. Whether the flying geese are full of hidden messages or something that is loud and clear we hope there is something in this collection for everyone!

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Unique Commission

Creation ©CarrotTopStudio, Jenny Gallo, 2017
One thing led to another. 

First a stole was purchased through our online stole. Several years later, upon ministering at a new church, a commission was entered into led by this same pastor. This project included stoles, Communion table cloths and paraments for the pulpit/lectern. The process became a collaboration as the Church year rolled along. With each new season we emailed back and forth our ideas, sketches and fabric swatches until a plan was ready to be executed in our Michigan studio. 

Just when we were mourning the end of the year long work we were thrilled to receive a request for a new piece of fiber art for the pastor's study. The parameters were to first have it fit a 46 x 56" space. Secondly the pastor thought maybe the rich illuminations of the St. John's Bible would be able to provide inspiration. We did some cartwheels at this news and dug in to make plans!

The resulting piece (above) has a creation theme based on the words in the book of Genesis. The use of batik fabrics add depth to the work. The story art is told through appliqu├ęd images and symbols and is accented by sheer fabrics, metallic textile paint and free motion embroidery details. The finishing touch was the machine quilting done by Jane Clark of Jane Quilts. The wavy quilt lines move from open/fluid to tight/closed to add to the energy of the creation story. 

As we recently traveled to a mini-vacation on the east coast we were passing by the pastor's church so had the honor of unveiling the work face to face. This is a rare treat and it was wonderful to be able to talk about the art and see it in situ. 

Artist Jenny Gallo and patron Reverend Dr. Trent Hancock examining the art. 
Image description, left to right:
  1. heaven and earth/light and dark
  2. sky and sea
  3. land and vegetation
  4. stars and moon
  5. life in water and birds
  6. creatures on dry land, and
  7. rest
A look behind the scenes ... Stitching a favorite detail, the preying mantis.

Art in place -- Glenshaw Presbyterian Church, Glenshaw, PA
We remain thankful for this relationship and body of work. 

Has this intrigued you? Seeking a commission? Email Jenny. 

*photo credit Ian Gallo

Friday, June 23, 2017

Inspiration Found: Avery Island!

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

Surely he will save you

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Reading

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

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Inspired by New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lent 2017: What We're Reading

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

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

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Outside the Studio

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

100 Day Project

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

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

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

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

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