Saturday, March 19, 2016

Be Named

Names have power.  Words have power.  I talk about this with my students all the time.

So, when it came time to name my newest adventure, I wanted to pick the right name.  The right identity.

At first, I was sold on "Dutch Girl Redoux," in honor of my Dutch heritage.  And because the Dutch are notorious/known for making something out of nothing.  I liked the name.  I could see the graphics for branding.  Something a little funky, with bright red tulips.

Not quite.

Be Bright tee, 2016
Then, I considered "Helen Johanna" or "Johanna Helen," my grandmas first names.  They're the ones that taught me how to embroider, taught me about flowers (which seem to be quite a prominent feature in this new work), taught me the value of hard work.  And words.

Still not right.

Be Bold, sweater, 2016
In the middle of a dark, stormy, windy night, it came to me.  "Be."


"Be" for the Berkana rune, a symbol that very special to me.  It represents the feminine, abundance, fertility, creation.  It's purification, healing, renewal.  It's associated with the birch tree, my favorite.  (I have a wonderful specimen of this tree in my front yard.)

Berkana is literally written as "B."  The logical jump for me was "to be," which brings in women's history and gender studies.

My work with students is all about "to be."  Who they can be, who others can be.  How women have been in history, but overlooked.  How girls are often told what and who to be, framed in messages about their bodies, as if their minds don't exist.

"Being" a woman is so much more than being beautiful, being pretty, "being" for someone else's desires and/or needs.  Often, this gets expressed through fashion.

Be Delighted, detail of wool jacket, 2016
My idea?  "Be" Fashions.  I'll add "Be" inspirations to my designs.  Be Bold, Be Delighted, Be Love.  Lots of options, lots of meaning.  A combination of all I strive to be.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Be, continued

So, clothes.

Especially, vintage clothes.  And thrifted clothes.  Well-made, well-crafted clothes.  The perfect canvas for bits and pieces of beadwork, lace, flowers, fabric.  The chance to make something new from something, essentially, thrown away.

Be Plentiful - funky hi-lo sheer floral dress, 2016
The chance to have some fun.  Oh, yeah!  Fun!

Be Graceful pink tee, 2016
So much fun to dig through my bins of goodies, pull out bits and pieces, and create a "clothes collage."
Be Fearless - Frida tee, 2016
When I sampled printer fabric paper, I was even more excited.  My collection of digital images is pretty extensive.  Now, I have one more way that I can use them!  It's so easy to create the images and, because the fabric is fray-proof, it's easy to sew image patches onto clothing.  (I have yet to try to work with iron-on appliques, but will soon.)

Be Boundless - denim jacket, work in progress
Patches, oh patches.  The embroidered sari patches I use in my felted belts work equally well in upcycling.  And look really good mixed with other fabric and textiles and lace.

Flower nuno scarf, 2016
As I looked around Etsy and Pinterest at other upcycling creations, I felt like I'd found a new niche.  But.  

I still wanted to connect the new adventure with women's history, with words, with my spirituality.  And I wanted an approach that might set me apart from other upcyclers.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


For the past few years, I've wanted to do my bead embroidery on a bigger canvas.  After 20 years and (I figure) at least 5000 bead embroidered necklaces, I'm not out of inspiration but I am short on desire. Working with felt the past few years only increased my frustration to do "more."  Plus, working with the fiber re-ignited a life-long interest in textiles.  All those colors.  All those patterns.  All the feels!

Sample of a Doreen Bell mosaic

Plus, I wanted a way to combine my work as a historian and gender scholar with my spirituality and my creativity.  And, since I like the extra income my art can bring, I needed something financially viable.  You know - spend money to make money to spend money on more art supplies.  Important!

Lisa Walton textile sample
Back in August, 2015, someone gave me a bag of used clothes - a few vintage silk dresses, an old jean jacket, a few tee shirts  I shoved them in Grandma's old cabinet until this winter, next to the embroidered tapestries and doilies and fabric stash I've collected forever.  

And started to think about how I could use all these bits and pieces in a new adventure...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom.  Such an inspiration. 

In celebration of her birthday, J and I took her to get her ears pierced.  We had fun looking around the mall, trying on sparkly tiaras, shoe shopping, lunch at a favorite restaurant, and then thrift store shopping (so much more fun than mall shopping!).

Lots of laughter.  Much needed, as Mom's lost two siblings in the past two weeks, plus a close friend.  And Dad, a year ago.

I love that she stays so engaged in life.  She continues to learn to watercolor.  She is active in volunteer work.  She helps with the felting and new clothing line.

We have had our rough moments over the years, being very different people, being mother and daughter.  But, she is an irreplaceable treasure to me.  And a reminder to keep moving forward, no matter what.

Friday, March 11, 2016


I've taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging this winter, due to working out new adventures in my head and heart.

Yesterday, everything settled into place.  Such a good feeling.

I'll be back soon (within a week), with updates and photos.  So excited!