... I'm just a guy who likes to make quilts ... and tell stories. Every day is an adventure as I try new things. Like the rest of life it seems, what can be done in quilt making is limited only by my imagination. What an incredibly exciting journey!
This blog continues on from my farm blog ... willowgardenshetlands.blogspot.ca ...
email ... firstname.lastname@example.org
Words Found On The Back of a Painting by a Non-Binary, Trans Artist
These words are written on the back of a painting that I purchased from a young artist, Spencer Hatch. They created Their piece using acrylic paint and crayons. The paining is as gentle and quiet as Spencer if Theirself.
I think that we have all known that feeling of not fitting in ... on a superficial level. Certainly there are time when I feel like I don't fit in. But I'm not Trans, and I don't identify as non-binary, in a binary world.
I can't even imagine what this 'wish' must be like for this young artist.
When I look at these words pencilled on the back of Their painting as a sort of secret message ... I weep.
When I started to work on this quilt, I wanted it to speak to that time before this Covid thing
… that time before when there was order, predictability, routine, and calm … that time before when we could touch, hug, and be physically close, without fear … that time before when we knew what to expect, and how to act.
But when I was finished this quilt, my notion had changed to include that time before … when I thought that I wasn’t racist ... when I thought that I was a better person than I am ... before I knew how much I had to learn, and grow and change.
At the start, I wanted to remember that time before with the hope that we’d someday return to that norm. Now, I know that, that time before is gone … as it should be … and that’s not a bad thing
This is my entry into the Wind and Water writing contest. I was totally honoured to be one of six shortlisted for the Fiction/Non Fiction Category
At Peace … a memory
I watched him sleeping as a slit of sunlight played in the room. His breathing was short and irregular. The cancer had spread to his lungs and every time he reverted to his normal rhythm of deep breaths, he grimaced with pain. Other than that, he seemed comfortable. I smiled as I flattened a lock of his hair and walked over to the window. Outside, the world sang with the re-birth of May. I opened the blinds a little more, to add warmth to the room. I didn't open them all the way. He needed sleep. His sisters were coming later. He wanted to be rested when they arrived. He wanted to have energy for a joyful goodbye. The lilacs outside the window were beginning to bloom. Lilac season was his favourite time of year. Somehow, it seemed fitting that he'd die when lilacs were in bloom. He grimaced and stirred in the bed. I took his hand, and let my other hand brush his cheek. His eyes fluttered open. They were vacant, as if he wasn't there, and I panicked. We had a deal. I would stay with him, touch him, talk to him, be with him, until his sisters came. Once they arrived, someone would stay with him until the end. But until they came, he had promised not to die. As I explained all of this to him, he smiled, squeezed my hand, and moved it lovingly to his chest. Even as his body was deteriorating, the part of his heart that he shared so generously, remained present and whole. He went back to sleep, and I studied his face. His skin was yellow. The cancer had spread to his liver. His cheeks, his forehead, his gums, his jaw bones were exaggerated, void of flesh, and draped tightly with skin. I smiled at the perfection of his moustache draped over his upper lip. He was cleanly shaven other than that. I had shaved him that morning, and then brushed his moustache with mascara to hide the grey. He was determined to look his best, so I had searched the cosmetic department at the local drugstore to find the colour I remembered his hair being on the day when we met and fell in love so many years ago. As we looked at my handiwork in the mirror, we knew that I had not been successful in my quest. We laughed knowing that both of his sisters would kiss him as soon as they arrived and that each would then sport that same coloured moustache. A slight gust of Spring blew into the room. The scent of lilac was strong, but it was underscored by the always present odour of death. The cancer in his bladder had grown and it was blocking his kidneys. They were starting to fail. Cancer is painful. Kidney failure is not. The thought of dying in pain terrified him so it was decided that he would die of kidney failure. That sour, almost rancid smell would be the only negative aspect of this plan. I smiled as I looked at him and decided that I would only smell the lilacs. There was a partial bottle of Boost on the table beside the bed. He found eating or drinking a chore. The cancer had spread to his oesophagus and swallowing was difficult. I carefully eased my hand out of his and quietly carried the bottle to the bathroom. We didn't need that adding to the sourness of the room. As the toilet flushed, I heard him call my name. He had been become more and more restless throughout the day. That morning he had stopped taking his medications. He wanted his mind to be clear and alert when his sisters came. I stayed with him all that day and we talked. We talked about when we first met and how we knew within minutes that this was the real thing. We talked about our hopes, our dreams, our challenges, our disappointments, and about how all these intertwined to create our life, our love. We talked about his realistic approach to life, an approach that I often described as negative. We talked about my optimistic approach, an approach that he often referred to as Pollyanna-like. And we talked about the point in his illness when he decided that my approach to life might serve him best; the point where he decided that even though he had no control over the fact that he was dying, he had total control over how he reacted to this fact. We didn’t talk about the point in his illness when I decided that he was right and that life sucked. When his sisters arrived, there were tears, hugs and kisses, followed by laughter as he pointed out their moustaches. I smiled and left them alone. This was their time. I could hear his smile through the murmur of their voices. This was the joyous time of goodbyes that he had waited for. I knew that it was going well. Laughter and love permeated from the room. Some time later, his younger sister came to get me. He wanted to see me. Alone. As I entered the room, the odour and staleness overwhelmed me. I went to open the window, but his voice stopped me. He told me that he was cold and tired, and not interested in the smell of Spring. He said that the pain was unbearable, and that he had no more smiles or politeness left in him. He told me that he was ready. He told me it was time for his nurse to come. I sat beside him and held his hand. My other hand rested on his chest, or at least on the bones that had once been his chest. His breathing was short, and his heartbeat seemed weaker. I knew that he wanted to smile, but he didn't. His voice became more breath than sound. Each word trailed off as it was spoken. He said this would be our last time alone. He reminded me that I had responsibilities; that I was to tell people not to cry; that I was to tell people to remember all that was good in their time with him; that I was to tell people that he had nothing left to complete in this life and he was at peace; and that I was to tell people to smile as they thought about his wit, his wisdom, and his incredible good looks. He told me that he loved me, and he thanked me for loving him The nurse came and administered his first dose of morphine. She left the shunt in and showed me how to inject pre-measured vials. She told me to call her when it was time. She wanted to be the one to 'pronounce'. An incredible calmness fell over him. He was no longer with us. Sometimes he had conversations with people in another place. His lips would twitch, his eyebrows would raise, and his hands were busy. All of this seemed pleasant for him and we knew that he would be happy there. We took turns sitting with him. We talked about our best memories, our favourite times, and what we loved most about our time with him. We played music that he loved. We gave him permission to go. I have no recollection of time passing, although I know that it did. I have no recollection of eating, although I know that I must have. I have no recollection of anything outside of that room, but I know that I fed and tended my sheep each day. Sometime during the third night, I was awakened by a voice calling my name. I went into the room. His sisters were trying not to cry. I sat beside him and held his hand as his chest fell for the last time. His sisters left us alone. I tried to close his eyes, but they wouldn't close. I held his hand until there was no warmth left. I didn't cry. We had a deal. Later that night, the nurse arrived and 'pronounced' him dead. She closed his eyes. Then, the undertaker came with his entourage of assistants, all dressed solemnly in grey mourning suits, whispering amongst themselves as they manoeuvred an awkward gurney covered with a red velvet zippered sack in, and out of the house. And then it was over. I stepped outside into the night and went to see my sheep. Ewes and lambs slept comfortably around the barnyard, each family in its own space. I knew that one ewe was missing. I found Lily inside the barn. Sometime during the night, she had delivered a lamb. I picked it up, its belly full and warm with milk. As I held that newborn lamb, waves of tears screamed from my body and I sobbed uncontrollably. When I was done, I put the frightened lamb down and made sure that she was settled with her mom. Sunrise was growing over the barn as I walked into the house. His sisters enveloped me in tear filled hugs. I told them not to cry. I told them to remember all that was good in their time with him. I told them that he had nothing left to complete and he was at peace. I left out the part about his wit, his wisdom and his incredible good looks. Someone had made coffee. I fixed myself a cup and sat down at the kitchen table. I had phone calls to make.
We have been swept into memories of water, mystery, and delight with the submissions to the 2nd annual Wind and Water Writing Contest! This year's theme of memory made for such lovely reading that our judges, Kelly Thompson and Dorian Widling, had a difficult task of picking those that they felt best handled the theme, while also using the skills a writer has available to them. After copious amounts of delightful reading, and careful consideration by our judges, we're pleased to announce the writers who made our shortlist in each category. Poetry: "Dunes by the Lake" by Andrew Binks "What I Must Remember" by Julie Turgeon Newman "Water Lovers" by Karole Marois "Some Thoughts About Our Past" by Arlene Vandersloot "Morning Swims" by Shauna Haugen "The Music in Their Words" by Brian L. Flack Fiction: "Swinging Sticks, Sliding Doors" by Nora-Lyn Veevers, Non Fiction "Renewal" by Kim Fedor, Non Fiction "Mona's Roadkill" by Andrew Binks, Fiction "Coyote Walk" by Sheila Hannon, "At Peace...A Memory" by Bill Stearman, Non Fiction "Hope, Reincarnated" by Annette Snow, Non Fiction Stay tuned for the winner announcement at the end of May! #countyarts
the last week of July, I was scheduled to teach a class on using words in quilts
at Halliburton School of Art and Design. I was also contracted to give the
Wednesday evening lecture that same week. But the College cancelled the summer
combined with being in social isolation, and many days of cloud, sent me into a
major negative spin for a while.
snapped out of it and decided that there is still life during quarantine, as
long as I keep a positive focus.
theme for my word quilt project for the class, was ‘Reclaiming Pride’. The idea
was to celebrate and own the many names that I’ve been called growing up gay; to
take words that were thrown at me as slurs and put downs, and present them as
most hurtful of the words, I am choosing to present in Braille or Morse Code.
My focus is on creating beauty from the hate.
the first one …
PRIDE: A Bed Spread’
left out the spaces between dots and dashes in the letters.
This quilt was juried into the Men at Work - and Play Exhibit at MQX in April.
I am thrilled! This quilt is incredibly important to me!
On November 28, 2017, in the House of Commons, Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau delivered an apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians.
It was an amazing speech.
I wept as I listened to his words and I wept again as I read and reread them repeatedly
in the making of this quilt.
With technical assistance from Carbon Art and Design, I had the text of that
speech printed on fabric in a few different sizes and colours. I then sewed the
fabric (the speech) into this quilt using a double disappearing 9 patch
The words appliqued onto the quilt are the last three sentences of the speech.
The faded letters in the last sentence are intentional, to represent the tears
of our PM as he ended the speech.
This speech is a defining moment for Canada, and a defining moment for me.
After decades of feeling less than, of living in fear, of believing that I
mattered less ... I knew that I was valued, accepted and OK in the eyes of my
again. And again. Until I can’t.
Fighting to stay
happy; to see the Light; to know that I’m OK.
Using words to
‘Life is good. Life is
Until I believe that
And I survive another
January is my worst
I live with
depression. Churchill referred to his depression as a ‘Black Dog’. I like that analogy. A dog can be controlled
and mine usually is, but in January, when the sun hides, I struggle.
In January I search
for a quilt to make that requires no thought and that will lift me from depression
with the joy that it creates.
Last year, it was
colourful charm packs that inspired me.
How simple – half square and quarter square triangles of colour combined
I wanted Deanna
Gaudaur’s quilting to accentuate the disjointed aspect of my Januarys, so, with
chalk, we drew in divisions between the areas and designed specific patterns
for her to use in each section. I love the result.
Panic attacks seem to have become a thing for me ... tightness in my chest, a shortness of breath, and a general panic about … basically nothing. It seems they often accompany ADHD and Depression. Mine are rare, and I'm dealing with them. But they are real. This is what mine feel like.
ADHD Shifts (and yes, that IS the colour of negative space for me)
I have been blessed to live my life with ADHD. But this quilt actually speaks to 'Age Related ADHD' ... you know, when you go to the kitchen for something, and come back an hour later having made cookies, cleaned the stove, dried the dishes ... but without the coffee that you set out to get in the first place! Age Related ADHD is equally real, but much less of a blessing. 😊
In an industry where most of the end users are women, a disproportionate percentage of the folks at the top are men. This quilt is a tribute to a few of the many successful women who influence my quilting world. These include; American fabric designer, Victoria Findlay Wolfe; Australian fabric designer, Kathy Doughty; my long arm quilter, Deanna Gaudaur; and Geraldine Rorabeck, who ran Picton Fabric World on Main Street in Picton for 42 years.
We have a responsibility to act on social injustices. Trans folk are among the most 'at risk' individuals in our community. With your voice, that can change. Speak up for trans rights. Be inclusive of your trans neighbours. Challenge transphobia. Spread love with your smile. We all share the same world. We all have the same basic needs. And we all have the same basic rights!
I hated Gym class, especially the change room. Guys parading around wearing only jockstraps, flicking each other with towels. They knew how to 'man up'. Me, changing in the darkest corner, not so much. For years, the jockstrap represented my fear that I'd never be a man. Now, I understand the myth of manning up, and I am man enough! The jockstrap has a new role in my community for play rather than sport. And I'm comfortable with that.
I am pretty excited to have a quilt accepted into the International Quilt Festival in Houston.
Here's the first part of the letter I received ...
"Congratulation! Sapphire Celebration!
Congratulations! Your quilt 'I Wish I Had a River' has been selected for inclusion in the special exhibit 'Sapphire Celebration'. This year was a difficult year for the jurors because so many beautiful quilts were submitted."
Her Neurals Line, which is much of this quilt is available in store or online Picton Fabric World
Designed and improv pieced while staying in our cabin overlooking the Huon Valley.
Going home … At the end of a day ... relaxing From being away … welcoming After leaving home … enveloping To hang out with friends … enjoying For holidays and celebrations … embracing To Mom's cooking … appreciating With new loves … adoring To aging loved ones … cherishing To parents who are failing … caring For their final days … wishing After they are gone … longing When it has been emptied … remembering Going home …
‘Rise Up: Celebrating the Women Who Teach, Inspire, Mentor, Motivate, and Encourage Me as a Quilt Maker’
Colourful fabric is Kathy Doughty’s Seeds and Stems Line. Background is Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Neutrals Line, which I purchased from Geraldine Rorbeck at Picton Fabric World. And fabulously quilted by Deanna Gaudaur Of Quinte Studios.