Up in smoke

The bed frame for my bed ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’ has been stored in a friend’s barn since the last time it was shown in public, which was 2012.  It was at the Festival of Quilts that year and also in my home/studio in Devon Open Studios.

The only other time it had been shown was in 1999.  That was the year I graduated from the Chippendale International School of Furniture.  It was part of my end of the year exhibition of work.

Well, the barn caught fire in August of this year.  The wooden interior and all of its contents were destroyed.   Luckily, all of the quilts and bedding are stored safely at home.

Fortunately, the fire stayed in the barn and none of the dwellings nearby caught fire. My friend took this mesmerizing video.

I went to survey the damage a couple of days later.  The barn had been 2 storied.  The orange circle is roughly where the bed frame and mattress were stored.


We couldn’t go into the structure until yesterday because it was too unstable.  We went and sifted through the charcoal and ash.  I recovered a couple of pieces of charred wood from the frame and the metal supports that held the mattress.

People who know about my bed are more shocked than I about the fire.  I’m not quite sure why I feel so detached about it.   Part of it is the grieving process, which goes in stages.  Part of it is that once I finish a piece of work, it’s behind me.
Enter the Forest of Dreams tells a very deep story about my romantic life, but it has never been a part of my life.

One of my friends summed it up when she likened it to hearing that a distant friend has died.  Someone you were close to at one time, but had lost touch with.

I’m planning to use some of the charcoal to draw some pictures of the bed and about the loss of the frame.  One of the pieces will be preserved as an artifact.  Perhaps one day, I’ll make a different bed using the metal supports and other materials.  It is all for me to dream on.

Finding order in chaos

Since lockdown I have been mostly at home, except for my daily walks around the neighborhood.   Home is a safe place and we have pretty much cleaned, tidied and re-organized every room and storage space which is very satisfying!

Quite a few people have said to me ‘This is great for you!  You’re an artist.  You will have so much time to make artwork!!’  But I haven’t really had the energy or headspace to concentrate on making very much new artwork.  What has been keeping me grounded and satisfying my artist self has been organizing all of the beautiful colored art supplies in my studio.


I have a LOT of fabric, collected over 25 years of quilting.  It’s been sorted by color and piled into big plastic boxes.  It was so great to dump each box onto my studio floor, fold each piece and arrange them by hue or tone before putting them back into the box.  I cut some strips of cardboard to divide them into rows which should help keep them tidy.  I also got re-acquainted with my fabric, thought about the quilts that they are now part of, and have had some initial thoughts about future work.  I have been enjoying the red, black and white palette that has comprised so much of my work for the past few years, but now feel ready to work with more colors.



Likewise, I sorted my sequins.

One of the most exciting things has been getting a rainbow’s worth of embroidery thread.  I’ve not been much of a hand embroiderer/sewer over the past 25 years, preferring the speed of using my sewing machine.

One of the online courses I have been co-tutoring is Slow Stitch for Wellbeing.  After we check-in, I  speak to the group about a different topic each session:  the philosophy of the Slow Stitch Movement, the importance of working with our hands, wabi-sabi, and letting go of perfection.  Then my teaching partner shows us a hand stitch or two.  Finally, we all stitch silently together.

I found a very exciting tutorial on how to label plastic floss cards!  Every day for about a week I spent time winding thread onto my bobbins and sorting them by color.  So satisfying and rewarding!

I am also a core artist in the Quarantine Quilt Project.  I made a 7″ square which represents feelings, responses and/or experiences to the pandemic.

I arranged 16 squares of different colored fabric onto a grey square and slow stitched over most of them.  The Anchor thread label represents how I have been grounded and anchored through the process of sorting and organizing my fabric and art supplies over the past several weeks.  The birds represent Steve and I, unbound and unfettered, safely enclosed but with space to fly out when we’d like to.

I hope that each of you are finding whatever you need to get you through this time in the best way possible.

Summer’s house

Summer has built her house around me
with green fern walls
and a sky roof woven
from criss-crossed bird flight.
– Melinda Schwakhofer