Seeing the world through Leo’s eyes

We have been blessed with nine grandchildren, seven boys and two girls, each special in their own unique way.  Only 5 year old Leo has been given the label “special” as in  “special needs” by the official label makers so popular in today’s educational system.

Leo is a child with eyes that absolutely sparkle with delight over things that others see as mundane.  To this Nana, his love of life is a beautiful sight to behold. He has always been fascinated by gadgets and will spend long periods of time studying the workings of his latest fixation.  I remember so well the afternoon I spent watching him opening and closing an umbrella, countless times, each time observing so carefully how the push button worked and how the spokes slid up and down the shaft.  Each opening and closing was as exciting to him as the first time.

Maybe because I see some of me in him, the joy he finds in the oddest places, I’ve longed to better understand the workings of this little boy’s brain.  What do you see, Leo, when you look at this world of ours?

Leo is in kindergarten and, like most kid’s his age, art class in October means creating a pumpkin.  Leo gleefully presented his Mommy with his artwork.  Mommy’s first reaction was  “Leo, it’s a giraffe!”  Leo gave her a look of “What are you, blind?”  His reply,  “It’s a pumpkin!” May I present…..Leo’s magnificent pumpkin.

Leo's Pumpkin

Leo’s Pumpkin

Through the creation of this wondrous work of art, my insight into Leo’s world has improved tenfold. Yes, Leo, my darling grandchild, you are special, indeed.





The Rainbow Zebra

Some 35 years ago, while sitting in a doctor’s office, I saw a plaque with the words “How glorious it is, and how painful, to be the exception.” For whatever reason those words touched something in me.  I jotted them down and slipped the  note into my wallet. Through the years I changed wallets many times, and each time, the note was relocated along with my other important documents..

Fast forward to a few years ago when I was part of a fat quarter exchange at my guild meeting.  We each chose a brown paper bag containing a mystery fat quarter with the instruction to use whatever we found in the bag in a quilt to be brought to a future meeting. Unlucky me!  My bag contained a kid’s story book panel entitled The Rainbow Zebra. Holy moly, talk about a challenge!

Out of the blue, I remembered the quote from the plaque. Could there be a more perfect example of those words than a rainbow zebra who wanted nothing more than to fit in? Having always lived my life outside the box, the zebra’s story was also mine.  That fabric panel that had seemed like such a challenge, combined with those words from so long ago, told my story perfectly.  This simple child’s story opened my eyes.

The rainbow zebra’s words read “Oh, why can’t I be striped like you? I want to be black and white, too.” I so wanted that zebra to know that he was exceptional because he was different.  I am exceptional because I am different. Being different didn’t make him less of a zebra or me less of a person.  I added the words “Revel in your oneness!” as a message to myself.


The Rainbow Zebra

Living Life Outside the Box




Best Lesson Learned

Last week I spent two wonderful days with the women of Q.U.I.L.T.  of Delmar, NY.  I had been invited to teach two workshops and to present a trunk show/lecture at their guild meeting.

Back in the late 1970s, as a brand new quilter,  I had been a member of this guild. Last Friday,some 35 years later, as I stood facing a standing-room only crowd of 200 plus, I couldn’t help but revel in the fact that I was now the guest lecturer.  How the heck did that happen?  Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined such a thing.

I remember standing with shaky knees and trembling voice as I raised my first piece during the guild meeting’s “Show and Tell” so many years ago.  I was so unsure of my creative abilities.  What if everyone laughed at me? How critical would they be of my first feeble attempts at quilting?  Would I go home mortified?

I brought to last week’s presentation one of my very early quilts, Stars and Stripes Forever, made for son Ric’s 21st birthday.

Made in 1982

Made in 1982

I originally showed the quilt at a guild meeting in 1982. One of the founding members, whom I so admired as a quilt maker, had made my day when she commented “Wow, I’m going to be collecting you some day!” Thank you, Shirley Hedman, for giving me a glorious memory that has lasted a lifetime.

How did that once very timid young woman now stand with such confidence, minus the shaky knees and trembling voice, unafraid of criticism and hoping everyone WOULD laugh along with her as she told of her journey as an art quilter?  It really is a very simple answer.  I know who I am and I like me. It is one of the perks of old age. I have a new favorite quote…  BE YOURSELF. EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN.  It sure has worked for me.

Nancy at QUILT Delmar meeting

Nancy at QUILT Delmar meeting

Autumn on Trout Lake

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live on a lake bemoan the ending of summer.  Why does the season seem to fly by when there is still so much fun to be had?  Please….just one more swim, one more kayak ride, one more afternoon of fishing with the kids, one more day of lounging on the dock doing nothing more important than watching the ducks swim by. What we always seem to forget is that the best is yet to come.   TA! DAH!

Autumn on Trout Lake

Autumn on Trout Lake

It is on days like today that I wish I had the ability to paint. With colors that seem surreal,  autumn has arrived on Trout Lake.  I’m feeling very blessed, indeed.  To quote my buddy, T.K., “How can anybody see this and not believe in God?”

A Scrap Heap Discovery


OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve been in a rut. Absolutely nothing came to mind in the creative department over the past few months. I was desperately searching for a new idea, something to excite the artist in me. Little did I know that I would find it in the scrap heap of the new house going up next door. I wandered over to the building site hoping there may be some discarded bits of Tyvek that I could play with. No such luck. The builder was using a very different looking product to wrap the house. Darn!

I dejectedly brought a small piece home and decided to play with it anyway because, truthfully, I had nothing better to do. Since Fall is very much in the air around here, with foliage beginning to change colors, I decided to try my hand at making leaves. I took out my array of acrylic craft paints and began to dab bits of fall colors on the “canvas” before me. I gathered a few fallen leaves and placed them on the painted surface. I then roughly cut around them. Once that task was completed, I took the painted “leaves” to my ironing board, placed them between two layers of parchment paper and ironed them using a cotton setting. Voila! Instant gratification! They gloriously shriveled and curled and melted. Nancy’s leaves were a beautiful sight to behold! Not as good as God’s, but close. Well, that certainly was fun. The juices started flowing. What next?

Nancy's leaves

I have, for quite some time, been intrigued by life under the sea. As a designer for The DMC Corp., I have been asked through the years to create many fish related art quilts. This required my doing several Google searches looking for scenes from the ocean floor to inform and inspire me. Using my memory of those images, I began to paint and free-cut like a madwoman. From paint brush to iron I went, back and forth,  creating little bits of sea life, or my version of it anyway. Once I had acquired quite a pile of pieces, I began to assemble my seascape. Finally satisfied with the arrangement, I placed tulle over the entire scene and pressed once again. Much to my delight, my method worked! The melted pieces meshed with the tulle and I now had a scrap heap work of art!

Melted Seascape

Thanks to the powers that be,  I’m up and running again.

“Someday” is here.

closeup of bumble bee

closeup of bumble bee

At a meeting of our fiber art group a couple of years ago, the word “flight” was suggested as our next challenge.  Flight of the Bumble Bee immediately flashed  through my brain.  I played with the idea for awhile and eventually went in another direction. That bee has buzzed around in my head ever since.

Winter is my time to create art since it’s too cold to do anything else. Housebound equals productivity in my world.  Except for the sound of the occasional ice fisherman’s auger, distractions are few when you live on a dirt road in the woods in winter.

Deciding to stop that incessant bee buzzing, I finally tackled Flight of the Bumble Bee.  It began with a search for the sheet music.  Once found, I printed the pages on treated fabric and created my background which, once layered, I quilted in a honeycomb pattern.
Thanks to Google images, I found my bee.  Over several days, through trial and error, my version of a bumble bee was created.  Searching for just the right materials to get the look I wanted resulted in a very messy studio….but my bee looks good!  A day of cleanup is a small price to pay for another check mark on my to-do list. Bonus….. the brain-buzzing has ceased!

Flight of Bumble Bee

Flight of Bumble Bee

The Wonders of Nature

2013-12-17 09.25.22Today brought us the coldest day in a very long time, a brutal -8 degrees when I awoke this morning. While eating breakfast I noticed an especially beautiful frost formation on the window overlooking the table. I instantly knew I would have to attempt to capture the intricate beauty of this mini ice forest in a photograph. But how?

Standing in the frigid cold, I first attempted to shoot from outside the window with little or no success.  Since I was photographing a window, I also captured everything inside that window, notably, my kitchen.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  Shooting from the inside out gave me similar results except for the background which was now my deck. The solution was to provide a solid colored backdrop.

I draped a large piece of cardboard with black fabric and placed it against the outside of the window.  Success.  Using a macro lens and no flash, I then placed my lens against the inside of the window and shot at least 20 photos from many angles.  After uploading them, I was very pleasantly surprised with the results.  There was a certain amount of interior reflection on the window which I had tried to control with little success.  However, those reflections added so much to the photos. The sun/moon image is, in fact, the reflection of a light some 15 feet away from the window.  It made the perfect moon glow for my icy forest.

By closely observing my surroundings, I am constantly amazed by the wonders of nature.  There is so much beauty to see if we take the time to really look.  What an artist Mother Nature is!  Click on the image below to see for yourself.

2013-12-17 09.12.34

The Missing Piece

detail Adirondack Splendor


Latest ARTAA challenge “Adirondack Flora and Fauna”….rapidly approaching due date……what to do…..what to do?  Brain, don’t fail me now.  I need an idea, fast!

My idea finally came after a visit to the local thrift shop.  Among the “treasures” was a nicely framed completed jig saw puzzle.  Tacky? Perhaps.  Inspiring? To me, yes. Having grown up pre-technology, our formal dining room table almost always, except when company was  expected, held the latest puzzle.  Evenings were spent, not in front of a TV, but finding those elusive pieces to complete the picture on the box.

I decided to create my own “picture on the box” in fabric.  Time to dig through the bin marked “Favorites”, those “special” pieces I was saving for someday.  Somewhere in that pile I knew I would find just the right fabric.   My eye caught sight of a remnant I have held onto for at least 10 years.  It had been auditioned many times, only to be put back in the bin.  Its time had finally come. It had Adirondack flora written all over it!

After figuring out exactly where I was going with the stitching, all the while remembering the jig saw puzzles of my youth, the memory of the one missing piece came back to me. Nothing was more maddening than searching for days for a particular piece, only to discover that is was, in fact, missing.

While it added to the degree of difficulty, having that one open spot in my lovely autumn landscape was worth the extra effort.  It’s the touch of whimsy that’s become my signature.  It also solved the dilemma of the “Fauna” part of the challenge .  You don’t see any fauna?  It must have been on the missing piece.

May I present…..Adirondack Splendor (1 piece missing). 24″ x 36″

Adirondack Splendor (1 piece missing)



Designing VORTEX (The Senility Test)

Twisted Octagon Log Cabin

Twisted Octagon Log Cabin Block


As you can probably assume by now, I am very much into working in that Black/White/Touch of color theme which began with an ARTAA (my fiber arts group) challenge. This is piece number three and the ideas are still flowing.  I fear another obsession coming on. Yikes!

ARTAA was asked to do some demonstrations at the Adirondack Museum’s Fall Fest in early October.  I decided to bring along my ruler and graph paper and show our visitors how to draft a twisted log cabin block.  As an overachiever, a simple square wasn’t enough for me.  I designed twisted triangles, equilateral, isosceles and even scalene triangles with a twist.  No, I am not as intelligent as this post makes me out to be.  I had to Google triangles to find out what the various shapes were called.  The last math class I had was in 1955, far too long ago for me to remember.

With a little help from hubby and a compass, together we figured out how to draft a hexagon and even a pentagon which required a formula.  As my enthusiasm and my confidence grew, I decided to go really BIG.  Why not a twisted octagon?  As I sat at the museum with my pattern taking shape, I made a discovery.  Men, who usually walk quickly past a group of women quilting, actually stopped to check out what I was doing.  It looked complicated which they found quite interesting.

I came home with the completed pattern and wondered if this old brain could actually figure out how to piece this puzzle.  “To ward off senility, challenge your brain” is the advice given to senior citizens.  If completing a crossword puzzle was considered helpful, what would completing this sucker do for me.

I am very proud to report that this old lady passed the senility test.  Crazy, yes.  Senile, no. Starting in the center, round and round I sewed seeing my vortex take shape with each finished row. I completed the piece in a week, something of a record for me.  I see me getting sucked into the quilted whirlpool-making business.  Once I figured out what to sew and where to sew next, this was actually fun.

I titled the piece Vortex and hung it on point which made it even more interesting to my eye.




Journey into the Brain of an Art Quilter

Hornet's NestI am fortunate to live on a beautiful small lake in the Adirondacks.  One of my favorite pastimes is kayaking.   There is nothing quite as soothing to a frenzied mind as the almost effortless cruising over the water in a kayak.  One gets a much more intimate connection with the lake and its surroundings while sitting at water level traveling at whatever speed one chooses.

A couple of weeks ago I went down to the lake for a little R & R.  It was a beautiful day with the lake as smooth as glass.  Perfect, except for the fact that my kayak was tied to a low lying maple tree which had suddenly “grown” a huge, watermelon sized hornet’s nest.  Masterfully constructed around the  branch which held my kayak’s tether, there was no way I could retrieve my vessel without suffering the wrath of an army of angry hornets.  No kayaking today.

Though dismayed and disappointed, as an artist I was intrigued by the construction of this exceptionally beautiful sphere.  Getting as close as I dared, my brain went into overdrive. The intricately “woven” surface was a wonder to behold!  What extraordinary raw materials for an art project!

Exactly WHEN would these wildly buzzing creatures abandon this dwelling?    As an “outside the box” art quilter, I can’t wait to turn this wondrous “thing” into an art quilt. How sturdy is it? Can it be sliced?  Can it be fused or sewn? The HOW and the WHAT IFs are keeping me awake nights.

Should I be successful in eventually retrieving this true work of art, I’ll share the results of my adventure in future posts. Does anyone have an extra Epi-pen they’d like to contribute to the cause?