Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Here's a close up of a turtle I've been working on. Turtles are one of my favorite subjects to quilt. This one is maybe 20 inches long, but I see a very large turtle quilt in my future.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Crucian Funeral

Terence, the husband of one of the cleaning women who works here at the villa, died of a heart attack and yesterday we attended his funeral, our first on the island. Because they were from St. Lucia and had relatives all over the world, the funeral was scheduled two weeks after his death, but this seems to be the norm. It's also the norm for his obituary to run in the paper with the names of every relative and friend of the deceased rather than an actual biography of his life.

The viewing was scheduled for 10 a.m. at the church, with mass at 11 a.m. We arrived promptly at 10 to find people milling about, but there was no casket and no family to be seen. Not knowing the protocol, Bob and I sat and waited quietly for something to happen. About half hour later, someone walked in with a box of programs, but rather than distributing it along the pews, everyone clustered around the person and took the programs from her hand. Bob got one and so we sat engrossed reading a beautiful booklet with pictures of Terence and loving messages from his family and friends.

Suddenly there was wailing just a few pews behind us. We looked back to find that the casket had been brought in and placed near the entrance. The family was crying before the body while everyone else was jockeying for position. The funeral director attempted to get everyone to form a line, but it was nearly impossible. We waited until things settled down and we were able to come up to the family and pay our respects.

We couldn't stay for the entire service, but we left moved by the love and the grief for this kind man who knew how to enjoy life. Maybe the logistics of grieving are different from place to place, but the grief is the same.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


My time at the studio this weekend has paid off in a great way. I've been itching to make a quilt about corals but I've found them daunting at best. Corals are a fabulous riot of shapes and colors, a true feast to the eye. In this sense they are a perfect subject for a vibrant quilt. But distilling these amazing structures into simple two-dimensional forms without sacrificing their essence was a challenge that kept me awake at night.

This weekend I skipped happy hour and stayed home to study corals. I went online and looked at hundreds of images of reefs, in broad landscapes and in captivating close-ups, tying to understand something new about them. I didn't know what it was that I needed to understand, but I allowed my intuition to guide me until I knew I'd gotten it, even if it was a feeling that couldn't be vocalized.

I went to the studio on Sunday and willfully emptied my head of all the colorful coral images in my head so that I could cut out simple shapes. The image on the left is what I came up with.

Then I went to my fabric stash and found the perfect fabrics to begin building my own coral reef. Here's the stash, and the riot of color can now begin.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Not Really a Sacrifice

The Good Hope Art Exhibit is now a month away and as I look at all the things that I want to complete for that show and the time that I have left, some anxiety is setting in. My great friend John W. has been on island now for a week and will be here for a few more days. Bob's brother Alex has also just arrived to be with us for a week. It's great to see them and to share time with them. Add to that the temptation of the many high-season activities now in full swing, and time gets tighter and tighter.

John says, "Don't worry about it, you work well under pressure." But that's just it. I don't want to do this under pressure. I don't want to be pulling all-nighters in order to complete a project. I feel that everything I do right now is creating a prototype for my work as an artist, and I don't want this prototype to be laden with stress simply because I didn't prioritize properly.

So tomorrow I'll skip the planned hike and an afternoon of live music at Rainbow Beach in order to put in a good day at the studio. I'll sacrifice some of the fun now, but I'll feel a whole lot better later!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Birthing a Quilt

Birthing a quilt is a traditional method of finishing the edges of a quilt without using a binding strip around the border. In effect you layer together the quilt top, the batting and the back so that they are inside out. Then you sew the edges together leaving an opening big enough to stick in your fingers, grab the corners and turn the quilt right sides out.

But for me, "birthing a quilt" better describes my experience at the studio yesterday. A new quilt idea began brewing in my head sometime last week. I could see flashes in my mind of what it might look like, but the picture wasn't complete. It was like watching a movie preview without understanding a coherent plot for the story.

It was a busy weekend with responsibilities that kept me away from the studio for a few days, but the fleeting images kept flashing. Finally yesterday I was able to spend the day at the studio and I couldn't get there fast enough. I still hadn't gotten the whole picture, but I knew it would come if I just sat there in my creative space for a little while.

It took all morning. I leafed through some diving magazines with photos of sea life waiting for some image to trigger the ideas in my head. Then I saw my sketch book and leafed through that, and that's when it happened. An old sketch came to life and coalesced with all the images I'd been seeing on the magazines, and I had the plot for my new quilt.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quakes and Volcanoes

On Monday the volcano on Montserrat shot a cloud of ash more than five miles into the sky, signaling a warning call for anybody still left on Montserrat. For us higher up the island chain here on St. Croix it signals a few days of haze and ashen residue on rooftops and windows. For me it signals allergies with lots of sneezing.

This photo is a view from our home. You can see the green lush vegetation, Salt River Bay in the middle of the photo, and way in the distance on the far right of the horizon line, there's a faint trace of Buck Island. It is faint thanks to the Montserrat haze, because otherwise we would have a very clear view of the island.

Yesterday the local paper reported the news from Montserrat alongside an article about a quake that rattled the Virgin Islands on Sunday morning. It had a magnitude of 4.4 but we apparently slept through it. What astounded me was the report that in the 10 days of this year, we've already experienced 22 quakes!

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Project 365

My friend Maria fell off the blog wagon for a while at the end of last year, busy as she was selling her fabulous jewelry during the holiday rush. But now she's back with renewed vigor as she is participating in something called Project 365. The idea is that you take a photo every day for 365 days. I can see how the creative juices can start flowing with this simple project, and as Maria has always been a great source of inspiration in my life, she's done it again!

I picked up my camera today and took a photo of Oscar, one of the many lizards that hangs out at our house. While I fumbled with the camera getting it to focus properly, Oscar just watched me and waited, not minding the flash or my getting the camera right up to his face.

I can't promise to participate in Project 365 because I'm a very bad photographer and I can tell it may become a source of unwanted stress. But Maria has inspired me to take more photos because there is so much beauty here that it simply begs to be photographed, even by a bad shot like me!


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Of Noise and Crowds

Belatedly I got into the Festival spirit with thoughts of possibly going to the Adult Parade and taking pictures, but then work responsibilities got in the way and I was busy all day on Saturday getting the villa ready for new guests and there was no time to party. I wasn't too heartbroken about it, in the same vein that I was never upset about missing New Year's Eve in New York City's Times Square when I lived 20 minutes away.

Noteworthy events though these may be, I've just never been attracted to places full of noise and crowds. For this reason, whenever Bob and I travel, we schedule as little time as possible in big cities, and gravitate towards remote locations. It's also actually one of the main reasons that I so enjoy living here on St. Croix.

Barring the din of the Christmas Festival, there's enough going on here to keep you busy and interested, but not so much as to numb the senses. There is one "highway" here that's 7 miles long. Everywhere else on island, speed limit is about 35 m.p.h. or less. There are no high rises, no Starbucks, no Barnes & Nobles, no mega shopping centers. Our biggest department store is Kmart. This place is quiet and unhurried, and that's about the speed I want to enjoy my life.

So I missed the Festival this year, but here's a gallery of photos taken by a local photographer. This gallery is last year's parade, but you get the idea.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Crucian Festival

Locals celebrate the Christmas season in style here on St. Croix with a Festival of organized events that lasts an entire month. A "Festival Village" is erected at a local park in Frederiksted and every night there is food, amusement park rides and musical performances with dancing till the wee hours. Music includes Latin, Reggae, Calypso and Quelbe (the local brand of Calypso that is a favorite of mine).

There is also the Prince, Princess and Duchess Pageant, followed by the Calypso competitions. The Calypso Juniors are for kids and the Calypso Monarchs for adults. Everyone sings and acts out calypso songs that range from the patriotic to stinging political satire, all received with howls of laughter and cheers from the audience.

The Festival also hosts the Miss St. Croix and Mr. St. Croix Pageants, King and Queen of the Bands, Water Sports Day, Latin and Quelbe Cultural Dances, a Food and Crafts Fair and a few Tramps. Tramps traverse town led by a Quelbe band playing out of the back of a truck followed by a crowd on foot dancing in the streets. Yesterday morning there was J'ouvert, the traditional tramp that began at 5 in the morning!

But the biggest events are the two parades that complete the Festival. Today there will be the Children's Parade and tomorrow the Adult's Parade. In attendance will be all the bands that participated in the festival; floats; colorful dancers with feathers and glitter galore; the winners of all the competitions including Miss and Mr. St. Croix plus the Prince, Princess and Duchess, King and Queen of the Bands and the winners of the Calypso Contests. The parades begin at 10 a.m. and are still going at sundown.

Last year I was keen to participate in as many events as possible. This year I've been so focused at the studio that the festival has gone unnoticed. In the unlikely event that I go to the Adult Parade this year, I'll bring a chair and ear plugs because it is long, crowded and incredibly loud.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Olga and Jellyfish

Here's a photo of me (seated) and Olga at the studio. Olga took the picture because she's been telling her sister about her work with me, but it's pretty hard to describe it if you've never seen an art quilt before. A picture being worth a thousand words applies here.

On the other hand, I've found that pictures of quilts never do justice to the real thing. There's something powerful about being up close to the fabric and the quilting patterns, and the quality of light on the colors that creates the experience of enjoying an art quilt. These things get lost in the photos somehow. Having said that, below is a photo of the jellyfish quilt that I've been working on. There is some hand stitching still to be done on the border and Olga is helping me with that.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

The New Year Found Me Dancing

Last night the moon had a multi-colored aura and the air an indigo hue that was simply magical. It was a gorgeous night to celebrate the new year here on St. Croix. We kept to our plan and after a homemade dinner, we went to Chicken Charlie's Roadhouse. Outlaw Bressie James played well, as usual, but the Red Bull on ice didn't entirely take away the sleepiness that came over me after a hearty slice of cheesecake. It took Tutto Bene's disco party for the cobwebs to clear. We wasted no time hitting the dance floor and getting down with James Brown, ABBA, and the Village People. We welcomed 2007 dancing to the Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight. Later, we drove by a crowded Club 54 but opted to go home instead, vowing to return to Tutto Bene's monthly disco party very soon.

As far as New Year's Eve celebrations go, it was a good one, considering that, historically, I am one nudge away from going to bed early and foregoing the entire hubbub. The new year found me dancing, and that's exactly how I want to spend 2007: dancing with simple joy over victories big and small. I want to enjoy life for what it is, without imposing elaborate expectations on every moment. I want to be grateful for all the blessings and stop wasting energy sweating the small stuff. There it is, my wish list for 2007. Happy New Year!

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