About Cynthia

I am a textile artist, embroiderer, wood burner, costumer, painter, and weaver who sees magic and change in the chain stitch and a well done Palestrina knot. I wish I had more control over the ways of the human world but alas, all I can control are my actions and my attitude in life and the consistency of my stitches. And sometimes even that doesn’t pan out as hoped and I must rip rip rip.

The Small Stuff Is HUGE

It doesn’t have to be Miss USA. It can be that first wood box you burned for your beloved nephew on a whim. It can be getting out of your bed and doing your exercises because they amputated both of your breasts and you will never be the same, forever changed against your will and you still have chemo and radiation to endure. It can be deciding not to kill yourself five minutes before the miracle even though you’ve been going for a miracle for 5 years. It can be anything you want it to be. Your goals don’t have to be like someone else’s and they don’t have to be larger than life or in public or even known by anyone other than yourself.

When I got sober, my mantra that got me through those early days wasn’t the serenity prayer. My prayer every day all day every minute was, “please God, let me be nice.” After 24 years I might be finally getting there. And I no longer need to share with anyone how that manifested in my day.

I *still* say that prayer and I *still* get cranky. Yesterday was one of those days. At 4:15 I told myself I was going to figure out the deeper meaning of Control Source while changing an Access report someone else built so it would be useful to me *before I left for the day at five.* I’d been struggling with this report off and on for 3 weeks. And at 4:50 I figured I it out so I can move on to the next step of editing the report. I didn’t accomplish all that I wanted to while my boss has been on vacation, nope, but I learned something about myself in my struggle with that Access report. I learned to cut myself (and others) some slack.

The small things are NEVER small.

Never, ever, give up. Even if it’s just deciding to stay alive one more fucking day even if you don’t know why.

P.S. By all means dream big too! Just don’t invalidate your “small” victories!

 

I’m in the Inspirations Magazine Newsletter!

I don’t know about you but I’ve been a fan of the Australia based Inspirations Magazine for well over 2 decades. It’s always worth the higher price. The articles, patterns, and photos are top quality and every issue I see something I want to make or that inspires me.

A couple weeks ago they notified me that they had a blurb about my work in their Newsletter #197. It’s not a huge piece and it only shows one of my pouches but it’s an honor to be there make no mistake. And the Game of Thrones edition to boot!

The blurb with my mushroom pouch is at the bottom of the newsletter under “What Are You Stitching?”
Mushroom Tarot Bag - Embroidered with wool, velvet, faux suede, and glass beads.

After The Ecstacy the Laundry

Ok, I stole that from Jack Kornfield but it’s quite good yes?

My husband and I got married in March of this year but waited until yesterday to have our celebration with family and friends old and new.

In a lovely outdoor space with bands playing on an old flatbed, we danced the night away. The vibes were so goooood. The weather was prefect, the red velvet cake delish, family and friends so beloved.

My heart swells with love.

This morning I pulled an oracle card. Maybe a little quiet laundry… and definitely a nap.

Solitude from the Sacred Traveler Oracle by Denise Linn

Thank You Mr. Wright

https://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Award-winning-principal-says-goodbye-to-Seattle-1118185.php

I’ve become more aware of my white privilege the past two years. It’s been a very inspiring and sometimes challenging time. I didn’t want to see it. But it was there. I became willing to look. I am willing to change. The challenes continue and I do better every time.

Obviously I grew up in a white middle class family. I was lucky in so many ways. Good schools, a wonderful childhood, violin lessons, some freedom. My parents were well educated.

My mother was a founding social worker in Seattle’s Head Start program under Dorothy Hollingsworth and I’m super proud of her. Dorothy ran into mom at the grocery store and said she was looking for a few good people and wanted mom. Heart bursting with pride.

Dad was the housing manager over the years for Rainier Vista, Holly Park, and Yesler Terrace. His boss was the city. I remember the day he came home and announced he quit because, after years of arguing, the city refused to install burglar alarms to prevent rape at Yesler Terrace. I didn’t know then that I’d be a rape survivor 3 times. I was so proud of dad for walking out on The Man. He just couldn’t take it any more. I’m acutely aware right now that dad was showing his privilege. The residents couldn’t leave.

I had daily reminders that helping others is necessary. That helping those who have no advocates is our duty and privilege.

Even with all that in my daily life I discovered last year that somehow I’d still been assimilated. I was crushed at first. I’m not kidding. I thought I’d escaped it but I hadn’t.

Since then I’ve been thinking of this man, Ben Wright. Mr. Wright was my 8th grade Black History teacher. I went to Meany, 5 blocks from my home. I’d been assaulted several times after school and on the playground by other girls for being a privileged white girl. I got beat up one day for calling pants slacks. I guess slack meant Super Cool and those girls were having none of it, confused as I was. I never told my parents about the assaults and stalking. How could I tell my mom that the adorable plaid poncho she made with love got me assaulted. I knew why it was happening. Anyway Meany was HARD. I met Kerry Collins there in orchestra. If not for Kerry and Mr. Wright I would have imploded.

Mr. Wright saw something in me. Not sure what, but I went home with his personal books on the black experience. I read them and returned them to get more. We talked about the story the books were telling. They weren’t the school history books, progressive as Meany was. This man gave me what I consider to this day a REAL education. His stern kindness when he caught me cheating on a test has never been forgotten. I still do things the right way because of it.

I’ve been thinking of him a lot this year. WWBWD? I knew his name wasn’t Richard but you can see perhaps how I got that name confused with Wright over the many decades since. A couple weeks ago my brain finally said BEN! So I searched and found this article.

Mr. Wright was the best teacher I’ve EVER had. He encouraged and supported me. He taught me things no other city school was teaching. He trusted me with his own library. It’s because of him that I’m working so hard to crush my privilege bias because I know America’s true shameful and also inspiring history

I thank the universe every day for Mr. Wright. A smart, educated, black man teaching Black History in an inner city school saw a smart, tiny, privileged, but open minded, white girl and took the time to bring her along. I like to think he saw something in me. That, despite my white privilege, I was one of the good guys. If not for him would I strive daily to be a better person? Perhaps. My parents showed me what good people do. But no one has influenced me so thoroughly as Mr. Wright.

I’d sure like to thank him.

Herbcrafter’s Tarot

This is not a review, just a shout out to my friends who might enjoy the deck.

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot (see teaser video below) arrived a few days ago (thanks for the birthday present Mom!). The cards are a semi gloss but feel matte so they don’t slide too much, just enough. The art is gorgeous as always. Swoon. Can’t wait to play with it a bit more.

I have Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot and I just knew this new deck, the Herbcrafter’s Tarot, would be fabulous. The art, the spirit, the soul, the diversity… gentle reverence for The Mama’s children all around.

Funny thing about me and tarot/oracle cards. About once a week (or less) I will pull a card after asking the question, “what do I need to know right now.” I don’t do pure divination. For me the cards are just a jumping off point for personal growth but not in a See The Future kind of way. It’s rather amazing how spot on they can be for what I need to be working on that moment. I’m not what is now known as a Card Slinger.

For decades I collected tarot/oracle decks. I had dozens of them. I have most of the decks with art by Will Worthington, my favs being the Druid Craft and Wild Wood tarot decks. I’m also a big fan of the work of Jesse Reisch and Stephanie Law so I have the decks they’ve worked on too. Mostly I use them for art inspiration so when I’m considering a new project I will pick several decks from my collection and start looking through the cards for the spark. Tarot and oracle cards are a great way to collect some artist’s work and they don’t take up that much room. Sometimes I just need some comfort or direction or a meditation topic. It’s all good.

In The Great Purge of 2018 I got rid of a LOT of decks. I recently got rid of a few more. Now I have about a dozen, maybe 15, instead of 60 or more and this one had to join the curated few. It made the cut. I love that Cannabis is Strength and why they chose it.

This deck is easily in my top five favorite decks.  Enjoy and swoon, looking forward to autumn and tea!

Thoughts On Practice and Passion

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
― Malcolm Gladwell

One of the reasons I am sharing about my process on this jacket on Facebook (okay okay, I’ll post it here too) is that I want to show you what my process looks like out loud. When I was teaching medieval clothing reproduction and embroidery classes so many students said things like:

  • “I could never do what you do…”
  • “How did you get so good?”
  • “That’s lovely but I’m not good at anything I try…”
  • “I’ve tried before but I wasn’t any good.”

OMG. Oh. My. GOD.

It was like they thought I sprung straight out of my mother’s womb ready to stitch. They sure seemed to think that was what they needed to do. Since my birth mother was also an artist I’m sure that’s part of the DNA makeup of who I am as an artist but it’s not everything by any means. We dabbled in the same mediums without ever knowing each other but I was no skilled embroiderer or seamstress or illustrator at birth.

I would tell them that I started young and had been practicing for well over 40 years. Now I can honestly say I’ve been doing this work for 55 years.  Holy Schnikes!!! 55 years! My first embroidery was done when I was 5 with a kit from Woolworth’s. It was ok. Pretty straight forward. And yet still adorable. Considering I did this in 1964 (!) I’m surprised it’s actually on real linen.

No matter what I told them, their own self esteem seemed to taunt them and haunt them. Sabotage them. Every once in a while I would get someone who would take what I shared with them and run with it and create their own beautiful garments and embellishments. That was such a win! I wanted them to find their stride, to find their passion, to see potential for themselves and their works.

What did I tell them?

  • Practice practice practice
  • Make trial pieces, prototypes, mock ups
  • Experiment, dare, fly outside the box but with a solid foundation
  • Make mistakes, learn how to fix them through necessity
  • Read about the art, as many different books as you can
  • Practice practice practice
  • Measure thrice, cut once
  • Find your passion, the thing you can’t wait to work on the first moment of me time you get
  • Remember that I’ve been working on this stuff for DECADES.
  • EFFING PRACTICE

So often that was the last I ever heard from them. They quit before they even got started. Guess it wasn’t really their passion. I hope they found out what that is.

I wanted to be a writer for years. My ex-husband told me once that I’d never write and I’d never quit smoking, he was such a Debbie Downer. He was trying to hurt me but he just made me mad and I left him for the last time that summer. I quit smoking in 1997 but before that I sold my violin and got a certificate in fiction writing from the UW. It wasn’t until I found the SCA and was sewing a beaded, polyester tunic with a zipper and breast darts (!!) and I couldn’t put it down, I anticipated the work all day while at work and couldn’t wait to get home, that I realized that if writing was TRULY my main passion I’d be doing it every day. Every. Day. I did eventually start writing every day but the point is we do every day what we are most passionate about. Turns out costumes and clothing and all things textile are my true passion.

You may be most passionate about embroidery or car engines or bass playing or reading. What is your passion? Do it every day. If you aren’t doing it every day (or almost every day, life is life), it probably isn’t your PASSION. It’s just something you like a lot but aren’t dedicated to.

AND THAT’S OK.

Try something else. Or keep at it. Maybe it’s your lack of skill and technique that is holding you back. What do you do about that? You PRACTICE. As I said, I didn’t come out of the womb knowing any of this. I was a beginner just like you. I still make mistakes, sometimes ruinous mistakes. I can still be afraid to cut into a luscious bit of yardage. You can do this if it’s what you want. I do some kind of art work, be it embroidery or knitting or drawing, every day. I no longer have to focus on just one thing because I’ve been doing all of it long enough to be able to go with the flow.

I thought writing, music, reading, drinking, fashion, drawing, designing houses, were all my passions. Turns out I like them an awful lot (except the drinking) but textiles are my passion. If it has to do with textiles, I can’t help myself. I must create something. I do it fairly often and except for the occasional dry spells (I’m trying to get out of one right now), I do some kind of textile work every day. The dry spells are necessary. It can be exhausting to keep at a passion for a long time without a rest to let things flow again and coalesce.

When people think what I do is sew I laugh. This jacket is a perfect example. I can tailor the heck out of something and it will fit perfectly etc. This jacket used to fit well once. With a linen pirate shirt and a velvet corset and 36D breasts under it. It doesn’t fit any more. It never will. The embroidery makes it almost impossible to alter because it covers seams and areas that need cutting. I don’t really care for sewing, I consider it a necessary evil, but alterations? I frikking hate alterations. They must happen if you want something to continue in your life but Sewing Is Not My Passion. I will put alterations in the Punishment Pile and there they will languish until I’m in the mood. I just happen to be in the mood right now. Sort of. The navy wool jacket does fit and doesn’t have all the embroidery I had planned for it getting in the way. So it’s going to be the work in progess, not the turquoise. Embroidery and velvet ribbons and metal are in its future. Yum!

So why am I writing about the jackets right now? I want you to hear me thinking out loud. I’m not asking for input or praise or solutions from you. I’m trying to show you how the thought process of a piece happens. It’s very organic. You must listen for the whispers. That it’s full of twists and plot turns. That there will be mistakes, sometimes major mistakes. I’m not even kidding. I’m not looking for you to tell me my work is beautiful although praise is always welcome. Who doesn’t like praise? Who’s a Good Girl? I’m not looking for support to finish although support in general is very healthy. I want you to see that the finished piece that I show you didn’t just manifest perfectly. It was a process, sometimes a long process fraught with angst. It’s like giving birth. The end result is usually fabulous but the process is messy and full of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. There were times I had to rip stuff out, sometimes many times. Times I had to erase. Or in some rare cases, throw away. You don’t usually get to see all the work in the background that I had to do to get it to a place where I could show it off. I’m letting you into my world.

So. I’m not upset about the jacket not turning out the way I envisioned. It is what it is. It’s been sitting in my closet for a decade, for a reason, sadly being ignored, not sparking joy. All will be well even if it ends up in pieces for something else. I don’t need help. What I would love is for you to see my process one day at a time and think to yourself, “man, I saw that coming” or “maybe I *could* do that too.” I would love it if you said to yourself, “If this woman can make that mistake and continue on to the end, maybe I can make mistakes too and still succeed” or “maybe not finishing isn’t the worst thing, maybe wasting my time is worse.”  I’d like you to see how I think myself out of a mistake, how I can be so pleased when it works out but not dismayed when it doesn’t. I’d like you to see the real hard work and think to yourself that maybe you too can get past that to the final beauty.

If you haven’t found your passion yet, keep looking, it’s there. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. If something turns out not to be what you want (I will never play bass), try something else on your Wouldn’t That Be Cool List. You should have a list. Lots of lists.  Never give up. Keep trudging. We all have creative desire in us. The one thing we are all born with is potential and a creative spark. If I believed in God and the concept that we are all divine, I’d say that we are all gods with the ability to create. You just have to find out what you want to give birth to. Sometimes that is literal and your passion is being a fabulous mommy or daddy. It’s ok if you are someone who loves to clean a house and gets great satisfaction out of creating a warm and loving home. A warm and loving home is one of the most important things we can have in life. It matters. Some people totally can’t do that nor do they want to. Thank goodness for YOU. You’d be surprised how diverse the field is for passion. It’s all good. Life is short, do what you love, and don’t let anyone tell you it should be something else. Remember, the only person you truly need to please is you. When it flows over into the lives of others, there’s nothing like it, even if it’s just a perfect grilled tuna on rye. If you’ve had one, you know that’s no small thing.

We can all have passion and creativity and contentment in a job well done. Practice brings that out in you. Every. Day.