Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Simple Experiment

Jacq's Girls at Eastern Market

This is a picture of my table at Eastern Market on Sunday, November 25, 2012. There are 3 ballerina dolls, one on the left wearing a pink tutu, one on the right wearing peach, and one off-center wearing turquoise. The turquoise-wearing doll is blonde.

I made all three dolls at the same time and started displaying them together. The first time I set them out, I positioned them all toward the front, but Turquoise was near the middle. Little girls were immediately drawn to her. "She's so pretty!" they would say, and "I like this one best."

Mothers of all colors struggled with a child-appropriate way to address what seemed to be an affinity for the blonde doll over the others. "But you like pink so much, sweetie!  Let's look at the pink one," was a popular diversion. The look on all of their faces was summed up by what one mother whispered to me: "She can have any doll she wants, but does it have to be that one?"

Was this an echo of the Clarks' famous doll experiments? These were tests conducted in the 1940s in which children were shown a white doll and an African-American doll and were then asked which doll they would rather play with. The white doll was preferred by both white and African-American children.

There had not been any clear preferences before I set out the blonde ballerina, and blonde hair brings its own issues. Barbie is blonde. Cinderella is blonde. The "pretty" girls on TV are frequently blonde. Women spend millions of dollars a year dyeing their hair blonde. And in the midst of this, mothers are trying to teach their daughters that brown hair and red hair and black hair are just as beautiful as blonde hair. They are not against blonde dolls, but they are alert to signs that the popular media's "blonde is best" message is affecting their children. Watching their daughters pick out the one blonde doll on a table full of dolls felt like a defeat.

I was curious about whether this fascination with that doll was because of her hair or because of her position on the table.  So on Sunday, I decided to try a little experiment.  I moved her to the back of the table.  She was elevated, which she had not been before, so she was quite visible.  I placed the darkest brown ballerina, the one wearing a peach tutu, on a front corner.

To my surprise, not one child pointed out the blonde ballerina. They all went to the one wearing the peach tutu.  "Look at this one, Mommy!" girls would squeal. "Mommy, this one is the prettiest!" they would say, gently stroking the dark hair or the brown arm.

Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Back to hanging out with the fantastic bloggers at Yeah Write! Because I can.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

6 Things I Learned at Eastern Market

I have now had three Sundays as a vendor at Eastern Market and I'm really enjoying it. Here's what I have learned so far.

1.  It's not Fenton Street.  Eastern Market has been around a long time; Fenton Street only for a few years.  As a result, everyone is sort of new at Fenton Street, but the Eastern Market vendors tend to be long-timers, with some of them vending regularly for 10 or even 20 years. It's kind of like being the new kid in school, where people have to size you up before they decide whether you can play with them at recess. So far, though, the playground has been a pretty friendly place.

2.  People expect you to be there regularly.  This follows on to #1.  People don't want to hear about your fantastic newsletter -- they expect you to be out there on a regular basis with the stuff they want.  I can do regular, but don't look for me in cold January and colder February.

3.  You can eat your earnings very quickly.  I'm looking at you, Pie Lady, and you, Indigo, in particular.

4.  Half-spaces are fantastic.  One table of dolls doesn't have to take up a whole 10x10 space.  Eastern Market allows you to share a traditional space with another vendor, which cuts costs with little impact on display.

5.  Lots of little girls are out with their parents, and they have doll radar.  I can hear them coming before I see them. "Mommy, there's dolls!" "Daddy, let's look at the dolls!"  I always feel a little guilty at first, like I actively enticed them to my table, but then the feeling passes.

6. Barry Margeson and Katrina Cuffey are doing a great job.  Since the market is run by the city, city employees are responsible for its smooth operation.  City government doesn't always work so well here, but I appreciate Barry and Katrina's efforts to maintain the high quality everyone expects from Eastern Market.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Approve This Message

I voted yesterday.
Not voting has never been an option in my family. When I hear people saying that they don't like the candidates so they just won't vote, I think of my parents in 1982.  We were living in Birmingham, AL and George Wallace was running for his fourth term as governor.  He had won the Democratic primary and run-off largely by presenting himself as a man who had found God and repented for all of those ugly racist things he had said before.

My parents weren't buying it.  As one of them noted, the Bible says to forgive; it doesn't say you have to vote for the person you forgave.

Unfortunately, they were also repulsed by Wallace's opponent.  Rather than not voting, my parents voted for a little-known third-party candidate.  Wallace won easily, but my parents weren't voting to pick a winner; they were exercising their right to vote against two loathsome options.

The first time I voted was in a primary election in 1984 in Birmingham, AL.  I was 18.  They had those election booths like you see on television, with a lever that closes the curtain.  I felt so proud as I pushed the little levers inside the booth, then pulled the big lever to open the curtain and register my choices. Citizenship had never felt so exhilarating.

I registered here in Washington, DC after the 1988 election.  I remember my initial disappointment the first time I voted here: there were no booths with curtains, only little carrels, and you had to color in the arrows to mark your ballot.  But then, leaving the polling place, one of the poll workers handed me a sticker that said, "I voted."  Well.  I placed that sticker on my coat and enjoyed a knowing solidarity with all the other people sporting their little stickers.

I have taken my children with me to vote when possible, and explained to them what it all means.  My son, who is 16, can't wait to turn 18 so he can vote.  That makes me happy.

Use your vote however you want.  It's your right.  But please, use it.

To quote Bob Schieffer's mother, "Go vote.  It will make you feel big and strong."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Just because it's Halloween, y'all!

We were not having fun.  Ten of us were outside in the teacher's parking lot, near a side door to the auditorium, waiting to be initiated into our high school's thespian troupe.  I have always been involved in the arts: years of ballet, now quilts and dolls, but in high school, it was drama.  I was invited to join the school's troupe in my junior year, along with nine other students.  Our drama teacher/sponsor, Mrs. Simmons*, was a kind young woman with enough energy to direct dozens of rambunctious teenagers in the annual spring musical and still laugh when we cracked the same bad jokes, over and over, which was often.

The week leading up to the actual initiation had been kind of fun.  Each day had a specific challenge; I only remember having to dress up as a character one day (they chose Maria from West Side Story for me).  Mrs. Simmons and the kids who had been inducted in previous years kept it light, but there was an undercurrent of foreboding surrounding the ceremony itself, scheduled for Friday evening in the school auditorium, and about which we knew nothing.  Every now and then one of them would imply that we should be very concerned.

We assembled at 6:00.  It was October, and the days were getting shorter.  It was cooling off as the sun began to go down. A light breeze rustled the leaves on the trees outside the lot.  I hoped we wouldn't be outside long.

Six-thirty came and went and we were still outside.  We had exhausted regular conversation -- Mrs. Chatman's shoes, the new principal's penchant for calling everyone "honeypot" or "doodlebug," whatever that was for lunch -- and unease was keeping us quiet.  The street lights just outside the lot shone through the trees, illuminating some areas while leaving the dusk untouched in others.  We milled about in a patch of light.  Camilla produced a Hershey bar that we passed around.  The mouthful of chocolate was delicious, but I was getting cold.

Finally, "What do you think we're going to have to do?" Alex asked.

Several kids shrugged. Evangeline offered, "Act?"

"Do you think they're going to do something to us?" The apprehension behind that question was one we all shared.

"No, Mrs. Simmons wouldn't let them do anything to us."  Pause.  "Would she?"

It was getting darker, and chillier.  Seven o'clock.  "What are they doing in there?"  we all asked each other, as if continuing to ask would supply a rational answer, and not the (we hoped) far-fetched ones we had voiced earlier that involved paint, nasty things to eat, and general humiliation.  The wind had picked up a bit and crispy brown leaves were rattling across the parking lot.  I pulled my arms inside my jacket for warmth.

A little after 7, the door creaked opened and we all jumped, startled.  Eliza, a girl who had been the lead in several shows, held the door ajar as she poked her head outside and gestured for us to come close.  We huddled around her, hoping it was time to go inside and get this over with.

"Ok, look, I'm not supposed to tell y'all this.  We're just trying to make sure everything is okay in there."  She was talking fast and low and jerked her head toward the interior of the auditorium, which was dark.  "The problem is that sometimes, things happen.  They didn't think I should tell you, but I think y'all need to know."  We passed worried glances at each other.  What could be so bad?

"The year I was initiated, we were almost done, and then this girl, do y'all remember Jenny Findlay?"  No one did.  "Well, we were almost done, and then she just started screaming.  I mean, screaming like someone was killing her.  We couldn't get her to calm down and Mrs. Simmons had to call an ambulance.  Jenny transferred to John Carroll because she just couldn't walk back into the building without panicking.  It happened again last year. Did y'all know Connie Adams?" I did remember her.  She had left abruptly last fall.  She had had a beautiful voice.  "Look, we're on the alert now, so we're hoping nothing happens.  But if it does, you know the story now, so don't freak out.  They'll call you in a few minutes.  Good luck."  She stepped back inside and closed the door.

It was dark next to the building.  As a group, we ambled silently back toward the light.  My stomach growled.  There were no more candy bars. I shivered, cold and on edge.  It wasn't bad enough that we were outside, in the dark, becoming jumpier the later it got, but now there was this new story.  None of us wanted to believe it -- haunted school building? -- but Connie had left school.  Doubt sidled up to unease.

"I think they're just trying to scare us," said Teenage Bravado.  "Maybe her dad got a new job."

"Or maybe something's wrong in that auditorium.  Have you ever been in here rehearsing late when there's hardly anyone else in the building?  It's pretty creepy."  Several voices agreed.

"Then how do we know nothing happened?"

Seven-thirty and the side door opened again.  "You may come in, now!" a voice called.  I couldn't tell who it was.

We were heading to the door when the screaming started.  One long shriek, followed by shorter hysterical ones.  Three initiates took off for the fence.  Amy had started climbing before the sound faded.  I backed away from the building.  Should I run, too?  Would it matter?

And then we heard the laughter coming from inside.  This was thespian initiation, after all, and that had been quite a performance.

*All names have been changed.

Back on the yeah write grid, because the withdrawal symptoms were just too much!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Chosen

I was always the last one chosen for teams when I was a child.  I was small and skinny, and I came from a family that prized brains, because we had no brawn.  It didn't bother me, because I didn't want to play anyway -- secretly, I hoped the gym teachers would just say, "Oh, it's alright, Jackie.  We'll give you credit for your outstanding reading skills.  You don't have to play."  That never happened.  Not even once.  Character-building came through failed efforts to serve the volleyball, pop flies that I either missed or that landed on my face, and an inability to put a basketball through the hoop.

Recently, however, I had a different kind of experience with not being chosen.  American Spring, the exhibit put together by the Fiber Artists for Hope, is in Little Rock, Arkansas as part of the commemoration of the 55th Anniversary of Central High School's desegregation.  All of the quilts were shipped to Arkansas but the two venues did not have room for all of them, so the people setting up the displays selected what they wanted based on the story they were trying to tell.

My piece was not among the chosen.

I shrugged it off at first, but then I went back and looked at what seemed like an awfully long list of the pieces that were selected.  Instead of being happy for the other group members, I was getting grumbly.  Was I the only one that didn't get picked?  What was wrong with mine?  This isn't volleyball, people, so why didn't I get picked?  In my jealous fog I even went back and compared the "yesses" to the complete list.

I am not proud of this.

Reason and calm returned when I saw that no, mine wasn't the only one, and that there were recurring themes in the works that would be hung in Little Rock.  The organizers had chosen wisely.  I was embarrassed about my mental tantrum and no one even knew about it.

I felt even more ridiculous this morning when I read the email notifying me that my quilt, along with seven others, would be travelling to Philadelphia to be displayed at a youth anti-violence conference.  Dick Gregory and Trayvon Martin's parents will be speaking.  This venue is perfect for these eight quilts and I am thrilled that mine is going.  What was that about good things and waiting?  Maybe next time, I'll hold off on the indignation and see what happens.

Linking up with Yeah Write again this week, because I can't seem to stop myself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Too Early for Christmas?

1.  I am the first person to roll my eyes in disgust and mutter to myself when I see Christmas decorations in stores any time before Thanksgiving.

2.  I have been known to mute the TV when holiday commercials air before Thanksgiving.

That said, I am running a small business whose main products are handmade.  I have to plan ahead.

And there is my dilemma.  How do I encourage early shopping without becoming the very thing I hate?  Suggestions?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


It was a productive morning.  I was almost finished with a child's quilt  

and was starting to think about lunch when I heard a loud noise.  It sounded like something slamming into the front door or the living room window.  I was home alone, and I froze.

What if that was someone trying to break into the house? Our neighborhood is pretty safe, but you can never be too sure.  I debated investigating.  Nervous Me wanted to stay upstairs and wait.  Worried Me didn't hear any more noise and thought it might be safe to go downstairs and check.  Worried me won.

I grabbed the phone so I could call 911 if necessary and glanced around for something that could be used as a weapon.  My choices: a pile of fabric, a plastic trash can, and a pool noodle. I was going to have to go downstairs unarmed.  Maybe I could throw the phone.

I took off my shoes, walked softly to the stairs, and placed my foot on the first step.  Creeeeeak!  There went my element of surprise.  The house is 80 years old; the stairs are noisy.  If there was anyone in the house or trying to get in, they would know that someone was home and, if I was lucky, leave.

From halfway down it was clear that the front door was still closed and the living room window looked uncompromised.  I relaxed a bit and continued down, now more curious than worried.  After testing the front door (securely locked), I went to the window to see if there was any evidence of what caused that bang.

The answer was sitting on the porch railing, settling its ruffled feathers.  A beautiful hawk turned and looked at me, its expression clearly saying, "There's nothing to see here, silly flightless creature."  Then it turned its back and launched itself off the railing, quickly rising into the afternoon sky.

Surprised and a little awestruck, I wanted to go out on the porch to try to catch another glimpse of the hawk.  I opened the door and looked down just before my foot landed on the source of the hawk's collision.  A small bird lay on the doorstep, fatally wounded.  The hawk had lost its lunch, and I suddenly didn't feel quite so hungry myself.

Hanging out with the awesome bloggers at yeahwrite.me again this week! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Very Short Trip

We were in the middle of the intersection when the light changed.

"It's okay," I said in my most confident voice.  "They won't hit us."  I hoped that saying it would make it so.  She continued her slow and careful progress across the street, and I kept an eye on the drivers of the truck and two cars, hoping that we wouldn't need a second light cycle to get across the remaining two lanes of traffic.

Maybe parking across the street from the restaurant had been a bad idea.

We were out because I needed supplies.  Or maybe I really didn't, but I needed to get away from my studio so I invented an outing.  I hadn't seen my friend in a while so I called and invited her to go with me and get some lunch.  Always eager for a reason to get out of the house (and good food), she said she would be ready in an hour.

We became friends in college.  As working young women after college, we would regularly go shopping on the weekends and then have lunch.  If the shopping trip was stressful, we would just have dessert.  We had more than one "lunch" that consisted of soup or salad and a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Her energy was starting to flag by the time I parked at the restaurant, and we were both hungry, which leads to poor decision-making as evidenced by my parking across from the restaurant.  It doesn't sound like a big deal, but here's the thing about my friend: she has multiple sclerosis.  She has been using a walker for the past year.  The last time that we went out without the walker we both almost ended up on the ground and decided that we shouldn't do that again.  Imagine, if you will, two women on a rainy day, one trying to balance the other's lack of balance, as they try to step up onto a curb with piles of soggy leaves.  It looked quite perilous, and a truck driver stopped and got out to make sure we were okay, but we were laughing at the absolute ridiculousness of the situation.  It's like that with her.

So there we were in the middle of the street.  She kept walking and I apprehensively watched the slowly increasing number of cars that were waiting for us.  We made it to the other side just as the light changed again.  We were safe.  No one had honked at us.  No one had tried to intimidate us by nosing their car forward.

"Maybe that wasn't the best idea," we said simultaneously, looking back at the intersection and laughing at our folly.

Hanging out with some awesome bloggers at yeahwrite this week.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Music Soothes the Savage...Fabric?

A few months ago I asked the members of the QuiltArt list whether they listen to anything while they work, or if background noise is a distraction.  I had been quilting along to some Run-DMC (quilting and old school rap DO go together) and just wondered what music, if any, gets other people creating.

The responses were tremendously varied, from Gregorian chants to heavy metal to folk (not so much on the hip hop, though), and I enjoyed reading all of the responses.  There was one response of the dozens that came in that made me think:

Doesn't anyone work in silence and let the work speak to them?

After some real consideration, I decided that the music or NPR serve a critical function for me.  If the left side of my brain is engaged in listening to a discussion of singing along (badly) to music from my college years, the right side is freed up to just create.  The good inner critic that says, "Try this quilting design" or "Purple would be beautiful there" comes through loud and clear while the negative critic --  "Are you nuts? You can't do this!" -- is occupied remembering the words to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger."

That's just me, though.  Does the music serve a function for you? Or is it just to cover up the creaks and pops your house/studio make everyday?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Best Laid Plans

Tuesday, 7:30 PM

I couldn't get my husband out of the house fast enough.  He was going to be gone until Thursday afternoon.  The next day, Wednesday, the kids had after-school activities until 4:30. I would be alone in my house ALL DAY.

A silly, giddy grin spread across my face as I planned out what was surely going to be the best work day I had had in a long time. I cut the strips for a small child's quilt.  I took pictures of a work in progress so I could post to the blog, and cut batting and backing for a new piece.  I might have giggled.  And maybe danced.

Wednesday, 10:30 AM

The children were at school.  I had walked 2.5 miles, showered, and read the news.  I started winding a bobbin so I could get to work.

10:35 AM

The phone rang.  I was not planning to answer it, I just wanted to make sure it wasn't a school nurse calling to tell me to come retrieve a sick or injured child.  Anyone else could leave a message.

Anyone else except for my 83-year-old mother-in-law, Ms.G, that is.  I always answer the phone when she calls because she is 83.

She had a doctor's appointment that my husband and I did not have on our schedule.  In 25 minutes.  It was going to take me an hour to get her there under ideal conditions.  With my husband out of town, it was going to be up to me to get her there.  I asked her to call the doctor's office and tell them what the problem was.  I finished winding my bobbin and selected some music to work by while I waited for her to call me back, because I was sure they would just reschedule for another day.

But no.  They said to come on in later and they would work her in.  My day was imploding.  Rational Me tried reminding myself that I was fortunate to be in a position to go help her, and that she has been a wonderful MIL, but Derailed Me wasn't trying to hear that.

My voice

My brain

That is how my perfect day became a 7-hour odyssey through DC on a rainy winter day.  I picked up Ms.G, took her to the doctor, and waited around for a couple of hours hoping they would get to her before I had to go get my daughter from school.  A foolish hope, really, because this had become One of Those Days.  Thwarted and muttering, I drove an hour round-trip to get my daughter, drop her at home, and return to the doctor's office to collect Ms.G.

When I finally got home, I could not bear to even turn on the light in my studio.  Even so, I could hear the taunts of my carefully prepared fabrics.  I closed the door.

We had waffles for dinner that night.

I was looking forward to my husband's return.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diversity comes to Jacq's Girls!

Until now, all of the dolls pictured on my website have been African-American.  One could assume that I don't make dolls of other ethnicities.  One would be mistaken.

I have made a number of Caucasian dolls over the last two years, but either the photographs were not good quality or they were not photographed at all.  All of that is now changing.

I have now added five Caucasian dolls to my regular line-up.  Please welcome Amanda, Charlotte, Hayley, Jenna, and Lucy!  More to come...






Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New York Doll Show 2012

For the second year, Jacq's Girls went to the New York Doll Show held at the beautiful Riverside Church.

Unlike last year's stifling, participation-inhibiting heat, the weather on Saturday was perfect.  There was a steady stream of people coming to look, chat with artists, and maybe pick up a present for someone special.

I took my trusty assistant (my daughter), who is almost capable of running the booth herself.  When I returned from a quick stroll around the show, she was confidently talking to several adults who had stopped to look at the dolls.  Did I mention that she's 12?

Thanks to Done Up! for pulling this wonderful event together again this year.  Here's looking to 2013!

Ruby prototype
Erinn in a special tutu


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is This Work or Play?

I read a few weeks ago that referring to one's studio time as "play" devalues the work that is being done.

At first, I completely agreed.  How can anyone -- including yourself-- take what you are doing seriously if you keep calling it play?  If people think that you are playing, they feel no compunction about disturbing you.  They imagine, perhaps, that you are sitting at your desk giggling and squishing your fingers in Play-doh or some other seemingly frivolous pursuit.  Say that you are working, however, and it is as if a giant "no trespassing" sign had been erected.  The phone does not ring, no one asks you when dinner will be served.

Having had some time to consider, however, I only mostly agree.  Children learn through play.  And while adults don't play in the same ways, we learn through play as well.  Several years ago, I joined a group of women on a Sunday afternoon to dye fabric.  Only one of us had ever done it before, but we were ready to try out different techniques like shibori, over-dyeing, and painting with thickened dye once we did some straight dyeing.  It was fun.  Our host had a beautiful, large, shady backyard and we probably looked like big kids laughing at our mistakes, sharing our success, and eating our brown-bag lunches under a big tree.  No one set out to make a masterpiece; we were just learning.  Playing, if you will.

The difference, though, is what you call it.  Say that you are going to learn to dye fabric, and it sounds like a structured class.  Say that you are going to play with dye, and that sounds much less serious.  Same end result, different perceptions.

I have decided that, as artists, playing still has a purpose.  We just don't have to let the rest of the world know that.  So put your serious face on and sprinkle water on your brow so that it looks like you have been working over a hot easel/computer/sewing machine all day.  It will be our little secret.

Monday, July 9, 2012

If She's a Princess, I Must be the Queen

My sewing strengths are in quilting and doll-making, not in making clothes that real people would wear.  I made a few skirts for myself that fit well enough, if you don't look at the waistband and see that one side of the zipper is higher than the other.  I can hem my son's suit pants.  I made a wedding veil for a friend that came out nicely.  And then there was my daughter's princess Halloween costume in 2004.

My then-four-year-old daughter wanted to be a princess for Halloween (of course) and she wanted me to make her costume.  I agreed (of course) because I was wearing my Superwoman undies the day she asked.  That was the same year my husband was sewing himself a new Batman cape and he was helping our son, who was 8 then, learn to sew a Robin costume.  It was a very creative season in our household.

I took the little girl with me to pick out a costume pattern and scanned the directions.  It looked pretty easy.  It was a costume, right?  We chose a remnant of a pretty pink brocade for the dress, a sheer pink for the sleeves, and a garland and ribbons for her headpiece.  I estimated that this would take one afternoon to assemble.

I estimated wrong.

There were princess seams and French seams and a whole bunch of seams I had to look up in a sewing guide.  Working with the sheer fabric was not something I would volunteer for again.   The zipper was really long.  There was a sheer cowl-like neckline.  This costume turned into quite the couture gown.

Once it was finished, my daughter loved it.  Loved. It. She twirled around in it with an enormous smile on her face.  When she stopped twirling she looked up at me and said that she felt like a princess in that dress.  That was good enough for me.  The she said, "You get to be the queen, Mommy!" and curtsied.  For just a moment, looking at the beautiful princess in front of me, I thought she might be right.

Halloween 2004
Halloween 2004

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Saturday, June 30, 2012

7 Things I Learned at the Fenton Street Market

On June 23rd, I debuted as a vendor at the Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring.  It was my first time at an outdoor market and I did not really know what to expect.  Here is what I learned:

1.  The tent I used was an older EZ-up.  I take issue with the EZ part.  It took four people to set that thing up.  Thanks to the ladies of Speak Vintage DC for helping a novice out!

2.  The sun moves during the day; you don't.  The total shade you start the day in could end up as partial shade.  Be prepared and bring a drape to shield the worst of it.  My neighbor Boxboy taught me that.

3.  Bring more water than you think you could possibly drink.  The organizers of the Fenton Street Market have cold water for the vendors throughout the day, but I had brought 32 oz. to start with.  It was gone before noon.  And it was only 85 degrees that day.

4.  Your vending neighbors are probably very nice people.  I actually learned this at my first venue two years ago, where the people across from me and on one side were quite generous with their hints to the first-timer.  (The woman on the other side of me at that first venue, however, sat there glaring at potential customers and complaining about making no sales.  I learned a little something from her, too.)  This time, Paul/Boxboy and Jodee of Oh, You Like That? jewelry were my delightful neighbors.

5.  Kids can be really sweet.  One little girl walked up and asked, in what seemed a somewhat petulant tone, why I had all of those dolls on my table.  When I explained that I had made them, her face changed and she said, "Wow!  That's cool!"  Another girl was so taken with one of the dolls that she reached into her pocket and offered me her quarter.  That was the sweetest thing I saw all day.  Most children asked if they could touch the dolls, or kept their hands behind their backs.  Thank you, parents!

6.  Some kids are a little harder to handle.  Other parents, you know who you are: the ones with those busy little people who want to touch everything but who have not learned the difference between touching and mauling.  I know you want to get them out of the house, and you don't want to crush their spirits, but please teach them to have some respect for the merchandise.  I can imagine the wreckage they could inflict on the vendors with more fragile items.

7.  This is about community.  Sales are nice, but this is truly about making those connections.  We artists may work alone, but who will know about your fantastic work if you don't share it?  And you never know where those relationships will take you.

Shout-outs to Megan Moriarty and Jessica Blaszczak for organizing this market and making it what it is today; a welcoming, easy  market that I am pleased to be a part of.  I'll be back there on July 14 and 21.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Borrowed Robes

Dawn, 10 x 13
copyright Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
Possibly the best office job I ever had was working as a grants analyst for the U. S. African Development Foundation. I got to travel, which was great, and my immediate supervisor was a very good boss.  There was a staff meeting in which very nice things were said about him and the work he was doing, and he protested that the speaker was dressing him in "borrowed robes."  That phrase (of Shakespearean origin) has stayed with me these last 20 years.

That is how I felt the first time someone described me as an artist.  I wanted to contradict the person and say, "Oh, no, I'm not an artist!" but that would have been silly since I was standing in front of artwork that I had made.  Did that qualify me to be an artist?  Suppose the art police found out?  I felt as though I was suddenly wearing someone else's clothes, almost like the first time my mother let me borrow one of her fancy dresses and I realized that clothing influences the way people react.

There I was, wearing the newly-bestowed artist robes.  As the evening wore on, I was asked many times, "Are you the artist?"  and was subsequently caught up in conversations about my piece.  I understood then that the only person who thought my artist robes were borrowed was me.

I own these robes now.

Whose robes are you wearing? read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Story

My daddy, c. 1962
I forgot that it was Father's Day today.  The kids and I had picked out cards earlier in the week, but then the week happened and this morning it did not cross my mind.  I had hidden the cards so my husband wouldn't inadvertently find them (as if someone could inadvertently find anything in my studio!) and then I moved them to a safer location that it took me ten minutes to remember this afternoon.

I used to remember Father's Day, but now I don't so much, what with being out of grandfathers and fathers.  This is my fifth Father's Day since Daddy died, and I think that not bursting into tears at the sight of other people with their fathers on this day is progress.

But this post isn't about moping, because my father was a very funny and practical man who would not appreciate it.  Instead, I shall tell this story.

I got a bike for Christmas when I was six years old.  It was green and it had training wheels.  It was perfect.    All the other kids in the apartment complex had bikes and I imagined huge amounts of fun marauding through the property.

One by one, the other kids learned to ride without training wheels, but not me.  We had taken off one training wheel, but that was my limit.  Until my father decided that enough was enough and it was time to ride a two-wheeler.

He was determined.  It was summer, possibly late spring, but the weather was warm.  I remember him taking me to a park to practice and he would run with his hand on the bike for a bit and then give me a little push and then I would glide for maybe a yard or two before falling over.  I remember how the sweat rolled down his face and the towel or handkerchief he brought that was thoroughly soaked by the time we called it quits that day.

We did this many more times.  He had thought that by the end of that first day, I would be a confident rider.  And then he thought that maybe by the end of the second day, or the third.  I don't know how many days he took me out, or how many towels he sweated through, or how many times he asked himself what exactly my problem was and WHY CAN'T SHE RIDE THIS DURN BIKE?!?!

Then one day I went out with my friends and I took my bike with me.  I guess I was feeling hopeful.  I walked my bike up to the top of the hill with everyone else, climbed on, and coasted down that hill on two wheels without falling.  I was elated and my friends were impressed.  We rode around the rest of the afternoon, and I could not wait to tell my father that I could ride my bike.

I don't remember that conversation.  To hear my father tell it, his reaction was outwardly pleased, but inside he was gnashing his teeth and counting up the hours and sweaty handkerchiefs he could have saved if he had just left it up to the neighborhood kids.

He was just doing what fathers do, though, the good ones anyway.  It became one of those stories you tell at Thanksgiving and Christmas, right before The Road Trip From Hell, and right after That Time Your Brother Did That Thing at the Table That Made Everyone Laugh So Hard They Spit Out Their Food.

Thank you, Daddy.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Doll, Old Uniform

My daughter is headed to middle school, where they don't wear uniforms (insert sound of mothers gnashing their teeth).  What to do with all that plaid?  This:

Rose, created June 2012
by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
The head of the Lower School is retiring, and we wanted to give her a gift.  I suggested a doll, and my daughter came up with the idea of using the uniform for the doll's clothes.  I was initially skeptical, especially about incorporating the monogram from the shirt, but I think she turned out well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"When Will They See?" -- Completed!

My piece for the Fiber Artists for Hope next exhibit is on its way to the curator.  Whew!

This exhibit, titled "American Spring: A Cause for Justice," will debut at the US Society for Education Through Art's national conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 23-26, 2012. More venues are being finalized.

Detail from When Will They See?
2012 Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
The following is from our exhibit statement:

"On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Sanford, Florida, was gunned down, presumably without provocation, by a self-appointed vigilante.  Trayvon was African American. The FBI reports that there are annually, more than 7,000 victims of hate crimes, the majority of whom are African American.   The Federal Hate Crime Act defines these as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”  These are violent acts borne of intolerance, prejudice,
ignorance and bigotry simply because of WHO the victim is.

This quilt exhibit is a call for justice and a reckoning that our imperfect union strays even farther from its ideals of 'liberty and justice for all' when we tolerate hatred based on someone’s skin color, LGBT personhood or faith.  Quilts submitted for this exhibit are required to interpret the theme of seeking justice and redress for hate crimes in America.  Rather than incite hatred for the perpetrators of hate crimes, this exhibit is designed to influence positive change in every aspect of our social systems, especially within the legislative and legal systems."

Inspired by Langston Hughes' poem, "I, Too, Sing America," my intent was to make a piece dominated by a young man's face, and to make it large enough that he could not be ignored.  I hope that, as Mr. Hughes wrote, "They will see how beautiful [he is] and be ashamed."

When Will They See?
25"w x 29"h
2012 Jacqueline Bryant Campbell

Monday, June 4, 2012

Philadelphia Doll Show

Well, that was fun!

Last weekend marked the 23rd annual show hosted by Philadelphia Doll Museum founder Barbara Whiteman. "A Treasury of Dolls," as this year's show was called, offered a wide range of dolls and doll-related merchandise.  There were antique dolls and more recent collectibles, as well as many talented artists with unique takes on black dolls.

Jacq's Girls at the Philadelphia Doll Show

I got finished setting up my table early (which never, ever, happens!) and had a chance to wander about looking at all the beautiful dolls on display.  I didn't take any pictures then, because so many people were still setting up and then at the end of the day I just didn't think about it again.  Next year...

My neighbors for the day were Jeanyne James and Pat Coleman-Cobb.  Jeanyne James is a doll-maker and quilter who also makes fabric sculptures in tribute to the Gee's Bend Quilters.  I would not have known that her sculptures were fabric if she had not told me.  I would show a picture here, but...

Pat Coleman-Cobb does tall soft-sculptured dolls and uses other media in her doll-making as well.  Her beautiful dolls can be both whimsical and soulful.  You can check out her website here.

Dana Cooper writes a blog dedicated to black doll collecting and she has two posts about the show.  Visit her here.

I don't know whether people are happy when they come to doll shows or being at the doll show makes them happy.  Either way, the good spirit in the room was palpable and I am looking forward to next year!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Still Getting Ready

The Philadelphia Black Doll Show is tomorrow (May 26) at the Philadelphia Convention Center and I'm still working!

Louisa gets her hair done

All finished!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Getting Ready for the Philadelphia Doll Show

The 23rd Philadelphia Black Doll Show will be held May 26, 2012 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, 10am - 5pm.

This is the first year that I have been able to go and I am so excited to show Jacq's Girls there!

Waiting for faces...and hair...oh, and clothes.

Painting shoes

If you are in Philadelphia on May 26, please stop by and say hi!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Strategic Philanthropy, or the Art of Saying No

I was asked to participate in writing a vision statement for an organization that is involved in strategic philanthropy.  I didn't know what strategic philanthropy was at the time, although I nodded wisely, said "mm-hmm" a lot, and otherwise kept my mouth shut.

I learned that strategic philanthropy is a management practice that aims to support an organization's social responsibilty, effectively focusing the organization's resources to maximize the effects of its giving program.

This is exactly what we artists should be doing individually!

Instead, this is what happens: Aunt Jenny works for a grassroots organization.  You admire the work of the organization.  Aunt Jenny asks if you could donate a piece of your art for their fundraiser.  You say yes.  You work and work and work.  Maybe the work sells, maybe it doesn't.  Then your college roommate tells you about another great cause and you agree to supply a piece for that group.  This repeats until you are exhausted and cranky and possibly broke from all your good intentions and you finally scream "Noooo!"

All this strategic philanthropy reading clarified a simple thought: step back and consider which causes you are truly passionate about.  Not the ones people you feel passionately about are involved in, but things that you feel strongly about.  Then look up some information about the groups involved in that issue and weed out the ones that don't appeal to you.  Contact some of the remaining organizations about a partnership. Perhaps you offer a piece for their headquarters, or a portion of proceeds from a specific event.  Maybe they aren't interested.  Maybe they have been waiting for someone like you all along.  Everybody wins.

Above all, stay focused.  You have your cause, you have your art, and you have 24 hours in your day.  Don't be swayed by the puppy-dog eyes for your friend's niece's elementary school.  Puppy-dog eyes, in my experience, cannot create a single extra second.

Monday, April 23, 2012

When Will They See?

I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen 
when company comes,
but I laugh,
and eat well,
and grow strong.

I'll sit at the table 
when company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen."

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed.

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes published this poem in 1926.  It is as poignant now as it was then.  With all of the fear and suspicion still directed at black men, I know that "tomorrow" has not yet come.

This poem provided the inspiration for my current work-in-progress, which will be included in an upcoming Fiber Artists for Hope exhibit.  My teenage son is smart, charming, talented, and handsome.  When he goes out, however, people see "just" another black kid.  When will they see how beautiful he is?

Fabrics for "When Will They See?"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Art Quilt Haiku

Thread falls on the floor.
Fabric scraps, some batting, too
Quilt is almost done.

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Art Quilter's Haiku for Poetry Month

A General Statement on My Workspace

Fabric, fabric, thread.
Wonder-under, thread, fabric.
Where are my scissors?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Honoring Gran, Part 2

After my initial enthusiasm at being asked to create something to honor my grandmother, reality set in.  How was I going to capture my Gran in fabric?  Not only that, but this wasn't just about her being my grandmother, but about her commitment to the Links.

What to do?

My mother, two aunts, and one of my cousins served as an informal focus group as I bounced ideas around.  At one point I even had an idea in a dream that was so bad I had to share it with my mother, just for laughs. I don't remember what it was now, but it was hilariously bad.

I did not want to do a portrait of my grandmother, but I did want to represent her.  We all agreed that the finished piece had to contain the color red, which was Gran's favorite.  The Links use the white rose as their flower, so there had to be at least one white rose.  And this is Texas we're talking about, so a yellow rose, too. And maybe one of Gran's favorite quotes.

I thought I had decided on a red vase with white roses and one yellow rose, with perhaps a quote incorporated in the quilting.  Everyone agreed that this seemed like a winner.

Honoring Gran, take 1
Then I started working on it.

As frequently happens when I am creating, the piece started dictating what it wanted.  I didn't feel the friendship coming from what was essentially a still life, so I thought I would add a woman.  One woman alone does not convey friendship, so it had to be two women.  I made sky for the background -- they would be at an outdoor table.  Since this was Gran, one of the women would be wearing red.  The vase would be white.  The result is at right.

The white rose against that pale sky was going to need some rethinking, but otherwise I was pretty pleased with it.  Unfortunately, that red was an issue.  The Links use the colors green and white.  Red is associated with a different group, one that my grandmother did not belong to.  I had not considered that as I merrily traipsed down the artistic path.  Since I could not simply swap red clothes for green clothes (try it, it doesn't work) I started over.

This is the finished piece.

"Love Never Ends" Jacqueline Bryant Campbell, 2012

I quilted the names of the other Fort Worth charter members into the hair of one woman, with Gran's parents, husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren quilted into the other woman's hair and the background.

Name quilted into background fabric

My Gran was a very loving woman.  Some of her favorite readings were about love, particularly The Prophet and 1 Corinthians 13. Excerpts from those works are stitched into the lighter green dress.

The title of the piece, "Love Never Ends," is taken from 1 Cor 13:8.  Gran loved her family and led by example.  Just as she surrounded us in her love, now we do the same for others.  Love never ends, indeed.

Love never ends, quilted into "Love Never Ends"
Jacqueline Bryant Campbell, 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World

What a beautiful surprise to find in the mail!  Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World, curated by Martha Sielman and available for purchase at SAQA's website, showcases quilts inspired by nature.  This is the first in a series of themed books.  Over 70 artists are featured in the book's galleries and 19 artists are profiled in this gorgeous volume.

Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World

The book is divided into sections by subject matter -- flowers, trees, and textures are just a few of the eight divisions.  There is a little something for everyone in this collection, from photo-realism to abstraction.  I love flowers, and there was plenty to see, but I discovered that coral, blackbirds, and moths also come to brilliant life in the hands of these artists.

The pictures are truly vibrant.  I love seeing close-ups, though, and would have liked to see a few detail shots. I realize, though, that since I was not the curator, the quilts I want to see details of may not have been the ones that were chosen, so maybe it is better having none at all.

While I enjoyed the galleries of work pertaining to the subject, I was most excited to see the profiles of the artists.  The artwork soars, for me, when I understand a little about the artist who created it.  Seeing a list of techniques without knowing why the artist used them leaves me cold.  Learning why Paula Chung chooses flowers and what they mean to her, or understanding the motivation of Annie Helmericks-Louder to create her richly colored quilts, or how Ginny Smith works, helps me to better appreciate the artwork itself.  The backgrounds of these artists are so different, but they all ultimately are compelled to create in cloth.

I can't wait to see what Martha Sielman has in store for the next volume of Art Quilt Portfolio.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Messy Worktable Collaboration Day

This really is how it looks when I'm working.  Oh, wait, there's that relatively clear space near the front that only has WonderUnder and a Post-it pad on it.  That's usually where my fabric support system laptop is.

This week's truth-telling is courtesy of Lynn Krawczyk, who is hosting Messy Worktable Collaboration Day.  Check out her space and a list of other artists who aren't afraid to show where the magic happens!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Honoring Gran, Part 1

My grandmother, Marie Norris Brooks -- Gran to her 10 grandbabies-- was a marvelous lady.  I think all of us granddaughters wanted to be like her when we grew up: beautiful, charming, elegant, insightful, and a fantastic cook.  Gran would let you lick the beaters when she made a cake, give you a taste of her fresh lemonade to make sure it was fit to serve, and could barbecue like nobody's business.

Gran had a life outside of her husband, children, and grandchildren that was filled with friends and service to others.  One way she combined those things was through her involvement with The Links, Inc.  The Links, Inc. is one of the nation's oldest and largest volunteer service organizations for African-American women.  Members are bonded by a chain of friendship.  Founded in 1946 in Philadelphia, there are now Links chapters all across the country.  In 1959, she and nine other women chartered the Fort Worth, Texas chapter.

founding member1 History
Marie Norris Brooks, seated far left, with (in order) Zelma Bazy Woodard,  Ruby Williamson, Mutelle Flint, Ethelyn Maynard Burnett, Viola Borders, May Pearl Hollie Flint,  Sybil Munchus Byrd, Marie Scott Platte, and Hortense Burnett Chatman (first President of the chapter)
Picture courtesy of the Fort Worth Chapter of The Links, Inc.

She was committed to the Links and remained a faithful member until her death in 2009.  To honor her and the women who founded the Fort Worth chapter, my aunt, Link Jennifer Giddings Brooks (Fort Worth chapter) and my mother, Link Marian Brooks Bryant (Lansing, MI chapter) encouraged me to make a small piece to hang in the organization's headquarters building here in Washington, DC.

How we got from there to the finished piece will be coming next week (click here to go to that post), but here is a close-up of my second favorite part of this quilt:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shoe Shots Blog Hop

They asked for shoes, so here they are!

When I saw the announcement for this blog hop, I was wearing my houseshoes and standing in fabric scraps, because I was working on a small quilt.

And my favorite ballerina flats, in first position because it's a lot harder to get into fifth position than it used to be!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why Make Dolls?

Because I like to make people smile.

Covered in dolls
That sounds kind of pageant-y, but the real answer is not too far off.

My own childhood relationship with dolls was a little rocky.  When I was 6, in 1971, I took one of my dolls to school because all the other girls brought dolls to school.  One girl, seeing my doll, announced, "Yours is different."  She did not say it in a mean-spirited way, but I took it to be something bad and I never brought another doll to school.  My doll was brown, just like me.

My daughter, thankfully, has no such baggage and loves dolls, starting with Dolly, whose travails were the subject of this post.   She has dolls all over her room now.  When she was about five years old, she asked me if I could make her a doll.  Clearly, since I could make quilts and Halloween costumes, a doll was within my capabilities, according to five-year-old logic.

Unfortunately, when it came to doll-making, I had five-year-old skills at that time.  I had a hard time trying to make it all work on my own.  I did not have a mother or grandmother who made dolls for me that I still had as an adult.  It was slow going.  My daughter has all of my sorry first attempts, and she loved them as if they were perfect because her Mommy made them.

It took a couple of years, but I finally worked out a doll that I really liked.    They were brown, just like my sweet daughter.  I took some and a few quilts to sell at a Links Assembly in Detroit in 2010, after considerable prodding by family and friends.

I sold almost all of them, but the best part was the way the women smiled when they saw them.  They thought of their daughters or granddaughters.  They thought of their own fond doll memories.  They looked happy.  And that made me happy, too.  Ecstatic, really.

The dolls are now called Jacq's Girls, named for me (Jacqueline) and my grandfather, Jack, after whom I was named.  My grandfather spoke frequently and proudly about his girls (3 daughters, 6 granddaughters, and 2 great-granddaughters), and these dolls -- along with my own fantastic daughter -- are mine.  And they make me smile.
Jacq's Girls - Chyna

Jacq's Girls - Alyssa
Jacq's Girls - Sydney