February already!  It’s always a month that seems to slip away before it has barely begun!  Here is a recap of the past month’s activities and musings:

My readers are hopefully now familiar with my “light” artisan wearable collection, petal-una (www.petalunacollection.com).  I have been working on these seasonal collections since 2012 and the upcoming Spring/Summer 2016 group builds on this foundation.  My desire throughout the design/build process is always to further my understanding of cloth, form, fit and finish as well as to successfully present my completed work at market.  Until now, I have generally approached the collection from the textile, rather than the garment, per se.  But things are shifting.  For a number of reasons, my textile/fiber artist-self is beginning to catch up with my landscape-designer-self.

As my creative selves become more fully integrated, the petal-una collections become more integrated, conscious acts of art and design.  That means I am taking into account cloth, surface and garment while also holding a variety of production variables in mind like time and cost, work-flow, utility use, marketing (including, but not limited, to social media activities), and a host of other allied considerations.  All of these undertakings figure into each piece created in the studio.  And, since I am still very much a solo operation for the time being (and there is only so much this body/mind can make manifest in a given calendar year), it is vital that I work as efficiently as possible from concept/design to development, production and completion, without losing sight of my mental and physical well-being.  This is particularly important since I still want to make room for art-making!  If you would like to see more day-to-day snapshots, please follow me on Instagram! (www.instagram.com/kathycoltartisan).


The fact that I am finding the time and energy I require to undertake all of my creative work is in no small part attributable to coach/consultant/project manager-extraordinaire, Mary Quinn Templeton (www.maryquinntempleton.com / mqpmatl@gmail.com).  Mary Quinn and I met as fellow fiber/textile artists.  At that time, I was at a turning point in my work, not sure what I wanted or where I wanted to go.  Since we started working together, the path has begun to clear and my foot-steps are more deliberate.  (If this sounds like a testimonial…it is!!)  Obviously we are all responsible for making our own “it” happen, but we also don’t live in a vacuum – fresh insight can be liberating – I highly recommend it!  

In the process of getting my work back on track, other beautiful gifts have been bestowed:

A Rekindling of Deep Joy. Somewhere along the way, and for a variety of reasons, I started to lose touch with the sheer joy of making.  I am now remembering and reconnecting with the reasons why I choose to do what I do in all of its multi-disciplinary, multi-hat-wearing complexity and glory.  Bring it on!

Befriending and Embracing Fear. Letting go of judgment and anxiety about myself and my work, the future (and anything else falling into the “monkey-mind” category) is huge (and I don’t think I am alone here!).  Radical acceptance of the what, where, when and how of it all, the now of it all, and just getting on with it all, has opened up new and previously unimaginable pathways.  After all of these years, I can finally get busy living and doing the Work, and be at peace with that!

Restoring the mental/emotional power grid: Taking responsibility for how I react to all phenomena and circumstances in my life is an on-going process, taken one experience at a time.  It’s not always easy, but cultivating equanimity makes for a clearer mind and greater capacity in one’s creative and life work.  Why not make more room for that, right?


I am constantly reminded that being a working artist is not for the faint-hearted.  Luckily I was blissfully ignorant of the pitfalls or I would not have taken the first step.  Well into the journey now, I realize I do it because I must; however, it takes a lot of heart, soul, metaphoric blood, and a lot of sweat, persistence and constant insistence on a daily basis.  The day-to-day experience moves back and forth along the continuum: sometimes the process is uneffing-believable in its rich, diverse upwellings; sometimes it is incredibly physically exhausting and/or highly anxiety-provoking to an intensity which weakens creative flow and output.  Somewhere in the middle is the Balance, and in that space is the “zone”.  After all of these years of designing and making, I recognize a cultivated ability to access the “zone” with greater ease, and finally feel capable of efficiently managing my time, energy and finances to manifest my creative/life vision.  Next level?  Yes, please!


*footnote: I also think that I have been resisting the idea of myself as a “fashion” designer.  However, I am a designer and I certainly work in the fashion idiom from time to time, so maybe it’s time for me to embrace my inner-fashionista more fully!

I recently took a trip to Mexico to see some close friends who are currently living in the city of Guanajuato (Gto).  My image gallery is below but kindly indulge me while I sing Guanajuato’s praises! It is a wonderful city rich in history and culture.  This capital of the State of Guanajuato, is situated roughly between Guadalajara and Mexico City (or about 3 hours Northwest of Mexico City), just about in the center of the country.  It is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and is the birthplace of two cultural signifiers: the Mexican Revolution (for Independence from Spain) and the painter, Diego Rivera.

I have been to Gto in the past and it was a delight to return. This time, I was based again in the neighborhood known as San Javier and specifically timed my visit to coincide with the annual Festival Internacional Cervantino (dedicated to the city’s adopted philosophical and literary muse, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote).  Mexico has a quite admirable, serious and extensive appreciation of world art and culture, and this is affirmed by the care with which the Cervantino is organized and presented each year.  A full spectrum of international arts (visual, music, theater, and dance) is represented during the festival, which comes to an end right before celebrations centered around El Dia de los Muertos.

I spent much of my short visit this time enjoying the visual arts in the “centro” or old center of the city.  The centro of la ciudad Guanajuato is peppered with glorious, weathered Spanish colonial cathedrals and churches, and other architectural monuments, including the cavernous central market (Mercado Hidalgo), which was designed by Ernesto Brunel in 1910.  In conjunction with the Cervantino, galleries throughout this small but dense city are replete with painting, sculpture, photographic and other visual art exhibitions, many directly relating to the theme of this year’s festival “the science of art/the art of science.”

By foot, car and bus, my energetic friends led me all over the City during my visit. Between meals and afternoon coffees, my legs and feet began to become accustomed to the hard and irregular surfaces of the myriad calles and callejóns (alleys) linking the city’s plazas and landmarks.  One day we visited the Museo Diego Rivera, which is part monument and part art gallery.  There one finds the Mexican master’s earlier works, some studies for later murals, his exquisite Popol Vuh renderings, as well as adjunct galleries showing varied works from contemporary artists.  I also toured the Museo de Historia Natural, a monument to the career of Alfredo Dugès.  Dugès was a French émigré who settled in Guanajuato at the turn of the 20th century.  He was a serious amateur naturalist and spent his life cataloging Mexican flora and fauna, as well as documenting these findings through detailed renderings.  Think: Mexico’s Audubon.  The extensive taxidermy collection housed at the museum (now under the auspices of the University of Guanajuato), languished for years in storage before it was “rediscovered” and properly archived.

Perhaps one of my favorite visits was to the University of Guanajauto’s main art gallery where I was delighted to find 2 concurrent fiber art shows. In one gallery recent fiber works by Trine Ellitsgaard are currently on display.  Ellitsgaard is Danish by birth but lives in Oaxaca.  In the adjacent gallery hang felted tapestries and mixed-media handwovens.  This collection pays homage to the many facets of the corn (maíz) plant, its value to Mexican culture, and its vulnerability in the wake of continued proliferation of genetically modified corn seed (the cultivation of which goes hand-in-hand with the burden of chemical (and thus financial) inputs not part of traditional agricultural practices); for a society deriving much of its sustenance (both literal and metaphorical) from corn, this is a serious issue.  The pieces in this exhibition were designed by the painter Francisco Toledo (who is married to Ellitsgaard), and were produced by a felting workshop situated in Oaxaca, at the Centro de las Artes de San Agustin.

Finally, I cannot fail to mention another highlight of this particular trip – As it turns out, in conjunction with the Cervantino, the City-centro is also temporary host to a collection of fantastic large bronze sculptures marking entrances to important alleys and terminuses along the city’s labyrinthine layout. These pieces are based on original small-scale wax models created by the British surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.  Carrington, primarily a painter, made Mexico her home for a most of her adult life.  What good fortune to see these pieces (and window into Carrington’s vision) at such a scale!


Guanajuato is a riot of color and texture, teeming with a beautiful, bustling population moving here and there along crowded streets and alley-ways. Even absent the tourists now pouring into the city for the Festival, this city is dense and compact and it does not sleep for long…automobiles, busses, and pedestrians do an amazing and complex dance on the busy avenues.  To that vibrancy add the host of colorful rectilinear dwellings perched atop each other on the surrounding slopes, looking down on the old city below.  Here in the “suburbs” (which are all walking distance from the centro), you might run into a wandering cow or burro as these newer neighborhoods quickly give way to country here in the high desert.

I could go on…so much…of everything.  Did I mention my trip was excellent? I am deeply grateful to my hosts and new friends for making my stay such an inspiring and stimulating experience.  I hope to return soon! 


I am a child of marine environments who ironically lives inland (it happens).  From Hawaii to Cumberland Island, I have been nourished by the big oceans and the ecotones associated with them.  The shoreline is a magical transition zone wherever it is encountered – an abundant strand, rich with life as well as decay.  On a recent visit to the Pacific Northwest, I returned to an oft-visited, ever-changing rocky beach which perennially holds amazing treasures for the texturally-inclined…

I am just beginning to “unpack” the content and experiences I had last week at Arrowmont in Catharine Ellis’ Natural Dye workshop.  The volume of information we were introduced to, along with the actual practices we were absorbing, was tremendous and overwhelming – towards the end of the week it was almost as if a bomb had exploded in my brain – an indigo-cochineal-weld-ferrous bomb – shaken, stirred, dissolved, precipitated…I feel like the cloth we worked with – now primed to soak up as much as I can following this most intensive week of learning!  I am so grateful to Catharine for making the space and providing the energy for this experience…I am also indebted to the fabulous workshop participants whose individual contributions to the body of understanding were, for me, an essential part of the process.  I am overflowing with joy and an urgent desire to get to work!!  First up: my organic indigo vat.  Meanwhile, here are some images from the week (click on a thumbnail to open the gallery).  Many thanks to Jane Cooper for supplying a few of these images.

There is a certain willfulness which brings any creative work to fruition.  Fueled by optimism and forward vision, a body of work is an unstoppable train of energy and enthusiasm for the possibilities embedded in one’s undertaking.  And when that train starts rolling and has plenty of momentum, it accumulates more energy and substance, and the desire to do what is required to see the accretion reach its destination.  The outcome is the accumulation of wisdom and experience on which the next journey is based and the next wave of momentum is founded.  That process is made manifest in the work of Dale Chihuly and the exhibition, “Garden and Glass” (newly opened in Seattle in May, 2012), which presents work across the vibrant career of the U.S. studio-glass artist.  I recently took a walk through the exhibition; here are some impressions.


From the inside out. Rippling, corpuscular disks, spikes, bulbils, orbs, and other protrusions and protuberances populate several linked exhibit spaces, the center of which is an almost theatrical dance of forms along a black reflective conveyor – each surface and texture a translucent delight, projecting, casting, reflecting arching, arcing, coalescing then breaking apart.  There are additional galleries displaying examples of other series of works, including both the Persians and Macchia series, in their own energetic spaces – the Persian ceiling is exuberant and transfixing; the Macchia gallery a calm meditation on fluidity.  The interior exhibit concludes in an impressive conservatory (containing a floating assemblage of Persians) which transitions to the garden.  The sense of immediacy and intimacy of the interior exhibit yields to a more open and expansive experience in the daylight garden.  Alien at first glance, these esoteric glass forms “make sense” –they neither overwhelm, nor are overwhelmed by, their surroundings.  Here a clever balance is struck and the works take on new meaning in the context of landscape and surrounding architecture (the grand conservatory, exhibit hall and the neighboring Space Needle).  With the passage of time, an established garden of Chihuly glass will further fulfill the strong vision initiated by the interior exhibit.


Art and design are always about collaboration on some level.  No work is created in a vacuum and a body of work as extensive as Dale Chihuly’s does not come into being without the contributions of a broad community of other individuals with whom one’s vision is interwoven: student-apprentices (who will go on to fulfill their own creative visions), other master artisans and technicians, collectors, institutions, family and supportive friends, not to mention an enthusiastic and appreciative “public.”  Myriad energies are involved in the nurturing of a creative career and, arguably, no work by a master (at this or any other period in history) can be viewed as other than a synthesis of these energies (rather than the accomplishments of just the one).  But as we are both part of a larger whole and unique parts, somewhere in the center of this work lies the fundamental willfulness and optimism of Dale Chihuly whose product and process are apt symbols for the dynamic and complex almalgam encountered by all humans who make art in a world outside the vacuum.