How a Quilter Takes a Hike

I recently moved from Houston to Napa Valley, driving nearly 2000 miles solo (with three dogs in my backseat). It was challenging, but looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.IMG_0679

I did have two offers for co-pilots, but frankly…as a pet-loving quilter with a lot of precious cargo, I responded to them, “Where the heck would I fit you in the car?”

A Quilter on the Move

What I refused to put on a moving truck, nor put in the temperature-controlled cargo of an airplane:

-3  Dogs

-2 BERNINAS

-1 thermofax machine

-An enormous suitcase containing my most precious quilts, some made by family, some purchased, one by me.

-Jewelry that had a lot of sentimental value

-Crucial documents

-A backpack with jeans, t-shirts, a toothbrush and other essentials.

 

For every night I was on the road (and no, I didn’t drive past sundown), I brought all of this cargo into the hotel room. It meant a lot of trips from car to room between pets, dog food, supplies, quilts, and docs.

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The  hours of driving each day–and being on guard while driving–were pretty exhausting for all of us…

 

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But we saw some very interesting sights along the way, including this Exxon station in West Texas, where, understandably, while I filled the gas tank, I couldn’t let the dogs out to relieve themselves:

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We encountered a wreck on I-10, 90 miles east of El Paso. I would have been stuck in this for five hours (plus) while they righted this semi that had tipped over and blocked both lanes, but with the help of some empathetic truck drivers, I was directed onto the feeder, and again on my merry way.

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After about 23 hours driving and two nights in hotels, I encountered this sign (below).  Admittedly, seeing this was emotional, and I cried. It had been 26 years since I drove my own car in my home state.

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The next day, after driving up I-5,  I was on my property in Napa and saw these pink little flags whipping in the wind. They mark the art barn for Crafting a Life.

 

I cried again.

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The next morning, I woke to this greeting.

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And I cried. Again.

I found this cluster of lemons on a tree on my property.

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You’ll be happy to know, I didn’t cry. (I just plucked ‘em.)

Later, Clarence discovered his first hot air balloon and…he cried. (Video can be found on my Instagram feed.)

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And I let the dogs out to run run run. And we all cried…tears of sheer joy and gratitude.

 

Great news! I’m done crying. And better yet…I’m almost done unpacking! And soon ready to get busy and on with the Next Big Life and Business Adventure, here in Napa Valley.

We made it.

Cheers all around,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Forward and Looking Back

I have gotten a lot of great business and life advice in 2014, but the below quote I spotted in Magic Kingdom might be one of my favorites:

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2014 was a crazy, whirlwind year for me, yet ended on a very high note.

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I traveled the world; met one of my favorite actors in London when I accidentally ran onto the set of “Downton Abbey;” I witnessed my high school best friend get married in Maui to the greatest guy; and also nearly lost my hand to a hungry swan in Zurich. I also decided to take a leap of faith and go home to California and start a new endeavor, after 26 years away.

This past year Allison Stilwell left all of us with vital advice: Do what you love—nothing else matters.

That’s damn right.

And my college friend Fr. TJ Martinez also had a motto that he said over and over and over: Do the difficult now, and the impossible soon after.

I feel they bear repeating:

Do the difficult now, and the impossible soon after.

And do what you love- nothing else matters.

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My best wishes for a very happy new year!

Bring on 2015,

 

 

 

I’d Rather Be Printing Than Packing

Well, I have a bit of an update: I have decided to fast-track my move to the Frisco Bay and make the drive next month. This is a bit sooner than I had originally thought, but I just don’t rest well on my laurels and I am ready to embark on the next leg of my life adventure. I know I will make quicker progress out in Napa, “glamping,”  than trying to build the business remotely from my house in Houston…so California here I come!

What’s slowing me down as I pack is a dilemma I know other surface design aficionados face:  I am surrounded by bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, styrofoam peanuts for goodness sake…all great stuff with which to low-tech print!

I recently received Julie Booth’s book for review, Fabric Printing at Home, a great starter book for those new to fabric printing, and a wonderful refresher for those of us who need a little coaxing and coaching to re-evaluate everyday items as potentially exciting objects for printing.

Fabric Printing at Home

All of the ideas in this encyclopedic book are creative and low-tech (meaning they are on the cheap), and for those with restless kiddies at home over the holidays, this is a comprehensive resource to inspire an afternoon (…or two or three) of indoor printing activities.

I do have a copy to give away, and I’ll randomly select a winner early next week from those who respond to the following question:

What is the object you have used to print with that has yielded the most surprising results? (I will say I am particularly eager to hear this answer!)

Now back to packing…

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

 

I am honored to share that I am a part of the “100 Artists to Fight Cancer” to help Virginia Spiegel reach her overall goal of $250,000 for the American Cancer Society! She’s just $10,000 away! Mark your calendar—10:00 AM CST on February 4, 2015 is when you could win a piece of art from one of your 100 favorite fiber artists. (Details can be found here.)

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If you have just a couple of minutes to read further, I’d like to tell you about the piece of art I am going to make, and why.

For 100 Artists, I am making a piece in honor of my college friend Fr. TJ Martinez, who at the age of 44 lost his battle against cancer just this past Friday.

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TJ’s smiling face was was one of the very first to greet me when I arrived at Boston College. During our college days, we were both rather involved in our undergraduate government; both were a part of a two-year leadership program; both helped run a student center for activities on campus; and even dated for a short spell (but realized we were better as good friends). He was also my confirmation sponsor, and when the confirmation mass was over, he gave me a giftwrapped book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss.

And the places he went. He earned not one…not two…not three…not four…but FIVE post-graduate degrees, including a law degree from UT-Austin and a Master’s at Harvard (where, not surprisingly, he gave the commencement address).

A man of deep faith, TJ eventually became a Jesuit priest, and his most stunning feat to date: raised millions of dollars in Houston to found a college prep school for children from impoverished families—children who otherwise most likely would never have dreamed of going to college.

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His school, Cristo Rey Jesuit has had two graduating classes thus far…and, wonderfully, all of the students have gone on to college!

This past January TJ invited Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, to keynote a luncheon at his school that I was fortunate enough to attend.

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The Dog Whisperer’s presence in Houston caught the attention of the local media. Here’s a video clip of TJ with Cesar: http://www.click2houston.com/news/dog-whisperer-cesar-milan-visits-local-high-school/23950332

At that luncheon TJ said something so funny, so embarrassing to my entire table. With his arm around me, he shouted, “Hey everybody, this is my friend, POKEY! We went to BOSTON COLLEGE together! We dated but she turned me DOWN…so I had to go to JESUS!”

(TJ could be cheeky too.)

That is the last time I saw my friend. In the spring, TJ was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer, a diagnosis he accepted with grace. His message to all after he was diagnosed was not to be sad, but to live joyfully.

I am choosing the joyous colors of TJ’s school (with a little pink thrown in) for my 100 Artists piece:

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I don’t know what I am going to create yet, but I know what the title will be: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

That title feels pretty perfect, just like my perfect, always smiling friend.

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Homecoming Dance, 1990. (TJ wasn’t just an incredible scholar but he could cut up the rug pretty good, too!)

 

I promise I’ll do right by you with my artist piece, TJ!

In loving memory,

Pokey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Allison Stilwell: Do What You Love

I feel very blessed, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to go to Florida this past weekend to celebrate the life of Allison Stilwell at the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery in Sanford.

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A whimsical and colorful outsider artist, Allison had a huge fan base, and her art graced the pages of Cloth Paper Scissors, Quilting Arts, Studios, Art Doll Quarterly, among other publications. She and her sister Tracy also were hilarious(!) guests on Quilting Arts TV. Simply put, Allison’s humor, her unwavering joy de vivre were evident in every piece of art she made, and people couldn’t get enough.

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Artgirlz and sisters Tracy and Allison Stilwell in Houston at Make It University a few years back.

 

When I found out Allison passed away this past May, like so many, I was devastated. But like artist Lyric Kinard had written to me online: our lives are better for having known her. I try to hold onto that thought, and I also think about the motto that Allison lived by:

Do What You Love

The celebration this past Saturday was extremely well attended; people came from near and far to celebrate and remember her. Below, people are starting to gather in the art gallery.

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There were a lot of much needed hugs…

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Every wall in the gallery was adorned with art by the Artgirlz.

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And tables overflowed with fabric hearts, art dolls, pillows, pins, buttons, and other arty bits:

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art dolls

 

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After the ceremony where poetry was read and people tearfully–yet joyously–spoke, I gathered with Tracy and Allison’s life partner, Midge Baudouin in front of Allison’s fabric collaged self-portrait. It was hard to look at this portrait and not lose it (which I did). Allison started this self-portrait but never finished it, and like so many of us can relate with our own UFO’s, she had rolled it up and put it away.  After Allison’s passing, Tracy and Midge desperately scoured the house, and when they unearthed the half-finished canvas, completed it together.

Kiss from Tracy

 

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Love to Allison

 

This life celebration–I know–is exactly what Allison would have wanted.

And she will live on in all of our hearts.

 

 

 

 

“When You’re Tired, You Take a Nap-a, You Don’t MOVE to Napa!” (…or maybe you do)

I love the above borrowed quote from “Sex and the City.” (Thanks to a good friend for recently reminding me of it!)

In reference to this quote, I’m not tired exactly, but I have been restless for a long while and I’m ready to run my own gig again. I’ve leaked via social media what my initial plans are, but here’s the full deal:

In 2015 I am moving to Napa and I’m launching a media and event business.

The name of the business is Crafting A Life, LLC. It will focus on quilting, sewing, mixed media, cooking, journaling, fitness and of course—being in Napa—oenology (wine). There are  also plans for children’s crafting programs too (sans wine).

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The initial phase of Crafting A Life, LLC, will consist of boutique-style retreats—small classes in an artful, inspiring environment. For these retreats—while learning skills and perfecting techniques—there will be fun diversions, short hikes with incredible views of Napa Valley, music breaks, great food and drink, and discussions (taking place in rocking chairs) to collectively share studio and art tips.

I am also building an art barn to host retreats (date TBA ). However, the website for Crafting A Life, LLC, will launch within a few weeks.

So if you would like to join me for these retreats starting next year, and maybe take a nap-a while here, you are welcome to. After all, I plan on investing in a number of hammocks. :)

#craftingalife

#homeofthepokeypour

Cool New DVD Out on Fabric Manipulation!


Something about the term “heirloom” and Cheryl Sleboda in the same sentence seems oxymoronic. When I hear the word “heirloom” I think traditional and dainty…more Martha Pullen than someone like Cheryl: someone who works in the comic book industry, sporting bright red hair and a platinum blond streak as wide as a quilting ruler. When I think heirloom, I don’t think of someone whose logo is a skull with cross bones made of a needle and thread, nor someone who in many  ways is a quilting pioneer, using LED lights in her quilts.

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But alas, Cheryl has surprised me because not only has she proven to be an innovative quilter,  but someone who can take the term “heirloom” and make it modern with her new DVD, “Heirloom Sewing Techniques for Today’s Quilter.” In this DVD, she demonstrates numerous techniques for dimensional fabric manipulation. Using running stitches and drawing guides, she covers everything from smocking, gathering, puffing, pleating, scrunching, and more.

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I am far, far down on the roster of Cheryl’s blog hop to help promote her DVD, and others (listed below) have covered in depth the content of the DVD. However, I just want to chime in and say that if you want your quilts to pop (literally), Cheryl’s DVD is the go-to learning tool because she makes complicated patterns easy.

I should also add that Cheryl has her own tool, an heirloom smocking template, that does the drawing grid work for you! I am going to get this tool because I think it would be GREAT for shibori work. In fact, her fabric manipulation techniques would be really fun to try with shibori.

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Hmmm…I think that’s my next studio project when I am back home again.

 

To learn more about the content of Cheryl’s DVD, check out the blogs below!

June 9 – Susan Brubaker Knapp – http://wwwbluemoonriver.blogspot.com/

June 10 – Maddie Kertay – http://www.badassquilterssociety.com/

June 11 – Faith Jones – http://www.freshlemonsquilts.com/

June 12 – Lynn Krawczyk – http://smudgedtextilesstudio.com/blog/

June 13 – Julie Creus – http://www.latodera.com/blog

June 16 – Catherine Redford – http://catherineredford.com/

June 17 – Megan Dougherty – http://thebitchystitcher.com/

June 18 – Pokey Bolton – (me)

June 19 – Jamie Fingal – http://www.jamiefingaldesigns.com/

June 20 – Cheryl Sleboda – http://muppin.com/wordpress/index.php/blog/

A Visit to the Big Apple & Zip Code 94558

I recently was invited to New York City for the weekend, and wanting to keep my mind occupied (more on that in a minute), I couldn’t have picked a a more picture-perfect weekend to go!

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A view of the Freedom Tower in the distance. (Picture taken from the top of the Empire State Building.)

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I took advantage of three beautiful days in the city, starting every day with a run through Central Park…

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…where I came across a most ambitious (and strong) dog walker. (That’s 10 dogs she is walking together.)

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I also visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, spending a somber three hours there. There are no words for this…north tower pool

 

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On a more cheerful note, I also went to Mood Fabrics of “Project Runway” fame, and I was so overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of bolts towering over me, I didn’t buy a single thing. I also went to the Museum of Sex because 1) such a museum actually exists, and 2) you never know of you will learn something. ;)

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And on a G-rated note, I saw my best friend’s little sister perform as Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins, the Musical.” If you are in the tri-state area in the next couple of months, I highly recommend bringing your family to see this production!

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Lauren Blackman as Mary Poppins, playing at the Westchester Theatre in Elmsford, NY.

 

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I also spotted someone in Times Square who has gained so much notoriety for playing his guitar in nothing but tighty whities,  he recently gained national endorsements from Fruit of the Loom. Yes, I’m talking about the Naked Cowboy. Below we are scheming a pose for a picture.

 

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And here’s my 2014 Christmas card!

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Naked Cowboy

That’s a joke by the way! (And if you are wondering if I had any Purell in my purse, I am always packing.)

All in all, a great trip! One of the reasons I was trying to keep my mind occupied for the past few days is I had just made an offer on a property in Northern California, my homeland.  Knowing that it could take several days to hear anything back, I was very glad for the Big Apple distraction.

Just a couple days ago I found out my offer was accepted, and I am now back in California for two days to begin the due diligence process. This property isn’t just a place where I can live, but where I can work, too. (Hey, I can’t play and travel forever!)

The zip code? 94558.

Napa Valley.

I hope this works out,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica Recap

I recently went to Costa Rica where I spotted this mile marker in the sand. Made me think it would be fun to make my own mile marker and stick in my front yard with the distances of all the locales I want to visit! (Except my accompanying caution sign wouldn’t warn of jellyfish but rather of frogs, dogs, a cat, and my visiting turtle.)

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Reason for the trip? I went to Costa Rica to help celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday with his sons and their significant others. Meet Jim. He has been my biggest supporter the past year or so…and it’s time to out him. ;)

Affable and positive, humorous and kind–who despite his own hard knocks in life–maintains a perpetual smile on his face that is very, very hard to remove.

 

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Before he met me, he didn’t know much about quilting, but he stopped by every day at the International Quilt Festival last year to learn about the quilt world, to understand, to meet my friends, to watch me teach and demonstrate (and to check in with me at lunch and dinner to make sure I ate).

Last week while in Costa Rica, we went catch-and-release deep sea fishing, and by this picture collage below you can tell I caught a fish about the size of a guppy. I was still proud!

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You may recognize Belen Timmins (bottom middle), also a former Quilts Inc., employee, who now works full-time at the George R. Brown Convention Center as an Event Coordinator. (Jim’s her father-in-law.) Fortunately for all of us, she caught a fish we could actually eat, a rather tasty mahi-mahi we grilled that night.

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We also went zip lining through a rain forest–11 zip lines in total that sailed high, high above the tree tops (one zip line was more than a 1/4 mile long), and encouraged those of us afraid of heights to profess the most colorful, unique expletives I think I’ve ever heard.

 

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All in all, a great time, and before I left–although a bit faint–I had a rainbow sighting!

 

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Here’s to a summer filled with new adventures for all…

Mahalo (Thank You) and Getting “Mauied”

Since I announced my resignation, I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of letters, emails, FB messages, and kind gestures  of support. Thank you for being so understanding and for taking the time to reach out! I am really looking forward to a bit of a break, and time to think about next steps. So as they say in Hawaiian…Mahalo. Thank you.

Speaking of Hawaii, I went to Maui last week and attended the wedding of my best friend from high school. She is going to throttle me for posting this particular ephemeral bit of embarrassment from more than 23 years ago…

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I think we look a lot better today, laugh lines and all…

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Meet Cindy–one of the kindest people I have ever met. She has been through so much in the last few years, and on top of keeping it together, raising her two girls,  (and doing it all with an exemplary positive attitude), she is a nurse in pediatric oncology at UCSF. She is–quite simply–resilient.

Fortunately, her kind nature was noticed by a similarly nurturing and humor-loving person: a research doctor, “Dr. Rob,” in pediatric oncology, also at UCSF. Cindy and Rob have been in a relationship for several years, and at long last he got a ring on her finger.

Luckily for all of Rob and Cindy’s friends, they made it a destination wedding in Maui so we could all take some time off, chillax, and celebrate with them.

After a nearly 10-hour flight, I arrived to this view…

SunsetI spent time with old friends and meeting their children for the first time. Below is Rose, Cindy’s college roommate from Georgetown, and her daughter Kiera. I was hell-bent on getting Kiera to like me…but it wasn’t easy and it took me a while.

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A couple days later, I was honored to help watch over Kiera on the beach when she felt “sleepy,” and when she asked me to be her escort to go to the public bathroom, well…I’ve never felt so important to anybody or anything in my life.

Sleeping Kiera

 

 

I also watched my friend’s kids giddily do the hula on stage at a luau.

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And the night before the wedding, the adults toasted with Pokey Pours.

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The morning of the wedding, we took the groom for a 7:00 AM Cross Fit session (where I got my ass kicked).

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Before the ceremony I caught up with an old friend from high school days (and we toasted you, Bud Chatham)!

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And when it came time for the ceremony, we all got our tissues ready. Below, Rob is escorted by his two daughters.

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Then Cindy’s two daughters made their way up…

Lily and Maggie

And then I saw Cindy make her way, flanked by both her parents. If you thought I was crying and putting my waterproof mascara to work, you’re right.

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And Cindy, always the ham, did this when she got kissed…

Cindy and Rob married

I am so glad to see my friend happy.

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And the best news of all, by the end of the trip I had won over a new BFF!

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An incredible time.

I’m staying the course. I am keeping to my promise of welcoming new adventures, embracing change, and exploring new opportunities.

Mahalo.

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