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Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating

Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating

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Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating

213 pagine
2 ore
Aug 20, 2017


This book contains a collection of beautiful art, plus the personal stories of the 23 multi-talented contributors. The common thread through their lives is that each woman has overcome physical and other challenges to become a successful artist in the textile medium.

Many of these women have websites and sell their work through the Internet sites, while others sell in galleries, exhibits, or through their teaching. Some create to speak to political and other social issues, while others use their quilts to educate the public about their physical challenges. If you have dreamed of expressing your own creativity, this book will provide the inspiration you need.

Aug 20, 2017

Informazioni sull'autore

I am an artist, and I don't just like to create mixed media and fiber arts and interactive art; I love to read and write about it, and this is what I have pretty much done. Life should never be a bunch of apologies for what we wish we could have, would have, should have done. I am feeling very happy that I have done so many things in my lifetime and my writing has been the base for most all of it.

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Anteprima del libro

Artful Alchemy - Anne Copeland

Artful Alchemy

Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating

Edited by

Anne Copeland

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 by Anne Copeland

Cover Art © 2015 by Laura Jean Freeman

Print edition layout and e−book conversion by DLD Books,

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re–sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.

Editor’s Note

The editor of this book has endeavored to provide accurate and meaningful information for the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the contributors are not providing psychological, financial, legal or other paid professional services.


Bertha Aguilar, Anne Copeland, Chris Gilman, Suzie Hammond, Jeanne Hewell–Chambers and Nancy, Elizabeth Jameson, Marquetta Johnson, Sandy Keating, Lynda Lambert, Catherine Lamkin and Aunt Anna Smalls, Klara Landesberg, Theresa Matteson, Linda and Dean Moran, J. Marie Norris, Lisa Quintana, Joan Raciti, Suzanne Moutan Riggio, Susan Shie, Bonnie J. Smith, Jolanda Van der Stigchel, Rita Suthers, Anne Theobald, and last, but not least, Barbara Williamson, without whom this book would not have become a reality.


This book began with an advocacy for physically challenged fiber artists. It has been a long time in the gathering and preparation, but it was worth the journey. We have learned a lot along the way and our hearts have been filled with the joy of watching other creative spirits grow and flourish.

I would like to express my gratitude to my soul sister, Barbara, who encouraged us upward and onward through some rough times, and without whose help this book would never have come to exist. And thanks to all those wonderful people who never gave up on us even at times when we almost gave up on ourselves.

And special thanks to Laura Jean Freeman for her wonderful patience in getting our cover designed for us. I especially want to thank the love of my life, Richard D. McCoy, who encouraged and supported me through some major physical and emotional challenges during the final stages of getting this book ready to submit for publication. He is truly my rock in this life.

Barbara Williamson gives her own acknowledgements as follows: I dedicate this book to all my family and friends who have supported and encouraged me along the way, and to all the physically challenged people who have inspired me with their ability to face life’s challenges and never give up.

We want to thank every contributor to the book whose writing not only will help educate the public about challenges they may never heard of, but whose struggles and successes will inspire all of us long after we are gone.

And we especially want to thank our many donors, without whom this book would not have come to exist in print.


Dee Brown, Lou Brown, Christina Cromwell, Ann Flaherty, Jeanne Hewell–Chambers, Jim and Jane Ingersoll, Lynda Lambert, Sylvia Long, Linda Teddlie Minton, Linda Nola, Syida Long, Ellie Orbenton, Ray Pacheco, Suzanne M. Riggio, Sandy Seiferling, Ashley Smith, Joan Weiss, Ann Williamson, and Hugh and Jennifer Williamson

And to the others who might come along after this book is in print, we thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.


I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.

—Maya Angelou

Aunt Anna Smalls

This book is dedicated to Catherine Lamkin’s Great−Aunt Anna Smalls, and all the young women who followed her afterward.

Catherine Lamkin’s Great−Aunt Anna Smalls and her husband

Sissie: Anna Smalls

By Catherine Lamkin

She was just a whisper of youth

six full moons out of South Carolina’s

watermelon fields

when a New York job ripped off

her right elbow, wrist and fingers,

City dreams and hopes.

I remember

144th Street cool weekends

Glasses of Tang and Harlem’s

hot breath on my bony legs

On stoops waiting for Sissie to come home

Handicapped, she worked at Goodwill

second–hand–me–down store

full of sweaters, chipped lamps

missing limbs &

good buys ‘cause somebody

donated an almost brand new

TV that almost worked.

I remember

that one arm

left fingers, wrist and elbows

bending pain ‘round independence

lifting shopping bags full of

honeydew, grits and Uneeda biscuits.

Sissie, daughter of pecan trees.

Sweet geechie herbal root working

woman of my life

had a habit of collecting

broken down one–eyed doll babies

that she clothed and fixed.

I remember the strength

of tornado whirling

her left shoulder

lifting Singer sewing machine

to table as nimble fingers

stitched dollbaby clothes,

Mama’s quilts and smocks.


For those who have never had a disability, or perhaps have never had relatives who have had disabilities, it is almost impossible to understand what it means beyond the physical challenge itself. The idea of inequality, even today, is still prevalent.

Then there is the social isolation. When someone is severely challenged, he or she might not be able to get out of the house regularly, and it might be difficult for the person to attend social events such as quilt guild meetings, exhibits or shows. The disabled person might be dependent on others to help him or her manage the most seemingly simple of tasks—getting out of bed, getting bathed, and sometimes even eating. Being dependent on others for one’s survival can cause a loss of self–esteem and a sense of being safe and capable all the time. It is important to understand these differences.

Another extremely frustrating experience many physically challenged people face is a misunderstanding related to how others communicate with them. If the person is in a wheelchair, people will sometimes talk to the person as though he or she is deaf or mentally slow. Sometimes people are just plain rude to them, wanting them to get out of their way, sometimes staring rudely, or asking stupid questions. Many of us have witnessed people making fun of children or adults who are developmentally disabled.

Back in the early 1990s, I became interested in the physically challenged fiber artists whose posts I read on a fiber arts Internet list. I realized that it was not only a challenge physically but also financially for most of these artists. With that in mind, I first did a survey and was shocked to see how many fiber artists had a wide variety of physical challenges. I also realized that many, if not most, of them were on fixed incomes and could not afford to lose money entering juried shows or shows that did not help further their careers. Yet they often seemed unsure which were the right shows to enter.

During that time, I met a paraplegic fiber artist, Barbara Williamson, through a phone call as she was trying to get some assistance with getting a career going. She had found my name and contact information since I was a certified quilt appraiser. She had talked to various organizations with no assistance or encouragement at all. Most of them simply did not understand what she was trying to do.

We talked over many months about disabilities and the challenges of trying to get professional assistance for careers. With the ideas we shared, I decided to found a very small nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists, Fiberarts Connection of Southern California. Barbara would serve as Secretary, and her caregiver would serve as Treasurer. I have to say that without her willing participation and support, Fiberarts Connection of Southern California would never have come to be. That job was pretty easy since there was never any money in the treasury.

In 2005, we began assisting the artists with getting good exposure for their art that was affordable and viable for them as well as for us. I did most of the physical work and reports as Barbara lived in Paradise, CA, more than six hours away. We never met in person, but she and I shared ideas that seemed to work for the tiny organization and the people we served. Ultimately we became soul sisters and have been through the present day. We have been through many trials and tribulations, but in the end, we have always been facing in the same direction.

When exhibits and shows learned about the nonprofit, they agreed to take the art as themed group shows, and they assisted with the postage to and from the shows. Often these were traveling exhibits, so a person entering one exhibit would end up having their work go to two or three other exhibits with that one. At the end of the shows, they would send the quilts back in one shipment, and we would then individually ship them back to their owners.

We used art galleries and museums that charged minimum commissions, and those became the standard type of exhibits for us. With volunteers, I would get the pieces hung, or I would get them hung myself when possible. I would be at those exhibits to talk with viewers about the artists and to try to get sales for them. We never sold large numbers of fiber arts pieces, but we did sell. Mostly what would happen was that after the shows, visitors would get the contact information from me so they could contact the artists directly. That was fine, since we were not working to make any profit.

The first year we decided to hold a traveling exhibit, we picked the theme My World in Black and White. We had 127 participants from various locations in the world, and we had some 10 live venues for the exhibit that year in other states and locally in California. All this for one small entry fee of $20 and the cost of shipping the work to us, and those who did not have even that got financial help from our own thin pockets so that they could participate. We covered the shipping back to the artists.

One of the things that stands out in my mind is that one year we held an exhibit to specifically honor physically challenged fiber artists. Although the name of the exhibit escapes me at the moment, I began to get a lot of calls from women with what we call the invisible types of physical challenges, such as

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