Paulette Haywood Ogard, writer and co-author (with Sara Bright, photographer) of Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into their Lives, commissioned me to make a large fabric art panel for her home office. I imagined Paulette sitting at her desk, writing, and taking a break to look out into the garden through the french doors to watch the butterflies. I was thrilled that she would ask me to make a wall hanging for her, and my ideas went straight to bright and colorful butterflies. When she said, “No, no, I don’t do butterflies,” I was surprised, and then stuck, because I couldn’t imagine anything else.
The Way of the Dodo, is about balance — What has been lost, what is in peril, and what may we still be able to recover from the brink of extinction? The dodo bird perfectly embodies the path that we humans may be on if we are not careful. We should not be so lax and irresponsible in our role as stewards of the Earth.
Watching life cycles and metamorphosis in my own yard makes me happy, and so does the passion flower that wears a purple tutu. The maypop takes me back to my childhood. My brothers and I would bust open the passion vine fruits, eat the pulp, and spit out the seeds as we walked and explored the hollows surrounding our Guntersville, Alabama home on the lake.
Every once in a while, the planets align and my worlds collide. One of my favorite projects, a commission which included so many of my interests, was for the mountain home of Merrill Stewart. I made two story quilt slipcovers for flat screen televisions. The TVs were mounted to cleverly designed wooden stands on casters. The stands could be covered in place and rolled away, out of sight and out of mind for when the mountain scenery should be the only visual stimulant.
When I make wall hangings, I have fun with the process of getting to know the clients who commission them. I begin with asking a series of questions, and each answer leads to more questions. Some of the questions I ask are about childhood experiences, favorite books, fables, and fairy tales, because I believe as adults, we still have deep visual and sensory connections we tap into from time to time. I am interested in childhood sensibilities and evolving influences, and I like to capture those themes in my fabric art pieces.
I am lucky to live in close proximity to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. The mountain has miles of trails that go from one end to the other, passing by remnants of the mountain’s iron ore mining history, leading to wetlands, sandstone outcrops, a limestone quarry and glade, and on to peaks with views of Birmingham. The mountain is my re-start button on a stressful day, my exercise gym, my social network, my meditation spot, and my backyard wonderland.