Design Wall – Newtown Blocks

I don’t know what to say about these blocks. How can I not be incredibly affected by these? These blocks represent the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT, which occurred in 2012, when my daughter was six months old. She shares a name with one of the young victims. Even so many years later, I cannot make any sense of this massacre and feel just raw emotion when I think of it.


Design Wall – San Bernadino blocks

You can tell by the dates that I am getting close to finishing the blocks for my soon-to-be-renamed “No More Names” quilt. The Newtown blocks aren’t finished yet and that’s not just because they are so difficult to work on; I also ran out of blue fabric. I was able to pick up some more at the fabulous A Notion to Quilt in Shelburne, MA this weekend so those blocks will be soon complete.

So, a little out of order, but here are the blocks representing the victims of the shooting in San Bernadino, California. This shooting happened less than a year ago, but already seems to have faded from our collective memory, replaced six months later by an even deadlier event.


Photo Challenge – White-on-White

This week’s Photo Challenge was actually a “Do Over” week. Since I’ve been doing a lousy job of getting my homework done lately, I had plenty of challenges to choose from.  I was struck by the light coming through the shade in my laundry room so I decided to do the “White-on-White” challenge with a little Liquefy treatment of my shade.


Authentic Self – An Update

Fifteen months ago on my 40th birthday, I wrote that my gift to myself was going to be to finally live my authentic life.  Though I wasn’t bold enough to call it that then, that day was really an announcement of the journey that I was going to take to figure out what my authentic life really was. Today, I am trying to think of a way to celebrate because I think that I am here. I certainly don’t think the journey is over, but I realized that the road seems to be a lot flatter and the journey a little easier and that I am truly happy. (How did that happen?!)

Probably six months ago, maybe more, I reached a point where I was really stuck. As I envisioned it, I came walking out of the deep woods, carrying a heavy pack, sweaty and dirty and tired. I walked out into a clearing and. . . looked straight up at this enormous mountain rising out of the trees, its summit obscured by mists.  In that moment, I dropped the pack and sat in the dirt, starting at that God damned mountain, feeling utterly defeated because I’d already been walking for a long time and was ready for my journey to end, only to be confronted with an insurmountable obstacle. I kicked at the dirt, cursed a string of words that would have shocked my grandmother, and growled in anger at the unfairness of it all.  I sat there, staring at that %&^%*% mountain for days or weeks, knowing what it was and trying to figure out a way around it or over it, but I could not find a solution. Finally one day, I said, “To Hell with you!” I shouldered my pack and went back the way I came, into the deep woods.

I haven’t been thinking about my mountain all of these last months, but I realized today that I must have been walking around it. Today, I envisioned again walking out of the woods, brushing aside a few last branches and walking out into the sunlight, looking ahead at a clear road with nothing on either side.  I turned back to look behind me and I saw that mountain, no longer shrouded in mist, and BEHIND ME. In this moment, I’m still staring at it in disbelief because I’m astounded that it’s behind me. I never climbed it. I never saw it in all of these months of walking, but there it is, behind me. I don’t really know how it happened either, but sometime during all of those months of walking around that mountain, I became happy. I’ve been happy for a while and actually telling people, “Yes, this is what happy looks like on me. You’ve not seen it in a long time.” But, somehow it still didn’t dawn on me until today. As I stared at that mountain behind me, I thought, “Wait a minute! I’m happy. I’m actually happy!” That’s why I feel like celebrating. It sneaked up on me, but I’m living my authentic life and I’m looking forward to the road ahead. (Oh, and that heavy pack?  I’m leaving that %^& thing at the mountain.)

Design Wall – No More Names Quilt – Washington Navy Yard

I’m back hard at work on my No More Names Quilt blocks.  (By the way, I would like to rename this quilt and am taking suggestions.  I searched the tag #NoMoreNames on Instagram and found that it is already being used to refer to violence against African-Americans. They have my full support and I don’t want to co-opt the tag for my project. So, if you have thoughts about a name for this quilt, I’m taking suggestions.)

This week, I’ve worked on the blocks for the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard shooting in 2013.  As I sewed these, I thought about the recent blocks I made for the Fort Hood shooting and how, at least for the shootings I am covering, military bases and schools reappear. I think that we should all feel safe wherever we are in the U.S. (and that is part of the reason for this project), but shouldn’t military bases and schools be some of the safest places?

Washington, D.C. Navy Yard Shooting Victims

Washington, D.C. Navy Yard Shooting Victims

Creative Play Newsletter Issue 3 – Finding My Way Back: Creative Strength Training

Never underestimate the power of the Universe.  Starting in 2007, I explored “creative play,” trying a new quilting technique or creating a weekly journal quilt. In 2012, I took a maternity leave from that and by 2014, I was so far out of touch with my creative self that I wasn’t even sure she was still in there. The Universe knew better however, and started giving me the bread crumbs I needed to find my way back.

One of those first bread crumbs led me to Jane Dunnewold.  I was watching an episode of “The Quilt Show” (and I was a few months behind on them). In it, she talked about an online class that she had started offering called “Artist Strength Training.”  At the time, I wouldn’t have called myself an artist, but hearing about the class set off a little hum in my brain, like a tuning fork being tapped.  I went to bed that night talking myself out of it. “I’m sure it’s really expensive.” “I don’t have time.” “It’s probably not being offered any time soon.”  The next morning, that hum in my brain was still there so I decided to just look into it. Well, it was being offered and it was starting in a few days.  There were spots still available. And, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it might be. So, I signed up. That one bread crumb from the Universe that I picked up became a lifeline that started pulling me out of the deep of the woods where I had been wandering in circles looking for the road.

JulieNeu_CP_2016 09 08

Jane’s class is now a book renamed “Creative Strength Training; Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius” and I fully endorse it.  The book contains the same content in ten chapters as the ten weeks of the course, encouraging (and sometimes very direct) words about discovering who you are as an artist and what makes you and your work distinctive; learning how to dismantle the critical voices in your mind that stymie your creativity; and how to work the creative process. Included in the book are responses from students in prior classes, both their written responses to her lessons as well as the art that the course prompted, giving you access to a set of peers, which was such a valuable part of the class.  If you are in need of a bread crumb too, explore this one and see if it feels right for you.

Design Wall – Elemental Symbol

I mentioned last month that a friend of mine has started a creative community called BirdZeed. Each month she sends out a word to use as inspiration for a piece of art work. This month’s word was “Symbol.”  I chose to focus on the symbols for the 4 Elements (Fire, Air, Earth, Water) because that is the theme for my guild’s show this year.  Here’s the result:

"Elemental Symbol"; BirdZeed project for August

“Elemental Symbol”; BirdZeed project for August


Photo Friday – Silhouette

I am having a bad string of not getting my homework done for the Photo Challenge class so again, I am heading back into the archives to find something to share this week.  (And, many thanks to Shutterfly for organizing my photos so nicely to make this task easier.)

The challenge from a few weeks ago was to take a silhouette.  I didn’t get that one done in time, but here’s a favorite silhouette from a bike trip for the Tour de France in 2004.

France, 2004

France, 2004