Archive for Elements Series

“Elements – Spirit”

In Aristotle, the Greek philosopher’s, (384 BC – 322 BC), original writings, he spoke of there being four elements of which all matter was composed, earth, fire, air, and water. Depending on the substance, there would be varying degrees of each element contained, but those were the “building blocks” of how he perceived the composition of material. Diseases and ailments were caused by too much or lack of one or more of the elements, so the foundations of medical treatment in Europe and later in North America, was based on his writings. Some conditions indicated there was too much fire in a person’s body, so blood letting, which was associated with too much fire in the body due to its red color, was needed to alleviate the condition. Over zealous blood letting was purported to have caused the death of George Washington, the first president of the United States, so this belief was still in practice in the late 1700s.

Spirit, as an element, however, was not included in Aristotle’s original writings. It is however, included in many traditions, especially in earth based religions. Many belief systems, both ancient and modern, have the concept of a soul, spirit, energy, or similar “substance” existing in and moving through all living things. It is to honor those beliefs that I included Spirit as the fifth and last in this series of art quilts based on the Elements.

Since spirit was probably the most elusive concept for me in the creation of these quilts, I chose to give the piece a sense of magical, playful, joyful, and moving qualities. To create this impression, I used several hand beaded butterflies in the piece. For me, these delightful creatures appear to be some of the most joyful on the planet. Even their flight patterns, as they bounce up and down, appear happy to me. You can see two of these beaded butterflies on the left side of the detail shot below.

The crescent moon cutouts that appeared in the “Fire” piece were also included here to give a magical quality to the work. I still had a few of those clear “poof” buttons left that were used to represent feathers, jellyfish, puffs of smoke, and wisps of clouds in the previously posted quilts, so of course, I used them here to again focus on the magical look I was trying to create. (You can see one of them on the left margin, below the mid-line, in the detail shot and a number of them in the upper right of the full shot.) Lots of fabrics and buttons with bubbles or small circles on them were included to suggest effervescence. You can see rivers of black fabric with small, metallic magenta circles on them throughout the piece. (Those metallic circles melt when you iron them, which I learned the hard way! Fortunately, on a piece like this, buttons and beads cover LOTS of mistakes.)

The piece has a definite left and right side, which for me were used to designate the masculine and feminine dualities that are honored in many religions. Usually, the feminine side is on the left, while the masculine is on the right, which is what I intended to convey in this piece. However, my take is that there is some of both gender qualities in all of us, so I included elements that crossed the mid-line, to indicate that concept. There are also two crescents in the middle that are facing each other to further that idea regarding the union and honoring of the masculine and feminine aspects in all of us.

Spirit, no matter what your own belief in that concept is, has had a powerful influence on people’s interactions with each other throughout history. Perhaps the image of this piece as you reflect on it, will allow the Spirit that moves through all of us, bring you peace and harmony. At least that’s my wish for you.

Have you ever had an experience where you encountered spirit or energy beyond the usual explanations of science or beliefs? Was it a moment of encountering great beauty or a profound truth came into your realization? Why not share it with us, as we all grow when we learn from the experiences of others.

To see more of my beaded art quilts, please visit my web site at 

“Elements – Air”

Air is a very ephemeral quality that artists have tried to capture in their works over the years. Claude Monet, the French artist, did a famous series of paintings of what could have been a rather boring subject, haystacks. His objective was to show how their appearance changes throughout the day as the light shifted, and then how they changed throughout the seasons as the angle of the sun changed. “Chiaroscuro”,which in Italian, means “light/dark” is a way that artists since the Renaissance have used modeling or shading to suggest volume in two dimensional drawings or paintings. Even certain parts of the world have different natural qualtities of light, from the golden sunlight of the blazing tropics to the silvery tones of summer light in Scandinavia.

So, for this fourth art quilt, “Elements – Air”,  I had a lot of choices from which to choose when it came to picking the main colors for this piece. I chose what for me is summer sunlight, here in the Mid-Atlantic in the eastern USA, golden shimmers on a white background. I used hundreds of golden buttons and beads to give that effect. A costume jewelery pin along the upper right (and also in the detail shot below) has a terrific sunburst array.Shi-sha mirrors from India, gold lamé fabric, and large gold colored domed buttons with silver rims add to the golden quality I was trying to create. The same clear “poof” buttons that have been feathers, jellyfish, and smoke puffs in the last three postings I’ve written about, are also used in this quilt. (I love using the same material for different subjects.) In this piece, I used them all over the surface to suggest the thin wisps of high cirrus clouds that indicate in this part of the country that we will have precipitation in the next 3-4 days. (Growing up in farmland, I spent a lot of time imagining circus animals or faces in the shapes of the clouds overhead. I like looking at the variations in clouds!)

Blue is another important color that I associate with a bright summer day, so in this detail shot on the left, you can see the tiny 4mm flat blue glass rondelle beads and the 7mm flat glass flower beads that were used to suggest a blue sky peeking out from behind all of this gold and white splendor. Since each of these beads has a central hole, a “keeper” or “stopper” bead has to be used to fill in that center space. Thread comes up from the back surface, through the central hole, through the keeper bead and then back down through the middle. This way, thread doesn’t have to be used to sew over the surface of the flat bead to secure it to the background, obscuring its shiny surface. I LOVE shiny things, so many of my beads have what’s known as an AB or Aurora Borealis finish to them. (How perfect is that to use them for a piece whose subject matter is air?)

As I was writing this piece, I realized that for all four of the pieces that I’ve written about so far, I’ve captured my impression of my perception of what the subject matter is like, not the actual “element” itself. This realization was especially true for this piece, as light is a difficult design element to include for a lot of artists, especially photographers to capture in their work. Glass, jewelry, and other media whose surfaces are reflective are much more difficult to acquire a true color representation of the piece. I hope that this art quilt and how I chose to depict this subject matter gives you some sense of how I feel about this elusive substance, air.

Have you ever had an experience where the quality of light that you were observing had an effect on you? Perhaps your memory includes sunlight shimmering on the surface of a pond, or beams of light glinting off of spider webs in the forest. Why not leave a comment and tell us about it.

You can see more of my beaded art quilts at 

“Elements – Fire”

While the first line of William Blake’s famous poem begins
“Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night”, and then goes on to talk about the creation of the tiger, I have always been fascinated with the part about “..burning bright, in the forests of the night…”. There’s something very primeval about the sight of a fire contrasted against the night’s darkness. The sound of the sparks as they spit from the burning wood can startle and surprise or have a comforting sound depending on the age, moisture content, and type of wood. Alchemists used fire to contrive their concoctions whose formulas were often disguised with various symbols, so that the uninitiated would not be able to steal their secrets. Many societies use fire as a purification ritual in their ceremonies. So, this art quilt, “Elements- Fire: is dedicated to all and any of of these traditions and experiences.

I’ve always been fascinated with the different colors of a fire, which in science I learned had to do with the different temperatures at different heights away from the fuel source. However, in choosing the main color for this piece, there was no other choice in my mind but red. Red is second only to purple as to being my favorite color, although I tend not to do very many all red quilts. I just looked up at my fabric stash and noticed that I don’t even have that many red fabrics either….must think about why that’s so at some point.

 As in all of the pieces in this series, the surface is richly covered with an assortment of embellishments. I do have a large collection of buttons and beads from which to choose. I like to use repeating colors and shapes as you can see in the stripe of simple orange buttons down the middle of the detail shot on the left. I also used a series of gold crescent moons cut from a sateen fabric. This was to honor how much fire has been used over the centuries under the shimmer of moonlight in various ceremonies. Again, in the lower left side, and half way up, you can see those white “poof” buttons that I mentioned in the previous two postings. Here those same buttons that were bird feathers or jellyfish in the previous two quilts I wrote about, are used here to symbolize puffs of smoke. In many Native American traditions, burning plants, especially tobacco and sage, were used to carry prayers up to the gods, and so I show respect for those traditions in this piece, too.

To the left, is a detail of a button given to me by a friend. It was from her father’s mother’s coat. He worked in the garment district in New York City, and probably brought a set of these home to his wife  to replace some more mundane ones she had on her coat. People often give me old buttons and costume jewelry, (whose grandmother didn’t have a button jar?) as they know I’ll give it a good home. I used this one of a turbaned chief to add subtle mystery to this piece. Arabic scholars were adept at the beginnings of modern chemistry, and Damascus steel, forged in the heat of fiery furnaces, made some of the best swords during the Middle Ages.

There are countless decisions that I make as I choose from the wealth of materials that I have in my studio. Some of them are quite conscious, as was the choice of the turbaned chief button of which I just wrote. Others seem to flow from the connection that I’m in as I flow with the work at hand. I hope that you can feel some of the joy of creation that I put into each piece as I forge my works of art.

Have you ever had a moment when the spirit of creation has touched your soul and you made something just because it needed to be made? Why not leave a comment and share what it was like for you.

You can see more of my art quilts at

“Elements – Water”

This piece, “Elements – Water” is the second created in the series of Elements quilts that I’m writing about this week. They all are my way of honoring the work of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. His early writings were the basis for scientific teachings for hundreds of years, and his influence was far reaching. His theory that the four elements earth, fire, air, and water were the major components of all living things influenced the development of medicine and other forms of early sciences. Later, during the Middle Ages, alchemists built on his ideas as they worked with various chemicals in the pursuit of trying to turn base metals into gold. Thus, modern chemistry was born.

When deciding what color to choose as the main one, blue was the first choice. However, I’ve seen natural bodies of water ranging from the mineral green of Lake Louise in Canada to the intense, azure blue of the Caribbean. I’ve even seen a burgundy colored lagoon in Venezuela whose water was colored that way because of the tannin in the local vegetation. However, as blue is usually cited as most people’s favorite color, there is usually an easy supply of blue fabrics and embellishment materials. I went for the obvious decision for this piece’s main color. Blue it was!

One of the surprises whenever I have seen the ocean floor close to shore is the difference between the relatively flat, bare surface above and the wealth of life teeming below. For me, this is especially true in the Caribbean, as this is the only place where I’ve been fortunate to see much of the sea’s bottom. I once went on a mini-sub ride off the coast of Barbados and the wonders that I saw in the relatively shallow water were astounding. The variety of vegetation, the colors, the textures are all still tucked away in the recesses of my mind. I think that artists are constantly collecting information for future pieces that they haven’t even thought of yet. I know for me, that was certainly the case that day in the mini-sub.

I tried to capture some of that richness that I remembered in the buttons, beads, and other materials that I used for embellishments. In the upper right and the lower middle of the detail photo, there are gold metal star fish buttons. It would be very hard to feed them through a button hole, but they makes a great addition to this piece. In the middle of the lower edge is a white bottle with a brown stripe running down the middle. It’s made out of buffalo horn, and to me, speaks of the sunken treasures on the sea bottom from ships lost at sea. The clear plastic buttons that appear as white “poofs”, especially in the lower right, I used to resemble jelly fish. (In the earth quilt I wrote about yesterday, the same buttons were used to mimic bird feathers.) There are also some pieces of real shells that have been added to add to add to the undersea effect.

There are a lot of ways that I could have chosen to simulate water, and I chose an under sea scene. While writing this now, I stopped to reflect on why I did that, as I could have chosen a pond, river, or lake for the theme for this piece. Perhaps, it’s because of my science background, I know that all life originated in the sea. We also carry remnants of that primordial soup in the saline solution in our blood that gives us life. I also imagine the ocean image was used because I had a lot of cool materials from which to choose for the embellishments. However, you might choose to think of water, and whatever is your image of it, I hope that you’ll work to help support causes that help to keep this vital resource clean for future generations. Water is fundamental for the well-being of all of us.

You can see more of my art wrok on my web site at 


 I don’t often do series, as I usually get bored with the same colors after awhile. However, after my husband left, I decided to explore the traditions of many spiritual teachings and to incorporate many of these new findings into my art work. I had also taught the history of Aristotle’s elements when I was a middle school science teacher, so I decided to do a series based on his elements, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, and then added the fifth metaphysical element, Spirit, to the series. Today’s posting is about “Earth.

I love textures, and the surfaces of rocks that are covered with moss and lichens have always fascinated me. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, making “houses” to play in. As I got older, I did the work for a lot of the Girl Scout nature badges, and so I began a life long love of plants. A forest floor that has not been over run by humans teems with various forms of life. Crawling around on your hands and knees with a magnifying glass can be absorbing and consuming as a child’s imaginative capabilities develop. Later on, I enjoyed this fond childhood pastime as an adult, watching a trail of leaf cutter ants, on the rain forest floor in Bolivia, each carrying a triangle of a leaf on its back to add to the nest. This small, green stream of moving vegetation was one of those life imprints that I have stuck in my mind for eternity.

To capture some of those rich visual images that I have of lush growths in nature, I used a wealth of materials, as you can see in the detail shot on the left. One of the first inclinations of people when they see my work is to reach out and touch it. That, too, for me is one of the appeals of my art quilt, as I get to play with lots of diverse objects of different shapes, sizes, surfaces, colors, etc. I like to touch my work, so I’m pleased when others want to do the same. However, touching isn’t allowed in an exhibition setting because of the volume of people going through, so I’d like to think that I offer enough visual appeal that by looking at the plethora of details, there’s enough there in my work to satisfy some of those with tactile desires.

In this piece, I used green buttons and beads, because for me, that’s what I think of when I think of Earth. (Never mind the fact of which I am very much aware that from space, this is a blue planet.) What I was trying to achieve were those “up close and personal” moments that one can experience if you slow down enough to take a close look at what’s out there in the ladnscape to be observed. Besides the green buttons and beads to simulate plants, there are knobby buttons to suggest stones, and dyed pieces carved from bone (the vertical brown and white column in the lower right of the detail shot above). To the upper right of that bone piece is a clear white button with feather-like swirls on it, as if a bird’s plumes had just wafted down on to the forest floor. Costume jewelry and buttons with flowers were added to help create a richly textured documentation of what the Earth represents for me.

I live and create here in the “Eastern Deciduous Forest” in Maryland on the east coast of the USA. Green is the predominant color 3 seasons out of the year, so that was the hue that I chose for “Elements -Earth”.In my own physical gardens outside, during the growing season, I try to create a wealth of scenes to inspire me. There are also landscapes that I’ve seen in West Virginia that have rocks whose surfaces are as richly textured with vegetation as what I depicted in this piece. It is from these souces that I created from my own impressions and experiences this first piece in the series. “Elements” is my homage to this planet that we live on.

To see more of my art work, please visit my web site at .