Monday, May 4, 2009

Old Friends and Art, Part II

Some of the Ohio Designer Craftsman Best of '09 artists

Friends and mentors are rare gems. Friends and mentors who are also artists are the jewels in the crown. Because the work of an artist is done in isolation, friends and mentors who understand are crucial.

I had a chance to spend time with both at the Ohio Designer Craftsman Best of '09 exhibition opening on Sunday. Although Deborah Melton Anderson was not in the show, she came to the opening. I hadn't seen her since before her husband passed away. In addition to being one of the sweetest and kindest people I know, she has also been a mentor to me, perhaps without even realizing it. When I first joined the Art Quilt Network, in the course of listening to the other artists speak about their processes, I learned about image transfer techniques from Deb. I had learned to do chemical transfers and cyan printing in college, but hadn't tried transfer paper. I didn't know how to use it, where to get it, or what I could do with it. Deb, an early pioneer of the process, was so patient with my questions, and provided me with all the information I needed. I cannot imagine my artwork without the layering process of photographic transfers. I am grateful to Deb for her sharing spirit.
Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart, Susan Shie, Gayle Pritchard, and Deborah Melton Anderson at the ODC opening. Photo by Susanne Gregg

I also first met Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart at the Art Quilt Network. Another kind and gentle soul, Mary Helen could always be counted on for encouragement and a joyful spirit, despite her own health struggles. An amazing artist, she organized an international traveling exhibition in which I took part, and made sure to share with me that the prime minister of Australia had commented on and enjoyed my artwork. She had an amazing piece in the ODC exhibit, inspired by her Australian travels.
Australia's Kookaburra, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

I met Susanne Gregg a few years ago, through Susan Shie. My husband and I had moved to Florida five years ago, because he was unable to find work in Ohio. Ultimately and fortunately, we were able to move back to Ohio, into our same, unsold house. At that time, Susan, whom I have known since we were both students at the College of Wooster, was nanny to her newborn granddaughter, and living in the Cleveland area during the week to do so. When we moved back from Florida, she invited me to participate in an artist's group she was part of. Susanne was in the group as well, and we all hit ot off when we met. Luckily, Susanne lives nearby, and has become one of my dearest, most supportive artist friends. Her artwork is an inspiration.
Detail, Apothecary, by Susanne Gregg. Photo by John Seyfried.

I met Susan Shie on my first date with my husband, back in the late 1970s. He is a musician, and he brought me to the Needle's Eye in Wooster, Ohio, a Friday night musicians' jam session. The Needle's Eye was the communal house Susan lived in at the time. We have stayed in touch over the years. Like many of you who have had the privilege of spending time with Susan, I always feel supported and encouraged by her. A lifelong group-maker, she has a magical way of bringing women together, and helping them to find their way. I cherish her friendship, and her artistic mentorship. I have never met anyone with a truer voice, or a more committed work ethic. I was so proud that both she and Susanne won awards at yesterday's exhibition.

Susan Shie with her award-winning piece, Food Scales. Photo by Susanne Gregg.
At the opening, I reconnected with artists Carole Pollard and Sue Cavanaugh. I met Tom Muir, another award winner at the show, and a metals professor at Bowling Green State University. I also made a new artist friend, Laura Barnhardt Corle. Both Tom and Laura know a mutual artist friend, Steve Smith, a professor at Findlay College. He and I went to the same high school, and he was a friend of my older brothers. When our high school art teacher, Jane Diller, retired, we participated in an exhibition in our native Van Wert in her honor, in which all of her former students who had become professional artists participated. Laura also knew my high school friend and fellow fiber artist, Tracy Ruhlin, an active member of Ohio Designer Craftsman, and art professor at Findlay College who died a few years back.
I know this post is full of names and links and memories. I think it's proof positive of my point: the network of artists and mentors are a close-knit group, even if that is not apparent to the rest of the world. As for me, and I honored to know all of you, and grateful for all you do.


  1. It was a joy to behold to see you all at the ODC Best of 2009 and I do remember that the prime minister was enchanted by your work back in 1993. I felt like a Big sister when I took the Big trip to Australia and yet I never felt alone. This experience opened my heart and widen my lenses to reach out to discover the diverse globe we all call Home. I learned I do have everything I have ever needed and the circle has not been broken when I meet and love another artist. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  2. You were definitely the big sister, and a brave one at that! People in general don't seem to understand how much traveling to distant places really does open the heart and the eyes.