My Art Barn Reveal-Come on in!

At long last we had a photo shoot this past weekend to showcase the interior of the art barn, and I am really thrilled to share with you detailed shots of this building that took just about two years to see to fruition.




Barn for web

The front of the barn has three glass garage doors (they are all open in the above shot). I wanted glass garage doors so 1) the view can be enjoyed while working inside, 2) lots of natural light can come in, and 3) the porch can essentially be an extension of the work area.  What is lovely about the Bay Area/Napa, is the climate is very mild here (I don’t even own an a/c unit in my house or in the barn). So more often than not, I have those glass garage doors open.


Here’s a shot from the right side of the barn with the closest garage door open. The upstairs leads to my office and sitting area with a sleeper sofa. (I’d share a picture of that area but it is my office space…nothing to see except files of paperwork and a very cluttered desk.)


Detail of the left side of the barn. All of these tables rise and lower for either sewing (sitting) or screen printing (standing). I have 15 of them, and they are so lightweight and easy to move around. (Note: if you are looking for tables that rise and lower, you won’t typically find them in a big box hardware store, you have to order them online. I purchased mine online from Home Depot.)


Panoramic view of the barn from the bar area.


And yet anther angle.



My bins of fabric are about as organized as I will ever have them.


This antique hutch (anchored to the wall in case of an earthquake) houses all of my fabric yardage. I’ll come clean and tell you I took a lot OUT for this photo so it looked organized and neat, and you can’t see what a fabric hoarder I really am.




Above is an old antique workbench I found and where I house my ironing station. You can’t get a sense for how big this table is in this photo but it is enormous and great to put projects-in-progress on. The art quilt above is by Betty Hahn; it reminds me of my beloved city by the bay.


The sitting area for scheming new ideas.


Behind some very tall sliding barn doors is my wet studio with a deep, wide sink for fabric dyeing. To the left of that sink is a stacked washer/dryer and a shelving system where I store all of my printmaking materials.



The Pokey Pour bar area for wine and coffee, with a (smallish) Pokey Pour of a wine from a vineyard up the street.

Thanks for having an initial look! I have a lot more pictures that I’ll mostly be sharing on social media. All of the offsite workshops for Craft Napa 2017 that are taking place here at the barn are sold out, so shortly I will announce some other smaller offerings here and there.

Now I am going to do what I have wanted to do for a LONG TIME, and that is I am going to go turn this place into an arty mess.


*Photo credit for all photographs: Indigo Perez

My Thoughts on an Ill-Thought Decision from An Influential Quilt Venue

For those who may not be aware, one of SAQA’s (Studio Art Quilts Associates) traveling exhibits is entitled “People and Portraits.” Here is SAQA’s narrative and overview of the exhibit:

This exhibition celebrates the expressiveness of the human face. The diverse designs focus on a variety of both emotional states and the ways in which people interact: contemplation, joy, community, work and play.  Based on the companion book, Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, the exhibition shows two works by each of the book’s 20 Featured Artists.

Two of Kathy Nida’s quilts were juried into this exhibit, which has traveled a number of places, including previous Quilt Week ® (AQS) venues.

Kathy’s inspiration and narrative for her quilt that caused quite the commotion in Grand Rapids last week reads as such:

“This quilt is I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket, completed in September 2010, touring with the People and Portraits exhibit since October 2013. The title comes from a radio ad I was listening to while pondering the meaning of this quilt, which came almost entirely out of a running nightmare I had for over a week, where I was losing things in the water and people were standing around not helping, and I was diving down and trying to find the things I lost, which ranged from my phone to babies, actual babies, and I’d wake up panicked and breathing fast. Here’s the official statement (which I found very difficult to write…almost as difficult to explain the piece)…”

Two sisters in a strange land. A lost life jacket.
 A nasty oil spill.
 No explanation needed.

My dream inhabited by strangers.


Circling back to the purpose and narrative of the exhibit as a whole, I can certainly appreciate why this quilt was included. It’s about human emotion–panic. It’s not comfortable to look at. It is a nightmare; it’s about fear, about sisterhood and motherhood, about our future, the future of our children. It’s not meant to be a pleasant quilt. Let’s remember the context of where this quilt was placed: in an art quilt exhibit, with the specific title “People and Portraits.”

This quilt–after being shown at other Quilt Week® venues–was pulled after the Grand Rapids show opened, allegedly because one or more attendees complained about it (and allegedly because one or more persons saw a penis in it).

From what I have read, the response from the show producers was to take it down. Kathy Nida, understandably, has been very upset. When I asked Kathy, she told me AQS did not reach out to her directly. In all my experience in this industry over the last nearly 20 years, this takes the cake.

And I know this whole issue brings up the debate of censorship. I think we have to be careful about that term: it’s a show produced by a private, for-profit company, not the government censoring per se. But in my opinion, pulling the quilt after the show opened (knowing this quilt was a part of the exhibit and had been shown in previous venues) it was an ill-thought, knee-jerk response to an attendee or group of attendees. Given my experience both as a founder and editorial director of an international publishing company and also former executive of an international events company in the quilt industry, if you, as a quilt venue hung the quilt already (or published a quilt), and the show is open (or the magazine or publication is printed), stand by it. You knew it was going to be included.

What is most problematic in my mind, is AQS has not addressed this issue yet (anywhere I can see). Many people have posted online, including me, writing them directly on Twitter, asking for clarification. No response, just more requests to sign up for their e-newsletter, etc. on Facebook and Twitter.

I am not a contentious person, I don’t normally post such grievances (this is the first), but for this…I just don’t get it, and as an advocate for quilt artists, I can’t be quiet on the sidelines.

AQS, if you are reading this, please address this issue. And if I am wrong on anything on the above, just please correct me.

UPDATE: AQS issued a statement. (And I wonder how this statement resolves anything.):

American Quilter’s Society released a statement. “After receiving numerous complaints from attendees about a quilt in the SAQA exhibit, AQS removed the quilt from the People & Portraits exhibit at the Grand Rapids QuiltWeek event.

Prior to removing the quilt, the feedback AQS received was not limited to one isolated comment. Attendees reached out to AQS staff at the show and via emails and phone calls to our office.

Despite the removal of this quilt, AQS was able to display more than 700 other quilts at the show for viewing by the general public in Grand Rapids.


Publishing Again

Printed books eclipse ebooks for me, every time. As someone with a publishing background, I am so happy to at long last share that Crafting a Life, LLC, is publishing. Yes, publishing, as in print.

Melly's fabrics

First up, a co-authored gem of a book by surface design, colorists, and quilters extraordinaire, Carol Soderlund and Melanie Testa. The content is a must-have for anyone interested in making or designing their own fabrics—or an entire collection–from scratch. It’s about combining your own pictures, sketches, drawings, ideas, or favorite color schemes with low-tech, inexpensive and readily available tools to create one-of-a-kind fabrics for quilts (art, modern, traditional) or sewing projects.

Thickened dye backlit copy

Carol and Melly also illustrate (in great detail with step-by-step photos) how to creatively use a variety of surface design techniques to achieve just the fabric you are seeking.

Carol's fabrics and swatches copy

It’ll be full of recipes for color, techniques, and exercises, and yes it will be an e-book, too.

Melly's quilts folded outside copy

This book will also be manufactured in the United States, which means we wont be waiting months for a ship from overseas to deliver the content. Furthermore, I am teaming up with talented people with whom I used to work at Quilting Arts/Interweave––Larissa Davis and Larry Stein––as well as Indigo Perez, among others.

Will there be other books or printed offerings down the line? Yes. But I am going to be a bit choosy, and I am not dependent on churning out a number of books or special interest publications in a given time.

Release date will be announced shortly. For now, I just want to celebrate that I can finally share this news, to toast these two talented artists, and the team of people who are helping bring this endeavor to life!




There Is Still Time to Enter the Yvonne Porcella Tribute Exhibit

There is still plenty of time to enter your quilt (18″ x 26″) for the Live Your Brightest Life: A Tribute to Yvonne Porcella (all of the information can be found here), but I thought it would be fun to share a sampling of some of the completed entries so far:

Yvonne Porcella Tribute Quilt Full View

“Pulse” By Laurie Ceesay





“A Toast to Yvonne (And Strong Women Everywhere)” by Cindy Cooksey



“Planting a Seed” by Judy Coates Perez




“Daily Joy” by Victoria Findlay Wolfe




“YP & Me” by Jamie Fingal




“A Tree for Yvonne” by Sue Bleiweiss



Yvonnes quiltAdios Amigo 72[1]

“Adios Amigo” by Therese May


Boschert Uplifting

“Uplifting” by Deborah Boschert


There is still just about three weeks left to enter a quilt and celebrate the life of this beloved and prolific artist. This tribute exhibit will debut in Northern California at “Quilting in The Garden” taking place September 24-25th in Livermore, CA at Alden Lane Nursery where C&T Publishing, Alex Anderson, and myself will be on hand. Please help spread the word and, I hope you will join us!

On Magazine Publishing & Quilters Newsletter Magazine



Many found out last week that Quilters Newsletter is shuttering (if you hadn’t heard, read Abby Glassenberg’s post). Current subscribers will now be getting Quilting Arts for the remainder of their subscriptions.

As the founder of Quilting Arts, I scratched my head on this decision, but out of the choices the parent company, F&W, had to offer, those at the helm thought this was the best fit.

Many of us—myself included—are incredibly disappointed and saddened that QNM is shuttering. It was an industry icon and leader—more so (in my opinion) than any other magazine in quilting.

No publisher wants to shutter a magazine; they want them to thrive. If an outside company acquires a magazine, the goal is to get a return on their investment and grow that investment, much of which includes leveraging the brand to create other offerings: special interest publications, TV shows, patterns, online communities, books, events and retreats, etc.

A serial print magazine has a lot of current pressures, competition and platforms that even 10 years ago did not exist. Anybody producing or publishing a specific piece of content—whether it be a news story, a technique, a pattern, an op-ed piece, in today’s world has to seriously consider how efficiently, cost effectively, and quickly they can deliver the content and be a cut above the competition. They have to take on rising print costs, competing online tutorials and classes (some deeply discounted or even free), free YouTube videos, blogs, podcasts featuring art & craft celebrities and industry leaders, free downloadable articles and patterns, and content that can be sliced and diced into bite-sized pieces where folks can pick and choose–and purchase for a smaller price than an entire subscription.

And herein lies the paradox: a lot of content is driven these days by SEO and Google Analytics. Editors and content managers take analytics very seriously, and also factor in the number of social media followers someone has in order to make a decision about whether or not to make a sizable investment such as producing an online class or a book (as examples).

But as consumers, sometimes we don’t know what we want…and we rely on the vision, knowledge, and passion of an authority to help guide and expose us to content that will be interesting to us.

Bonnie Leman had both the knack to drive an industry and the editorial foresight to expose us to stories, quilts, and happenings we may not necessarily know we wanted…but were sure glad we were given. I have the deepest respect for her and the support of her family for creating an incredible empire and a legacy.

I really do feel there are a lot of exciting possibilities in publishing today, serial print publishing included (have you checked out Flow or Uppercase?). Having said that, unfortunately a lot of things do have a life span. And, yes, I had wondered—and no, I do not know—if QNM was at all ever an option to be sold to another entity so it could keep going.

I am with everyone that I am deeply saddened about this magazine shuttering. I hate to see it.

I have a lot more to say on this subject but I’ll close by suggesting that if you like a magazine, go support it, then grab a cup of tea, coffee or glass of wine and enjoy the quiet, reflective time. Just think…there wont be any pop-ups or text alerts.





Art Barn is Complete

Breaking my silence to finally be able to say…

My art barn is done.


It took, from concept to design to construction, two years. But it’s at long last complete (minus a backsplash and a chandelier, but hey, those aren’t necessarily requirements for making art).

PicMonkey Collage


There were some sizable setbacks, like the 6.0 Napa earthquake just two weeks after I closed on the property, and learning–after a soil test during pre-construction–that I needed to excavate thousands of tons of dirt and truck in engineered dirt that was more stable for a foundation. Tantamount to all of this was what I placed on myself: very high expectations. I have felt on shaky ground getting to this point, consistently asking myself, did I take on too much?

Upon reflection, all of those mornings over the past two years calculating every construction cost; waking to the skull-rattling sound of hammering and sawing on the hill; watching (and worrying) as construction workers balanced themselves on narrow wooden beams 30’+ above ground; and the rare, startling occurrences like the emergency landing of a hot air balloon have all collectively been the key part of the journey. Building anything is risky, but the exhilaration during the process and at the end is heady stuff!

I am looking forward to hosting small art gatherings here as well as a few offsite workshops during Craft Napa, but as my office is headquartered in the loft, I’m eager to execute other ventures too.

For the moment, though, I am pretty happy that the building part is finally behind me.






What do Frankenstein and Craft Napa have in common?




The short answer is if someone asks: “It’ ALIVE!”


I have poured myself into this event–blood, sweat,  tears, social media, etc.–and taken into account what people want at a focused retreat  in this digital day and age, and that is community.

I’ve launched the registration for CRAFT NAPA 2017 this afternoon and classes are filling quickly. I am so thrilled and trying to spread the word as much as I can about this event with the goal to make this retreat experience even better and more meaningful for all in the future.

Craft Napa 2017

Here’s one new edition where Craft Napans have the opportunity to ask candid questions of the teacher panel regarding favorite materials, best practices for studio work, favorite shows to enter, etc.


Artists View WEB



And another excursion to close out the event and be together one last time (on a choo choo train with wine):




Hope you can join us,





Awesome, Creative Endeavors on the Horizon

Thanks to all for your kind comments from my last blog post. I am more than ready to move past all of that and focus on the fun and important work ahead! It’s been an industrious last couple of weeks creating, celebrating, and scheming some fun endeavors for the future. Cases in point…

Recently I helped celebrate a dear friend (not without holding back a lot of tears at the podium). I was invited to be a part of the tribute for Yvonne Porcella and speak at her life celebration and tribute at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. What an emotional but celebratory time together. This woman was clearly and dearly loved by so, so many.

Yvonne Tribute


At long last I finished a baby quilt for the daughter of a former co-worker and friend. I wanted this quilt to be all about color and whimsy and I hope I achieved both with my fabric selections (pattern by–and adapted from–Michelle Tucker in the first issue of Sew Moderne):




I finally have my industrial sink installed in my wet studio! Cabinets to come, but it means I am now in business and my hands will be (from here on in) a mottled mix of purple, chartreuse, teal, red, lemon yellow, and every color combination I can devise…



And I have a designated sink to wash the dogs, too.


We are about to announce the CRAFT NAPA 2017 schedule on the Craft Napa website…banner


A sneak peek at some of the art that will be taught:


Brought to you by…


This will be a fun time next January 12-15 with instruction both at the Embassy Suites/Napa and my art barn; a candid (and telling) panel luncheon; an artists’  market; wine blending; and wine excursions in Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma.

I am also putting together smaller programs (when I say small, I mean small) for the art barn, too.

And I am rather excited to announce something in one month for a new endeavor for Crafting a Life, LLC— something with which I am extremely familiar.

It’s going to be a gorgeous weekend here in Napa for dyeing, sun-printing, and overall creativity. Hope you have an inspiring and creative weekend, no matter what your weather may be.


To all good things ahead,



Call for Entries! Celebrating Yvonne Porcella

A year ago, Yvonne came to my groundbreaking party in Napa. She had just gotten her nails done, and  she said to me, “This is a Groundbreaking Party, right? I just got a manicure, but I thought it was important to get my hands in the dirt…you know…to break the ground. I am willing to sacrifice my manicure, and get some dirt under my nails!” And then she walked up the hill to the dig site (escort in tow), came back, and put her dirt-ridden, yet freshly manicured hand in mine…



I introduce to you an exhibit to be held this fall:

Live Your BRIGHTEST Life: A Tribute to Yvonne Porcella

Whether you knew her or knew of her, Yvonne Porcella was one of the brightest lights in the quilt world.

Yvonne unabashedly loved color, whimsy, and was a person of incredible strength and fortitude. Having founded Studio Art Quilts Associates, exhibited in countless exhibits worldwide (including the Smithsonian), authored books, served on a number of boards, taught hundreds (possibly thousands) of students, she embraced every challenge with strength, wit, and humor. Not even a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer, which she fought for six years, could slow her down.

Yvonne was a class act, and she knew what it meant to really live.

“Live Your BRIGHTEST Life: A Tribute to Yvonne Porcella” will be a featured art quilt exhibit hosted by Pokey Bolton at “Quilting in the Garden” at Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, CA, September 24-25, 2016. With fabric and thread, this is your opportunity to celebrate an amazing icon in the quilt world, and convey what living a bright life means to you.

As part of this exhibit, we are asking quilt makers to include a written tribute to Yvonne and share how she has influenced your art our touched your life–whether you met her in person or not. This entry will be placed in a book and given to Yvonne’s family.

Quilt Entry Specifics:

  • Quilt Size: 18”(W) x 26″ (H) (You may submit up to two entries.)
  • Must include a sleeve for hanging and your information on the back.
  • 2 narratives: 1) Narrative explaining your quilt. 2) A tribute to Yvonne to be placed in a book for her family.
  • Digital Images (72 DPI) and accompanying narratives due: August 6, 2016, emailed to Subject to read: YVONNE PORCELLA ENTRY
  • You will be notified by August 12, 2016 regarding inclusion and given shipping instructions.
  • The quilt must be received by September 9, 2016 in order to be included in this exhibit.


You are invited to have your quilt for sale, all proceeds to go to her founding organization, Studio Art Quilt Associates.

Cheers to Yvonne, our collective, incredible mentor and friend…

Cheers Yvonne








Tribute to the Greatest: Yvonne Porcella

A year ago today, Yvonne Porcella paid me a great honor by coming to my art barn groundbreaking party on Valentine’s Day.


She had every excuse in the book to not make the two-hour drive from Modesto to Napa and back, and frankly, I was not expecting her. After all, she was deep in her fight against stage 4 cancer, but add to that, she had just fractured a couple of ribs by coughing a bit too hard during a recent chemo treatment. She was in a lot of discomfort, but she hid it very well behind her signature bright smile and her whacky sense of humor. Case in point: she gave me a housewarming gift that sits on my kitchen table today. Meet the “Thing:”


Yvonne has been one of my greatest mentors, and I had fun with her every time I was with her. She brought color, style, humor, and love wherever she went. When I didn’t know many people early on, she was the first to introduce me to important folks. She had numerous articles in Quilting Arts dating back to 2001. When I didn’t know a particular quilting technique, she would gently show me. My favorite tip to this day is that if the thread color on a satin-stitched binding isn’t perfect… heck, just take a Sharpie to it and color it in! She was practical without sacrificing her art. She committed herself to everything she did, wholeheartedly, and  I think we can all agree, she lived a very bright life.



I spoke to Yvonne a couple of weeks ago and proposed an idea to her. Months ago Alex Anderson had invited me to be a participant in Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore this next September. It is a beautiful setting. Here’s a picture of Freddy Moran’s quilts hanging in the oak trees from last fall’s edition:

Freddie Moran's Quilts

There is a greenhouse towards the back of the nursery, protected from the outside elements that I told Cindy, the owner would be perfect for a small art quilt exhibit. Last month I spoke to Yvonne and offered up an idea to her: What about I host an exhibit at Quilting in the Garden and call it “Live Your BRIGHTEST Life: Yvonne Porcella style.” She agreed.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I invite you to think about a small quilt (more details later) to pay tribute to someone who has been so influential to so many. I love that this tribute to her will be housed in a greenhouse: a place where beautiful things first blossom and take shape.

As it’s Valentine’s Day, I am going to drive to the ocean, bring my “Thing” with me, and think about our special friend and mentor.

With love and gratitude for having known such a special person,