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

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!




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.






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,



Announcing the Winner of the $500 eQuilter Gift Certificate!

The CRAFT NAPA Blog Hop is now completed, and the winner of the $500 gift certificate to is Janet Avery from Jenny Lyon’s blog post!

Congratulations, Janet! Please email me at to redeem your gift certificate.

In other news, there are just three days left to register for workshops and events at CRAFT NAPA!


The full catalog can be found here:




And here is a new addition to the Crafting a Life website: a shortlist of some of my favorite places to wine, dine, and shop while in Napa:

Pokey's Picks


I want to thank all of the teachers for participating in the hop, and to Cheryl Sleboda for organizing it:

Jane LaFazio –
Lynn Krawczyk –
Judy Coates Perez –
Jenny K. Lyon –
Jamie Fingal –
Melanie Testa –
Elizabeth St. Hilaire –
Leslie Jenison –
Carrie Bloomston –
Cheryl Sleboda –


Hope everyone enjoys a creative weekend!


Last Stop on the CRAFT NAPA Blog Hop!


We’re here! The final stop on the Craft Napa blog hop for the $500 eQuilter gift certificate! (Who doesn’t want to win $500 worth of fabric around the holidays?!)

I invite all to share a response below, and I will collect the comments from all the Craft Napa blog posts, including this one, and announce the randomly selected winner tomorrow.

I am incredibly honored by everyone who has faith in me and is joining this inaugural Craft Napa event next month!


To that end, I am working as best I can to make it a success. It has meant a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, taking into consideration what is currently available in the market, including online instruction.

It means I am constantly asking the question: What do people yearn for out of a live, in-person gathering in the year 2016?

Getting personal…

Moving back to Northern CA, specifically Napa, has been nothing less than a stunning decision to me. And I mean that in the truest sense–a deer-in-the-headlights kind of stunning. I moved away a long time ago. I was 17 years old when I went to college in Boston. I am now 44. Chronologically speaking, I have been away more than I have been home.

Life events have ultimately brought me back.

Now that I think of it, Napa had left an indelible imprint just before I left the Bay Area in 1989. I grew up about 25 miles from Napa, and my high school offered a small weekend retreat in Napa County chaperoned by our class dean and a few other teachers. The house where we stayed was an old, drafty Victorian-style home painted lemon yellow with white trim, situated in a hilly countryside adorned with rows and rows of dormant grapevines. It was the stark of winter, but it was lush and green, frosty and cold.

It was invigorating.

I remember long talks with a trusted teacher at the retreat, discussing life’s possibilities. On the final morning, just before boarding the van to go home,  I thought: this is it. This is the most beautiful place on earth. And I asked myself: What is possible?


Winter Napa

And now, I ask myself that question again in my mid-40’s. Given life’s opportunities, given disappointments and loss, given mistakes and triumphs, given everything that has led me here– to Napa–what is possible?

I pose the question to you:

For you in 2016: What is possible?

Comment away!

And for those coming to Napa next month, I cannot wait to share this magical place with you…

Wine train






Celebrating CRAFT NAPA & a Chance to Win a $500 Gift Certificate to eQuilter


We are  in the final stages of preparing for the inaugural CRAFT NAPA event in January, and I have to say…we are having an absolute blast putting this together!


Check out the CRAFT NAPA apron:

Pokey Apron web

A closer look:

Apron close-up

This apron was designed specifically for coloring. Every CRAFT NAPA participant will got a complimentary apron so we can color with fabric markers and add some stitching in the BERNINA sewing room or in the wine bar after hours.

Indigo with the help of Larissa Davis also designed a slick catalog for the workshops:


I really can’t be happier with how this inaugural event is coming together, and while we are in the final stretch until registration closes, a CRAFT NAPA teacher blog hop has commenced where one lucky person will win a $500 gift certificate to eQuilter!

Just comment on the following blogs (look for their CRAFT NAPA posts), and you could be in the running to win this $500 gift certificate. I will be announcing the winner after December 10th on this blog and also on the Crafting a Life website.

The CRAFT NAPA Blog Hop Schedule

Nov 30 – Jane LaFazio –
Dec 1 – Lynn Krawczyk –
Dec 2 – Judy Coates Perez –
Dec 3 – Jenny K. Lyon –
Dec 4 – Jamie Fingal –
Dec 5 – Melanie Testa –
Dec 6 – Elizabeth St. Hilaire –
Dec 7 – Leslie Jenison –
Dec 8 – Carrie Bloomston –
Dec 9 – Cheryl Sleboda –
Dec 10 – Pokey Bolton –


Thanks to our CRAFT NAPA sponsors!






What Shark Tank, a Bacon Alarm Clock, & CRAFT NAPA Have in Common

I recently started to see a trainer again; heck, these old bones aren’t getting any younger, and as I get up in age, it’s important to keep these bones from breaking, so I am making this investment in myself.

I have different fitness goals than my trainer, though; I want to be able to drink wine and eat fries without gaining weight…whereas she is a competitive body builder. She works very, very hard at what she does, and we have had some quality discussions about our career paths, what it means to follow your passions, and the hard work it requires to see them through.

Years ago, my trainer,  armed with her law degree, worked in family law for a length of time, and also did some contractual work in the wine industry. But she knew that a sit-down job at a desk all day was not where she wanted to be; she longed to be somewhere else, to do something else, to be someone else. So she went back and got highly schooled in fitness, and nowadays helps people (like me) beleive in our strength.

I am fueled by passionate people. I want to surround myself with folks who get very animated talking about what they do and how they spend their days…whether it be a trainer,  a longarm quilter, or someone who runs a non-profit to help homeless youth. I am inspired by people who not only have a passion for what they do, but are willing themselves to do the hard, non-glamorous, often gut-wrenching, worrisome work to see that vision through.

Like many dreamers, I watch a lot of Shark Tank– you know…the show filled with a panel of hosts with fat pockets and listen to the pitches of regular Joe Schmo’s with Big Ideas, to see if these dreams are worth investing in.


Some of the pitches on Shark Tank are hilariously bad…but I give my hats off to them for trying! Check out this top 10 list of the worst pitches. (My favorite that makes me cry with laughter every time is the Wake N’ Bacon Alarm Clock!)


An alarm clock that alerts you when it’s time to get up AND cooks bacon. What a way to wake up!


It made me think…wouldn’t it be hilarious to have a showing of “Scratch-n-Sniff” quilts? You know…like scratch a quilt patch and you would get the aroma of BACON!?! I mean come ON! It’s bacon!!!

Well, maybe not. Some ideas–upon a couple seconds of reflection–are bad.

But if you think you have a hunch (and it is an educated hunch with a heaping spoon of prudence)… I say go for it. If it works GREAT. If it doesn’t, then learn from it and move on.

And that is what I am doing. I am going for it. I am investing in building my little art barn, my headquarters for several creative enterprises down the line, but also in case you had’t heard, going to launch a new creative, intimate retreat in Napa called CRAFT NAPA next year.

For Pokey's Ponderings


I was very honored when I asked some of my artist friends to come teach for this retreat, and they all said YES. It is going to be a fun few days of creating during “Cabernet Season” in Napa Valley. (Here, they don’t call it the Slow Season…it’s Cab season when you pour yourself a nice cabby and enjoy it fireside.)





I will definitely still be hanging out on this blog, sharing my thoughts, ideas, and others’ works, but I am spending a lot of time over on the new site, I hope you will join me there, maybe even sign up for the e-newsletter if you want to hear the latest offerings.

Here’s to following your dreams,


Progress! Art Barn & Retreat Info.

Things starting to come together here in Napa!


The crew who are making this barn a reality.


The barn has doors at last, and I am really happy I chose a transparent glass for the garage doors so that the views are intact and allow for a lot of natural light to flow inside.


The interior is being worked on now…it’s not completed but I am happy with the clean lines, the cement floor finish, and the white-washed ceilings and paneling (vs. painted)  so that the grain of the woods still show.



Just to get a sense of how art would look hanging inside, we temporarily hung a trio of Lynn Krawczyk’s fabric collages from the loft.

Krawczyk Fabric Collage


This space is coming together, but it’ll still be months before it’s completed.

Barn WEB copy

In the meantime,  I recently announced on social media the first CRAFT NAPA retreat taking place next January 7-9, 2016 at the Embassy Suites! Workshops range from sewing and quilting, to fabric and paper collage, and surface design. Teachers include Carrie Bloomston, Jane LaFazio, Jamie Fingal, Leslie Jenison, Lynn Krawczyk, Jenny K. Lyon, Judy Coates Perez, Elizabeth St. Hilaire, and Melanie Testa. There are a few fun night events planned including a “Make Your Own Wine” competition with a BERNINA giveaway, an Artist Market, and late night sip-n-sews in the bar featuring some fun stitching projects. You can find out more about this retreat on this web page. The site and the schedule are close to completion, and registration goes live next Wednesday. If you want to get any e-newsletters relating to CRAFT NAPA, you can sign up for more news, stories, and information here.

I am keeping my blog a bit separate from the retreat so I can focus on art-making again.  I am finally able to take all of my supplies out of storage, and tomorrow I’m a part of Lynn Krawczyk’s blog hop for her latest DVD.  I have to admit…it feels pretty sublime to be screen printing again!








News, Updates & Opinions Wanted!

What is my new favorite four-letter word in the English language?


After having my Houston house on the market for more than six months, and flying back a lot to tweak some things and getting this deal done, I can now cross this task off my list. Those who visited my Houston pad I hope would agree it was a great home, and my eyes smarted when I got this special bottle from my realtor at my closing:

Wine bottle

I will miss many, many things about this house and ‘hood, including this outdoor community chalkboard at the end of my street, which just illustrates how cool my neighborhood truly was:

Before I Die


And bike riding along the bayou with my little man; I will miss our rides…and him, always.

Louie Bolton biking


But thankfully the flight from San Francisco to Houston is an easy and fast one, and I have some very good reasons to go back rather frequently, including visiting friends like Leslie Jenison in San Antonio. It just so happens I caught my last visit this past week when Victoria Findley Wolfe was there, and we had a lot of fun experimenting with Leslie’s outdoor kitchen and pizza oven!

Lesley, Victoria, Beatrice

Leslie, Victoria, and Victoria’s daughter, Beatrice


Now just back to Napa, things are progressing at a good clip in my world. Some progress pix:



Waving from where my future office will be.



Closing up roof

Construction crew nailing down the porch roof.



interior dry wall

Interior ceiling completed.



office before dry wall

Upstairs loft/office is framed.



office with dry wall

Upstairs office with windows drywall, and most of the paneled ceiling.


before paint

Structure before painting, glass garage doors, and metal roofing.



painted barn

Current status today with metal roof and first application of paint.



Office view

Future view from my home office.


I have received a lot of inquiries asking when my studio/ art barn will be completed. The answer is…I don’t know. There is still quite a bit to be done, and I am dependent upon schedules and when items (like garage doors) arrive and can be installed. 

In the meantime,  I have been collaborating with some venues in Napa to coordinate retreats in the greater Napa Valley, and I have some pretty exciting news to announce soon. When I can spill, this blog will be migrating over to the new site, and I will have a lot more information for those who want to come visit Napa and create! 

So here’s where I would love some feedback.

Want to opine on a logo? 

craft nappa badges




View from Hartwell Vineyards