To Inspire, Transform & Heal

Linda Wiggen Kraft
Creativity for the Soul

2023 – Creativity Away from Home, Alabama & NYC

2023 – Creativity Away from Home, Alabama & NYC

Looking back on 2023 I’m thrilled the year was filled with creativity. My monthly Creativity Circle and other creative pursuits at home fill me in so many ways. Fortunately, I got to explore creativity away from home also. In April with Alabama’s Gee’s Bend quilters in my first ever quilting class. In December a trip NYC explored the creativity of others through an exhibit of Judy Chicago’s art, a paint maker shop that creates art paints the way old master painters made them and an atelier studio that calls itself a “factory” of handmade fabric flowers.

My first ever quilting project – pillow covers made at Gee’s Bend Quilters Workshop

Gee’s Bend, Alabama in April

The Alabama Folk School has workshops in quilting, bluegrass music and other folk arts all held together in  four day workshops. The Folk School is held in a 1,400 acre retreat center in Northern Alabama.  In April 2023, China and Mary Ann Pettway of Gee’s Bend in Southern Alabama, lead a quilting workshop at the Folk School.

My friend Kelly and I took the quilting workshop. Bluegrass music workshops going on at the same time filled the air with music day and night.

Mary Ann and China Pettway are very accomplished Gee’s Bend quilters who grew up and still live there.

I sew, but never quilted. I’ve been in awe of Gee’s Bend quilts for decades since seeing an exhibit in an art museum in the early 2000s and buying a coffee table book in 2003 about the amazing art quilts made in a remote area of southern Alabama.

Two of Mary Ann Pettway’s quilts hung on fireplace at workshop

Mary Ann told the story of how the Gee’s Bend Quilter’s Collective made a quilt for the Obamas when they lived in the White House. It was a long story with the happy ending that the quilt will be hung in the Obama Presidential Library.

Photo of quilt made by Gee’s Bend Quilter’s Collective for President Obama & Mrs. Obama.

Kelly and I had originally planned on going to the Folk School in 2020, but Covid cancelled that workshop. We went last April. Inspired by the amazing quilts, in 2020 I made a ceramic tray inspired by one of the quilts in my Gee’s Bend book.

Ceramic Porcelain Plate I made, inspired by a Gee’s Bend Quilt

I brought the plate with me and gave it to Mary Ann. She made a similar quilt and signed my coffee table sized book titled Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts. Mary Ann’s mother and China are featured in the 2003 book. I’m going to make China a ceramic plate inspired by one of her quilts.

My first “quilt” was two pillow coverings for my living room, in the style of Gee’s Bend quilts. My dear friend Kelly, who prompted me to go to the workshop, is an accomplished quilter who helped guide me in how to do it. The two pillows are in my living room and can be seen when stepping into the house. I love seeing them daily, along with the Gee’s Bend book on the glass coffee table.

New York City in December
Judy Chicago

A late December NYC trip, a week ago,  let me see an exhibit of Judy Chicago’s long creative career. A retrospective of her 60+ year art career is called “Judy Chicago: Herstory” . The Dinner Party is her most well-known art. Actually it is work done in the 1970s by many women who contributed “women’s crafts” of sewing, embroidery and other denigrated “women’s” art forms by the art establishment. Many women still contribute to her designs and art. I saw the huge Dinner Party sculpture in Chicago in the 1980s. It is permanently housed at the Brooklyn Museum.

The Dinner Party – 48 feet on each side.
Place settings for thirty nine women throughout history.
(not part of the current “Herstory” exhibit)

The current exhibit titled “Herstory” shares her work when she began her art career in the 1960s, the thoughts and art before the creation of  The Dinner Party and art she has created since.

Judy Chicago is and has been a leading feminist whose work and ability to have other women share their embroidery, tapestry and needle art within her designs is perhaps unique in the art world.  One gallery of the exhibit is about  birth. Various fabric artists “audition” to create needlework or other crafts in Judy’s designs. These are audition pieces by different crafts women artists.


Many pieces of Judy’s art pieces are journal entries and art showing her internal processes. This piece shares the evolution of her art and thought as the birthing canal metamorphosed into a butterfly.


Of course I loved her mandala images. Here’s the one I liked best.


My favorite part of the exhibit was “The City of Ladies,” an exhibit-within-exhibit that is centered around an alter with banners of questions about a different world lead by women. Surrounding the alter are original artworks by, and about, 80 other women artists, writers and thinkers. Two of those artists are Hilm af Klint and Frida Kahlo.

Alter Piece with banner “What if Women Ruled the World”.

The alter  includes an illuminated book with a painting by Hildegard of Bingen from 1230.

Hildegard Von Bingen 1230 art from the Book of Divine Works, Part 2, Vision 1:
The Parts of the Earth: Living, Dying and Purgatory

The exhibit was powerful and a history lesson about women, women artists and the progress made by women that is threatened and in some cases being taken away. The exhibit is on until March 3, 2024 at The New Museum in New York City.


Art Paint -Kremer’s Pigments

My next stop was the art paint store, Kremer Pigments, where the natural stone, minerals and some synthetic pigments are sold in plastic bags ready to be made into oil or watercolor paint. A “recipe” book shares how to mix the colors and with what other ingredients to make oil or watercolor paint.


Many of the pigments are the same ones used in prehistoric cave paintings, develope by oil painting masters in the 1400s and still used today.  The small Manhattan store was a few blocks from where my husband and I stayed. I had to visit.

Real gold is added to some paints. Here are samples of various shades. The top one is 22.5-karat gold.

I first visited last summer, but wanted to go again.  Both times I visited, I found some already made watercolors for sale. I couldn’t resist.

Custom Fabric Flowers – M & S Schmalberg

Even closer to our hotel, in the garment district, was a place I fell in love with on Instagram, called Custom Fabric Flowers. Their official name is Custom Fabric Flowers by M&S Schmalberg.

This 7th floor “factory” (really an atelier)  began in 1916. It has created beautiful handmade flowers  (sometimes real looking and sometimes fantasy looking) in this location for over 100 years. It is a treasure house of creativity. Each flower petal is made from starched fabric, usually silk, that is cut out and formed with specific die forms. The many flowers are assembled and finished by hand.


Clients  include fashion designers, brides, celebrities, interior designers and others. Fashion magazine covers with model and celebrity photos fill the entrance way and showcase the beautiful creations made here.


We stopped by to look at the showroom.  The owner, Adam, invited us in for a tour of the “factory” to see what is made and how. We saw behind the scene dies, fabrics and hand finishing. A cluster of women was putting petals together to form the hand made finished flowers.

I bought a beautiful pink flower. The woman helping me gave me a holiday  gift of a small hair clip flower. They both are treasures. Please check out their facebook or instagram page where all the processes are shown. It is fascinating. Here are their  links – instagramfacebook.
If anyone wants a flower by this company, many of them can be found on their Etsy shop, SchmalbergFlowersNYC.



Grateful for 2023 Creativity

I am grateful to all the creators of quilts, art, paints, and fabric flowers whose work has enriched my life. I am excited about all the creative adventures of 2024.

May your new year be filled with many creative adventures.
Enjoy & Create

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