A little note for the start of 2016

Hi there! Thanks for visiting this space! This blog is on hiatus for the moment, until I feel like I need it again.

If you’re looking for regular updates on my artwork, you can check out my Tumblr at Monikah Makes.  Follow me there, add me to your feed reader, or just check back now and again for bits and pieces from my studio. Tumblr doesn’t have a comments section, but you can contact me through Tumblr messaging here or through email at monikahsthings@gmail.com.

Hope the winter is treating you well!


Last week, I started some new projects for the fall. One is a weekly class on sculptural weaving, taught by artist Nathalie Miebach; we’re studying traditional basket-making techniques, but there’s a lot of leeway for us to experiment with using those techniques to create more innovative sculptural forms. Another is a local weekly art group, a place where I can take my own projects to work on in a friendly, supportive environment. I officially will be showing my work at the Artspace Maynard Holiday Sale, an event I’ve tabled at for the past two years and really enjoy. The last item- a workshop with Jodi Colella, a local fiber artist whose work I deeply admire- doesn’t start until January, but at least I’m officially signed up. I’m really excited for all of these opportunities, and determined to find other workshops and things like that to fill out my fall months.

I’ve been thinking about future directions a lot recently, researching and weighing my options. For the past two years or so, I’ve been very much in a transitional phase, dealing with that good old mid-twenties angst about what I want to do with my life. It’s also been a healing phase, surrounding several health issues- some of which I’ve addressed here, some of which I haven’t. It hasn’t been easy. But things are getting better- better enough that I feel capable of making grander plans for the future.

Two years ago, I applied to a post-baccalaureate certificate program in fibers, and was accepted. Then things got complicated. Transportation and location problems and interference from other life plans made that particular program a difficult proposition. I went through a period where my creative energy was extremely low. I deferred entrance for a year, but eventually had to drop out. That program at that time wasn’t going to work for me, but I retained a yearning to immerse myself in working on my art and learning more, both in terms of theory and in terms of practical skills. I wanted to go to art school, and I still want to go to art school. That particular program just wasn’t the right one.

That dip in my creativity really affected me. I didn’t know whether my creativity was going to return, so I set out on other paths, taking online classes in a technical field. But with time and care, my creativity returned, and now I am at the point where I can’t imagine not making art a major part of my life. I am more sure than ever that while my desire to make art might ebb sometimes, it will always come back, because it is an integral part of my being.

When I go to my sculptural weaving class, I get to wander the halls of a real art school, and get a glimpse into the life of students who get to devote most of their time to art. That life is so beguiling. It makes me wish I had focused on art earlier in my career, had given myself the chance to have that experience too. And it might still be possible, through graduate art programs like MFA programs. Now, I don’t know if my work could ever be good enough to get me admitted to a program like that. I really don’t know. It’s a dream. But it’s an idea worth considering.

That’s all I’m looking for right now- an idea. Something to set me on a path, while giving me time to explore and see whether this is the right path for me. While I continue to heal and to work, to learn and to take care of myself, I am beginning to dream of art school as something possible, something a person like me could aspire to.

I’m doing my research, looking into what a graduate art program could give me and whether I could get those same benefits in any other way, finding ways to improve my own work and learn more about the art world. Nothing is set in stone, and I have a long, long way to go before I can even think about applying. But that’s my aspiration, the thing I would love to be doing, the thing I want to work towards. It’s important to have goals, I think, and this one is mine. My path to explore.

Precious things

I have a problem. I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to art supplies. My little attic studio is stuffed to the gills with yarn, paint, fabric, beads, inks, you name it, most of them totally unused. I’ve scaled back my purchases over time, which is for the best, but I still have quite a lot to work with- more supplies than I have intentions for, honestly.

The biggest part of the problem is that I have a tendency to mentally mark my favorite materials as too precious for use. They sit on their shelves being gorgeous while I stitch with plain muslin and weave cotton yarn. That’s a habit I’m trying to break, the habit of setting things aside.

I bought this absolutely gorgeous hand-dyed sari silk ribbon recently on Etsy, I was full of visions for putting it to use immediately. That… hasn’t quite panned out yet. I’m knee-deep in another project (post on that to come soon) and finishing up some work for school, but more importantly, I’m downright afraid to start working with it. What if I waste it? What if I don’t do it justice? What if my ideas don’t work out correctly and I’m stuck with something that’s not as good as I’d like it to be?

This is an accountability post, I suppose. It’s a note to myself: Monikah, get out there and make something! Don’t let this beautiful material go to waste by allowing it to sit unused indefinitely! It’s also a reassurance that I deserve to have and use nice things. It’s okay that I’m not a real professional artist, and that I take a long time to complete pieces. I am doing something worthwhile. We are doing something worthwhile, me and these precious materials, and I’ll never know what I could have made until I try.

Memories of moss

I’ve been working a lot in white on white in recent weeks (and months) (and years), mostly making small lacy bits through embroidery and needleweaving. I like the way white-on-white work emphasizes the texture created by my stitches. However, all-white work does get boring sometimes, so in the past few days I’ve been working on a little project in lush shades of green, reminiscent of soft mosses and summer foliage.

I don’t go out to the woods as much as I used to, but I did visit a state park this past weekend. As always, I found myself drawn to the small things- moss, lichen, mushrooms, the tiny worlds you can find on the forest floor. Some of those thoughts of soft, lush moss made it into this little piece of needleweaving.

It’s just a sketch, really- nothing fancy, nothing final, just a study for a larger piece that’s in the planning stages. As a reader of my Tumblr reminded me recently, sometimes fiber projects can be sketches too, especially since I don’t really draw.

Starting fresh.

Seven months is a long time. That’s how long it’s been since the last time I posted on this blog. How did that happen?

I know why, of course. My creativity had been struggling for a while. My energy level has been abysmal. I went back to school, which has been time-consuming and sometimes difficult. An exceptionally cold and snowy winter, our first as homeowners, gave us much to worry about. I was frustrated by the world of business and craft fairs and the impact that working to sell things had on my creative work. Other things intervened. It happens.

Most of all, I think, I’ve been learning a lot about the ebb and flow of creativity- my creativity, at least- and how it can’t be nailed down. If I have a muse, it just hasn’t been present for the first half of this year. The best option seemed to be to bow out gracefully and go into hibernation, as it were, hoping that eventually a better time would reveal itself. Which- perhaps- it has.

Things are a little different now. I get a bit of a break from school for the rest of the summer, so I’ll have more time to work on the things that matter most. I’ve effectively distanced myself from the world of craft fairs,which just wasn’t the right place for me. I’m no longer confining what I make just to what I think people will buy. (My Etsy shop remains, but I’ll be focused on one-of-a-kind pieces that really speak to me, rather than just cranking out things I can make quickly and cheaply.)

Also significant, though more personal, is that I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, a type of gluten intolerance that can have a wide range of symptoms. We think this is what’s been causing my extreme tiredness. Switching to a gluten-free diet is not the most fun thing, but I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to get better, and if it helps me have more energy and feel more like a person, it’s totally worth it.

As my energy level returns to normal, I’m hoping that it will drag my creativity along with it. I’m starting to feel out ways to foster and encourage my creativity now that I’ll have more time and energy to indulge it. I’d love to hear from any of y’all who make things. What do you do when you’re tired, when your mind is blank, when you feel far away from your creative abilities? What do you do to keep your creativity alive in hostile environments?

I’ll try to be posting more, here and on my Tumblr, where I post bits and pieces and pictures of things in progress. I can’t make promises, but I will try, and I do feel like I’m coming into a time of renewal. Feel free to poke and prod me if I’m not posting.

Coming back is difficult. Starting fresh is difficult. Let’s hope that the stars are aligned such that I’ll be able to get that creative part of myself back.


I hit a slump for a while there, but I’m back now. Stitching away on the piece I talk about in this post after a long break; trying different things, some of them sticking, some not so much. I’m starting to get the texture I want, though, as you can see in the bottom picture up there. Layers and networks and intersections simultaneously adding to and obscuring the piece, and the image of my face from years ago. The nature of memory.

I post pictures and updates more frequently at my Tumblr, which you can find here. I’m trying to have a picture up just about every day as a motivation to work on something creative every day.

Entering October

I realize now that I didn’t write anything here in September, and for that I am sorry. It was a long month, full of moving tasks and getting to know the new house- did I mention that we moved?  But we’re settled in now, of a sort, and I’m starting to get my creative flow back in this new space. It’s exciting and illuminating to rediscover the supplies I’ve hoarded up as I unpack them, but also frustrating to be in that stage of still figuring out how to best set up my studio and not quite knowing where everything is. (My “cloudy recollections” embroidery piece has been on hold for just that reason.)

October is my favorite month, though, and hopefully will start me on a path to being a little more productive. In a few weeks, I’ll have a booth at my first craft fair of the season, the 113th Harvest Craft Fair at First Parish of Sudbury, Massachusetts. My scarves and assorted fuzzy things are much better suited to fall fairs than any other time of year, so I’m hoping for a good turnout! In the meantime, I’m working on more scarves, small embroideries, and fiber art for the home in preparation for my fall and winter craft fairs, and feeling out new directions in my personal work. I’m also still posting almost-daily images on my Tumblr of works in progress and little doodles and such. I’m also planning on taking some art classes soon. I have about a year before I start school again in earnest, and I want to keep up with feeling comfortable in a classroom setting.

That’s a bit of an update. Hopefully this month I’ll be able to keep up better with writing.



A project taking shape. Half-remembered faces on gray flannel and natural muslin, embroidered with pearl cotton in dark grey-blue, light grey-blue, and a shifty shade of greyish mauve- the colors of darkening skies.  To be brought  together with more fabric, stitching, and quilting.


In keeping with that last post: here’s a current working song that gives me big feelings about the past, Neko Case’s “Calling Cards.”

Every dial tone, every truck stop, every heartbreak,
I love you more
Looking like you just woke up from making songs
Shooting satellites that blow up the pay phones
Saying we’ll all be together
Even if we’re not together
With our arms around each other
With our faith still in each other
I’ve got calling cards from twenty years ago

Cloudy recollections: a process post

Over the past few weeks, between other short-term projects (as seen on my Tumblr), I’ve been steadily building up a new embroidery project. The seeds of it were sewn a year ago, when I went on vacation and stocked up on embroidery threads in moody, rich colors- greys, blues, and purples, tinges of bronze and green and dust, the colors of a thunderstorm roiling overhead, the dim shades of a bruise fading over time. I didn’t know what I was going to use those colors for, but I held on to them anyway, cotton and silk and wool, just waiting for the right time to pull them out.

I’d also been mulling over a pile of old photos, wondering how best to turn them into something embroidered. It was sort of strange, I reflected, to stitch random people from my past without their knowledge. I couldn’t think of a good reason to do it- why would I want that project? What would be meaningful about it to me? The photos, dimmed on the computer and printed out, sat in a pile in a drawer in my studio with all my other half-finished- or even half-started- projects.

Moody thunderstorm colors and faded pictures of the past. When the click between the two finally happened, it felt totally natural.

When I was growing up, my mom kept hundreds of photos in shoeboxes, always waiting to put them into albums, but always getting behind. Now that digital cameras are omnipresent and it’s possible to take so many pictures without the fuss of physical film and processing, I find myself sitting on an even larger hoard of electronic images, stretching from now back to my first year of college.

Every so often, I find myself paging through them, looking for a certain image or trying to remember a particular time. When I was in college, I took pictures of everything I could find to take pictures of, and they are all still there, snapshots caught in time, just as they looked the day I took them. Friends dance at an impromptu art party, share food at a potluck, simply stand and look at me with my camera. Faces fill the screen; some have changed over time, some have not. Self-portraits abound, many shots taken to try and get the perfect angle to show off a new nose piercing or haircut. People I cared for very much and still care for even after so much time and other events. So many moments.

That was college- and that was years ago, now. College was a special time, a golden time. It was a time I made friends despite my lifelong struggles with social anxiety and shyness. It was a time for so many moments of discovery and growth, for stepping into a new world and encountering new possibilities. Those were the best years of my life.

Or were they?

Looking at old photographs now, during a time in my life when everything is changing and full of uncertainty, I recognize the temptation to idealize the past, and the razor-thin line between fond memory and consuming preoccupation. I dream of the past- old loves, places I called home- and wake up so troubled. I want to live in the moment- it’s important to my mental health and my future that I live in the moment. But the past calls to me with its siren song, begging me to get lost in memories that are no longer even sharp and accurate. My moments, my memories, are disintegrating, and I am trying to cling to them more than is good for me.

So I am stitching over old photographs, distilling them to their essential lines and gestures, remaking them in the moody shades of a stormy sky. When the guiding paper is torn away, what is left? Only an outline- only that sketchy, clouded, photocopied, dogeared memory, so far removed from the moment that it used to be. I am stitching slowly, forcing myself to immerse myself in memory for a little while. My stitches depict something, but as this project evolves they will also obscure with layering and quilting, adding depth and texture, clouding the image as memories are clouded by time.

Practically speaking: what I’m creating is a memory book, a photo album of sorts, but also the opposite: a forgetting book, a recognition of the passing of memory, a way of exorcising the things and times that haunt me so that I can better appreciate the present moment and the new paths of the future. It’s likely to end up in scroll form, rather like a long, skinny patchwork quilt covered in embellishment and embroidery- a book that rolls up like a sleeping bag, a book that can be neatly self-contained and set aside in a place of honor, a book that can be held and hugged and cried on if necessary.

So that’s what I’m up to right now.  I would love to hear your thoughts.