Haptic Studios Residency

Calling all writers, visual artists, arts administrators, and others with a creative spirit: please consider a stay in Haptic Studios Residency (HSR) for your next desired get away.

Creatives, kindly listen up:  Many creatives need a temporary space for short or longer periods of time.  Sometimes that space is in response to needing a fresh environment.  Sometimes there is a need to be free of distractions.  Sometimes the need is for a fresh view that may be inspiring, private, and afford a bit of breathing space.  Consider HSR for your next creative endeavor. 

Please note that creatives must consider their ability to negotiate 5 steps to lower level living/studio space.

Why Haptic Studios Residency Space?

I have dedicated a space in my home studio for others as it is a pretty big space that feels right to share. As a practicing artist for over two decades, I have found myself housing creatives over the years, for short and longer term periods, especially in the “Before Times.” My new to me space, since 2019, has afforded a dedicated space for creative endeavors. When I moved to this new home I have spent part of the pandemic preparing a space for others in a manner that would entice me. Might that be you? As we move so inexorably slowly towards endemic times, consider such a necessary indulgence for you.

Below are current photographs of the indoor spaces available through a Haptic Studios Residency .


Amenities of HSR exclusive to you include your own entrance and key, full bathroom, two single beds, refrigerator, stove/oven, coffee maker, toaster, filtered water on tap, and microwave. Think clean “urban barn” with a bit of quirkiness to it.

Shared resources include wifi, multiple table tops, variety of power tools, book press, vice, an occasional shared meal, laundry on site, and more! Did I say I have a canoe on a wheelie cart and the Chicago River is a divine five minute walk, with an accessible deck and launch?

Potential creative spaces to enjoy include landscaped garden with koi pond, outdoor seating, and potential for using a shared ceramic studio (off site) with coordination.

Other amenities include the beauty of River Park, nearly on the banks of the confluence of Chicago River North Branch and the Northshore Channel, grocery store within walking distance, and a variety of international restaurants within walking distance, to name just a few.

Finally, seasonal amenities include Lincoln Square Farmer’s Market a bike ride away, cross country skiing across the street, paved bicycle and walking path, Chicago River wood chip nature paths, and so much more.

images of the garden, River Park, Chicago River North Branch, and beyond.


Kindly inquire with me about your creative needs and financial ability.

Weekly stipend for food and occasional shared meals, if desired.

Access and public transportation:

Street parking available. 10/15 min walk to CTA Brown Line to Chicago Loop and museums, Divvy bike rental and Foster Avenue Bus are a 2 minute walk. 20 minutes, by car, to O’Hare Airport.

Consider Haptic Studios Residency

Consider a restorative, creative get away for you (one day, regular wkly potential, up to 30 days). Or, consider a small group of creatives for day use.

Artist and host, Catherine Schwalbe likes to say (regarding studio spaces)

“Art happens where the artist is.”

Watch for follow up post on my first Artist, Natalie Hinahara.

Direct inquiries to me at casbah3d@gmail.com. I look forward to talking with you!

Embracing Uncertainty

Artist in Residence: Natalie Hinahara – guest blogger by Haptic Studio and Residency inaugural creative, Natlie Hinahara What a joy it was to be the first guinea pig of the Haptic Studio and Residency! If you’re reading this, you may know that the Haptic Studio and Residency (HSR) space is below Cathi Schwalbe’s home in […]

Mending a Nation (in protest)

On view now at SouthShore Arts, through August 27, 2022, is a stellar array of works centered on the theme “Nature Lovers.” So many respected artists and such wonderful works in conversation with each other, curated by the creative force of Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke, curators, writer, photographer, and organizer and artist and stellar […]

The ebb and flow of mending continues – Mosnart of Historic Pullman up next!

Thought I might share an update and information about my upcoming Visiting Artist event at Mosnart. Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in in your life, and my completed installation for Fermentation Fest 2021 titled: Mending Waters – Mending Soil – Mending Lives. In my previous […]

Embracing Uncertainty

Artist in Residence: Natalie Hinahara – guest blogger by Haptic Studio and Residency inaugural creative, Natlie Hinahara

What a joy it was to be the first guinea pig of the Haptic Studio and Residency! If you’re reading this, you may know that the Haptic Studio and Residency (HSR) space is below Cathi Schwalbe’s home in Lincoln Square, Chicago. It includes small and cozy living quarters, kitchen, bathroom, and a large studio space with a variety of work surfaces and tools. If you want to know more about the amenities and offerings, you can read her previous blog post about it here.

I am lucky to have had Cathi’s supportive presence in my life from the very beginning. She was friends with my parents before I existed, so she has been some combination of auntie, mentor, friend, and inspiration to me for as long as I can remember. 

In the spring of 2022, I was approaching a time of transition in my life. I was about to shift into being a fully self-employed artist and was feeling the pull to move away from the lovely, little town of Viroqua, WI where I had been living for 4 years. I knew I wanted to take advantage of this transition to travel, spend time with loved ones, connect with other artists, and explore making art in new ways. It quickly fell into place to spend three weeks at HSR as the first stop on my meandering tour around the U.S. 

My intentions for my time there were to:

  • Put pencil, pen, ink, or paint on paper every day.
  • Follow whatever threads excite and interest me, whether or not I think it is “good art”.
  • Begin projects without knowing where they are going. 
  • Hold this time and space as exploration for myself with no pressure to share or post about what I’m making while I’m there.
  • Soak in as much music, dance, and art from around me as possible.

I came up with these agreements to myself because I had noticed that most of my art-making time and energy had shifted over the past few years to commissioned projects, design work, or making prints with the expectation that they would be framed, displayed, and sold. While I am very grateful to have commissioned work and outlets (galleries and events) where I am confident I can sell my work, I had started to feel uninspired and somewhat stifled by the predictability and the pressure to make something people would like and buy.

So, I showed up to HSR with some printmaking supplies, gouache, paper, and no plan at all for what I would make there. My first week reminded me a little of when I was in high school, staying up late doodling and drawing just for the pure joy and excitement of making something new. I started playing with the intersection of printmaking and pattern, making little blocks that could fit together and be arranged to create landscapes or tell different stories. The first block I made was a little coneflower that could be repeated like an interlocking tile. After seeing the result of that one block printed as a pattern I knew I had to make more. I made a bunch of new blocks in the same shape (bee balm, clover, goldenrod, grasses, clouds, and geese) so I could play and build different prairie scenes with them. 

Coneflower repeat

Pattern planning

For my first experiment with the blocks, I wanted to create a set of prints that shared the same general layout but arranging the blocks in different ways. I planned some of the arrangements ahead of time and let intuition guide the rest. I prepared 10 sheets of paper with little pencil dots as guides for placement, and then began inking and printing, one block/color at a time. It took a full day to print them all because it took 170 impressions to make the entire set of prints. I’ll share some photos below but you can also watch a video of the process on my instagram @nataliehinahara.

Prairie tile series

Prairie tile print

In the middle of my time at HSR I took a little trip to Ohio for the Mid America Print Conference.  I could write a whole post just about that weekend, but I’ll just say that it was perfect timing to get to reconnect with old printmaking friends, make some new ones, and soak in a whole lot of inspiration.

When I returned from the conference I had about a week left at HSR and I was excited to continue playing with pattern but with a new shape. I had lots of doodles in my sketchbook of falling raindrops so I made some new blocks in the shape of a raindrop but with various textures carved into them. I printed these in a similar method as the prairie series and ended up with a set of five unique prints. They felt a little too clean and perfect so I decided to sketch and doodle on top of them, first with pencil and then adding gouache to some. Quilt patterns have always been intriguing to me, and I often doodle them without thinking. It felt meditative to lay these subconscious designs (passed down to me by generations of quilters in my family) on top of the prints.

Sketchbook and raindrops

Raindrop series

I left HSR with a box of prints, a mountain of ideas for future projects, and a deepened resolve to make time within my regular art practice for play, exploration, and embracing the unknown. Thank you Cathi and Haptic Studios for the time, space, and encouragement to play!

On view now at SouthShore Arts, through August 27, 2022, is a stellar array of works centered on the theme “Nature Lovers.” So many respected artists and such wonderful works in conversation with each other, curated by the creative force of Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke, curators, writer, photographer, and organizer and artist and stellar gardener, respectively. Featured artists include: Featured artists: , Zbigniew Bzdak, Peggy Macnamara, Casey Roberts, William Nichols, Corey Hagelberg, Joanne Aono, Tony Fitzpatrick, Catherine Schwalbe, and Em’rynn Artunian. See some of show below in this slide show and better yet, if able, check out the show in person!

I have four new works from 2022, three specifically for this show. I wanted to share a rare political act I have taken with my work, Mending a Nation. I originally created the work for Earth Abundance, curated by Pauline Kochanski for Oliva Gallery, for a show that opened on Earth Day in 2022. I collected moss, soil, rocks, sand, worn drift wood, on my own in places across the US, or had friends in those places send it to me or gifted directly to me. Thank you for your contributions: Danny Mansmith Stephanie Samuels N. Masani Landfair Dr. Geoffrey and Andrea Bove.

Most who follow my work know that I have been facilitating a Social Practice work called Before and After: Mending a Life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life. Mending a Nation is a continuation of that theme. This statement below was shared for an artist talk I was unable to attend:

“Hello fellow earth lovers.  Thank you to Pauline (Kochanski) and Kimberly (Oliva) for including my work in this important show.   I firmly believe that how we treat each other is how we treat our Mother Earth. We need to do better. Things fall apart. We mend.  They fall apart. We mend again.  My Mending a Nation piece, made of soils and other material things from coast to coast, represents the actions we are taking to mend our lands, our relationships, our systems, and even our thoughts and ways of treading more mindfully – with each other, during this amazing and awful life we are given.  Thank you for your interest in my work and all the works in Earth Abundance.” May 2022

The original work, shown below right before the action, including soil, water, rocks and plant life from Washington, Maine, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and the Great Lakes along with hand-built stoneware brick clay, a pit-fired needle from a spring workshop at Stirling Hall with Patty Kochavar, and cording for stitches. As spring moved towards summer, political actions continued to shift, especially as they related to decisions by the ever more conservative Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

I felt called to act based on some of the eroding of so much SCOTUS precedence. Below is my statement, near the work currently on view at Southshore Arts.

“It is with a heavy heart that I spread the parts of this work, Mending a Nation, apart.  The photo above shows the work in its original intention, conceived in thought, earlier in 2022.  The opening for this exhibit showed the work intact.  This political action is taken by me for the following reasons:  The multitude of decisions made by our current Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will have ripples for years to come impacting judgements regarding guns, women’s right to choose, ensuring solid voting rights for the most vulnerable, religious schools and federal funding,  the power of EPA to regulate, and even our beloved and most fundamental Miranda Rights.  I genuinely feel the decisions made have gone towards further unraveling and division for a nation and its people already frayed.  Going forward, if this work is exhibited elsewhere, it will be shown having fallen apart and without making sense, as you see right now.  This piece, in wild array, correlates with the highest court in the land not adhering to the will and the consensus of those they serve – you, me, and the most vulnerable citizens.  I am not sure when I will feel comfortable showing Mending a Nation as it was originally intended.  May it be sooner than later.”

Most action images of Mending a Nation – in Protest were taken by friend and fellow artist, Nancy Pirri. Thank you for them! Thank you, too, to the curators Tom and Linda, and the gallery director Brandon Johnson, for supporting this action.

I covet your response to this work, this action, and the call for mending and repair (the root word of reparations) needed. Rumblings of a civil war, a deepening cultural divide, extremism and insurrection, learning to live with an endemic vs a pandemic, and more, call us into the act of mending again and again. Works such as Jenny Kendler’s Mending Wall give me hope. Watch for a Mending a Life event at the wall, later this summer.

What gives you hope?

What do you do when in despair?

How do you maintain relationships with those with whom you disagree?

What are your questions these days?

If you got this far, drop a note to me privately or via this blog post. I will send you a little something for your time. Not kidding. In a world of distractions your attention matters to me and I am grateful.

In art, falling apart, and mending


Thought I might share an update and information about my upcoming Visiting Artist event at Mosnart.

Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in in your life, and my completed installation for Fermentation Fest 2021 titled: Mending Waters – Mending Soil – Mending Lives.

In my previous post, I shared some preliminary images from the first large stitches across Honey Creek at the historic Witwen Campground. Below, are some images while in progress and upon completion the stitches, throughout the two days of Fermentation Fest. It was such a pleasure to do this work “live” while people strolled in to the wonder of this venerable event in the Driftless Region, (or as my photo location states: Troy, Paleozoic Plateau). The inquiries, curiosity, apathy, empathy, and deep gratitude were responses I received throughout the weekend. Thank you Jay and Donna of Wormfarm, for your continued interest and support of my works.

Some notes on images: pictured one or two images in is Zane, a local, curious resident, who assisted for a bit on Day 2. He had some wonderful stories about growing up and living a few buildings away from Honey Creek. Also assisting is Sarah Butler, both by stitching the creek and documenting the work progress. Other photographs of me working were taken by visiting artist at Wormfarm, Hannah Taylor (also doing red stitching!). Thank you to you both! A special treat was a visit by dear friend from college (UW Milwaukee School of Fine Arts) and local resident, Kathy Koehl. So fun to share the work with her, too.

Mosnart Visiting Artist is up next and nobody is more excited than I am!

A much anticipated visiting artist stay at Mosnart in the historic Pullman community! JB Daniel’s venerable visiting artist space, lovingly restored Pullman employee flat, is made available to creatives, travelers, and even short term rentals for those in need of alternative living during a pandemic. You can see more images of the amazing, well appointed while spare, art filled, quarters for people like me and maybe you! I will be back to mending with people all weekend (following a private mending event held this past weekend in my own back yard!), during the Pullman Arts and Culture Fest It would be delightful to see you, hang out, mend a textile that you have in need of repair, fix a few worn spots, learn a fancy mending technique centered around the (ancient) trend of visible mending, and so much more. Most supplies will be supplied by me and so far most needs have been anticipated. Side note: please no zipper replacements. The options include you mending your piece. I could mend your piece. We both learn what your piece needs and we collaborate on the best way.

Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life a Social Practice work will be conducted 11-4 Saturday and Sunday October 16 and 17th, 20201 at Mosnart’s back yard at 11319 S Saint Lawrence Avenue in the Historic Pullman Landmark District on Chicago’s far Southside.

Message me if you would like such an event at your home, gallery, alternative space. I have witnessed fun, connection, and deep gratitude for this gathering as we all negotiate life in the (not quite yet) after times.

A big thanks to Nicole Gotthelf (pictured below at Witwen and currently a Chicago resident) for reserving and then purchasing the first of the edition of 10 mending boxes! Here she is holding her box #1. As always, I appreciate her support and unequalled enthusiasm for artists and all things creati

Message me if you are interested in a Before and After Mending Box. Part art. Part function. Would love them to get into appreciative hands. Message me for details and happy to ship most anywhere.

Nicole Gotthelf, sporting her Before and After Mending Box at Witwen September 2021

Lastly, if you want to dig a little deeper into the Before and After works, consider listening to this interview conducted by the inimitable Nance Klehm for Lumpen Radio. I so appreciate her following my work and please know that part of the inspiration for this work was from Nance, who invited me to her home, to mend of course, many winters ago. Many thanks Nance. Interview here:  https://www.mixcloud.com/lumpenradio/spontaneous-vegetation-with-nance-klehm-9-12-2021-cathi-schwalbe/

Thanks again dear reader, art appreciator, and friend.

Greetings. Wanted to share an update and debut of two new works.

1. Mending Boxes – part art part function.

2. Mending Soil * Mending Water * Mending Lives – an installation at Witwen Campground during the 2021 Fermentation Fest: Grasslands Edition.

The Mending Boxes – edition of 10 will debut at the 2021 Fermentation Fest: Grasslands Edition. (Please, click on the link. There is so much to be curious about, learn about, and to make informed decisions about land, water, soil, and quality of life.)

A bit of perspective: Fall and winter of 2020, I began to think of and execute an edition of 10 mending boxes to coincide with the Before and After: Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life. (see previous post) The contents were finally completed this week, while in Sauk County helping prepare for this year’s Fermentation Festival. A glass tube of Kernza was the last item added to the box, planted last summer by artist Tory Tepp, in the hills of the Driftless Region. It just may be one of the way that soil, water, and the way farmers grow grain, that will mend a part of the food system. Other items in the Mending Box include the following:

Army surplus gray metal box

artist book –  images, notes and ideas collected during a pandemic, stab binding (edition of 30)

porcelain needle w/ gold lustre glaze and oxide

Kernza dedicated glass tube with text

Repair/Reparations – ribboned threads in a skin tone gradation

embroidered Before and After handkerchiefs

fuschia velour weighted pin cushion w/ pins

disco ball w usb – don’t forget to dance

pair of dice – don’t forget to play

misc threads for mending

vintage egg darner

seam ripper

hem and seam guide

tape measurer

variety of sewing needles and threader



mending snips

Some images below:

Please inquire with me if you are interested in purchasing one of the boxes. #1 and #7 have red dots. 8 more are available to the first persons interested. Thank you to Nicole Gotthelf for always being a supporter and cheerleader for all things Art and Culture!

Please note: The artist book and porcelain needles are available separately. Send me a dm. Let’s work something out.

The second work, Mending Soil * Mending Water * Mending Lives will be a temporary art installation at Witwen during the 2021 Fermentation Fest: Grasslands Edition. This work has been in the making for several years via proposal and an my head. I will continue the writ large stitching performed throughout the month of August with Out of Site, and take some of the stitching across Honey Creek on the campus of the historic Witwen. Some test “stitches” were made Wednesday with images below. I am very excited to spend the next several days metaphorically mending soil, mending water, and mending lives, with biodegradable, water and wood pulp based survey tape. A thank you goes out to Wormfarm Institute – Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas for supporting this work. They get me and I am so grateful. A thank to Ashley Lusietto for helping me with my first stitches. Lastly to the landowners of both sides of Honey Creek, Ed Smith and Dale Sprecher. You permission is appreciated with deep gratitude.

Some sneak peaks at the first stitches…

The statement about the work is as follows:

A perspective:

“The International Panel on Climate Change has said that by midcentury, the world may reach a threshold of global warming beyond which current agricultural practices will no longer support large human civilizations.”  According to Amanda Little author of The Fate Of Food: What We’ll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, there is a third way of growing that combines the techno optimist (reinventors) and back to the land (deinventors), which combines the best of both groups.  I think Kernsa is one of those ways.  The biomimicry characteristics (deeply rooted like prairie) combined with the long term study and testing, that only those embedded in science and invention have dedicated, may be one of the answers to feeding in a bigger, hotter, smarter world. 

A description of Mending Lives Mending Soil: 

In late summer, as performance, I have been stitching the ground around a variety of outdoor sites, whereby I have invited people to mend.  The large stitches became a visual cue for the casual passersby to wander in a little closer to engage.  Those in the know, or invited prior to the outdoor performances, arrived ready with a variety of textiles to mend on site.  Supplies were varied and practical.  Real mending occurred from a torn purse, to patches on overalls, to adjustments on a waistline, to mending a coat of deep sentiment, to supplement the cuffs, collar, and elbow.  The writ large stitching on the ground, with biodegradable survey tape, was born out of a proposal from several years ago for a waterway in the Reedsburg area.  That project was not mean to be but morphed into a more visual statement for the Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life, my current series. The tape, torn in 7-10” pieces, poked into the earth on both ends, serve as a visible stitch.  The three-foot brass needle serves as a visual metaphor, though clearly nonfunctional, for this application.   As we look for new ways to solve current problems, potentially mashing up wisdom of the ages along with current science and technology, as a potential source for ameliorating the follow out from a pandemic, more sustainable methods of feeding people that may be healthier for all and less precious for the privileged, all while being better stewards of our precious soil.  Let’s consider the metaphor of stitching, as I have in this performance, as a way towards healing the wounds of soil, mending our lives and our communities, ridding ourselves of artificial divides, and so much more.   

If you have read this far, thank you for your kind attention. Would love to see you at Witwen this weekend!

Greetings. It has been awhile. As we all wake up from a 16 month fog, as we witness whole countries and some US states, as we continue to struggle with the pandemic and its variants, as we negotiate with loved ones going forward – the who and how to hug, I would like to introduce a new work in the making. A bit of background before that, though. Stick with me.

When this whole thing hit the globe in December/January of 2019/2020, it felt to me like one slow moving shelf cloud, inexorably heading every which way. My first experience with a shelf cloud was camping. Waking up early as one does, seeing the cloud from afar, thinking it will just pass over. On the contrary, the shelf cloud rolled over tents, threw belongings all over the place, and kept up a heavy, piercing rain for quite some time. Stretch that metaphor to what has gone on with Covid 19, and I had the queezy feeling that this shelf cloud was going to be persistent, insidious, and damaging for any one human, community, or nation, in its wake.

The first many months, I couldn’t work in my studio. I consulted from home, as a non-essential employee, to my long term care communities, overlooking my back yard or my front window, depending upon mood and inertia.

I made masks. Lots of them. One for me. Several hundred for distribution to those most in need. Then, I made them for friends and family. My dining room was my stitching place. Windows on two sides made it inviting for long late winter and early spring days, that inexorably moved towards summer. I sewed until I couldn’t. Made some custom masks. I wore them diligently, cuz science. Mostly stayed to myself unless I took walks with dear ones, sat around an occasional fire, or helped with home, garden, and studio projects.

Spring 2020 I put some work out and invited others for Art in Place. Then, a year ago on July Fourth, friends came from Wisconsin for a small outdoor gathering and I made the decision to wrap up the sewing frenzy, complete work for a collaboration due, and figure out what was next.

This is when Before and After was born, articulated in the fall, manifested over winter and spring in words, proposals, and object making, and now introduced to you this Summer. Art teaches patience.

The elevator speech for Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life

“Following CDC guidelines, we invite you to bring in a clothing item (or two) or household textile that is need of mending.  From holes in socks to button replacement, torn seams to hems (no zippers please!), we will mend together, as a metaphor for the collective process of mending our lives and communities.  We understand that we are still in the process of experiencing a global pandemic, and our interdependence is more prescient than ever. Catherine has invited you in to sit down, consider learning or sharing a skill, reduce waste, and be with fellow humans, as we mend our individual and collective lives.

All anticipated supplies provided including thread, needles, buttons, elastic, sewing machine, iron, mending eggs, etc. provided by the artist.”

Porcelain needles, with Mending a Life imprints, getting fired to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit in the test kiln at Lillstreet Art Center.

Watch for an edition of 10 Before and After Mending Boxes. A mash up of art and function, I have been having some fun putting these works together. Nearly complete and and available, soon! (Mending a Life needles had their debut with a support group centered on trauma, loss, and gunshots. I am humbled beyond words to have them included with the shared healing kits). Also, watch here for further events as the days roll into months, and as the months roll in to next year, and as we learn to move through and potentially heal from the this thing called Covid 19, and the trauma soaked and windblown communities it has left in its wake.

Schedule thus far:


Plant Chicago Friday July 16 and 17 1-4pm Reservations must be made here.

Chicago Park Districts Saturdays, August 14, 21, and 28th 2-4 p and River Park September 4 Link here to event

*Open to the public with no reservations necessary. Several other performance pieces running concurrently, all three in August are sponsored with the generous support of Out of Site.

Locally Sown – a two person show with Pate Conaway at Clay Space September 3 opening. LIsle, IL.

Oliva Gallery Sunday Aug 22 and November 14 1-4.

Through the planning, I have realized I had been conducting mending groups since the 1980’s in the long term care communities I have worked. Now, I am calling them art. According to dear friend, curator, and artist Jeff Stevenson, when talking about this work, “They were art all along.”

Reach out or comment if you have any questions. Please message me if you want a Before and After – Mending a life experience in your town, with your organization, even in your own home with fellow humans you have invited. Let’s have a conversation. No group too small. No group too inexperienced. Consider a mending group near you!

A perfect day to share an image of my work, a winter iteration of TRUTH in the Driftless Region (2012/2013). I made the work for the first Art DTour in 2012, and the Wormfarm Institute. It was autumn and the landscape wonderfully distracting. I was at the end of my 27 year marriage, seeking truth, and the open sky and roving hills of the Driftless Region were the balm I deeply needed. The Art DTour, founded by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas (both wonderful supporters of my work), the Amish youth rolling down a hill in roller blades, harvest all around, the promise of a new art and agricultural collaboration that continues to build community with intentional urban and rural flow, promotes mutual understanding to this day. Until this was included in the Wormfarm’s newsletter last week, I was unaware of this winter view and documentation of the work.

TRUTH in the Driftless Region Luttropp Farm Photo: Mimi Wiest

A part of Wormfarm’s January newsletter:

What a start to the new year.

The U.S. House of Representatives has now twice-impeached the sitting president. However you feel about it, it’s hard to deny the ground is being turned over. Whether that’s a good or bad thing in your mind, it’s definitely a shock to the system.  With all that’s being uncovered, as the consequences of our polarized politics are on full display, we’re thinking of Cathi Schwalbe’s work from the very first DTour. The word truthwas mowed into a green field at Luttropp Farm—beautiful, mysterious and subtle in the fall. But after the DTour, when the winter’s first snow filled the indentation, the word shone clear and stark in the dormant earth.

Truth can be like that: it can take time to see it.”

I share this post from a friend on FB, regarding the truths of our nation, written by Dr. Susan Rogers:

“After reconstruction ended, the Union troops left the south, leaving newly freed slaves unprotected. So the south replaced slave labor with convict leasing, share cropping and Jim Crow laws all supported and enforced through the efforts of the police and government and the enabling of the KKK. Most of the monuments, statues and public buildings named after Confederate leaders were built after Reconstruction ended and were built in the North and South. There were pardons issued by Andrew Johnson for these confederate leaders. Segregation was legally enforced, even in the North, access to government loans were restricted to whites, etc….. So did the south really lose the civil war? Doesn’t seem like they did. There was no punishment, no disenfranchisement, no exclusion. But there was clearly celebration and adoration of confederate leaders and their followers that was embraced throughout the country. This is why it is so necessary that Trump and his enablers, supporters and followers be condemned, punished and called out for what they are. This country has never acknowledged the continued impact of the white supremacist legacy that began even before slavery and continues still. By allowing the perpetrators of the recent Capitol riots to go unpunished we cannot even begin to heal and grow. Trump must be impeached. This is not about democracy. This is about an opportunity to help to begin to achieve the equality that our Constitution talked about but did not really mean. We cannot let this opportunity pass. It will not divide the country, it will be an attempt to make it unified. We have to address the racial divide that exists by punishing those who continue to worsen it. It will not go away with time, it will only worsen.”

We must Help Each Other

Pictured: JB Daniel’s Help Each Other Project Photo: JB Daniel – north location

We are in the Winter of Lives.

Some of us must figure out what kind of nation we want, going forward. On this day of celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King and the National Day of Service, this republic, formed with democratic ideals, has got to figure out what spring will look like. The national dark cloud of lies, the egregious assault we have witnessed, the ineffective and deadly federal response to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the widespread and insidious need to uproot to get at the truths of our nation’s history and become a less racist nation (too many links to mention but my church, for whom I co-chair the anti racist committee for transformation’s page is a great place to start), call each and every one of us to connect, to serve, to stay alert, to take care of each other, to vote for the least of us, and simply to believe our eyes.

Truth has lain dormant for too long.

Let us give Thanks

I received a text message the other day, with one of my dinner plates attached, asking about food safety.

Pictured: Corn Fossil plate with shino glaze, iron oxides and a lovely amount of carbon trapping. Also, for inquiries, don’t hesitate to send a message me for details.

I assured the person that the glaze, a lovely Shino, was indeed food safe, dishwasher safe, and microwave save (if they took the spinning thing out! Rotating square plates don’t get very far.) The text messages went back and forth a couple of times, to the point where I introduced myself and asked for the texters name. Karen introduced herself, then shared she had bought some of my plates at the pop up shop, that I helped manage, for the Art DTour/Fermentation Fest. In these Covid days, it was a perfect social distancing event along the rolling hills of the Driftless Region. Incredible works, commissioned for certain spaces to give wonder, joy, and beauty in the landscape, at an incredibly difficult period in our world’s health, our nation’s health and response, and as individuals within our communities.

Back to Karen. What a delight! She sent me pictures of how she displayed my plates among other handmade functional works and stacks of commercially made pieces. All are poetically displayed on a variety of shelves from reclaimed lumber and shelving made by her husband (see below!). This is all so fitting as I always use the reclaimed clay from Lillstreet Art Center, when making the stoneware dinner plates. The “reclaim,” used by many in the art center, including cut offs from throwing on the wheel, abandoned works, clay too hard to use and broken up, and then mixed with powdered clay, water, then pugged, weighed, and bagged to be made available to the maker as “reclaim.”

Our texts flew back and forth, sharing images of our homes, with a shared appreciation for the handmade, the discovered, and the gratitude for the makers in our lives. I came to handmade pots through the discovery of clay as a medium, while making handmade tiles for my home (because I saw how much handmade tiles cost to buy!) I thought, “I can make those!” So I did, at Lillstreet Art Center. Then, creating sculptural works among the potters, my, ahem, appetite grew for handmade pots, including some of my own. The common and constant thread of agrarian themed works throughout my art practice, led seamlessly to plates and bowls and shared meals and art happenings centered on food and so much more (including run on sentences!).

Wonderful images from Karen! My plates among other handmade plates, salt glazed, wheel thrown, and even my postcard of installation/temporary works. What a fun grouping.

For all this and more, I give thanks this Thanksgiving and harvest season. What am I doing this year? Planting trees that will bear fruit for years to come. Planting a garden that will help pollinators (including the leaving the leaves until late spring clean up). Celebrating with my nephew and brother in law, in my back yard (with a purchased food warmer), a relatively full menu for Thanksgiving, and punctuated with chestnuts on an open fire.

We gotta find some joy and poetry in this world at this time. I remember many shared Thanskgivings at this, most challenging time. I took none of it for granted.

Thanksgiving at SchwalbeHaus 2018

Thank you, Karen, for the reminder and the appreciation for my works. You inspired me to pause, give thanks, and share gratitude.

A grouping of my plates and other potters, at my AFS family’s home in Maine. It is so fun to think of people dining on my plates from coast to coast.

(Riffing from a Buddhist prayer for loving kindness) May the world be safe. May the nation be safe. May the reader be safe. May the people around me be safe. May I be safe. May we all figure out what kind of life is worth living, stay physically distant and stay social, and consider the safety and well-being of and for each other, as we move into a difficult winter and a spring awakening.

I cannot help but be hopeful while we are in the thick of it, especially after hearing of positive trials and plans for distributing a vaccine, and knowing that following the Bubonic plague came The Renaissance.

*I am always interested in your comments and observations. Thanks for reading.

(Mostly) unprecedented times leads to unprecedented actions. No different with the need and want to create. In the spirit of Fluxus, reflection and adaptation, response to and creation of absurdity and wonder, a few dozen international creatives met on Jitsi to share a score under five minutes. Most were live. Some were created and recorded for the event.

A big thanks to Bibiana Padilla Maltos for herding this delightful, poignant, and thoughtful group of humans.

Link to Day One of Hotel Dada Fluxfest is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bElgxMQk1Is

Link to Day Two of Hotel Dada Fluxfest is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dugyfJRpy6M&fbclid=IwAR3jOTWKk96P9we4UCRTuIXHjWqLmQn9wH45Acfx67aozhIuFZqfdMAoPGU

Links to my score: Before After

Still from Before After

On Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user8773033

On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrkTnQf-Ofo&t=33s

About Before After: I have been working on this small version of a future larger piece. Consider this a maquette of sorts. Applique is hard and it was the perfect thing to do in my cool, basement studio, over some pretty hot summer, Chicago days.

I have been thinking of the pandemic and other life events.

How we might phrase them… before and after something.

How we mend a life

How there are no clear delineations

How the in between is the growth

I think of this from farmer, writer, and provocateur Wendell Berry


“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Thanks, as always for your interest. Here is your to do list:

*Please watch the 4.5 minute score, Before After. I would love to know your impressions.

*Do a Fluxus score today. Creativity really is for everyone. Hashtag casbah3d on your favorite platform (IG, FB, Twitter or other!) and I will check it out!

*Enjoy a collage of images (below) while in the making, filming, and sharing over Fluxfest, below.

Time for my annual Declaration of Interdependence.

That whole independence thing is an illusion.

These days of a pandemic, with no end in sight;

These days of reckoning of our nation’s past;

These days of mask wearing – or not;

These days of marching;

These days of the much necessary toppling of renditions of fellow humans that should never have never held that space from the get go;

For some during this time, relearning to use your very own hands to fix something, make something, and create something;

Declare our Interdependence.

We gotta understand there isn’t one person on earth who is independent.

We all count on people to pave roads,

make sure the traffic lights are working,

grow our food,

transport our food,

take care of our elders,

make our frickin’ toilet paper,

stock those shelves,

drive that bus,

newspapers and electronic content to keep you informed of current events,

all should really help us understand there really isn’t one independent person on this earth.

We gotta put those guns down in our gated communities, make a sign, and get marching.

We gotta explore our fears and our unwillingness walk in another’s shoes.

We gotta vote cuz what is happening right now is clearly not working.

I think of this Sara Rahbar’s work (below) . I admire her courage. Working and reworking the symbol of our nation, hoping against all odds, that we live up to our documents and ideals.

Declare our Interdependence.

Thank a critical worker.

Wear that mask and deal with the summer sweat. It is the least any thinking human being can do.

Consider Reparations. It is the least this nation can do.Screen Shot 2020-07-04 at 10.26.45 AM

Pictured: Sara Rahbar Flag #2 You Broke me in, de-thorned


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