153I am a fiber artist and writer living in the ‘burbs of Boston. My two boys are in their twenties and one lives near the Pacific, the other in view of the Rockies. My husband and I share our home with an intense and lovable guy named Finn (half Belgian Malinois/half collie). He keeps us busy! Creative time is split between writing, quilting, and paper collage.

Not formally art trained, I’m not quite self-taught either since my mother was an art teacher. In our house, you dumped crayons into a shoe box and drew on scrap paper from Dad’s office. Later, as a family we enjoyed the tribal exercise of re-arranging furniture (nearly seasonally) and voicing opinions on where to hang mirrors or art. My mother considered creativity a given and therefore so did her children. What a gift! She also had a mantra that I hew to more and more as I get older: beautiful work comes from beautiful materials.

It seems so long ago now, but in high school, I crocheted and kept journals. College found me making collages, learning to hand spin and dye fiber with natural materials, and writing — mostly poems. I am not confident with pen and paper, but enjoy drawing. I am also not a very accomplished seamstress, but somehow got hooked on making quilts. Tellingly, after passing the Massachusetts bar exam in 1989, I deferred my hoity-toity job downtown in order to make a quilt.

I didn’t start sewing in earnest until my first pregnancy, which coincided with buying a house. Curtains, chair pads, crib bumpers, pillows, tiny onesies were all imperative nesting activities. The job downtown was left behind and the next job with a non-profit was on its way out, too. Somewhere along the line, I took a class with the Maine quilter Susan Carlson, whose collage approach to quilt making ignited me. A Ruth McDowell workshop followed. It did not ignite me — precise piecing is about as appealing as tax law — I cannot and will not do either. More recently, I’ve studied online, particularly with
Jude Hill at Spirit Cloth. From her introspective and poetic approach, I’ve learned to slow down and pay attention in a whole new way. She’s helped me remember things my mother taught me long ago, about beautiful materials, about the value of process.

Not selling or showing my cloth work these days, but I have — mostly at local, juried craft fairs, but also at galleries in Maine and New York. I participated in Newton Open Studios for five years. I used to teach a fair amount (children and adults) and until recently “operated” an esty shop (yeah, it was pretty much a bust and should’ve been shuttered long ago). I used to make a wide array of things — purses, dolls, blankets, wall quilts, sachets, pillows, but these days focus on small wall quilts, dolls and pouches.

I take weekly classes taught in “the Amherst Writers’ Method” during the school year. What a lot I have learned in there! I’ve kept journals my entire life. Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg were once upon a time big heroes of mine. Writing is essential to my balance. I write to figure out how I think and feel and who I am. Until recently, it’s been a fairly private endeavor. No more. A novel is in the works and I hope to finish it before I die.

I’ve talked about this project enough elsewhere, but in brief — it takes place in South Carolina in the 1730’s and 40’s and includes fictional renderings of some historic figures (primarily, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, but also Sarah Rutledge, Mary Chardon, and John Drayton). There are also three main characters who are completely invented bondwomen. The research has taken me on an intellectual/heart journey, one that was amplified by the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice (and so many others). I got on to twitter and starting following some of BLM activists and reporters of violence against people of color. This has made me a better citizen. I won’t go so far as to say “I’m woke”, but I’m working on it.

Whether I should continue to invest in a work so fraught with issues of cultural appropriation and voice and historicity is up for debate. So far, I keep resolving the question in favor of continuing.

On a lighter note, the book’s research also inspired three actual journeys — to beautiful Charleston, a city I have fallen in love with for its history, architecture, water views, crafts, food, and people.

23 thoughts on “About

  1. arlijohn

    What a delight to meet you online and how great to find another Susan Carlson fan. I am going to visit your website and will visit your blog often. Once again, glad to meet you!

  2. Ginny

    Hi Dee!

    I started at the beginning and have worked my way (almost) through all your pages and all I can say is I want a quilt, I want a quilt, I want a quilt — and a collage! Your work is beautiful and inspiring. Once I am finished with the pages, I am going shopping!!

    I love the way that life is worked out and through in small pieces, little by little, piece by piece – into a wonderful whole.

    I think our parents did us a disservice keeping the cousins apart. I have a website and a couple of blogs too (I can send you the links if you are interested). I hope we get to know each other electronically at least!

    With admiration,

  3. Ginny

    Hooray! Very cool 🙂 Already you have already given so much to think about with soulcollage,etc. and now the phenomenom of family schisms. Wild.

    I look forward to comparing family notes. I will send you an email soon.

    I have a blog http://www.Crabmeadow.blogspot.com and a little webiste with photography called http://www.OpenRoadCreations.com. There is another blog I will tell you about separately. 🙂

    Keep sewing and writing, you are wonderful at both.


  4. Lesley Austin

    Hello Dee,
    I am glad to have been brought here by your thoughtful comment at The Bower. I see you have two sons and a husband, so now I know who you meant when you mentioned “caretaking”. : ) I also have two sons and a husband, tho’ one son is away at college…but the caretaking doesn’t stop, it is just more mental and emotional than physical, I find.

    I loved seeing your quilts and your dear face in the photo above, and wish you success and joy with all of your creative pursuits-quilts and raising a family and everything else!

    1. deemallon Post author

      Thanks so much Lesley — I find that mentioning the things that we as crafters/artists must ‘overcome’ or accept is very helpful — ESPECIALLY because the job of mother is so often invisible… I’ll be checking in on your site more to see more of your wonderful work.

  5. Pingback: The Versatile Blogger award | About what matters

  6. Sandy Donabed

    Glad you found my (short) message about the ICA exhibit. Wish I knew you, love your ‘Cloth Company’ and your passions, and hope we can stay in touch! If you get to the ICA, allow plenty of time for the bookstore- there is stuff there of all sorts. The exhibit won’t take long in itself- but do look at Xenobia Bailey’s crocheted tent, and see the direct line to Susan Shie’s story telling quilts. I love when I find these connections… Sandy


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