the DuSable Museum in Chicago

I visited Chicago in 2018 on a self guided tour of its architecture, museums and historical sites. One of those museums was the DuSable Museum of African American History, established in 1961 to promote the contributions and experiences of African Americans. It is housed in an unassuming building, filled with well laid out galleries that take you through some of the most turbulent time periods in our shared history.

Rewriting History – Paper Gowns and Photography” was an art installation that filled the first gallery I entered. It provided a ride through antiquity and imagination, and is among the most emotionally impactful art installations I have walked through. When art intersects with social consciousness, it can take you to powerful places.

Fabiola Jean-Louis is mixed media artist who was born in Haiti, and raised in New York and Brooklyn. She created life-sized paper gowns and staged photography to tell African-American history in the trappings of 15th-18th century Europe. Her goal was to use beauty as a vehicle to discuss ugly truths regarding the African Diasporic experience and open a dialog into social change.

The “Tudor Dress” stood near the center of the room. Again, this is made entirely from paper.

All the mounted pieces in this exhibit were presented in heavy baroque frames. The models are wearing paper gowns created by the artist, which are then photographed. The final technique is archival pigment print on hot press paper. I cropped the frame out of some of my photos in order to enlarge the detail.

The first frame below is titled “Madame Leroy,” who is wearing an ornate triptych.

The next frame is a detail shot titled “Rest In Peace” and shows the devil in the detail – a black man who has been lynched from a tree bursting into bloom.

Some of these works drew me back again and again. This pair struck me for the subtlety of the basket of ginned cotton in the lower right corner, and the details of the violin. The first frame is titled “Passing,” the next is titled “Violin of the Dead.”

“Marie Antoinette is Dead” was another image that was not as it first appeared. Note the African doll under her arm, and the voodoo dolls in the corner of the second frame.

There were some stand alone pieces, like this Elizabethan inspired dress (lower left), and a stomacher (lower right) entitled “Garden and Tea”, a multi-media piece which includes gold leaf, crystals and shimmer trim. There was another stomacher and two pair of papermache shoes in this exhibit that I did not photograph.

Of all the pieces in this exhibit, this one had the greatest visceral impact on me. Sometimes art needs to be painful in order to make its point.

Titled “Madame Beauvoir’s Painting,” the detail shot shows the pattern on the back of her dress and its correlation to the lash marks on the back of the slave she is painting.

This last work is titled “They’ll Say We Enjoyed It” which says all it needs to.

This blog was originally posted as “Yesterday’s Main Street and the Dusable Museum” in August 2019. It was updated in February 2021 for Black History Month, to focus on this singular exhibit and includes photos not previously seen here.

First Works of 2021

And so a New Year begins, feeling very much like the old year. But hope springs eternal that vaccines will be available soon, and we will leave our collective pandemic isolation behind us soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been slower at hat making than usual, which I chalk up to winter doldrums and, well, you know, pretty much everything else that’s been going on. Here are some custom orders I’ve shipped out over the last few weeks.

February marks twelve years since I first started traveling, and bringing home the designs that have inspired many of my hats. In the absence of new travel, I started releasing my travel journals as Director’s Cuts, updated with extended text and additional (and larger) photos. You can read about my first intercontinental trip – Venice during Carnival – at my “Italy” page at Daveno Travels. That trip inspired the blue silk hat in the top right corner of this hat gallery; it remains one of my most popular offerngs.

Payne and I near San Marco Square, Venice 2009

My mail today included a gift from a friend … a hand sewn, hand embroidered chatelaine to corral my sewing tools and keep them handy (literally!). Dayna titled it “Homage to My Hatter” and it is a thing of beauty as well as utility. She chose the color palette inspired by a photo of me in the Sahara. The phoenix and carp have symbolic meaning for me, and she put three clouds between the two animals so my head would always be in the clouds. On the inside is a special inscription – a moniker given to me by a customer whose kuffe I reconstructed after his dog destroyed it.

Thank You Dayna! This is the face of one very happy hatmaker!

It’s the holidays …

May your homes be bright, your heads and hearts warm, and your new year filled with hope and light…

Artists Sunday …

You’ve heard of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. This year we’re adding another to the mix – Artists Sunday – because there’s nothing more personal than a gift of the arts! This global event features 3200 artists and art organizations across the nation, allowing you to Shop Local wherever you are! You’ll find me listed in the Artists Showcase.

I’ve still got 5-6 custom order hats to finish in the next 30 days – yes I am unexpectedly booked up – so I’m using this opportunity to promote the galleries who represent my work. If you are looking for a gift, please visit one of my galleries, or contact me for a gift certificate to redeem in early 2020.

Peters Valley School of Craft and Brookfield Craft Center are partnering with Artists Sunday. These are samples from the dozen or so hats I have in each of their gift shops this holiday season.

Creative Minds Art Gallery on Orcas Island, and Nature’s Kitchen in Yreka, also have my caps and hats in their shops.. COVID-19 restrictions are in place in both locations, so contact them for their schedule before visiting.

On the custom order front, these are hot off the press and ship out tomorrow. At left is a full fur box hat crafted from a recycled beaver coat and lined with wool plaid. At right, Kraken #3 in the new owners’ heraldic colors. Both hats come with complimentary masks. (Kraken #2 was delivered last week and is now available by custom order in my webstore.)

In addition to masks and tote bags, every hat purchase benefits a selected charity. I will be donating a percentage from my recent sales on Giving Tuesday, December 1. I am thankful for everyone who supports my work, and am happy to pay a share of that forward to those in need.

Re-Imagined: the Results

I am happy to report that my first virtual art show was an unexpected success!

I’ll leave the nuts and bolts details for another day, but suffice it to say that I came out of the weekend with several orders, and had an unrelated uptick in Facebook orders as well. I’ll be busy for the next few weeks.

If you are looking for a hat for the holidays, you should probably order that by Thanksgiving in order to guarantee delivery by Christmas and Hannukah.

After demonstrating this one at the show, the Phoenix / Firebird (shown above) is finished and ships out tomorrow.

I debuted a prototype of a NewsGirl, (also called a BakerBoy or Apple Cap) which is still a work in progress. I finished a non-lace denim version shortly after the show, which is now united with its new musician-owner in Alabama.

I finished the Kraken Cap in time for the show, and already have two orders. The next one will be in team colors (red, teal and black) with tentacles encircling the cuff. I can hardly wait : )

If you missed the show, you can see all the participating artists at Peters Valley School of Craft.

50 years Re-Imagined

In this year of missed milestones and in-person exhibits, the show must go…online! Welcome to the 50th Annual Peters Valley Craft Fair Re-Imagined.

Enjoy this live and interactive event where you can meet over 80 juried artists in our virtual booths, and shop our selection of handmade artworks from the comfort and safety of your home. Chat with the makers, peek behind the scenes, ask about our processes, and shop our websites while you are chatting with us in real time! Register at this link to score one of the 1000 free tickets, or buy one starting at $5 for the weekend to support Peters Valley School of Craft’s largest fundraiser of the year. A limited number of $2 tickets are also available, email me for that access.

The show organizers have developed this short and handy YouTube video which you will find in the Reception Area once you enter the Craft Fair site. I highly recommend that you watch this video to learn all the ways you can interact with us and explore our art. You can also click on the EXPO button to go directly to the artist booths. Once you enter the EXPO, look for me at August Phoenix Hats!

If you click on my booth and arrive at this video, it means I have stepped away for a cup of coffee or to chase a cat. You can play the video, or click on the Booth tab to shop my store, or click on the Chat tab to leave me a message. I’ll be back in a flash!

If you arrive at a screen that says “The Presentation will start shortly” it means I’m online and waiting to connect with you. Click on “Share Audio and Video” to enter my booth and wait a few seconds to connect via live audio/video. You can also initiate a text conversation with me via Chat if you’re camera shy : )

Come Meet The Kraken! This brand new, never before seen, hand sewn cap will make its debut at this show. Stop by to say Hello Kraken and place an order for one of your very own! I hope to also debut my version of a 1930’s style NewsCap to at this show.

You can also have a look around my shop. If you’re interested in ordering a hat, I can even pull fabrics from shelves, closets and boxes for you. Just ask me for a “behind the scenes” tour!

The show runs 10 AM – 5 PM East Coast Time, which means my day here in Seattle will start at 7 AM. I’ll remain LIVE in my booth until 5 PM Pacific Time on Saturday, and by appointment until 10:30 PM for late night shoppers. You can book an appointment with me by clicking the “Book Now” button at the top of my Facebook page, or via email. The show will be open (but not live) all night on Saturday so you can shop our websites. We will return to our booths on Sunday (10 AM – 5 PM East Coast Time / 7 AM – 2 PM Pacific Time).

As a reminder, every hat (both custom and off the shelf) ships free within the Continental US, and includes a complimentary face mask and tote bag. I look forward to seeing you this weekend at Re-Imagined!

Topkapi-inspired …

This week’s progress includes this newly finished Topkapi hat in hand painted silk with braided soutache providing texture along the seams and the brim of a commercial straw hat. Those who follow my travels may recall that this hat is inspired by my favorite ceiling in the Harem Apartments in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which I visited in 2011.

I’m delivering this hat and complimentary cotton mask to an artist friend who is participating in the PhinneyWood Art Sale & Stroll on Sunday August 30 from noon – 4 PM. Over 40 artists and makers will set up in their yards and gardens for your socially safe and enjoyable shopping experience.

Tickets are now available to the 50th Annual Peters Valley Craft Fair ‘Re-Imagined’ online art show. There are 1000 free tickets available, as well as tickets at a variety of price points if you would like to show your support. I will be participating in this show in October. Wish me luck : )

In gallery news, Brookfield Craft Center and Peters Valley School of Craft are now open, with COVID-19 limitations in place. Please check their websites for schedules and visiting information. Nature’s Kitchen in Yreka, CA is also open, and Creative Minds Art Gallery on Orcas Island, WA expects to reopen in their new space any day now.

In hobby news, my third submission to Mainly Museums was published this week, which puts me well on the path to being an established regular contributor. The Museum of Broadcast Communications was a nostalgic trip which many of you may appreciate as well…

August Progress …

Here are some newly completed hats, caps, & masks. The first is an Imperial style in brocade fabric ornamented with braided yarn passementerie, Afghani silver belt pieces and silvertone beads. The cuff is from a vintage fox stole that the customer provided. The mask is made from the same brocade and also has an Afghani silver accent piece at the upper right corner, sort of like a beauty spot.

This next one is a hand sewn wool cap with a fish themed ribbon on the padded wool cuff, edged with custom braids which I repeated as ties for the mask. I chose black for this mask to pick up the black accents of the hat, and because it was less predictable than red. The tassels are leather, suspended from glass teardrop beads.

I have dropped the price of my Kid’s masks to $6.50 (down from $10) and added two new design choices: Geometric and Super Heroes.

My company is officially 20 years old this year, marking my transition from hobbyist to small business owner. In more normal times I would have planned some big splashy way to celebrate the occasion, but instead, like everyone else celebrating milestones, I’m opting for more subdued activities.

My first plan was to send Fancy Face Masks to 20 of my Facebook followers who responded to my 20 year announcement. The first 10 masks ship out this week.

I had planned to share a series of retrospective projects, but so far the only one I have brought out of my archives is Something Tattered This Way Comes.

I am still in the design phase for a new hat, which I’m hoping to launch before September. The rest of my list of planned promotions have so far, not moved off the page.

I am fortunate to have a home not threatened by fire, and an income outside of my hat business that is not threatened by the COVID-19 economy. No kids to home school, no parents to look after. And yet, I’m slogging through mud. Everything takes three times as long as it should and the smallest things completely trip me up. Every few days I wonder what is wrong with me.

Then I heard a new term this morning – “corona-coaster’ – an apt description for having big plans and short bursts of energy, followed by lengthier lags of lethargy. I also found this article on surge capacity and ambiguous loss, which was hammer to nail for me. Perhaps you will find it helpful as well.

“How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty?”

I especially took note of the advice to find fulfilling activities. So I’ll continue to donate about 50 masks every month for distribution through Days for Girls and other organizations. I’ve become a contributor to Mainly Museums. And I’ll be expanding my skillset when I engage in my first virtual art show with Peters Valley School of Craft in October.

Today I washed all the windows to my live-work space that I still rarely leave.

I’m learning to cut myself some slack, or what a therapist friend calls “gifting yourself with white space”. White space is how every project starts, whether it be a book, or a painting, or a dress, or dinner. White space is a necessary thing. It’s up to us to figure out how best to fill it, and in turn have it fill us.

And that, even in the most subdued and incremental of terms, is progress.

Mask – Hat – Mask …

My first hat & mask sets have started shipping out. Every hat order this year comes with a free mask!

I even got to see one of my original hats from about 30 years ago – it was interesting to see that the seams and structure were intact, but the wools had completely worn through. I reproduced the original hat as closely as I could, and added a metal stud on each panel because i’m apparently incapable of letting a hat leave my shop without some form of ornamentation.

On the mask front, I have 50 in kid’s and adult sizes ready to deliver to a local food & mask drive this weekend. I have another 30 in production for the Anacortes/Camano Island chapter of Days for Girls. That will bring my mask donations to just over 500 so far this year.

Because our economy won’t regain its health until our community does. I’ve been trying to target my masks and other donations to benefit essential workers. Among our most essential workers are those who harvest our food, which is why I’m participating in the Food & Mask Drive at the Seattle Repertory Theater, in partnership with WashMasks.org. I’m donating food as well as masks to this effort and I hope you will join me. If you choose to donate masks, they need ties rather than elastics or ear loops, and no nose bridges. There’s also a list of preferred foods and supplies on their website.

Today I learned about the “Lipstick Index”- apparently when women want to cheer themselves up, they often buy lipstick, so it has become an informal economic indicator. But with the advent of masks, women have switched that ‘cheer up impulse buy” to nail polish instead…

I wonder why women aren’t buying or making new masks instead, to keep the focus on their face… Imagine a Mask Index as a new economic indicator as well as a socially responsible action : )

Mask #400+

July 3 starts my 4th month of home sequestering, and the 400th and something mask, all but 20 of which I have donated to individuals and local organizations who needed them, including Days for Girls and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I’ve now turned my attention to Yakima, my birth town and a current hotspot in Washington State. I’ve sent 50 masks for distribution through a food bank and a women’s shelter, and this weekend I’m starting another 50 for WashMasks for distribution to agricultural workers there.

Proceeds from those other 20 masks have allowed me to donate cash to Feed the Frontlines and Off Their Plate – two programs that pay impacted restaurants to provide meals to medical workers. Although my website says that 50% of those sales would be donated, I’m actually sending closer to 90%, with the remaining 10% covering shipping costs.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on here, Americans are now banned from traveling to the EU, UK and Mexico. Although my travel plans take me elsewhere (a US museum tour later this year, and Africa next year) I’m hard pressed to even get on a city bus at the moment. One of the places I post my travel photos to, and visit to travel the world virtually – Trover – shuts down August 1. The world becomes smaller with every passing day.

So I leave my house for groceries and not-often-enough walks, and spend my days with my cats and my sewing machine, making more masks than hats, and listen to people clamor for a return to normal, apparently not realizing that this is the new normal, at least for now.

Make the best of what you have. Use your resources to better the world. Show some love. Stay safe. That’s all I’ve got for today.