What's With the Flying Geese?

Our thinking about and creating with the symbolism of flying geese started with a request from a client and this image on an Ordination stole. But what does it mean?

You've probably observed geese flying in a V formation. By doing this the goose in front creates uplift for the one behind. This allows for much greater flying range for the entire group. Community is a good thing for geese and for us!

And then there is the bit of when the lead goose gets tired he falls to the back and another takes over as leader. Similar to what we learn from Ephesians 4:16 ... "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."


How about all the squawking we here from a group of geese? That's reportedly encouragement! I have a friend from elementary Sunday School days. She's a great encourager. I especially appreciated how she always knew when to call me when my Dad was so sick with cancer. This spring it was her mom who was ill and I tried to be reciprocal with my own kind of squawking.

But encourage each other, day after day... (Hebrews 3:13)


So we've carried on the flying geese imagery into our recent work. This time we adapted a traditional quilt block. We stumbled upon a historical use of this block on a recent bike ride in our hometown of Detroit. This is a sculpture honoring the underground railroad and the use of the flying geese patch as a hidden message that those looking for freedom were on the right path. 

Here are snippets of our Carrot Top Studio flying geese latest creations. They include a full length stole, a short chaplain's stole and a table runner. Whether the flying geese are full of hidden messages or something that is loud and clear we hope there is something in this collection for everyone!

Inspiring Time in New Orleans

Inspiration strikes in so many places. We were recently blessed with a long weekend in New Orleans where the inspiration seemed to be around every corner! What a vibrant, spirit filled city! We visited the oldest Catholic church in the country. it's history reflects all the different countries that have influenced this area. How about this beautiful anchor cross (right)? The symbol of hope is so appropriate for this city!

Additionally, music was around every corner. I actually don't know if I've ever experienced a place where the music was literally everywhere! What a joyful noise!

We took time to tour the Presbytere Louisiana State Museum. The exhibit "Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond" was informative and sobering. We learned so much more than what we recalled from watching the news from a distance when Katrina hit. It was very powerful and really made us think about the spirit of resilliance. 

Although the entire exhibit was powerful and educational, the entryway really struck a chord. Hundreds of 'floating' glass bottles hang from the ceiling. They have messages curled up inside them. The artist, Mitchell Gaudet wants the viewer to feel as if they are bobbing up and down in the water. The bottles are protective vessels (of the messages) representing all of those that were touched by the water after Katrina. The bottles are interspersed with hands to represent the helpers. 

The magnolias were in bloom while we were visiting. These were yet another reminder of life as the blossoms screamed "look at the new growth" .... "it's beautiful!"

So upon our return we created a stole that encompasses some of these thoughts and impressions.  The new Ordinary Time stole in full, here! Here's a small detail--

Lent 2017: What We're Reading

I often have several books going at once and this Lent is no different. Here's what we're reading --

This Lent devotional/journal has been thought provoking. It's taken me to some places that aren't always comfortable. I appreciate that. And isn't that cover a lovely image? You can buy the art here

Pondering the art and writings in Lenten Meditations by James B. Janknegt has been a nice addition to my day. It uses Jesus's parables and I suspect it is a book I will return to over and over as the art is especially rich. 

And lastly my Bible study is working it's way through The Psalms for Today by Beth La Neel Tanner.  It's wasn't written specifically for Lent but I'm finding the understanding who God is through the Psalmist to be very fitting for a Lenten journey. And I must add that the questions at the end of each chapter are providing for good discussion.

100 Day Project

A new calendar year usually causes me to evaluate or try something new. This year I'm trying the 100 day project that is popular with creative types. It's defined as:

It's a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it's not about fetishizing finished products—it's about the process.


To stretch my technical skills and establish a new rhythm in my creative life I will be using Tula Pink's City book 100 Modern Quilt Blocks.  Hopefully I will become a more accrue piecer as I follow along with the author's directions to make 100 6 1/2" square quilt blocks. My two self imposed rules are to first use only fabric scraps from my stash and to use only warm colors. The color rule is only so that if I want to turn the blocks into a quilt there will be some cohesiveness based on the color theory.

Maybe you'll recognize some stole fabrics in these! Here are my first three blocks: 

The book is organized into shape collections such as squares, and triangles. The first section is crosses. Maybe some of these patterns will find their way into my Carrot Top Studio work too! Watch our Instagram and Facebook pages for updates as the days roll by!.

Italy! You Inspired Us!

We recently had the pleasure of traveling through a bit of Italy. The amount of inspiration made our mind spin! That's a good thing though. Right? Showing you some pictures will help me describe this experience:



The symbol of the pomegranate as "the church" has always been intriguing to us. Apparently it was over a thousand years ago also! We spied it on the church of San Pietro in Bologna. This encourages our love of using symbols in our fiber art at Carrot Top Studio.

Day after day the attention to details were impressive. It was in the way food was plated. We experienced it in how purchases were wrapped by shop owners. And in the many churches we visited the details were just so immense. These photos are from some of the columns in the crypt in the Duomo in Modena. Each column had a different topper! The artists that have gone before us encourage me to stretch creatively in our attention to detail. 

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This was a detail of a front door in Florence. Wow! The craftsmanship! And of course we're drawn to this favorite flower of ours, the sunflower. Artistically the sunflower is interesting as it can represent "the son" or as a reminder of worship as it has a habit of following the sun as it grows. 

In Modena we stepped out of our church and museum visiting schedule to experience the art of some of the foods of this area. One stop found us learning from a balsamic vinegar farmer. The process and time it takes to make this product was fascinating but it was most touching to hear about the barrels of vinegar that were labeled with names. It takes 25 years to make balsamic vinegar and you need a starter of completed vinegar to begin a new batch. The farmer starts a barrel each time a grandchild is born. This enables the child to have their own vinegar and also the possibility of creating new product and income. My take away? Family and tradition is valuable and patience to wait (25 years!) for a worthy products pays off. 

There was light. The candlelight. The light over the farm fields as the sun rose and set. The clever church architecture to allow for light before there was electricity. And the light in the personalities of the Italian people we met as they showed great hospitality. 

The icons and niches and faith symbols that were scattered everywhere. This Mary was on the island of Murano outside of Venice. The island is known for it's hand blown glass artists. Interesting to note that Mary is wearing beaded necklaces here! But seriously, coming home I've been looking for symbols and details and inspiration in my everyday paths. I am missing things like turning a corner and stumbling upon a Mary such as this.  

The old and new can combine successfully! The ruins of the Palatino are currently dotted with art by contemporary artists. It works. It made me think of coexistence and acceptance.

This is part of the 85,000 square feet of mosaics in St. Marks Basilica in Venice. Each one of the tiles is the size of a contact lens. Un-be-lievable! The artists have my utmost respect. 

And even the treats like gelato were inspirational. The colors, presentation and variety were simply (sweetly) sensational. 

And last but certainly not least I'm guessing most people don't visit Italy to go fabric shopping. But I'm always curious how it's done in other places. The stores were so pristine and tidy.

We could have stayed in Italy so much longer as we only scratched the surface of this lovely place with so much history. But we're back in the studio and trying to apply what we absorbed into our life. We'll let you know when this touches our art with new products on the website! 

Do You Know: The origin of the stole

The stole was first known as orarium a term derived from the Latin oro or "to pray." The change in name from orarion to stola took place in the ninth century but it wasn't until the 12th century that the new name "stole" became generally used. By the 16th century the stole had become a badge of the bishops, priest and deacons each of whom wore it over the shoulder in their own distinctive way.

The orarium was originally nine or ten feel long and a uniform two to three inches wide. We often worry about clergy that orderCarrot Top Studio stoles that seem to be really long for fear that they'll trip going up the chancel steps. How did they walk while wearing these long stoles in the 12th century? In later years stoles were of a tapered shape and were sometimes finished with fringe or little bells. Pope Innocent III gave a religious significance to the stole, which was originally a secular garment, by calling it the "easy yoke of Christ."

At the end of the Middle Ages, the stole became altered to a shorter, wider shape with an excessive splaying at the ends. Today's trend of a narrower stole became current in the early part of the twentieth century. 

Today, in our studio, we see the stole to be a visual link to the Word. We thoughtfully move through the design process of choosing colors and symbols that might assist your ministry. And as the stole in throughout the ages, our stoles (and photography skills!) have evolved over the years. 

Left to right: Our first stole sold on eBay,  one of our first commissioned stoles, and the newest stole on our website.

Left to right: Our first stole sold on eBay, 
one of our first commissioned stoles, and the newest stole on our website.

*Thanks to Textile Art in the Church by Marion P. Ireland for this history

Rhythm: On the Ice and In Worship

I was recently with a friend in a store and we stumbled upon a toy zamboni. I recalled how when we moved to Pittsburgh and for the first time ever experienced life in a "hockey town." My son quickly fell in love with watching the work of the zamboni as it resurfaced the ice. I relayed the story and was thinking my precious child was unique. But my companion exclaimed, "who doesn't love the zamboni?!"

This caused me to reflect why? Time and time again the ritual is the same as the ice is scraped and then refreshed with clean water. We know what's going to happen. We understand the importance of the task so the skating can go on. Isn't this like worship? The rhythm imprints itself on us. We work at it over and over again. It allows us to be active with God. We are cleansed. We need it to happen.

I am thankful for the rhythm and ritual that God has modeled for us and called us to participate in. And therefore we enjoy creating products that honor the liturgical calendar. Rooted in history we cycle through the ritual of recalling and celebrating Jesus' life. There is a time for every season and this allows us the structure to honor our Lord and be refreshed in the rhythm over and over again. And like the zamboni we are all able to love this! Thank goodness.

Sharing: A New Commissioned Stole Is Complete!

We recently completed a stole for a seminarian preparing for Ordination. She sought a piece that would reflect where she lived and served in Peurto Rico.It was fun to start with her own sketch and photos. When I work on a stole like this it makes me appreciate the many years as a young woman that I studied watercolor painting. As a general rule when you use watercolors you start with what is furthest in the background and work your way forward. This is because once the paint is down it can't be removed and it is not easily gone over. The commissioned stoles that we do that are like "story stoles" with a lot of appliqued pieces need to be figured out in this logical type of sequencing. It's a bit of a puzzle in the beginning but with careful planning it comes together nicely. Interesting how one opportunity from your past prepares you for the future! We've just completed the sketch for another story stole. You'll hear more about that this summer. #PCUSA #GA222 (spoiler alert :))

*Note 1-we love learning new things (especially about plants and food) and were pleased to be introduced to the seagrapes that are the large leaf plant with the interesting, clustered fruit. 

*Note 2-we had special permission to use the PCUSA seal, this one time

Our Latest Christmas Design: History Repeats Itself

Artists often find images, shapes, motifs, or themes repeating in their work. Sometimes it's because you are intentionally working in a series and other times it's more subliminal and is just because it's who you are. Over a decade ago we created our second ever set of banners. They were for our home congregation in Pennsylvania for the season of Christmas. They were a joy because we shared the stitching with a team of church members. Well, funny story ... we thought we liked the design until we saw them hanging up. There was just something not quite right! It was too close to Christmas to make an adjustment so we made peace and let them be. The artist is their own worst critic after all! Low and behold we didn't make note of the needed adjustment and near Christmas time the next year when the banners were pulled out to be ironed in preparation of their hanging our hearts sank to see that we'd forgotten. But then our adrenaline started running and with seven days before their timely hanging we took them back to the studio, cut, patched, and restitched. Voila, they were much improved! I'm not sure anyone else noticed but my heart felt the design was much improved. And we're humbled that those banners are still used today.

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Fourteen years later we revisited the stars of those banners in our latest Christmas stole. We hope the whimsical nature of these stars evoke the joy, giddiness, awe, and anticipation that must have been felt when all who were involved in seeking Him that first Christmas saw the sign they had been waiting so long for.

You may see the entire Christmas stole here. And know that our shipping policy remains the same as usual -- we ship within 24 hrs. of receiving your order via Priority mail. Priority during this busy season is typical 3 business days.

We remain grateful for your support of our art. Merry Christmas!

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Fine Art in Church

Using fine art, not just clip art or graphic art can add to the meaning of worship or deepen our connection to our faith outside of worship. Below is a piece for upcoming Christ the King Sunday. It could be used on it's own but would be even better for the viewer if a few guiding questions were asked to help the thought process. For example:



  • are you attracted to this work?
  • what is it that holds your interest?
  • does it remind you of anything? (a story, a memory, an idea?)
  • what is your eye first drawn to?
  • how do you think it was made?
  • what do you know about the culture of the time the artist made this?
  • do you recognize any symbols in this art?
  • can you extend the scene? what might have happened right prior or after this moment?

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If you are new to using art in your church you would probably enjoy the Grunewald Guild Podcast on this subject here. 

Carrot Top Studio mostly focuses it's art on liturgical stoles. But on occasion we branch out into art for church galleries or banners in worship. This advent we have one set of such art (shown above) available here. It is also available as a download with text for use as a devotional here

Notes About Our Advent Art

We recently completed a series that that is available for use in an art gallery or worship space. It is available in blue as seen below and in purple as seen here. Each fiber art panel is 15 x 36" and is accompanied by the writing of Rev. Dawn Carlson. The writing is meant to guide the viewer through a quiet, meditative experience while observing the art during Advent. The scripture references are from the Lectionary (Year C).  

The Time is Coming by Jenny Gallo

The Time is Coming by Jenny Gallo

This is what we were thinking about when designing each panel (numbered left to right)--

1-A Time to Watch

(Jeremiah 33:14-16•  Psalm 25:1-10•  1 Thessalonians 3:9-13•  Luke 21:25-36)

Time and rhythm and cycles are represented by the big circle.

The righteous branch is the branch.

The swirls reference staying alert, activeness and energy.

The curved line at the bottom is a calling to wonder "what are you still waiting to see?"

2-A Time to Think

(Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4  •  Luke 1:68-79•  Philippians 1:3-11•  Luke 3:1-6)

The big circle is the messenger.

Light into darkness is around the big circle.

Peace is represented by the laurel branch.

The empty space symbolizes the wonderment of "where do we look for messengers?"

3-A Time to Come Home

(Zephaniah 3:14-20•  Isaiah 12:2-6•  Philippians 4:4-7•  Luke 3:7-18)

The waves symbolize drawing water from the well and Baptism.

The large circle is restoration.

The small circles are rejoicing, expectation and/or wheat chaff.

4-A Time to Sing

(Micah 5:2-5a•  Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80:1-7•  Hebrews 10:5-10•  Luke 1:39-45, (46-55))

The large circle says "here I am" or is symbolic of the womb or being filled with the Spirit.

The small circles are the flock.

Hope you can meditate on this work and find even more meaning beyond our original intention.