October found my husband and I celebrating our birthdays in New York City for a long weekend. And it was full of art, fabric and inspiration! A glimpse of al that —
Late this summer I planned a retreat at the beach in North Carolina. The goal was to read, be silent, seek God's presence in the quiet and work in my sketchbooks. I knew that this would be during hurricane season. But I really didn't think a hurricane would impact the trip! And then Hurricane Florence roared into the coast. I moved to plan B and landed in the sailing capital of North Carolina — Oriental. Despite seeing the hurricane destruction in Puerto Rico last year (blog post here) it was eye opening to be in North Carolina so shortly after the destruction had occurred. But as I learned from the gentleman from FEMA that I sat next to on the airplane each hurricane is different .
I had not been in Oriental before but quickly learned that many people in this area are professional fishermen. The site of boats on top of piers and swept onto the land was quite unsettling. This is in addition to the many homes that we saw that looked like they belonged in a war zone with their entire contents on the street for trash pick up was unsettling to say the least.
The marinas inspired a new limited edition of stoles. See the creamy white Baptism version here and the Ordinary Time version here.
Below is a glimpse of the work in progress. The boats were added next!
We will gladly be sending $50 to the American Red Cross for hurricane disaster assistance for each stole in this limited edition that is purchased.
Each morning I sat by the Neuse river and read Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton. I'd recommend this in preparation for a retreat (in a large group or as an individual) and for the suggested tasks while on a retreat. Despite not having my toes in the sand this time was restorative and thought provoking.
Driving in this beautiful state also allowed me to admire fields of cotton. I stopped and uttered thanksgivings for the farmers and harvesters that take this amazing plant and get it to those that create the fabrics we use in our products! It was a week of experiencing many blessings.
It’s always extra special to create for someone I know personally and recently that was the case. My own faith community was kind enough to request a stole for the Installation of one of our pastors. The final product wasn’t revealed until Installation worship but this pastor and I worked together to create the design. The following is an example of what the commission process is like at Carrot Top Studio.
Knowing that the gifting party had requested a green stole we started the process by asking the pastor for some words or images that were important for design inspiration. He replied with:
“laughter, Puerto Rico, abundance, the Holy Spirit,
God sees us (like Peter saw the lame man at the temple gates)”
That was an interesting list that proved to be a test of our abilities to connect visuals with. That happens sometimes, but we also love a challenge!
Our first sketch included a sun to represent the New Testament symbol of the believer’s walk and a reminder of the pastor’s roots in Puerto Rico where the sun (usually) shines. A descending dove was included for the Holy Spirit with surrounding swirls to represent joy and laughter. An oak tree/cross growing out of an acorn was chosen to recall the fact that great results can be born of humble beginnings and also to speak of the abundance mentioned in John 10:10.
We always consider a commission a process and will not move into the creation phase until the client and our studio are both pleased with the plan. And I’m afraid we missed our mark with the first attempt at sketching! Round two found us presenting these two new ideas:
What would you have done? We settled on the sketch on the left but swapped the cross for a descending dove that had active lines that mimicked the joyfulness of the border. And here is the result —
You heard me right! We’e made a stole embellished with coffee filters! I happened to be married to a man who is constantly trying to make his first cup of coffee in the morning . just . so . right. This has required some apparatus experimentation over the years. I recognize this is a little prima donna-ish but we’ve run the gamete of tools from thermal coffee pots to the french press to the our over to the areo press.
My current favorite is the aero press (seen above). It’s a combination of a french press and a pour over method. And oddly I can say that I like the texture of the way the coffee turns out and how quickly you make a quality cup of coffee.
But using this contraption daily has caused the side of me that doesn’t like to be wasteful to want to find a use for the little paper coffee filter that it uses with each press. So of course we had to trying sewing on it!
One thing led to another and the coffee filters have ended up on stoles! The inspiration for this stole series was Roman’s 8:28 …”and we know that in all things God works fo the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
What sustains you? Some might say coffee, or exercise or their family. But we’d hope that many would say it’s their relationship with God. May this stole be a reminder of all of that! … and BTW we discovered a reusable metal mesh filter for our aero press. So once we’re through the paper filters we started with that will be the end of this series!
Here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions. If this doesn't answer all of your questions do't hesitate to contact us at jenny.gallo@CarrotTopStudio.com or 412-480-4193.
What length stole should I order?
There is no set rule as it depends upon your ministry style and whether you wear a robe or not. The best scenario would be to have someone help you use a cloth tape measure to measure from the back center of your neck to the edge of where the hem would be on one side of the stole. Or know that a 49" stole falls at the knee cap of a 5' 4" person with a thin frame and then gauge accordingly.
How long does shipping take?
Shipping is 2-3 business days within the USA via USPS Priority mail. Orders are fulfilled Monday-Saturday unless otherwise noted in the website announcement bar. Expedited 1-2 day shipping via USPS is an alternative option at checkout.
What if I don't see what I need on your website?
Don't hesitate to ask if there is a stole you like but it's not the correct length. We might be able to remake the stole in a longer length or hem a stole that is not short enough.
OR if you if an idea for a stole that is not in our current collection we would be glad to consider adding it as a limited edition to the website or creating it as a one of a kind commission. Email us here.
Usually you can find me painting fabric for stoles for Carrot Top Studio or painting on paper for my #100dayproject (#100DaysOfPaintedPages on Instagram) but ten days ago I was painting really large walls in Puerto Rico. While on a mission trip with my church we spent two days at Hogar de Ninos: Regazo de Paz. This special home cares for up to 15 children that have been abused. They focus on love and repairing the whole child. Their ministry is wrapped in prayer and we were honored to brighten up their exterior and playground with new paint.
A surprise was meeting a Carrot Top Studio client who saw the location of our painting in a Facebook post and stopped by to check it out! How cool is that? A year before Rev. Danilie C. Hilerio Villanueva was to be ordained she had a vision for a stole that reflected her much loved Puerto Rico. It was wonderful to have the images we created come to life as I experienced this beautiful part of God's creation.
With wonderful hospitality we lodged at Camp el Guacio in San Sabastian. It is a Presbyterian church camp and conference center that has a long, vibrant history on the island but has also physically seen better days. To help revamp their facilities we took on the clean up of three cabins. The photo above is of part of the group removing a bunk bed that would have it's metal scraped and the plywood supports saved for window coverings for the next hurricane. You can see that we were in the mountains .... it was so lush and beautiful despite that storm rolling in.
One evening we had the privilege of hearing the camp director's story that centered on the hurricane. Her first summer was just prior to hurricane Maria in September 2017. We learned how God helped her prepare the camp that summer in ways that she didn't understand until after the fact. After the hurricane the camp was (in general) left in much better shape than the entire region. Camp director, Wilmari Vargas quickly saw God's provision to allow her to open the camp gates to help those in the greatest need. For months the camp supplied shelter, power (via a generator), washers and dryers, free ice and a center for community resourcing. This is the very short version of the story, but I am still thinking daily about how this one woman's faith and openness for God to use her continues to impact those that are in recovery mode. Listening to and working with Wilmari has certainly left an impression on me.
At the base of the camp is the PCUSA church Iglesia Presbiterians El Guacio. They welcomed us with open arms for their prayer service on Thursday night. It's always a joy to worship as one despite our language disparity. Our group sung The Doxology as an offering of gratitude to God and the community we were in.
On our last day we were able to tour the Western part of the island and engage in conversations about hurricane survival and continued efforts of recovery. We saw much physical destruction, witnessed families still living in public schools, talked to people that still didn't have electricity in their homes, stumbled upon the National Guard handing out water to a line of cars, and heard stories of the people that became 'the helpers' after the hurricane. This was quite a powerful day but the icing on the cake was the infectious happy spirit of everyone we came across.
As typical of our travels we work out some of what we experience in our art. We have a Puerto Rico stole in the works. This is the base fabric. The gradations of happy blue to green is perfect to capture the land and sea and lovely personalities we got to know. Watch our Facebook, Instagram and eNews for the completed stole announcement! UPDATE: see the finished stole here!
I tend to make personal goals when the seasons change not on New Year's Eve. As the cool weather of fall blew in I felt called to start drawing and painting more often. This is what I did in high school and college and as much as I love, love, love working with fabric and sewing the pencil and paintbrush are clearly also part of who I am.
So I pulled out the sketchbook and starting drawing. I focused on a theme on each page and tried to draw as often as I could! This is a little bit of what happened...
I'm also the kind of person that needs systems to help hold me accountable. Is that why I like the rhythm and routine of the Church year calendar so much? Anyway, I signed up for an online illustration class through Sketchbook Skool (that's correctly spelled :)). It was project orientated so we worked on designing a piece for the studio. Maybe you'll see the results in your mailbox someday. Until then here's a little bit of the process I walked through.
Now that I'm in the habit of drawing again I'm joining the #100DayProject. This endeavor has an official online community but is a free, global art project that anyone can participate in. If you want to follow along my tag is #100DaysOfPaintedPages. Using #CarrotTopStudioArt will do it also! I know it usually takes 21 days to make a habit. I'm wondering how i'll do with a 100 day habit? I am going to rest on Sunday's so it will actually be a bit longer than 100 days. I thought coffee was a good start and below is my painting for day #1. I'll let you know how it all ends. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Until then, see you later!
The pretzel is a very ancient bakery item, which traditionally was eaten only during Lent. It appeared each year on Ash Wednesday and disappeared on Good Friday. It goes back at least to the fifth century; thinner is a Roman manuscript in the Vatican Library dating from that period which show a Lenten pretzel. As to the shape: it is made in the form of tow arms crossed in prayer. The word bracellae, "little arms," became in German Bretzel, then Pretzel. These early Christians ate no dairy products in Lent, so the pretzel was made only of flour, salt and water: it was as simple as it could be.
You can ponder this while eating a store bought pretzel and looking over the ideas for using pretzels during Lent on our Pinterest page OR you can gather a group of friends and make your own following this recipe...
1 T. honey or sugar
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 envelop active dry yeast
1 t. salt
4 c. flour
coarse or kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
Add the honey to the water; sprinkle in the yeast and still until dissolved. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Blend in the flour, and knead the dough until smooth.
Cut the dough into pieces. Roll them into ropes and twist into pretzel shapes. You can make small pretzels with thin rope, or large ones with fat ropes, but remember that to cook at the same rate, our pretzels need to be all the same size.
Place the pretzels on lightly greased cookie sheets. Brush them with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes until the pretzels are golden brown.
Artistically it is very gratifying for us to work in a series. That's what we are doing when we focus on one season of the liturgical church year such as Lent. See our in stock stoles here to understand how we visualized the Lenten journey this year.
After living in Michigan for three years we finally found our way to Grand Rapids for Art Prize. It was wonderful to witness this international art competition that weaves in and out of the majority of the city. It is the most attended art event in the world and what we'd deem to be a happy, thought provoking, family friendly event.
We were smitten to find a variety of participatory works of art. This is a wonderful way to draw the viewer into the experience. And we think this should/could be applied to art in faith based settings. For example the below "Let Go" by Pamela Alderman spoke of the ebb and flow that eventually brings us to healing. Viewers were invited to write about the healing process or what gives them hope on a small piece of tissue paper. They were then instructed to crumble it and throw it into the waves for it to be symbolically carried out to sea.
Art Prize venues include sidewalks, restaurants, hotels, and among other things churches. For example this sculpture, "Trees Will Clap" by Dave Vander Molen was outside St. Marks Episcopal. It is based upon Isaiah 55:12 and combined the visual with the 'clapping' sound of the leaves that symbolized harmony and unity.
We appreciated this tribute to aging and community. It is made out of corrugated cardboard. It is by Warren King and is titled Grandfather's Friend and Arrival Times.
And we even know one of the exhibiting artists! Here is our friend Lauren's work. I appreciated the mood that the artist created with the colors and brushstrokes. And remarkably she's only been painting for a short time!
I enjoyed leaving a little Carrot Top Studio logo on the public art wall. Maybe another time there will be a more official entry into Art Prize from this studio. Stay tuned!
Since moving to Michigan three years ago we've been hearing about the beauty of this state's Upper Peninsula and we finally made time to visit. I anticipated being awed by the abundance and variety of trees. And that was true! What surprised me was the water. From large to small lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls the water was inspiring to hear, touch, admire the clarity, and view so many different colors. For example, this photo is from Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The amber color of the water is derived from the tannins in the surrounding trees. The sound of it dropping over the 50 foot fall was powerful. And the patterns the foam made in the water recalled marbleized paper ... our Creator the artist at it again!
Many world religions celebrate the symbol of water. Christians use water in four different ways:
- to recall birth,
- to evoke death,
- to typify renewal,
- and to suggest washing.
Gail Ramshaw points out in her book Treasures Old and New, that water also functions as a symbol of one another in the church. Filled with the Spirit, we nourish one another. "We are a cup of water for one another ... Christ the water, incarnating God's water of creation, flows continuously in the Spirit, who waters the believers, who themselves become the spring of living water in the world."
Often when we are able to step outside the studio we are inspired to create. If you hadn't guessed already, we're working on a water themed stole. You can watch it's progress on Instagram or see the announcement of it's completion on Facebook. We aim to have it on the website next week!
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!
One thing led to another.
First a stole was purchased through our online stole. Several years later, upon ministering at a new church, a commission was entered into led by this same pastor. This project included stoles, Communion table cloths and paraments for the pulpit/lectern. The process became a collaboration as the Church year rolled along. With each new season we emailed back and forth our ideas, sketches and fabric swatches until a plan was ready to be executed in our Michigan studio.
Just when we were mourning the end of the year long work we were thrilled to receive a request for a new piece of fiber art for the pastor's study. The parameters were to first have it fit a 46 x 56" space. Secondly the pastor thought maybe the rich illuminations of the St. John's Bible would be able to provide inspiration. We did some cartwheels at this news and dug in to make plans!
The resulting piece (above) has a creation theme based on the words in the book of Genesis. The use of batik fabrics add depth to the work. The story art is told through appliquéd images and symbols and is accented by sheer fabrics, metallic textile paint and free motion embroidery details. The finishing touch was the machine quilting done by Jane Clark of Jane Quilts. The wavy quilt lines move from open/fluid to tight/closed to add to the energy of the creation story.
As we recently traveled to a mini-vacation on the east coast we were passing by the pastor's church so had the honor of unveiling the work face to face. This is a rare treat and it was wonderful to be able to talk about the art and see it in situ.
Image description, left to right:
- heaven and earth/light and dark
- sky and sea
- land and vegetation
- stars and moon
- life in water and birds
- creatures on dry land, and
This spring, while in New Orleans, we took a side trip to Avery Island. The tour of how Tabasco Sauce is made was really interesting and we enjoyed the tasting afterward. Who knew that Tabasco flavored soft serve ice cream would taste so good?! Then we hopped in the car and roamed around the 170-acre garden with semitropical foliage while watching out for the sunbathing alligators that lined the Bayou Petite Anse. We were especially delighted encounter a rookery that was home to 1000's of snowy egrets. I could have watched them all day! As we walked back to the car seeing a feather on the ground reminded me of Psalm 91:3-5 --
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
Back in the studio we have created a series of work embellished with feathers as a reminder that God is shelter and a refuge when we are afraid. The psalmist likens God to a mother bird who protects her young. Isn't it wonderful that we can entrust ourselves to his protection?
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:
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.
Stories are told through art in so many different ways. We aim to create ministry stoles at Carrot Top Studio that are pieces of wearable fiber art that tell a story through their colors and symbols. When we read about the tradition of the Hmong people in Southwest China's story cloth we felt a connection to their artistry.
Our curiosity led us to finding this children's book, The Whispering Cloth written by Pegi Deitz Shea. The illustrations are unique because some are watercolors and others are photographs of actual embroidered story cloth. They were created by Anita Riggio and You Yang. The book follows the story of a young girl who works out painful memories of her childhood by creating art in her story cloth. She is slowly and carefully taught her skill by her grandmother. This is a book about survival of a resilient group of refugees. The main characters grandmother is an example of love and wisdom.
I'd recommend this book to anyone that works with refugees, is a refugee, or to be used as a story starter for an art project. Additionally I could see it used in lessons of learning compassion, patience and loving one another in a variety of educational settings. I remain grateful that God has given us art and visual connections to learn from, to remember by, and to grow through.