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--

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

Outside Carrot Top Studio: Time with Family & Life Lessons

Last week I ventured out of Carrot Top Studio to head East for time with family. Here's my mom (who I get my gift of color placement and love of fabrics from) and my daughter (who has a great artistic eye for photography) and that's my dear son making the photo bomb. His action is an example of the good fun we were able to have throughout the holiday. Life lesson: laughter is a gift.

Many of you have bought our peace and healing themed stoles that give back to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of my mother in law. We loaded the iPad with pictures from her past and enjoyed traveling down memory lane with her. She doesn't speak much anymore but it was interesting to see which images she'd react to by tapping on the screen with her hands. Life lesson: visual images can speak loudly.

Last Monday we spent time with my husband's Aunt Mary. She was the one that introduced my husband to the joy of trips into New York City for shopping, fine food, and a bit of Italian opera. In recent years we all loved eating strawberry ice cream with her as this particular food brought her little bits of joy. Aunt Mary was surprisingly called home as she slept that night. Life lesson: savor each moment and embrace those little bits of joy.

I write this on the 6th Day of Christmas. As Christians we can mark this day not just by thinking of the six geese a laying in the popular Christmas song but as the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1). My take away from a very full last week, logging 30 hours of driving, spending time with friends in our former hometown, cherishing time with family in three additional cities, and celebrating the life of a loved one leads me to the last life lesson: "He upholds all things by the word of his power." Hebrews 1:3. I am so grateful for God's love and the witness I have had to it this past week! 

P.S....it is great to be back in the studio....doing some cleaning out and goal setting this week! We'll be back with new inventory and plenty of ideas for 2015! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram (carrottopstudio) for the latest news!

What's New?

So you're curious as to what's new in the world of Carrot Top Studio? I'm bursting with joy that my son asked his girlfriend to marry him! We love this young lady and it's been exciting to watch their relationship grow over the last couple of years. And our dear daughter has returned from a semester abroad in Belize. She returns more mature and wiser to the ways of the world and the desires of the good Lord for the care of His creation. If you mentor anyone that is college aged I can highly recommend the Creation Care Study Program with campuses in Belize and New Zealand.  

These guys keep me on my toes when I'm not in the studio!

What? You were really asking about what's new in the studio? Ok! There's lots to share there too! We added three new designs to our Christmas ministry stole collection this season.

The 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' stole (on the left) is lovely first because we think the whimsical buildings echo the joy of the Christmas celebration. Secondly, some of the gold stars are created out of sheer gold fabric and then free motion stitched with variegated threads. They are on top of a silver dotted background which truly says that this stole and its message are special. The middle stole in the image above honors the names of Jesus that are foretold in the book of Isaiah. The holly echos the prophecy of the King we await as it symbolizes the crown of thorns that will eventually be worn at the Messiah's death. This death and eventual resurrection of course complete the story. The stems of the holly add an interesting detail being created out of softly textured yarns. Lastly, we've redesigned an old favorite seller with the nativity border stole. Often artists depict the nativity as if they were seeing it in their hometown. If that were Carrot Top Studio we'd have surrounded the stable with evergreens and the tall deciduous trees of Michigan. But for this design we've chosen the palm tree which might have actually existed in Bethlehem. 

May those that you minister to be blessed with meaningful visuals that help connect them to the story of Christmas. 

A Thanksgiving Tradition

Like many of you, later this week my family will gather around a table with friends and enjoy a meal together. We will give thanks for our many blessings-- small and large. Before we eat we will keep our tradition of sharing some of these things we are thankful for. We will honor the tradition in a way that dear friends taught us when we shared one Thanksgiving with them when we hardly even knew each other. At Carrot Top Studio we believe in combining symbols to enhance meaning. We believe the visual helps this message stay with us. Knowing that, if you read on you'll probably understand why we like this tradition.

First, the table is set for dinner and the meal is set out. Hot food items are covered with aluminum foil or lids to keep them warm (even thought that isn't visually appealing :)). An apple and a cutting knife is placed at the place setting of the person that will lead the time of thankfulness.

Secondly, the apple is recognized as a sign of God's creation. It is a reminder of how he provides for us. As the explanation is occurring the apple is being cut into exactly as many pieces as needed for one per person at the table.Everyone is reminded of the first thanksgiving in the United States where tradition tells us that people came together out of thankfulness to celebrate...like we are doing today. The apple slices are passed and everyone takes one. One apple for each person is a bit of thankfulness of everyone having their due and also a prayer of intercession for those that might not have enough this day.

Each person takes an apple slice as the plate is passed and  they speak of something they are thankful for. 

Lastly, after everyone has had a time to share, a closing blessing is said or sung. We lean toward the doxology but if there are a lot of little ones in attendance the "Johnny Appleseed" blessing works well. The leader then holds up their apple slice and declares, "let us eat this small token of the bounty we have been provided and be thankful." And the sharing of the meal commences.

Blessings for your Thanksgiving Day to our American clients. To our other clients worldwide we wish you moments of thanksgiving with those you love and/or blessings for harvest celebrations.

Worship Can Be Foreign

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I've always enjoyed worshiping in communities and churches that were not my home base. As you may know, my family (and studio)  moved from Pittsburgh to the Detroit area this summer. This has allowed a "season" of such visiting. There is much goodwill in Michigan and every single church we have worshiped in we have felt welcomed. Despite that through this process I've once again realized that sometimes you are a foreigner to the special rhythm, ritual, and even language of worship. We have experienced several things that have stood out in mind:

  • a parishioner patting my hand when I did something out of order in worship. It was the type of touch that reminded me that I was welcomed.
  • explanations as to how Communion elements would be served and why it was done that way.
  • description of the worship music printed in the bulletin prior to the order of worship....enlightening the reader to the history, meaning of the music and words and why they were relevant to this day.
  • lastly, yesterday prior to worship we experienced a verbal explanation of the music that would be included in worship. The anthem was later referred to in the sermon as to why it enhanced the meaning of the message. (BTW this is the song that was used and it was not only pleasing musically but the visual that it conjured up made it more powerful...."Stained Glass" by Joseph Martin and Heather Sorenson may be read about and heard here.).

Why do we write about this today? It makes me wonder how and when the visual messages of things like ministry stoles are included. Sometimes the message is very clear. But there are other instances when if you don't know the meaning of the symbol or for example why the sanctuary is decked in blue during Advent it's not going to help make an association to deepen our worshiping of the Lord.  I encourage you to incorporate the how and why of the visual cues of worship via the written or the spoken word. May the visual connection not be foreign!

Remembering

The last few days have been full of remembering for my family and I as my father-in-law left this earthly place and was called to a better one last Thursday. His wit and ability to tell a story or joke was supreme. Over the years much family time was spent around the dinner table listening to stories from his past be told. We'd heard them many times before but his enjoyment in remembering kept us on the edge of our seats with intrigue and usually much laughter. These stories and memories are comforting to us now and we will carry them forward into the generations to come.

I'm the kind of person that enjoys looking back, hearing about the past and learning from it. In this moment of my life when we've said good bye to the man we called "Sox" I am so thankful that God gives us the gift of story, recollection and gleaning knowledge from those that go before us. And maybe that's one reason I enjoy connecting God's Word through art on ministry stoles at Carrot Top Studio


Story telling is powerful in so many ways. The stories engage us, give us hope, and they can awaken us. I realize that a stole on a pastor, minister, or priest isn't essential to the ministry. But our anticipation is that if it is your tradition to wear a clergy stole that it will be a tool that helps you tell the story of our faith.

*curious about this Advent stole? Read about it here.

*BTW-we called him "Sox" because of an incident in the golf course locker room...involving stinky socks....and that's just one of the stories!