Why Clergy Stoles? Smells and Bells!

I usually start my day with a devotion from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. The May 4 guiding of song, scripture and prayer ended with some thoughts titled, “Smells and Bell.” Sharing parts of it here —

We worship a God who came as a material Savior. So when we pray, we can use all of our senses. We see symbols of our faith. We hear words and songs. We smell the incense of our prayers rising to God. We touch and taste Christ in the sacramental life. Just as a whiff of apple pie can conjure up nostalgic memories of home, so our incense can help us pray. But, as Amos declare, if all we have is incense , without justice for the poor and fruit from our prayers we should snuff out the incense and shut up with our songs, because they are nauseating to God. If our material tools help us worship the eternal God and bear fruit for the kingdom, then we keep them. If our material tools lead to narcissism or to an obsession with having the right incense or the correct color of candle, then we need to let go of them. Disagreements in church history have led many Christians to feel like the physical world and the spiritual word are at odds, but it’s important to see them as complements , not opposites. After all, God breathed into the dirt to make humanity. The incarnation of Jesus is all about God taking on flesh and being born as a baby who cries, eats and poops. Jesus uses physical stuff like dirt and split to heal people, and God is always communicating — through rocks and fire (even through a donkey). Physical stuff can help us pray. In the celebration of communion, or the Eucharist, we eat bread and drink wind in remembrance of Jesus. The physical elements help us literally “re-member” Jesus as we are knit together into his body. We are what we eat. A lot of the most sacred and beautiful rituals of Christianity are mysterious. There is more going on than what we see, but what we see can hep us know God at work in the world. ...

I’ll be the first to admit that clergy stoles like what we create and sell at Carrot Top Studio are not necessary for ministry. But likewise they aren’t unworthy in worship. We pray that the stoles can be used as great complements to help us “re-member” Jesus as we carry on in this business of worshipping and living it out.

Detail of an  Ordination/Pentecost  stole.

Detail of an Ordination/Pentecost stole.

Creating a clergy stole with a boat theme

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.

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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And the resulting stole! See the Baptism stole here and the Ordinary Time stole here.

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A Commission for an Installation clergy stole

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.

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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:

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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 —

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About our Clergy Stole Business: Top three questions

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.

Ministry Stoles: Using new techniques

It's artistically stimulating for us to experiment with new to us techniques and equipment. We recently revised mono-printing with a commercial printing plate called a gelli pate.

First we gathered our supplies. That's the gelli plate in the top left picture. Acrylic paints, stencils, stamps, things to press into the paint and brayers rounded out the gear.

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After printing the fabrics we arranged them like a collage artist would do with papers. 

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Adding details of overlapping fabrics and hand stitching was super fun.

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And we ended up with this finished product! Read more about it on "peace and healing" stole collection on our website here.

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This took us back to several years ago when we did mono printing off of a homemade gelatin block. I recently dug into that fabric stash and put together this lively table runner. It's in our Etsy shop here!

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Mono-printing is instantly gratifying. We're pleased with the results and hope to do more of this in the future!

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--