My dad was a colonel in the Army, so we moved almost every two years. When we weren’t living in the States, we lived in Panama and Iran. I graduated from the Tehran American School and hold onto those fun days. After I returned to the States, I went to college in North Carolina for a year. I was not meant to be in school. I would skip classes and embroider jeans for my friends.
My parents loved the beauty of so many things and made sure we were exposed to it. When we lived overseas, we piled into a VW bus: six children, Grandma and my parents. We drove to many places — to the ocean, through mountains, to see old churches and museums and to do as the locals in other countries did. So many colorful memories. Today, my home has mementos from those travels.
Both of my parents were creative. After my dad retired, he wrote articles and short stories. My mother painted; but with so many children and having to entertain often, painting was not her priority. I got my love of decorating from her.
“Why do two colors put next to each other sing? Can one really explain this? No.”
— Pablo Picasso
I never forget a color. I can still see the greens and blues of Panama, the ocean and jungle foliage. I spent a lot of time in the bazaar in Iran and remember the reds, the oranges and copper were all reflected in the shiny brass goods.
I settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to go to school — and still had no business being in school. I left school, married, had a son and divorced.
I had a studio in a huge warehouse filled with other artists. After my divorce, I moved to a small townhouse and had a little home studio. I met Steve, we bought a house, and I had a larger studio.
We added Flora Adora to our family. She is usually near me but prefers to have us all together. She really doesn’t help; she loves to be in clothes and is very bossy, but we adore her.
I had never thought about living in an apartment downtown. but we decided it would be fun, so we sold our house, downsized (a lot) and moved into an apartment. We live on the top, the 33rd floor. We have great views: downtown on one side of our apartment, a park on the other. This lifestyle gives me more time to create. Everything is compact and easy to access. Flora even has an indoor dog park (winters can be bitter here).
Our home is a mix of pieces that I have collected. Steve isn’t really a collector of stuff but enjoys what we have. I was always a collector. I have always believed that you should surround yourself with what you think is beautiful! We have books, plants, carpets, copper and brass pieces from when I lived in Iran and soft places to land when a rest is needed.
I can always find a place for something new and interesting. Some of the things that I use in my work are clustered in groups around the living room just because I think they are beautiful to look at, like the two-tiered stand that I collaged. It holds different sizes of spools that I use to make scrolls. I have little plates and bowls where I put finished pieces.
Almost every piece of furniture in our apartment is a vessel for our homewares and things that I know I will use someday for creating. My favorite piece used for storage is from The Porch in Buffalo, Minnesota. It came from an old hardware store, and I left it that yummy blue color. I purchased it right after saying the words, “I do not need anything.” This has happened more than once. It is perfect for storing all of the small elements that I have collected for my work. It has about 300 drawers. It was in my studio before we moved here and now fits perfectly in our hall and is part of our decor.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” — Rumi
We have a bookshelf in our living room/studio that my parents purchased in Panama. I have art, my Virgin Mary books and other books that have inspired me throughout the years. There is a small chest of drawers where I keep watercolor paints and paper. Two of the drawers are for Flora Adora’s wardrobe.
Prior to cruel COVID, I had a small spare bedroom for my studio. I was all set up for collaging and making shrines with found objects. Steve needed the studio for an office — and I could not guarantee that I would stop chattering — so I went back to my roots of stitching, beading and embroidering, leaving the papers, glues and paints behind.
I moved my work into the living room. To transform our living room into a workspace without taking it over, I ordered metal carts on wheels, wire baskets for fabrics and clear acrylic containers filled with antique ribbons, beads and vintage findings. The metal and acrylic bins and boxes are functional and make it easy for me to see everything.
Sometimes I use the dining room table for cutting fabric and ironing. Most of my work is small and can be done on the coffee table. I have a tray with needles, threads and the findings I use the most. When we entertain, the carts go into Steve’s office.
I love working this way and keep regular business hours. Flora Adora and I sit together while I work surrounded by the things that I love. I can look out of the windows; and in the winter, it is like living in a snow globe. It reminds me that I don’t need to have a studio away from home and that I can easily create in my apartment in the sky.
When I was younger, it was fun having a studio away from home, but this is a better fit for me. I am a homebody and don’t like being stuck in traffic.
“I am your sister and your friend. Never will I cease watching over you.”
— St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Much of my work is made with images of the Virgin Mary. I grew up in a Catholic home, and when I was diagnosed with cancer, I found that the Virgin Mary was where I went for comfort and inspiration. It helped me through the cancer treatments, exhaustion, the most trying of times.
I hand-stitch and bead sacred hearts, scrolls and mini-books, and make jewelry with her as the centerpiece. I do use other images such as flora and fauna, various saints, Frida Kahlo and more.
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” — Hafez
Thankfully, with technology, I have connected with artists, collectors and old friends around the world. This has enabled me to expand my business and open my eyes to endless artistic possibilities.
My work has been in various galleries and shops around the country, including the shop at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, Gallery 360 in Minneapolis and many more. I have also taught at different workshops around the country. I truly enjoy these experiences and hearing others’ stories while we create together.
I look forward to a bright future, creating and connecting with collectors and artists who love beautiful things. My traveling studio —with all of its ribbons, beads and vintage findings — inspires me to continue creating and allows me to surround myself with all of the things I love.
I know that every day is a good day to create and feel that every day is a beautiful new adventure, wherever I am!
For now, that is an apartment in the sky!