Life Imitating Art :: Winter In America

#BeTheChange :: #fiberartbycarola | #niitsitapi :: #poomiikapii

4th Sunday Covid Advent 2020 | Creating Art Related To Current Events

In 2006, Gil Scott-Heron released a soulful jazz poem entitled Winter In America.  Now we are living in a Covid induced isolation version of Scott-Heron’s lyrical musings, as we witness “chickens coming home to roost in the United States of America.”  The Revolution has won!  8.2 million Biden votes for kindness, grace and mercy.  We Won!  We trumped 72.2 million fear, anger and resentment votes. 

My Squad :: Oki. Niitsitapi. Kainai Reserve. Alberta, Canada. Siksika People.

My task is to be the change!  Be Miss Melody Cool!  Be true to myself!  Wake up every morning with my mind stayed on freedom!  Indigo Blues is a collection of quilts visualizing the suffering of my isolation surviving the 2020 Covid Winter in America.  My story is about multi-generational Carolina Cerole Blues attached to the black sandy soil with veins of red clay on High Tider Carolina Skaru:re homeland.

We’re entering a season of first inclusions in our United States government.  We the people are diverse and with Biden/Harris demonstrating leadership, and the rollout of Covid vaccine, we are walking out the consequences of fear, anger and resentment.  No human being can be happy and content with a hardened heart.  Holding onto fear will crush your soul! It’s a seed of goodness inside every part of Creation that desires harmony.  My Covid suffering is teaching me the values of humility and kindness in what it means to be free. Life Lesson #1: We have to be the change, if we want the world to be a better place. Living requires change and change is witnessed by actions.

“Difficult circumstances makes for unexplored possibilities.”

Sage Paul Cardinal | Artistic Director Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto

Pandemic Isolation is giving me the lowest feelings, hardest tests of faith, and the flat out Southern Country Blues of my life.  In the current political climate the vision is clear for me, it’s about feeling free on the land of my ancestors after the brutalities of slavery and Jim Crow.  Remnant pieces of the hopes and dreams, brokenness and sorrows of being born a colored cerole girl in Coastal Carolina.  My story is told through colored cloth and stitching, and my Momma’s advice, “When life goes to pieces, make a quilt!”

The real me is a down home country creole geechie gal from Wilson, NC. Last living Toisnot Skaru:re with knowledge of the old ways. My heart is that of a Pow Wow dancer traveling the Algonquin Red Road. What I miss most from being in lock down is dancing at a Pow Wow. What a life! My dance is a Poo’miikapii prayer for collective unity, harmony and balance. To God Be The Glory! Jesus is my Savior!

The Business Of Being An Artist

Small Business Saturday

I’m dotting all my I’s and crossing all my T’s relating to organizing my first online art sale.  I thought it would be great to share what I’m learning about doing business in North Carolina.  As artist small business owners, we need to complete the following as a sole proprietorship business:

#1: An Assumed Business Name Certificate NCGS 66.71.5 >> Web Link

This form is available on the North Carolina’s Secretary of State website.  It’s a PDF that you can download, complete and take to the Register of Deeds.  If you plan on during art shows outside of Wilson County, you may want to consider checking the box for “All 100 North Carolina counties,” for question #6.  Covid won’t last forever, and once we begin selling online, our opportunities may increase.  It helps to think positive.  For Wilson County it’s the second floor in the annex building behind the Court House.  The fee to file the form is $26.  When you print the form it’s a lot of white space at the top.  Please don’t delete this space, as the Register of Deeds places a stamp in it.

#2: Online Business Sales & Use Tax Registration Form NC-BR >> Web Link

We need to collect sales tax if we sell in North Carolina according to the individual county where the artwork was sold.  If we sell our artwork online in Wilson County but mail it to some in Wake County, then we collect the tax for Wake County.  We don’t collect tax if we are mailing artwork to another state or country.  There is no fee for applying for sales and tax identification.  Every quarter we will need to submit the funds we collected to the NC Department of Revenue.

In section III, the drop down menu asking “What kind of business are you engaged in? (Be specific)” doesn’t have an artist category.  I selected “Other Types – Hobby and craft shops, ceramics, curios, art supply stores.”  The question about what accounting method we will use is most likely “Cash.”

Completing these forms makes us a legitimate small business in North Carolina.

Life Lessons Learned Through Quilting

“It always seems impossible until it’s done!”

Nelson Mandela

Motivational Sunday

This week I’m reminded about how essential sharing is to quilting, and how it’s connected to healing our wounded hearts, and bringing us together in sisterly friendship.  Sewing, twining and weaving blankets for warmth from scraps of fibers was essential for indigenous people of color surviving on the Outer Banks, Coastal Plain and Sand Hills of the Carolinas.  The creativity and resourcefulness are a testament to what can be achieved when women come together to learn, teach, share and heal.

Quilt Life Lesson #2: Quilting Is About Learning, Teaching, Sharing & Healing

Have you ever done something for someone else to later find you’ve received a blessing? Well, it happened to me a few days ago, and the blessings continue to grow.  I’m designing a quilt pattern for my sisters in Sigma Gamma Nu Social Club. Many are beginners in quilting, so I thought it would be easy for them to use precuts. So I went to my Electric Quilt software. It was out of date so I upgraded to EQ8.

Sigma Sisters Quilt Pattern | Designed in EQ8

In doing so, I realized that Electric Quilt needs teachers. My past experiences teaching Internet Technologies, Computer Information Systems, and Effective Teacher Training, make using quilting software easy for me. So, I completed the EQ Teacher Credentials Form. I have to wait to see if I’m accepted but either way, I’ll share what I know in my weekly All About EQ8 Tech Tuesday Blogs.  What I take for granted as effortless, isn’t the same for others.

I also realized the value of having one’s own unique quilt pattern, especially for a group identity such as Sigma Gamma Nu.  The ability to design your unique vision for a quilt is essential in continuing a quilting tradition in contemporary culture, especially for people of color.  While some of us practice free form accidental improvisational quilting techniques, many people desire more structure.  As a student in my quilting class told me, “she wanted to make something that looked like a quilt.”

The modern quilt movement in America has excluded makers of color.  By doing so, modern quilting cuts itself off from indigenous ways of knowing and creating.  Electric Quilt software can expand access to quilting to younger generations as well as to busy professionals.  The ability to design your own quilt pattern, calculate your fabric requirements, and test color combinations opens us unlimited “What If” possibilities.  Our grandmother’s and great grandmothers who survived Jim Crow have already shown us the healing power of quilting.  Now we are the grandmother’s tasked with reconnecting to quilting as part of our cultural heritage to pass down to future generations.

Indigo Dyeing Cloth For Quilting

Blue Monday :: All About Creating Indigo Cloth 2 Dye For

My Blue Monday blogs are all about my indigo dye process.  I dye yardage for quilting and sewing and wearables such as socks, shawls and clothing.  I’ll begin with sharing how I select fabric to dye for quilting.  All of the fabric that I dye for quilting is cellulose or plant based.  Natural dyes don’t work on synthetic fabrics, so no blends are selected.  I read the fiber content label on the end of a fabric bolt.  My quilting fabric consists of the following:

All Muslin Fabrics

Muslin >> I prefer premium 100% unbleached cotton muslin with a tightly woven thread count.  I also want fabric that has had no chemical treatments.  I avoid bleached muslin because the whiting process makes the fibers weak.  If I’m going to take the time and care to dye fabric, I want it to be as strong as possible.  Bleached muslin is thinner, fragile and prone to tearing easily after dyeing.  Dye colors come out crisper on unbleached cotton fabric.  Muslin is available in different widths including 108”, which is ideal for dyeing a quilt backing.

Various Naturally Dyed Fabrics

Broadcloth >> Premium 100% cotton broadcloth is another favorite for quilting.  It can be difficult to find other than Kona cotton, and is more expensive per yard than muslin.  However, broadcloth takes dye beautifully.

Variety of Resist Dye Patterns for Quilting

Yardage >> Most of my yardage is in two or three yard bundles.  But depending on the resist design pattern I also dye one yard and fat quarters.  If I know I’ll be using strips, I break the fabric into strips before dyeing.  The yardage is dependent on the resist design pattern that I use.  To have variation in a quilt made from indigo dyed fabric, I create different visual patterns by manipulating the design created to resist the dye.  Some resist designs take longer to create than others, such as Gullah and Shibori stitch patterns and Algonquin wrap techniques.  I also create variety and contrast on indigo quilts by using fabrics colored with other natural dyes and store bought batiks.

Life Lessons Learned Through Quilting

Motivational Sunday

This is the first blog in my Sunday series about life lessons I’m learning through quilting.  My insights started at a young age when I was sitting under the quilt frame in Yat’s front room on Daniel Hill.  The Daniel Hill Community Quilt Frame lived with my Yat (Mattie Burnette Randolph) on Spruce Street.  We lived in a double shotgun house with Mat, Paul and Bet on one side, and Momma, Mama, Baby, Moses Haskins and I on the other side.  I was born cripple and wore casts on my feet and ankles during my toddler years.  Consequently, I seemed to be planted in one spot for long periods of time.

My favorite spot was sitting under the quilt frame while Momma, Mama, Yat, Mis’ Doretta, Mis’ Sudie Mae and Mis’ Bess were hand stitching. They took turns leading a spiritual song while the others responded.  Being slain in the Spirit and led by the Holy Ghost was the glue that bonded the Daniel Hill Quilt Circle.  Other women joined in from time to time but the core crew were the Elders.  Everyone brought a dish of food to share but most of the fellowship time was spent stitching together.  Sitting under that quilt frame was for me like sitting under a heavenly tent.  It was here that I learned my first quilting life lesson, and how the power of quilting could soothe the pains of Jim Crow.

Quilt Life Lesson #1:  Quilting Is About Community

After seven months of soul searching while living in isolation due to Covid, I’m reevaluating and reaffirming what I create with my hands.  I’m examining my creative practice with new eyes based on my cultural heritage and traditional teachings.  I struggle to make and finish quilts when I’m on my own.  I need the accountability, inspiration and fellowship that comes from being in a group with other artists.

Sadly, I’ve recently learned that all art organizations aren’t equal when it comes to providing stimulation, inspiration and fellowship.  An art association is a top-down structural format based on a corporate model that knowledge and leadership flow from the top.  The president is the head that wears the crown and is the keeper of the roadmap the group is following.  A quild is an association of people pursuing the same goals.  The model is based on the medieval practice of like-minded creatives banding together to oversee their particular craft.  The guild system is also a top-down model.  The third model is the circle which is based on traditional indigenous principles where everyone is equal.  In a circle everyone stands shoulder to shoulder and the organization is run by the members.

The best art organization model for me to participate in is a circle.  A quilting circle has been a part of my experience since I understood what quilting was all about.  A quilting circle is part of my multi-generational stitching history.  While I plan to maintain membership in a local art association and a regional and international quilt guild, the organizational unit that will feed my soul is a quilt circle.

For More Information Please Follow Link

My advice to all you quilters is to find a circle of like minded people who inspire, transfer knowledge and provide stimulating fellowship to your stitching practice.  Happy Quilting!

Quilting Life Lesson #1: Quilting Is About Community.
I Upgraded to EQ8 | For More Information Follow Link

The Business Of Being An Artist

Small Business Saturday

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Carl Jung

As a working artist who has generations of knowledge about dyeing cloth, stitching and quilting, I’m also in the active hands-on learning discovery to acquire skills that help me be a successful small business owner.  Earlier this year, I completed the ELI Mindset program sponsored by my local Small Business Center at Wilson Community College“Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons From an Unlikely Entrepreneur” tells the story of Uncle Cleve, a successful African American entrepreneur, during Jim Crow in the Mississippi Delta where cotton was king.  The book is written by Gary Schoeniger and Uncle Cleve’s nephew, Clifton Taulbert. I highly recommend creatives reading this book, which is available on Amazon.

During the soul searching study of Uncle Cleve’s life lessons, I made the decision to demonstrate persevering steadfast faith and unshakable hope into establishing Fiber Art by Carola as a sustainable business.  By the end of the course, Covid happened and in the following months, I’ve had to redesign my business plan.  A friend, teacher and mentor, Sage Paul Cardinal, stated on my birthday that “difficulties breed innovation.”  Sage is the design concept and inspiration behind Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.  Witnessing how she is redesigning the presentation of indigenous fashion is inspiring me to do the same with Fiber Art by Carola.

2021 WCC Classes Adobe Spark Presentation Page

So, every Friday I will blog my behind the scenes discoveries and insights about the business of being an artist entrepreneur.  I begin this week with sharing my exploration of creating an educational linking document akin to a newsletter that doesn’t bore my audience with lots of typed words to read.  The successful newsletters that I receive give talking points, pictures and videos that tell a story that holds my attention and peaks my interest.

YouTube Video Created Using iMovie Trailer Template

Next year I’ll be teaching short format creative fiber arts classes at Wilson Community College.  They will be community service classes in the Continuing Education Department.  I will also be developing direct pay online indigo dye classes taught in both on-demand and live formats.  I created the linking document using an Adobe Spark visual presentation page template.  I combined important text information with images and video.  The drawback for including video turned out to be an asset because I’m also trying to build up my new YouTube Channel.  A video in Adobe Spark needs to be an embedded link from YouTube, Vimeo or Spark Video.  

YouTube Video Created Using Adobe Spark Video

My raw footage videos from my iPad and iPhone were enhanced using iMovie and Adobe Spark Video and uploaded to YouTube.  The first movie consisted of a short video clip and lots of still photos.  I used an iMove trailer template.  The drawback that I view with the trailers is all the “movie-like” credits that are attached to the template.  You can’t delete or opt out of using them.  The second YouTube Movie was created using Adobe Spark Video.  The drag and drop visual storytelling template was easy to use and produced a clean contemporary design.  I’ll be using Adobe Spark Video exclusively in the future.

Low Country Blue Gold

History of Carolina Indigo From An Indigenous Point Of View

My family history connection to Georgetown, South Carolina indigo is kidnapping, slavery, oppression and rape.  To those of us born to the land of the Carolinas, South Carolina is described as “The Low Country.”  We called Indigofera suffruticosa “The Indigo Blues.”  However, our Anglo overseers consumed with indigo fever knew it as “Blue Gold.”  I’ve researched the history of indigo around the world, and it’s a horrific tale of indigenous people of color being exploited for profit. My Gullah ancestors and my history with “Low Country” indigo is part of the greater story of slavery in South Carolina.

As contemporary society is reconnecting with the hypnotic seductive deep blue color of natural indigo, the stain of its dark legacy is resurfacing.  Many indigo practitioners choose to overlook or white wash the pain associated with this deep purplish cool blue color.  As an indigenous Carolina practitioner, I embrace the pain of my ancestors by celebrating indigo as a sacred medicine.  The transformative power from wet green cloth to oxidized blue mersized me as a child of five, and it thrills me just as much at 70.  Every vat of indigo is a spiritual experience that drowns me in the tears of my ancestors.

It’s no accident that indigo is waking up creative hands in a world broken by fear of cultural others, and the ruthless desire for domination.  The medicine of indigo demonstrates transformation.  My Momma’s teaching that if we witness transformation on cloth, we can be empowered to transform our individual lives.  Watching blue emerge on fabric from green before your eyes gives hope.  Seeing blue indigo fabric blowing on a clothesline in the wind is a peaceful experience to dye for.

The accumulated pain of my “Low Country” family ties made speaking the generational trauma impossible. The stories of survival were transmitted in making resist bundles of cloth tied with tobacco twine and cotton sinew that bound up our collective pain into a medicine bundle.  Indigo dyed muslin was a “poor colored woman’s cloth” as Ma called it.  She washed, cleaned and cooked for an Anglo woman during Jim Crow who never paid her in money but only with unbleached muslin cloth.

I dye yardage in indigo because that’s what the women in my family did.  We wore indigo blue three-tier tear cotton skirts as a proud symbol of sisterhood that we survived.  We made indigo blue blankets to wrap ourselves and our families in the warmth of protection in a society that believed that our lives had no value.  We twined strips of blue hemp into mats as our ancestors had done before colonization to give witness that rape and slavery didn’t destroy our souls.  Yes we are a mixed blood remnant of the children of the Tuscarora Confederacy forced marched to Charleston, South Carolina and enslaved after the massacre at Fort Neyukeru:ke in 1713.  And, yes we are still here on the land drenched in the blood and sweat of our ancestors creating indigo blues to dye for!

Waking Up Carolina Indigo

Indigo plants (Indigofera suffruticosa) grow abundantly in the fertile black sandy soil on the ancestral land of the Skaru’:re People on the Coastal Plains of the Carolinas.  The plant grows as a shrub with spreading branches between three and six feet tall. The leaves are slightly hairy and are separated into leaves opposite each other. The indigo dye comes from the leaves. The plants can also be grown as a cover for crops and as a fertilizer. The plants produce pea-like flowers in small clusters. A pea-like pod fruit is also produced from the plant.  Indigofera suffruticosa is native to the southern United States.

A Spiritual Journey Shared With Ancestors

Indigo is a medicine for indigenous people living on the coast and coastal plains of the Carolinas. The process of indigo dyeing has historically been and will continue to be taken away from us to glorify others. However, remember that for us the healing medicine is in the flower that the leaves produce in a dye vat. Traditionally, our people used every part of the indigo plant, just like the hemp plant. Indigenous and kidnapped West African people with ancient traditions of indigo should keep the medicine of indigo as scared. What others take let them take, because the medicine in NOT in the beauty of the dyed cloth — it’s in the images the indigo reveals on the cloth.

The ability to create cloth with images from resist binding in indigo is unique to people of color connected with the Carolinas. It’s born out of our 1300+ years of connection with indigo. That historical connection cannot be taken, stolen or reproduced by others. That’s our gift from the Creator through our land to us, so that we will always know who we are as a people.

Natural Indigo takes a considerable amount of effort to get leaves to yield color. The leaves have to be grown and harvested.  Color can be extracted from both fresh and dried leaves.  I prefer to use dried leaves because less leaves are needed.  It takes more fresh leaves to yield color than dried.  As I harvest fresh leaves, I bundle and dry them in a shed.  After the bundles have dried, I strip the leaves off the steams, collect the seeds and save the bear stems to use as fertilizer.

I learned traditional indigo dyeing from two great-grandmothers, Hattie Woodard Harris (Tuscarora) and Mary Burnette (Edisto Gullah) more than 50 years ago. Indigo Day was a big event in both Wilson County, North Carolina and Georgetown, South Carolina. It was always the official start to the Harvest Festival. Preparations would be made weeks in advance and cooking for the Indigo Feast took days.  In recent years I studied surface design including Shibori in the Textiles Department at East Carolina University with Christine Zoller and natural dyeing with visiting artist, Rebecca Cross.  In 2017 I completed a natural dye studio course at the Penland School of Crafts with Charllotte and Sophena Kwon of Maiwa.

Autumnal Equinox

I did what I knew … when I knew better, I did better.

Maya Angelou
Dried Indigo Bundles

All the natural moon signs of 2019 pointed to the fact that 2020 was going to be an eventful year.  However, none of us realized that 2020 was destined to be such a life changing event.  This year has brought me to rock bottom emotionally and physically.  My tribulations started on Ash Wednesday, February 26th, when I was evicted from my home studio.  I take full responsibility for letting it happen because I let the depression of grief overwhelm me.  I did the best that I could but my best was a failure.  I didn’t see The Blues of failure and disappointment coming, and I’ve been wallowing in self pity for six months.  And now on the Autumnal Equinox, I’ve got to pick up the broken pieces of my life and create joy that comes from peaceful contentment.  Now that I know better, I will do better because the past six months have been brutal.

What I lost is gone and I must seek gratitude for what I have, and smile through my tears.  I lost my pottery studio but I’ve got textiles and my dying mother’s prayers anointing me with multi-generations of indigenous fiber arts knowledge.  Art heals!  And textile making heals women.  Once you have lived through hell it changes you.  Elders say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  When I’m suffering and every breath is a struggle hearing those words are like a slap in the face.  The death of one’s parents, grandparents and all nurturing family members as an only child is a tribe no one wants to be a part of.  Never being married or giving birth to a child further isolates me.  Society overlooks us for the most part and fails to see what an incredible group of women we are.  We are survivors!  Historically, we heal ourselves through textile making.

Only through my struggles since Ash Wednesday, am I realizing a deeper understanding of my dying mother’s prayers.  In order to demonstrate the healing power of growing color, making bundles, dyeing cloth and stitching I had to reach rock bottom.  And on the last day of summer in 2020 that’s where I found myself.  But yesterday is gone forever, and today is a new day.  Today is full of the promise of renewal.  My prayers are for steadfast persevering faith and unshakeable hope.  Join me as I sojourn my way up from rock bottom practicing indigenous ways of knowing through traditional textile making.

Juneteenth: Dance With Ancestors Day

One of my most  memorable Juneteenth memories of a community celebration happened over three days in 1955.  Paul Randolph drove Howell Woodard, Mama, Mat and I to a “Picnic” on Roanoke Island with our relations.  It was back in the woods on sandy soil.  Men sat in a circle and beat ancient rhythms on skin drums.  We danced around them in a circle.  When I turned 21 and attended my first Pow Wow, I realized the ‘Picnic” of my childhood was a family Pow Wow celebration.  Indigenous gatherings were against the law during Jim Crow so we celebrated by having a Juneteenth family picnic.  I was still wearing casts on my feet because I was born crippled but tied on either Mama’s or Yat’s back with a sheet, the heartbeat of the drum captured my tender heart.

We wore three-tier tear cloth skirts and matching long sleeve blouses with bertha collars sewn by my Momma before she left to attend summer school at Penn State University.  Our outfits were on indigo dyed cloth.  We wore aprons sewn from tea stained hemp cloth.  The top of the bib had a round pinecone quilted puff.  The bottom of the apron had rows of ribbons and sea shells.

My great-grandfather was Howell Running Deer Woodard. He was born on Roanoke Island to a Mattamuskeet Tuscarora mother named Fawn and a father named Buck “Trapper” Etheridge who was born near Fort Chicamacomico.  He told me Tusky blood was strong in me because I was the only one who was his.  We shared a unique relationship, and he was the first person to tell me about ourselves. He knew his grandparents and three of his great-grandparents and passed down their stories and ways of knowing to me. Our stories are told through pottery and textiles connected to the Outer Banks from around Jones & Pennys HIlls, Salvo, Silver Lake harbor, Chicamacomico and Fort Neyuheruke.

His grandfather was a slave who escaped on the Underground Railroad to the Mattamuskeet End Stop.  Remnants of the pre-Anglo Mattamuskeet township are at the bottom of Lake Mattamuskeet.  My grandpa was very fair skinned like Mama, and made a living fishing, trapping, and as a river guide. He was born after the Civil War during Reconstruction. The Etheridge last name comes from the son of the Freedman. Nothing in my family stories is known about him until he showed up at Mattamuskeet.  My grandpa knew him during his lifetime and described him as mulatto. He took up with an Algonquin female ancestor and adopted her ways. Most of my other ancestors from this time were free indigenous people who didn’t have last names. They were masters of blending in, hiding out in plain sight and living off the land, ocean and sound.

I’m the last living Toisnot Tuscarora. I’m 73% Native. My father was a full blood Seminole from the Big Cypress Rez in Florida. I started doing genealogy in high school when an African American teacher told me I was lying about being Native and gave me an F until I could prove it. So I proved it. Most of my family lineage is accounted for. I’m a mixed blood but I’ve always known I was Tusky. I knew two blood great grandparents and one Algonquin step great grandfather and one Algonquin Tusky great great grandmother.  Each of these ancestors knew their grandparents and some of their great-grandparents.

I have proof that I’m a daughter of the American Revolution and a daughter of the Confederacy but those relationships were forced upon my female ancestors by rape.  I carry their polluted hate filled colonizer blood but I refuse to acknowledge their Anglo Saxon/Roman cultural history.

Juneteenth 2020 I dance with my ancestors from Currituck around Jones & Pennys HIlls, Salvo, Silver Lake harbor and Chicamacomico.  My prayer is Divine Mercy for the world, and I dance to the Drum of Northern Cree.  Round Dance Song.


What is round dance?

What is a Native American Round Dance?  History, Music, Meaning

I dance Cree Round Dance to honor Riley Kucheran, an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation).  Riley transferred an important Cree teaching to me as an Algonquin Elder to share with indigenous children.  To honor the sacredness of the knowledge transfer, I dance Cree Round Dance to the Drum of Northern Cree.

What is Cree Round Dance?

Women’s Northern Cree Round Dance Example >> YouTube