Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life

Greetings. It has been awhile. As we all wake up from a 16 month fog, as we witness whole countries and some US states, as we continue to struggle with the pandemic and its variants, as we negotiate with loved ones going forward – the who and how to hug, I would like to introduce a new work in the making. A bit of background before that, though. Stick with me.

When this whole thing hit the globe in December/January of 2019/2020, it felt to me like one slow moving shelf cloud, inexorably heading every which way. My first experience with a shelf cloud was camping. Waking up early as one does, seeing the cloud from afar, thinking it will just pass over. On the contrary, the shelf cloud rolled over tents, threw belongings all over the place, and kept up a heavy, piercing rain for quite some time. Stretch that metaphor to what has gone on with Covid 19, and I had the queezy feeling that this shelf cloud was going to be persistent, insidious, and damaging for any one human, community, or nation, in its wake.

The first many months, I couldn’t work in my studio. I consulted from home, as a non-essential employee, to my long term care communities, overlooking my back yard or my front window, depending upon mood and inertia.

I made masks. Lots of them. One for me. Several hundred for distribution to those most in need. Then, I made them for friends and family. My dining room was my stitching place. Windows on two sides made it inviting for long late winter and early spring days, that inexorably moved towards summer. I sewed until I couldn’t. Made some custom masks. I wore them diligently, cuz science. Mostly stayed to myself unless I took walks with dear ones, sat around an occasional fire, or helped with home, garden, and studio projects.

Spring 2020 I put some work out and invited others for Art in Place. Then, a year ago on July Fourth, friends came from Wisconsin for a small outdoor gathering and I made the decision to wrap up the sewing frenzy, complete work for a collaboration due, and figure out what was next.

This is when Before and After was born, articulated in the fall, manifested over winter and spring in words, proposals, and object making, and now introduced to you this Summer. Art teaches patience.

The elevator speech for Before and After – Mending a life after a pandemic or some other catastrophic event in your life

“Following CDC guidelines, we invite you to bring in a clothing item (or two) or household textile that is need of mending.  From holes in socks to button replacement, torn seams to hems (no zippers please!), we will mend together, as a metaphor for the collective process of mending our lives and communities.  We understand that we are still in the process of experiencing a global pandemic, and our interdependence is more prescient than ever. Catherine has invited you in to sit down, consider learning or sharing a skill, reduce waste, and be with fellow humans, as we mend our individual and collective lives.

All anticipated supplies provided including thread, needles, buttons, elastic, sewing machine, iron, mending eggs, etc. provided by the artist.”

Porcelain needles, with Mending a Life imprints, getting fired to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit in the test kiln at Lillstreet Art Center.

Watch for an edition of 10 Before and After Mending Boxes. A mash up of art and function, I have been having some fun putting these works together. Nearly complete and and available, soon! (Mending a Life needles had their debut with a support group centered on trauma, loss, and gunshots. I am humbled beyond words to have them included with the shared healing kits). Also, watch here for further events as the days roll into months, and as the months roll in to next year, and as we learn to move through and potentially heal from the this thing called Covid 19, and the trauma soaked and windblown communities it has left in its wake.

Schedule thus far:


Plant Chicago Friday July 16 and 17 1-4pm Reservations must be made here.

Chicago Park Districts Saturdays, August 14, 21, and 28th 2-4 p and River Park September 4 Link here to event

*Open to the public with no reservations necessary. Several other performance pieces running concurrently, all three in August are sponsored with the generous support of Out of Site.

Locally Sown – a two person show with Pate Conaway at Clay Space September 3 opening. LIsle, IL.

Oliva Gallery Sunday Aug 22 and November 14 1-4.

Through the planning, I have realized I had been conducting mending groups since the 1980’s in the long term care communities I have worked. Now, I am calling them art. According to dear friend, curator, and artist Jeff Stevenson, when talking about this work, “They were art all along.”

Reach out or comment if you have any questions. Please message me if you want a Before and After – Mending a life experience in your town, with your organization, even in your own home with fellow humans you have invited. Let’s have a conversation. No group too small. No group too inexperienced. Consider a mending group near you!