Category Archive: Creative Living Blog

Mar 18

Remarkable Quilts!

You know something impressed you deeply when two weeks pass since your encounter and you are still thinking about the object of your attention.  I admired many of the quilts at the Dallas Quilt Celebration this year – but a few have stayed with me.  I’d like to share these remarkable quilts with you.

Shocked – Vicki Conley – Ruidoso Downs, NM

Shocked - Vicki Conley - Ruidoso Downs, NM

I happen to think donkeys are about the cutest animal on the planet but that is not the sole reason this quilt impressed me.  The attention to detail is magnificent.  Vicki captured the quizzical expression on the faces, a donkey trademark!  She captured a gleam in the eyes, did a brilliant job on light and shadow on the bodies, and her use of fabric for detail is very well done.  Composition, light, contrast, use of line and shape – she captured all the design elements that make a piece not only well executed – but impressive – and, obviously, memorable!

Shocked - Vicki Conley - Ruidoso Downs, NM

Heidi’s Schlowers – Andrea Brokenshire – Round Rock TX

Heidi's Schlowers - Andrea Broken - Round Rock TX

Heidi's Schlowers - Andrea Brokenshire - Round Rock TX

I stood in front of this piece for a long time, paying homage to the talent.  I’m still spell-bound by Andrea’s ability to paint such life-like detail of light, shadow and color … to paint this AND be able to quilt it with precision – I’m in awe.  The motion she captured in the use of tiny curved lines, the almost invisible veins in the pedals, and the barely noticeable but oh so necessary transition of color.  Words are a shallow substitute for the gasp I uttered when I saw this piece.  I am mesmerized even as I look at the picture to try to describe how magnificent I think this piece is.  As a painter and a quilter, I am both jealous of Andrea’s talent, and motivated to work harder to improve my own skill.

Compart-Mentalize: Avoid, Deny, Ignore

Barbara Oliver Hartman – Flower Mound TX

Compart-Mentalize: Avoid, Deny, Ignore - Barbara Oliver Hartman - Flower Mound TX

Compart-Mentalize: Avoid, Deny, Ignore - Barbara Oliver Hartman - Flower Mound TX

Compart-Mentalize: Avoid, Deny, Ignore - Barbara Oliver Hartman - Flower Mound TX

I *loved* the thread work and color in this piece.  The juxtaposition of thick lines on smooth, broken edged background, of lines and circles, of color and neutral values … the including the use of language in her title, Barbara pulled every element of fine art in to this work.  Talent, talent, talent.  Need I say more?

Primavera – Barb Forrister – Austin TX

Primavera - Barb Forrister - Austin TX

Primavera Detail

Primavera Detail

My words are starting to sound redundant in my head, which, I hope, is no reflection on the artists I so want to promote!  The things that are important to me as an artist – color, contrast, composition, line, form, texture – are evident in each of these pieces.  Barb’s use of all of these fine art elements is exquisite in Primavera, and her use of texture highlights her obvious skill.  If I were a collector – this piece would hang prominently in my home or studio!

Stay tuned for more from the Dallas Quilt Show.  I hope to do a piece on using quilting stitches to add fine art elements to quilts in the near future and have some great examples to show you.




Mar 17

Shopping at the Dallas Quilt Show

Fabric, Thread, Crystals, Quilts,

Exceptional Stores and Retreat Centers!

The Dallas Quilt Show had it all!

No matter what we tell ourselves when we go in to the convention centers for large quilt shows … “I’m just going to look at the winning quilts” or “I need inspiration” … we are going to shop.  It can’t be helped!  And even on limited budgets, we can still come home with a few prizes which will make our future creating even more joyful!  Here are the things I found irresistible and the vendor booths I most admired and enjoyed at the Dallas Quilt Celebration 2013.

Quilt Mercantile

I don’t usually go for “cute” but I have to say that the Quilt Mercantile booth won my appreciation as Best Dressed booth!  The displays were adorable and really creative.  The booth was well stocked, busy, and the staff as friendly and helpful as they are in their Celeste store – which is, by the way, one of the largest quilt shops in N. Texas with 5,400 sf of brilliantly chosen variety of fabrics and every notion and tool you could ever need.  Their classroom is big, well laid out and lit, and their retreat center one of the best in the country (and I’ve been to many!).  They also have a full featured website:

Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth Quilt Merchantile Booth

Another thing I appreciate greatly about Quilt Merchantile is their machine knowledge and inventory.  Here, Jackie Brown, renown award winning quilter and pattern designer at, guides a guest using the fabulous HandiQuilter Sweet 16.

Quilt Merchantile Booth


Compass Centre

The Compass Centre booth was the busiest booth at the show.  I was intrigued by how many people could be in the booth – and down the isle in line.  Compass Centre staff never stopped smiling and multi-tasking.  Their booth looked great, too!  Best known as a retreat center – the Compass Centre store is a jewel and their kits always, always beg me to take them home.

Compass Centre Booth

“Fireworks” (pattern by Alice Wilhoit – on display at the Compass Centre booth.

IMG_2553 Compass Centre Booth


Cheri Meineke-Johnson’s Crystals.

First, Cheri is so friendly and approachable, I would be drawn in by her personality even if the sparkling, shiny things didn’t suck me in (and they do!).  Her crystals are gorgeous, affixed with a smart little heat adapter, and affordable.  Award winning personality and great product – Cheri’s Crystals is on the top of my list!

Cheri Menkie Johnson Booth

Superior Thread

I spent so much time in this booth, practically HUGGING the thread, that the rep surely thought I was a bit insane … and I FELT a bit insane.  Choices.  SO MANY CHOICES!  I had a budget and was determined to stick to it.  I also needed every single color of Rainbow and variegated thread (yes, NEEDED … as in NEEEEEEEDed), Oh – and So Fine in the basic colors…and who can walk away from King Tut?  Oh!  Oh!  And Magnifico in such glistening colors (sorry die hard 100% cotton thread police… I do appreciate a poly-blend because it does not leave nearly as much thread-dust in my machine and my machine is PICKY about thread dust … plus the sheen … and the price – there’s much to love about this thread!).

So – yes, I shopped, and shopped.  And left the booth $2.00 under budget.  HAPPY QUILTER!  I think the rep was a little relieved to see me go.  I really was bouncing all over that booth like a small mental  metal object in a pin-ball machine.


Superior Threads

More thread.  These caught my eye because of the sheen in the color braids.  I would just love to bathe in this display!


Joy’s Fabrics

And this is where I blew the budget – not because the product is expensive – quite the contrary – it is very reasonably priced – but because I had already spent the funds allocated for the show.  I had walked past this booth twice, exercising sheer will-power to stay out of it (I’ve tried that many times at other shows and rarely succeeded).  But now that I am painting my own fabric, I decided I did not NEED to buy hand dyed fabric from any one else.  Finally, on the third pass, I succumbed.  I had to buy panels of Joy’s beautiful work.  It is such gorgeous fabric that I, who rarely hesitates to cut right in to fabric, can hardly bring myself to use it.  It is a piece of art unto itself!  Visit and you’ll see why going over budget was the perfect ending to a great Quilt Show.


joysfabrics SwirlRustPanel



Mar 10

Quilts that Inspire – Dallas Quilt Show

This is the first in a series about the quilts that inspired me.

The Dallas Quilt Celebration show opened Friday, March 8, and I was there – and in line with hundreds of smiling faces! – shortly after the doors opened. I want to show you some of the quilts (and vendors) who were extraordinary. This article is not about the specifics of the show, or the award winners, or anything official. I am not an expert. I have never even entered a quilt show! But I do have opinions – LOTS of them! Although my opinions are well advised (by osmosis – hanging out with master quilters and brilliant educators), and influenced by many years of quilting and art making, they are still just my opinions. Enjoy the photographs (I am also NOT a photographer so the pictures are basically point and click with a good Canon camera). All photographs are used with permission of the artists. There are more quilts I want to show you, but am either waiting for permission to use – or trying to find the makers.

Please visit the artist’s websites, where they are available, and support them with your “Likes” and “Friendship” and comment here! Your support is well deserved. You’ll see…

First – I have two favorites from the show that I can not show you (yet!) because I have not found contact info for the makers (but when I do – I will show them off A LOT! They are FABULOUS!). Both get my highest praise for attention to detail, quality of craftsmanship, use of color, choice of quilting, and over-all inspired creativity!  My favorites are Heidi’s Schlowers by Andrea Brokenshire of Round Rock, TX and Shocked by Vicki Conley of Ruidoso Downs, NM.   If you know these ladies, ask them to contact me!!

These are displayed in the order in which I received permission to use.

OK – now for the reason you are here – to see the pictures!


Tears for Newton - Carolyn Skei - McKinney TX

Tears for Newtown – Carolyn Skei – McKinney TX

Tears for Newton Detail

Tears for Newtown Detail


Outside of the obvious creativity and use of non-traditional elements, Tears for Newton caught my eye because of the twinkle effect of the objects.

Texas Bluebonnet - Shirley Cawyer/Jan Hutchison - Gainesville TX

Texas Bluebonnet by Shirley Cawyer; Quilted by Jan Hutchison, Pattern Design by Barbara McGraw.

Texas Bluebonnet - Shirley Cawyer/Jan Hutchison - Gainesville TX

Texas Bluebonnet Quilting Detail

Texas Bluebonnet caught my attention because of the value structure.  The use of lights and darks in the applique and borders made the focal point “glow” from across the room.  Fabric choices for this piece are beautifully executed, using warm background tones to enhance the blues of the flowers.  As I approached the quilt, I was impressed by the quality quilting, and a design in the stitching that is not over-used.  Plus the micro-stippling is impressive!


Balancing Act - Austin Art Bee

Balancing Act – Austin Art Bee

Balancing Act drew me right in and made me study the details!  I stood in front of this quilt long enough to create a bit of a crowd around me because I was not MOVING from my front and center spot until I was satisfied I had seen every inch!  It is a bit whimsical and yet very complex.  I was intrigued from first sight – then saw the list of names of the creators and became fascinated.  How can that many people collaborate on something this obviously complex?  Check out the details on Austin Art Bee’s blog – and then you, too, will be intrigued…and IMPRESSED!

Creators: Frances Holliday Alford, Barb Forrister, Connie Hudson, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Sherri Lipman McCauley, Susan Lewis Storey, Kathy York.


Balancing Act - Austin Art Bee Detail

Balancing Act – Austin Art Bee Detail


More to come!  Stay tuned!  You can click on the RSS button at the top of the page and “subscribe” to the blog.  Or comment here, and I will let you know when the next post is published.



Feb 21

Many Paths to Success


Of course, I find quotes that match my own ideas.

debra linker, painting, acrylic, abstract

Many Paths

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.  Winston Churchill (Politician)

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.  Bill Cosby (Comedian)

I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.  George Burns (comedian)

What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.
Bob Dylan (Musician)

There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.  Christopher Morley (Journalist)

Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.  Arnold H. Glasow (Author)

Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.  George S. Patton (Army General)

I planned to write and write and write about the Many Paths to Success … but these quotes say it all so I’ll just shut up now and let you enjoy them!

Feb 20

Tortured Artist

debra linker, painting, acrylic, flora, mushroom


Depression sucks, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do.  It sucks the life out of you, drains energy, darkens even the sunniest day.  Everything hurts.  Anger is turned inward (which, some believe, is the cause of most depressive episodes).  Hope dissolves.  Suicide seems a reasonable response.  Depressions SUCKS.

I can not begin to discuss clinical depression from a knowledge base of anything more than hearsay as I am not qualified to have anything more than one opinion – if clinically depressed, let the doctors help.

Situational depression:  now that I can talk about from a position of experience and much exposure to the experiences of others.

Today I’m thinking about the plight of artists who experience severe depression.  What I have witnessed amongst my colleagues and friends (and experienced myself), is not only the crippling effect of dark periods, but the debilitating belief that passion is gone … forever.  It is apparently common for depression to leave its victim feeling as if they have lost some part of themselves that they can not seem to recover.  Loss of interest, reduced self-esteem, a general loss of purpose, even a lack of physical passion.  Many of us continue to get out of bed and conduct our work (and it seems easier if the work is left brain activity).  But for the artist who depends on their ability to generate creative juices enough to motivate them to their craft, a whole new set of problems are encountered.

I am drawn to contemplate what I believe about artistic expression.  I believe the artist is a conduit of sorts; receiving ideas and inspiration from some outside-of-themselves source, and using the medium of their choice to draw the (let’s call it an idea) in to themselves, and, for lack of a better description, breathe it in to the material world.  In other words, to create.  Since the 14th century, the term “inspiration” has been used to denote a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.  Miriam-Webster adds “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions” to the definition of the word.  The medical field uses it to express the act of “drawing in”, specifically, drawing air in to the lungs.

For the artist, to believe that the conduit has been shut down, permanently, is a death trap.  It is more than a sense of suffocation, it is a sense of being severed from the creator within … exiled from God.

In “One More Time to Live”, the Moody Blues (in MY interpretation) use lyrics to clearly depict what depression looks like for an artist (and, also in my interpretation, suggests a way out!).  In my imagination, this song is about a guy who looses a girl, spends time looking out the window of his mind and seeing the world with eyes skewed by his sadness/anger/depression:

{The depressed view of the world)

Look out of my window.  See the world passing by.  See the look in her eye.  <snip>
Desolation Creation (Tell me someone why there’s only confusion) Evolution (Tell me someone that this is all an illusion) Pollution (Tell me someone) Saturation (Tell me someone) Population Annihilation
Revolution (Tell me someone why this talk of revolution) Confusion (Tell me someone when we’re changing evolution) Illusion (Tell me someone) Conclusion (Tell me someone) Starvation Degradation

{The Path to Recovery)

(Changes in my life) Humiliation (Changes in my life) Contemplation (Changes in my life) Inspiration (Changes in my life) Elation Salvation (Changes in my life) Communication Compassion Solution

As hard as it is to just GET UP when you are so down, getting up – getting OUT seems to be the path to survival and recovery.  In the song, Desolation concludes with Degradation.  In the “recovery” stanza, the path is humility, contemplation, inspiration, elation, salvation, communication, compassion = SOLUTION.

Summer Fun 24 x 30 - $250

Summer Fun
24 x 30 – $250

We may not be able, at first, to paint our next Best of Show or compose our next Platinum seller, but it is essential that we START.  A brief but honest conversation with a compassionate friend in a coffee shop may be enough to stir within us a sense that things could change.  Talking.  Communicating our fear that “it’s over” and having someone encourage us to just take ONE step forward (or back to ourselves) could be enough to get a brush in our hand or to dust off the piano bench and take a seat.  A canvas filled with dark, angry, chaotic strokes or the pounding of dissonant chords on a piano or guitar may be incomprehensible or even intolerable to bystanders – but to the recovering artist – it is the sight and sound of hope.  It is a start.

And tomorrow, we can do it again – perhaps with a bit of color, or a softer beating on the drums.  And soon, if we have the courage to just keep going – we are likely to find the truth we forgot:  there actually is more we must create – and we can – we must.  One step (or stroke or tune) at a time.


Feb 12

Give Me a Break!

Being a disciple of The Artist’s Way means I write “Morning Pages”; a free-flowing, unedited series of pages in which I dump my brain on to at least 3 pages of handwritten musing.  Today’s musing concerned what I’ve come to understand about asking life to “give me a break”.

Almost every time in my life that I have uttered (or screamed) those words, no real break was forthcoming.  I’ve made this plea, at one time or another, to family members and employers, to lovers and friends, to life in general, and to God.  Rarely did I experience the receiver of my petition saying, “You know, Debra, you’re right.  I should give you a break.  Here you go”.  Nope.  My demand for “you” to “give” me a break usually landed of deaf ears.

And then I discovered what may very well be the reason.  I started from the false premise that I needed you to be the giver of whatever solution I sought.  I do need you – for a lot of things – but when I need a “break” – it turns out that I need to give it to myself. And, even if others wanted to give me a break, none can do so completely.

If we are arguing, you are most likely going to stand your ground, continue to try to prove your point or to somehow make me see the issue your way.  If we are arguing, I am very likely to take the same stance from my point of view.  If I need “a break” from that argument, you are not in a position to give it to me.  I must provide my own solution.  Ironically, in this scenario, my solution seems to be to give YOU a break.  To consider your point of view as equally valid as my own, whether I agree or not.  When I do so, my own internal tension subsides and the “break” I seek begins.

debra linker, painting, acrylic, flora, flower, lotus,

Uncertain Times

I am an active, energetic, and often intense person. That describes my core.  A side-effect of my personality is to let things spin around in my head (and heart), and, if I am not conscious of it, begin to twist on itself, like a spring being squeezed tighter and tighter.  As I feel the need to demand that something or someone give me a break is the very moment that internal spring is about to be suddenly released from its coil.  If you’ve ever compressed a spring and suddenly let it go – you know the result.  It flies off in some unpredictable direction and if it’s been squeezed tightly enough – it will likely break whatever it encounters.

As I realize that I am the only one who is responsible for giving myself a break, I can reduce the tension on that spring and let it uncoil gently.  The result is always in my favor.  Always.  How, you might ask, do I begin the process of giving myself a break?

Most of my techniques are not news, and all are simple.  Breathing deeply helps.  As does exercise (especially yoga).  Routine healthy nourishment reduces the frequency of my internal coil tightening.  Journaling.  Meditating.  Talking with a friend.  All things we hear suggested as stress relievers.  But for me – and this is the point of today’s monologue – the biggest thing is to REMEMBER to GIVE MYSELF a break, and to stop looking for that from some external source.  Just the very words, “Debra, give yourself a break” seem to trigger the beginning of the relief I seek.  Just that.  Remembering that it is MY job to give myself a break.  And reminding myself that I do, indeed, deserve one.


Feb 11


Passionate PIMA SOLD

Want to know more about why journaling is so important – take this Intensive Journaling class!

It’s often early – very early.  My internal alarm clock seems to prefer a 5:30 a.m. setting, even on weekends.  First things first:  coffee.  And then, when I am faithful, I settle in for a round of Morning Pages – or perhaps you would recognize it as “journaling“.  Yes, writing.  Yes, with an actual pen on actual paper.  And yes, ambiance is a vital part of my process.

I have a favorite place – my sofa, in a room with large east-facing windows, beautiful plants, and my art on the walls.  This sofa has held me through many tortured writings, let me lie in the arms of its plush pillows as I’ve cried, held my friends as they’ve told me of their dreams and sins, and supported me through heart-ache and long nights watching Hell’s Kitchen and Hugh Dillon (Yum!).  It is my place of refuge.  It is the place where, when I am done torturing myself with insecurities and self-doubts, I can launch in to my day of creative living…or try to.

As well as the ambiance of the room, I have a few other requisite items that add to the depth and holiness of intensive journaling.  No, it’s not (necessarily) zen music and candles (although that never hurts).  These items are practical; but while they are at it, they must also be beautiful, preferably artistic and hand made, hopefully purchased locally, or from an independent business.  My journaling must haves are:  coffee mug, journal (with handmade paper when life is really good!), and writing instruments.

Here are a few of my favorites, with links to the creators’ websites – which I hope you will visit and be inspired to shop.  You’ll find I am routinely promoting indy-artisans.  They are, after all, my favorite kind of people!

Etsy - ArtistsLoftPpaquin1

Picasso Style Coffee Mug

You’ll find this mug at Patricia Paquin’s Etsy shop for $37 (until it’s sold!).  I have a wide range of coffee mugs – this is not one I own – YET!  I like her sassy style.



Journals – this is where I would go broke if discipline didn’t reign me in!

Etsy - WeeBindery - DL


This beautiful journal is one I purchased from WeeBindery (also an Etsy shop).


While exploring other journal makers for this article, I found a few places to refer to you that literally made my heart sing!  Look at these!

Artisan Graham Journal 1





Handsome, bold, strong!  (Some of the things my dreams are made of!)  This journal is made by Artisan Graham of Montana.  Their journals can be purchased here.



Bibliographica Journal 2





Louise, of Bibliographica, an Auckland, New Zealand artisan, made this unique journal that is creative and sexy and on the very top of my wish list!







Etsy - PaperUlixis Mini Notebooks



Leather journals are not my only recommendations!  I often refer artisans whom I just simply adore them, and anything they make.  PaperUlixis is one of my favorites for mini-journals.   Her work is sweet and sassy, smart and fun, pretty and functional … and that pretty much describes Uli.



I can personally recommend the craftsmanship and excellent shopping experience of buying hand-crafted pens from Jen’s Pens (as I own several and love them!).

Etsy - JensPens - DL

And now – for the part of intensive journaling that actually matters the most to me (well, with the possible exception of the coffee) – handmade paper.  Who doesn’t love the feel of a pen or pencil scratching across the hills and valleys of gentle lumps in the paper?  Who doesn’t watch ink spread just a little as the fiber soaks it in like a thirsty desert plain engulfing spring rain?  Who doesn’t hesitate, for just a moment, before they scar their sacred words across the clean cloth of a pristine page?  Who doesn’t crave journaling just so they can jot their private lunacy on hand made papers?  Come on.  I know it is not just me!

Cate Robbins is a brilliant artist and teacher (visit her website and class schedule).  She also makes some of the finest, most creative collages I’ve ever seen.  I love, love, love her work!  Check out this journal (and she has lots more at Robbinsart on Etsy).

Etsy - Cate Robbins Thoughts Journals

She paints, she teaches, she collages, she makes journals, she has family and a farm, and STILL, she finds the time and energy to make paper!  She is one of my local heroes, for sure!

Etsy - Cate Robbins Paper

Wouldn’t you just love to write your Morning Pages or Dear Diary secrets on this paper?  Wouldn’t it be fun to scribble across the colored dots?  Be careful – your mood and energy might just increase enough to bounce you right off the sofa … and in to your day of Creative Living!