Trinity: a Mural for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

Textile mural, 14′ wide and 7.5′ long.  Constructed in 17 separate panels.

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeForest.  She snapped it with her phone as a great kindness to me.  I had not yet seen all the panels hanging together because it is too large for my small studio.

Trinity Mural

Here is what I wrote to the people of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont, Texas:

The happiest part of this mural project for me, the artist, is knowing that it will be used in the fellowship hall. During design and construction, I imagined members of your faith family pausing during a meal and using the mural for conversation. A father and his children play a counting game. How many trees? Flowers? Shells? Spirals? (Good luck with the last one.) Several older friends notice the storm near the cross and reflect about difficult times and drawing near to Christ.

There is much of me in this mural: designs, fabrics, and techniques collected and evolved over years of work. Moreover, there is much of what has created the communion of saints in this mural.

The mural conveys the mystery, joy, and energy of the triune God who is with us always. The prominent cross, representing Christ, is made with three layers. In the middle, a simple brown cross to recall the crucifixion. Under it, an expansive green net cross for the growing church. The top cross with red and orange flames represents spirit-filled Christians, especially remembering St. Stephen and those who worship in this congregation. God the creator is represented by the underground river, an omnipresent source of sustaining love, at the bottom of each panel. The dove symbol of the Holy Spirit, appears seven times. In the first panel, it ushers in the mystery of creation. The dove swoops down close to the baptism shell, then rises up to bless the elements of grain and grapes. With linen in its beak, it attends the cross. And it moves us out of the mural and into the world with an olive branch for peace.

The making of the mural has been a journey of trust. My studio is too small to see all the panels at one time. First I made the cross. Then constructing the complex underground river got my mind and heart into work. I hesitated about the next step, but was blessed with the idea: work up from the river and out from the cross. That is how the panels were created. I built in both lively, colorful areas and quiet, meditative spaces. I worked for contrast so the doves are clearly visible. There are flowers in each of the liturgical colors: blue, green, purple, red, and white.   One odd bunny snuggles at the foot of the cross. His name is Basil and he represents the child in each of us. He is there for comfort. The waywardness of the sheep in the pasture is intentional. Their theme song is “You can go your own way.” I like some humor in my days.

When I realized I had technologically failed to secure all the photos I took of the panels before shipping, I panicked. I sat down, visualizing the mural hung in a dimly lit room. I was aware of the strong river and the prominent cross. And I sensed the dove moving through the space. My concerns ceased. All the colors, all the shapes, all the textures are secondary to the river, the cross, and the dove. God is with us. Amen.


Hold In Reverence

“Ask a friend for help,” Creative Sprint assigns today.

We had a wonderful catching up about art and books and family and the pursuit of dreams.  I departed energized and affirmed.  I had been in the sacred space of friendship.  Today a bit of visual and verbal creativity:

Practicing creativity,

I reach the pause

before the swirl zone.

It is here, dear friend,

where I hold you in thought,

where I hold you in reverence.

Advent Interlude 4


This art piece was doomed to be unfinished, untouched for months but still in the range of daily examination.  The aha! direction found me as I drove over the mountains, pondering my child’s life.  “He’s never going to be happy until he learns to dance on the rim of nothingness.” I thought.  “No, it is I that needs to learn that dance.” I argued back.

I returned  to the studio and cut a hole in this work.  I worked quickly, finding materials oddly at hand.  I hummed the hymn, “I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath.”  I thought about little Mary at the annunciation, her receptiveness to impossible news.

The dance on the rim of nothingness (or everything) is old.  In Advent we wait.  We prepare.  And some of us dance.  Join me.

A Year of Listening: Week 19

buick and fab 011Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. — Napoleon Bonaparte

Farm to Art Initiative: To The Table

Beginning today, fibergig will donate 10% of the sales of our food-related products (aprons, mug mats, table runners, napkins) to local and world hunger efforts. Our heritage includes daily stewardship practiced on a family farm in Illinois. I used funds from my part of this farm to create the craft business I share with my daughter Emily. We are moving farm money through textile art and crafts to bring food to tables. We will contribute non-local funds to ELCA World Hunger.

My parents, Wesley and Juanita Terpening, valued good food and the sharing of it. Wes actively farmed, even on crutches, until his body said no more. Juanita worked in a nutrition program and with the community food pantry to improve meals for many people. Every holiday meal began with her request, “Come to the table.”  Every family meal began with a table blessing. Their grandchildren are now a generation of foodies.

Loss of employment during the economic downturn reduced our generosity. We want to recover the act of sharing good food. You can help. Products are available at our Fibergig shop.

runners 012. mug mat 001napkins 052

aprons in kitchen 018notecards 005 - Copy


A Year of Listening, Week 10

hearts desire 002
One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it. –Katherine Anne Porter



Art quilt, Heart’s Desire, illustrates the courage to cut a hole in a quilt, to let go of one pattern to become something new.  Personal collection of Norma Colman.

A Year of Listening, Week 6

Find out who you are and do it on purpose. –Dolly Parton


Hit the refresh button and head to comfort zone!


Hit the refresh button and head to comfort zone!

Mid-week there was a great amount of reverse stitching (also known as ripping) in the studio. Neither design nor construction technique was working. When I rip many stitches one of two things happen: either I repeat the sewing step with more care, a different thread, a new machine setting, or I have an aha moment to a new approach.

Thursday I picked up some of Emily’s hand dyed yarn, which is available at our fibergig shop on Etsy, and began to couch it to the chasuble. I love to couch yarn, and using Emily’s is true joy. I am on a path to completion.

An Artist’s Prayer

There has been discussion recently about what pieces of artwork I would not sell. This is one of the few. It evolved over several years. It began as an 18″ square, my response to a class assignment to work in a monochromatic color scheme. I loved the unfinished results for several years; I remained unwilling to take a next step.

Then came the day when it was in hand and I was in courage zone. I put it on the cutting mat and divided it into 16 even pieces. Eventually the pieces were arranged with smaller squares of window screening on a background of embroidered and tucked cotton batiste, then corralled in a red metal frame.

Today this piece hangs in my kitchen, right over the counter where I pour my morning coffee, chop vegetables, and paint fabric. When I see it, Psalm 51 floods through me. Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free spirit. I call these verses my artist’s prayer. It was my favorite section of the liturgy I sang as a young person. It always seems a good place to come to before beginning a creative endeavor.


Well practiced artists can move along for hours, days, months without giving the need for courage a thought.  Well, at least I can.  And I haven’t heard this topic come up often, so I think I am ok in this perspective.

Mostly, it is our own courage that is an issue.  A friend of mine recently showed a successful art quilt at our local quilt group.  She and I are the experienced art quilters in this traditional guild.  The others were appreciative of the finished piece.  But as she shared about her process, she talked about not being happy with it after the binding was attached.  So she decided to overdye the whole piece.  I was immediately taken with the courage of that action, but it was regarded as a matter of course to the others.  And so she did not elaborate.  I was still digesting the courage to take a good quilt and subject it to a dye bath in the hopes that there will be a better quilt in the end.  So no questions from me.

Several weeks ago I faced a moment of courage.  I was working on a piece inspired by a local mill wheel.  There was a due date on this project, so extended contemplation was not on the schedule.  I had pieced and painted a pleasing background.  Then I stitched the wheel shape on top.  And it all went static. I was heart sick. I left the piece on the work table.  The next day I hung it on the design wall.  I looked at it.  I avoided it.  I decided to start an entirely different piece.

Two days later, the aha moment struck:  cut it up and rearrange it.  This has worked for me in the past.  It has also failed.  I am better at engaging this step when I have more distance from the piecing and painting efforts.  But the due date demanded a decision.  I hesitated with rotary cutter in hand.  I sighed.  And I cut 4″ strips from the center out. 

As I moved the strips around, I found a pleasing arrangement that suggested energy and movement.  I began to think about where and how I would add the wheat.  I was back in the zone.

Neither artist was plunging into deep unknown territory.  Each possessed skill and experience.  But each risked the loss of valued work.  Courage was summoned.  Better art evolved.