Friday, October 26, 2012

Artistry in Indiana

Early this month, my husband and I drove to Bloomington, Indiana to visit family for a week. My two sisters live there, and my brother drove my parents out from upstate New York, so it was a family get together of sorts. It had been a couple of years since we were all in the same place at one time, and my parents are getting on in years (mid-80s), so having a few days together was very special.

We've visited Bloomington many times in the past 20 years, but this stay was unique because of a very special event, plus some impromptu artsy outings. I came home feeling very blessed to have experienced all of it.

The big event was a private concert with Sylvia McNair, a singer extraordinaire who has two Grammys from her years with the Metropolitan Opera. She now sings cabaret and show tunes, and her clear, strong voice is a delight to hear. If you like this style of music, I highly recommend checking her out on YouTube. Then imagine what it was like to hear her sing in a large dining room, with just 16 others. Very intimate, very special.

Sylvia had donated this mini-concert to a fundraiser for a local charity, and my sister was the winning bidder. The entire affair was a gift from my sister to each of us, but especially to my parents, who thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Sylvia is friends with my sister and several others in attendance, and it was a wonderful party.

I love seeing a person doing what s/he was born to do. No doubt about it; Sylvia is here to sing. In talking with her after her performance, she told me the most rewarding aspect of singing is seeing it bring people together. During one song, she noticed my mother reach over and take my father's hand. She said that is the greatest compliment she can receive, that recognition that what she does is bringing people closer. She's an extraordinary person!

The next day, we met and spent a couple of hours with John Bender, a well-known Bloomington native and businessman. Many decades ago, he helped two brothers start a little pizza company that went big: Pizza Hut. With many other entrepreneurial pursuits under his belt, he now owns a lumber company, where his sons work with him. Well into his seventies, he enjoys bicycling and has a passion for flying. (Rhonda, do you know him?) We met him at his large double hangar at the local airport to see his two airplanes, antique bicycle collection, and antique motorcycle and car collection. It was fun to walk down the automobile memory lane with my parents, who had driven some of the same models back when they were young. His collections aside, John's entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring.

Another day, my sisters, my mom and I stopped in at Bella Bella, the studio of artist Lara Moore. My sister was there to order a custom mirror for one of her bathrooms. She recently purchased a coffee table that is simply gorgeous. Lara gave us a quick tour and we were able to see a new piece in the works. Literally hundreds of layers of tissue paper are glued to a particleboard surface to create the designs. Liquid acrylic is then poured over the piece, layer by layer, until a thick, very smooth protective coating is achieved. It's a process developed by Lara, and she's been very successful with it. If you frequent arty boutiques and shops or art fairs, you may have seen some of her work.

We also went to Textillery Weavers, a local maker of woven throws. In addition to perusing the goods in their outlet store, we were able to watch weavers at work on both hand- and machine-operated looms. The 30+ year old business is owned and run by a wife/husband team. She designs the throws and is the creative force in the venture, while he runs the business end of things. They sell to stores across the country, so you may have seen their goods in shops. I came away with a steal of a deal, this chenille throw, woven on a jacquard loom.
Photo from Textillery Weavers Web Site
Our stay ended with a fun evening at a local pub, listening to a fabulous band called the Vallures. What could be more fun than five women and a man playing and singing 60's music?! With lots of girl group tunes, matching dresses and retro hairdos, they were a blast!

On our return trip, we spent a night with my parents in Ithaca. Since we were there, how could I resist visiting my favorite independent fabric store, Homespun Boutique? I tried to be selective, and bought only what I would use for handbags, plus one garment for myself.

Beautiful ribbons from Renaissance Ribbon. So colorful! I can't wait to use them in bag linings.

Pleated silk, silk faille, linen and rayon jacquard, and silk stripe for bags.

A gorgeous purple cotton matelasse, which I hope to make into a long vest for myself. Scraps will be great for handbags.

And buttons! These are handmade from Fimo clay, then painted. I love the tiny script on them.

So ended our creative week away from home. Traveling through six northeastern states in early October was a visual delight. The foliage colors were spectacular! I returned with new-found vigor to make handbags, inspired by all of the creative people I met while away, and the beautiful scenery along the way. In my next post, I'll show you what I've been up to for the past two weeks!


  1. WOWEE, Dixie. What an incredibly special, wonderful trip! And the scenery was amazing, I'm sure!! I hope the wonderful memories of it keep you "warm" throughout the winter!

  2. What a lovely trip! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  3. Sounds like a WONDERFUL trip and inspiring to experience/talk to so many artists.

  4. Could anyone have planned a better trip to feed the creative juices? was fun reading about it.

  5. Sorry, I sadly do not know your friend. I am a very quiet pilot, I pretty much stay to myself, do my flights and then put the plane away. I was in Bloomington on a recent flight though. Sounds like you had a glorious time.

  6. Hi Rhonda! I knew it was a long shot, but I suspected airports could be small places where everyone knows everyone.
    It must be fun to fly, to just drop in on a town, then lift up out of it. All on your own. So cool!

  7. What an all-around dream of trip! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hey! We haven't heard from you in a while! Hope everything is okay. Just checking in. 8-)