Category Archives: What’s New/Blog

Fiber Art & The Quilt Barn Trail

The United States has a long history of quilt making, in fact, the history of America, itself, can be reflected in its quilts.  From early settlers who patched together blankets from scraps of material out of necessity, to the elaborate quilts of the 1800’s that became family heirlooms, to quilts designed to celebrate national pride in recent years, quilts, indeed, are part of the fabric of America.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that quilting has continued to evolve and progress.  In 2002, for example, the quilts of Gee’s Bend were discovered and made famous through exhibitions in museums, TV and radio programs, and several books.  What made these quilts so popular was their bold geometric simplistic, albeit, modern style.  Because Americans now have access to new ways of sharing, designing, and working with material and fiber, it is clear that the popularity of the Gee’s Bend quilts was just a sample of what was yet to come.

What is Fiber Art?

Fiber art includes quilting, weaving, embroidery, rug hooking, doll making, wearable art, knitting, beading and crochet.  Although these crafts are nothing new, the methods of engaging the materials and ease of accessibility have advanced and launched a surge of interest and creativity.

The Chicago School of Fusing is one example of how fiber arts have changed in recent years.  It was founded in 1997 as a way to teach “the fine art of fusing to a few forward thinking art quilters.”  They now host extensive classes throughout the world.  Fusing a quilt is done without a sewing machine.  The artists normally use hand-dyed fabrics that they fuse together with an iron, then embroider by hand, and add beads or other materials to build texture and dimension into their designs.

Robbie Porter of Batavia, Ohio, began working with fiber art after she retired from teaching art.  She creates bead embellished art quilts, cloth art dolls and more using such methods as fusing and sewing with an embroidery/quilting sewing machine.  Robbie is a member of the Contemporary Quilt and Fiber Artists Guild, and her dolls were published in doll and quilting magazines from 2003 to 2007.  She describes herself as, “…an artist who is fascinated by texture and color.  The integration of beads into my art quilts has become my passion.”

In recent years Robbie has combined her passion for quilting with her teaching skills, and teaches classes in fusing and quilt art at a community art school.  Kathy Leone, owner of the Village Art House in Batavia, Ohio, soon found that not only were members of the community interested in Robbie’s quilts, there was tremendous interest in quilt barns and the quilt barn trail.

What is the Quilt Barn Trail?

The quilt barn trail began in 2001 when Donna Sue Groves decided to honor her mother, a quilter, by painting square quilt designs on 20 barns in rural Adams County, Ohio.  Most of the quilt squares in the country are painted by hand on plywood, measuring 8-feet by 8-feet, although some are painted directly onto the wallboards or other materials such as steel or aluminum.

At the beginning of  2011, the quilt barn trails consisted of more than 3000 quilt squares displayed in 27 states, making it possible to drive a trail through rural America and spot the quilt designs on barns along the way.  The barns have increased tourism and enhanced community pride as the trails now give historic barns new life and showcase local history and culture.

How to Become Part of the Quilt Barn Trail

To get a map of the quilt barn trail near you or information on how to purchase a quilt barn board for your property, contact or a community operation, such as Kathy Leone’s Village Art House, in Clermont County, Ohio.  Each state has its own theme and choice of designs and sizes of boards.  Once a decision is made, the board is ordered and, in the case of Clermont County, the juvenile court system supplies the labor to paint the boards.

Don’t have a barn? Don’t worry. You can still decorate your property with quilt designs. Ms. Leone put a quilt board on the side of her historic home, enhancing its beauty and charm while bringing interest to the community. Because of the easy availability of the quilt board in Batavia, other village residents have hung the boards on garages and old buildings and barns, often secluded on their property, for their personal enjoyment, creating a patchwork of beauty on the landscape of America.


Quilting In  History of Quilts, An American Folkart

Cincinnati Nature Contemporary Quilt & Fabric Artist Quilt Show 2011

Quilt  Gallery:  Robbie Porter

American Quilt  Quilt Barn FAQs


Buying Hand-Crafted Products & Gifts That Directly Help The Poor

Whether you’re buying clothing, gifts, or every-day products, most items you buy are made in countries like China, India, or Mexico these days. In fact, it may look as if manufacturing in the United States is vanishing, but, according a New York Times article in 2009, “the United States remains by far the world’s leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It is moving upscale…becoming more efficient. For every $1 of value produced in China factories, the U.S. generates $2.50.” Because American business owners and their employees also profit by selling inexpensive foreign-made products, it appears this trend is here to stay. With so much of your money going over-seas, it’s important to know where your money goes and how it is spent.

Foreign Factory Worker, Sweatshop Owner, or American Retailer: Where Does Your Money Go?

It’s easy to imagine some poor children slaving away in a sweatshop in India, frantically sewing the hem in your new jacket in place, but because of recent discoveries, measures have been taken to uncover and eliminate this practice. In 2006, for example, after receiving a tape of children working in a New Delhi, India, sweatshop, The Gap, Inc., “ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations” in India. They now have people located around the world “whose job is to ensure compliance” with their Code of Vendor Conduct.

Today your clothes are most likely manufactured in a modern factory, like Morinda International Co., Ltd, in Hong Kong, China, that supplies knitwear to many American retailers. They are easy to locate online, complete with photos of factory workers laboring in proper conditions. Because American retailers are able to purchase clothes or products at a low cost, they can mark up the price and make a profit for their company and its workers. The retailer profits further when they offer a store credit card to consumers, profiting on interest rates and other fees.

So, whether your money goes to a foreign factory worker or an American retail worker, you can’t argue that it isn’t money well spent, but what if you want to use your purchase to help an impoverished person with the very basic of living essentials?

How To Buy Products That Directly Help The Poor

Women Thrive Worldwide is the leading non-profit organization that advocates for policies that foster economic opportunity for women living in poverty. The organization focuses on helping women because “whether self-employed or earning wages, working women help their households escape poverty.” On their web site,, there is a list of places where you can order merchandise that was made by impoverished women, many items made by hand, from all over the world, including the U.S. These include, World of by ebay, which sells items like silk pillows from India, The Women’s Peace Collection, selling things such as baskets made by weavers from Northern Darfur, and FOAR.US selling American-made t-shirts with designs that promote world-wide human rights.

Macy’s also has their Rwanda Path to Peace program, where you can buy beautiful hand-woven baskets on the Macy’s web site, and the profit is literally changing the lives of small villages in Rwanda by making it so they can afford purified water and mosquito nets. There are more programs out there, like Beads for Life, that you will no doubt come across as you research.

These days, when every penny counts, buying products or holiday gifts that directly help provide basic living essentials to the world’s most impoverished people, is one way to make a big difference with a small amount of money. Items coming from the places listed above, come with cards telling about the program and the people that the purchase helps. Not only do you have a beautifully hand-crafted gift to keep or give away, you have a wonderful story to go with it, and the knowledge of the great joy it brings to the person who receives it as well as the person who made it.


The New York “Is Anything Made in The U.S. Anymore? You’d Be Surprised.” “Gap: Report of kids’ sweatshop, deeply disturbing.”

Women Thrive “Who We Are: A Catalyst For Transformation And Change.”

Copyright Kathleen Pfeiffer. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.




A Look At The Problems & Benefits of Permanent Make-Up Tattoos

Thinking of getting permanent make-up tattoos? Find out about problems with getting tattoos, how permanent make-up is applied, and safe places to get tattoos.

As the majority of the population becomes middle-aged, more and more people are looking for ways to hide the signs of aging. Our hair thins and our bodies sag, leaving us with a faded image of what we once were. An easy way to regain our youthful appearance is to add definition to our features and shape. Push-up bras and stretch jeans can make the body appear younger, but what about the face?

New make-up products like cake eyeliner and eyebrow gel work well to define the eyes and draw attention to them, but they can be messy and frustrating to use. With the growing popularity of body tattoos among young people, many older folks are now considering tattooing procedures like eyeliner tattoos as a permanent way to highlight the eyes. It sounds like an easy, low maintenance solution to achieving a younger appearance, but it has many people wondering about the risks and dangers of getting a tattoo, especially so near the eyes.

Some problems, risks, and regrets about getting tattoos.

Even though permanent make-up is not a traditional tattoo, it is a permanent commitment that carries its own set of risks, and therefore should be approached with caution. Many people hesitate to get tattoos because they don’t want to find themselves in a situation like Ashley Smith of Batavia, Ohio, for example, who had a skull design tattooed on the back of her neck when she was 21 years old. Now she is a 27-year-old nurse and she regrets her decision. Not only has she outgrown the appreciation of such a design, she is required to cover it while at work as a nurse. This means she has to apply a large bandage on the back of her neck every day to cover it, which she finds annoying and unattractive. Tattoo removal is painful and expensive, and applying make-up to cover tattoos normally doesn’t completely hide them. Permanent make-up tattoos may not be something you would need to conceal, but, according to the FDA’s report on tattoos, permanent make-up can fade after time, take on a blurred appearance, or become dated and embarrassing.

The FDA does not regulate tattoo ink because of “other public health priorities and a lack of evidence of safety concerns,” but it continuously evaluates and researches inks because of concerns raised by the scientific community regarding pigments used in the inks. Some of the risks the FDA believes consumers should be aware of are as follows: infection caused by unsterile tattooing equipment or an unsterile facility, removal problems, allergic reactions, nodules that may form around the tattoo because the body perceives the pigments as foreign, or MRI complications such as swelling or burning in the affected areas and distortion of the quality of the image. To reduce the risks of complications from a permanent make-up tattoo, Mitchel Goldman, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, recommends you thoroughly check out your technician ahead of time and remember that less is more, you can always return to thicken lines later.

Where are safe places to get permanent make-up tattoos?

If you don’t know anyone who can recommend a good tattoo technician to you, do some research. Someone like Halina, an aesthetician who has been doing permanent make-up for nearly 20 years, is listed in the “best of” magazine in her area. She has a large scrapbook to show customers that is filled with photos of before-and-afters, and she has her own perfectly lined eyes to show off, as well. By finding a clean facility, someone with an excellent reputation and examples of their work, you stand a good chance of getting your permanent make-up applied without complications.

What to expect when getting a permanent make-up tattoo.

According to Oprah Magazine, Oct. 2010, Alison Gwinn found her permanent eyeliner procedure much easier than she expected. She picked out the color, asked that a thin line be applied, closed her eyes so a numbing cream could be put on, and 90 minutes later, it was done. She said the procedure was painless, but it “tickled” her eyes in a weird way. Her eyes were a bit tender and swollen for the following 24 hours, and she was told to treat her eyelids tenderly, and she might experience some tightness or itching. Prices range from $300 to $1000 per treatment, depending on the training of the person performing it, the quality of result, and the number of areas being tattooed. Alison was so pleased with her procedure, she went back a month later to thicken up the lines.

Permanent make-up can therefore be an easy way to enhance your appearance if it is done in a safe, clean, professional manner. After some thought and careful research, it may be just what you need to put the sparkle back in your eyes.

Sources: “Tattoos & Permanent Makeup”

Info Plastic “Permanent Make-up”

Oprah Magazine, Oct. 2010. “Permanent Makeup”