Womanist Is To Feminist As Purple Is To Lavender.

I have a new mentor, the biblical scholar, Rev. Wil Gafney. She came to my attention through her book: Womanist Midrash. I found her book looking for gift ideas for my granddaughters about to be B’not Mitzvah. Then reading her blog, I came upon her discussion about the very portion my grandchildren are studying. It hits so many relevant points for me that I have included a portion of it here:

“Consider Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the Holy One your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and, with all your might. When Jesus taught it, he had to add the category of “mind” to make it contemporary and relevant in a world in conversation with those philosophers. He said: You shall love the Holy One your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and, with all your might. (Mark 12:30) Today he might say You shall love the Holy One your God with all your DNA and your quarks and quirks, your baryons, mesons, hadrons and protons – depending on the scientific literacy of his audience.

More than head knowledge, Hebrew wisdom is heart knowledge, the kind of knowledge one gets from study and contemplation, not as an academic exercise, but as a lifepath to seek and study the One who reveals herself that she might be found, studied, apprehended, comprehended. In Hebrew, wisdom, hokhmah, and understanding, binah, rhyme with torah; they are each grammatically feminine and each used as synonyms for the other. The way to wisdom is to study and learn torah – God’s revelation, God’s teaching and only perhaps thirdly “law” which is an insufficient translation on its own. Such study produces a wise heart, in the world of the scriptures a wise heart is one that is motivated to act in accordance with God’s revelation to and through her prophets, to and through her word and words, and to and through her world and its wonders.

We would do well to regain the notion of the heart as the seat of the soul, consciousness, wisdom and, volition. To stop thinking we can think our way out of the brokenness, disfunction and inequities of the world. We need wise and discerning hearts nurtured on God’s revelation of her vision for the world and for us. A wise heart is an understanding heart and a willing heart. It is more than euphemistically connected to a sage and skilled hand.

One of the most overlooked aspects of wisdom in the world of the scriptures was its skill component. To be wise of hand – an artisan like those who crafted the tabernacle and temple – is every bit as valued in the world of the text as setting one’s heart to torah. This too we need to regain, to see the wisdom of the sculptor’s hands on par with the scientist’s hypothesis. To see the knitter and the painter and the tinkerer as we see musicians whose handicraft we already value well. Wisdom’s well is wide and deep.”


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Ain+Yesh/None+All; 11”H X 13”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

One can never have too many quilts. It’s easy to reach your limit on needlepoint pillows or knitted sweaters, but not quilts. There is always another bed, sofa, table, wall, birth, wedding, or celebration worthy of a quilt. 

Louise Silk; PowerPoint Talks 1998-2019

Being a prolific quilter for close to fifty years has brought me to an interesting juncture; I may have finally reached my quilt limit. Enclosed in this loft, along with enough materials and supplies for many more, sit a hundred or so finished quilts. It feels a little over the top and so methodically, with a clear head, I have switched to contemplate the non-physical benefits of my quilting life. Is it possible to patch together thoughts? Can I texturize my spirit? Will I finally accept myself as I am in the moment without stitching anything?

While I contemplate these questions, quilts continue to fill my days. I listen to podcasts while I cut and stitch. I create projects while taking long walks. I read books, and watch videos, consistently discovering quilt imagery that can be adapted into my current efforts.

My incentive to write about my process came after I saw the movie How to make an American Quilt. I was furious. The movie had absolutely nothing to do with how to make a quilt. It was the last straw in a series of quilt metaphors that by all rights belong to me, the one who truly knows how to make an American quilt. That original idea morphed several years later into my book The Quilting Path. This writing picks up the thread using the title I decided upon then: A Patchwork Life.

Out Of Patchwork Conquests; One World; Front of Kimono;
Silk, Old SilkQuilt, Hand Stitching; 2020

This past winter I walked seventy miles along the traditional Catholic spiritual walk, El Camino. At the end, I made the commitment to eliminate judgement toward all, myself included, and to increase body awareness to facilitate wise aging. Adding those commitments to my patchwork life enhances even more joy as I continue piecing together all manner of things in the moment of the day.

Out Of Patchwork Conquests; One World; Back of Kimono;
Silk, Old SilkQuilt, Hand Stitching; 2020
Out Of Patchwork Conquests; One World;
Detail of Kimono; Silk, Old SilkQuilt, Hand Stitching; 2020


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Chocmah/Wisdom; 12” X 13”;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us Just show up and get to work. All the best ideas come out of the work itself. Chuck Close

One thing leads to another. It seems so natural in retrospect. This phase started with my husband taking the scraps from tee-shirt quilts out of my garbage. Tee-shirt quilts require only the logos, leaving the edges and the sleeves as waste. I became possessive; if they weren’t to be discarded, I would be the one to use them. Thus, began the longest and largest, never-ending series of quilts using simple tee-shirt leftovers.

Alongside that, the SilkDenim label began with my daughter’s idea to sell a product, a reusable shopping bag made from old jeans, at the Brooklyn Flea to supplement her acting income. To support her idea, I used the white tee-shirt edges to create a shrug. We went on to create many products: bags, clothing, home goods, and quilts, completely out of recycled textiles. We continue our joint creative process, mostly catering to our own likes and needs.

The SilkDenim Chair


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Ayeh Hasher Ayeh/I Am Who I Am; 15”H X 11”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

You learn for yourself not for others, not to show off, not to put the other one down/ learning is your secret, it is all you have, it is the only thing you can call your own. nobody can take it away… 

 Louise Bourgeois

Life learning in combination with quilt making works most effectively when done in series. I experienced that initially with my first one-person show and I have continued the practice, making works in series with great benefits.

Multiples allow the time and space to dwell in all aspects of a concept, to process and integrate in a deep multi-layered analysis. On the physical level, series makes the best use of the gathered supplies. There is always enough for multiple quilts. On the emotional level, the lengthy process requires sitting with feelings otherwise easily pushed aside. On the spiritual level, the meditative process of stitch by stitch allows burdens and barriers to wash away leaving space for more of everything.

The series integrating Kabbalistic knowledge into my quilts began with the co-creation representing the mystic’s most significant symbol, The Tree of Life. Generally, it is a diagram of three triads. My rendition would be my own uniquely technical and spiritual creative action.

I started with a trip to the thrift story on half price day. Four values each of seven hues of men’s knit sport shirts used to represent both the worlds of emanation and the days of creation; all for under fifty dollars.

I used the image of a plant with very clear veins as the inspiration to create ten large windowpane-looking patchwork blocks. They were odd shapes and sizes, coming together randomly into a very uniquely shaped tree-like quilt. I made the transformational decision to leave it as a free-form shape without filling in the background.

After a series of varied tree-like structures, I used the remnants to experiment with several odd shaped free forms, and then, looking for a wearable, I moved onto the kimono. Trees transformed to angels; another known physical symbol that lends itself to divine concepts represented as quilts.

Artist and Archangel Michal; 58”W X 72”H X10”D; Hand Applied Jean Zippers; Hoodie, Jeans, Metal Mannequin; Cotton Crochet Thread; 2018


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Besherit/Meant To Be; 13”H X 10”W; 
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

BubbeWisdom ties together philosophical values, physical consciousness, psychological emotions and ephemeral spirit to improve the likelihood of right action in the right way at the right time.

The first grandchild arrives along with the question of what will she call you? Wow, it is tough to determine your own name! The easiest is to stick with family tradition. My Mom used Nana, as did her Mother. I took the more challenging path, settling on the very old-world Yiddish, Bubbe, with the caveat to redefine the name to more adequately represent me as the contemporary grandmother of today. 

My first assignment was caring for my son’s first born. I took over an idea from her daycare to give a daily written report to her parents. The writing became a Bubbe Blog on her very own personal website.

After that experience, I jumped at the opportunity to blog for our Jewish newspaper. This motivated the creation of a mission statement, a website, and a personal blog entitled BubbeWisdom along with my goal to continue piecing together a contemporary life of family, quilts, politics, philanthropy, and spirituality.

In 2016, I sat across from my tax person, telling her that having inherited money from the sale of family property, I planned to pay off my mortgage. She advised that it was better to form an LLC and sell the loft to that entity. I could pay back the mortgage, pay myself rent as the LLC and at the same time deduct that rent as a business expense for SIlkQuilt. These changes reduced my cost of living with an added a bonus; I could take one inspirational trip a year as a legitimate tax deduction. Thus, BubbeWisdom, LLC was born. 

My first trip was to experience Lavender fields in Provence. I was haunted the entire trip, chasing its inspirational purpose. At the end of the trip, an exhibition of Paul Klee at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, gave me the answer. In his artist statement, Klee expressed how he felt unable to compete with other artists of his day. This allowed him to do simply whatever brought him pleasure, without regard to others. Relieved and satisfied, I understood that BubbeWisdom was my good fortune to use as I pleased. I was free to be and do the authentic artistic me.

Self Portrait; 8” X 10”; 
Hand Embroidered French Knots; 2015


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Ahava/Love; 10”H X 10”W; 
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

Life gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru. 

Charlotte Joko Beck

Relationship is messy, layered, and complicated. When my youngest daughter moved back to Pittsburgh, she insisted, that for her sanity and the family’s well-being, we go into counseling. She found a practical therapist who taught me many things about the importance of self-care and the necessity of identifying emotions. I learned that the only one I truly have the power to change is me. Crafting those changes in myself might not bring everything to resolution, but I will be happier and that will have a positive effect on all who come into my contact. 

A good friend was at her family’s reunion. Looking in the review mirror from her car, she saw my name in lights beside the image of her cousin. She faced a complicated set of questions: Was I ready to meet someone new after my recent loss? Was he open to meeting someone who lived 90 miles away? How to best introduce one to the other?……

It was the 4th of July, when finally, we spoke on the phone. After a long conversation, he suggested meeting at the Sheetz halfway between us. I agreed. 

His first question, Do you eat meat?; the answer was no; and his last question, What happens now?; along with my answer, Come see where I live; told me it was very possible I was in the right place at the right time. 

Some years into it, with five children and four grandchildren between us, we have pieced together a solid partnership. The messiness continues as we support each other’s effort to be in relationship while maintaining independence. We tread lightly, taking nothing for granted and seek out the positive, all in the name of a multi-layered patchwork life.

The Fourth of July; 22” X 19”; Hand Stitching; 2006.


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Briah/World of Acceptance; 17”H X 16”W; 
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020 

Kabbalah is not a series of books or a series of theories, but a course in experience. It actually asks us to participate in the world in a new way. It asks us to be awake, to engage, and to awaken to that engagement. When we wake to such participation, something entirely different reveals itself; a paradigm that asks us to step out of the static, snapshot quality of our usual mode of thinking, and to enter an enfolded order born not of words, but nondual experiences where God and the world are truly One.

Jason Shulman

Beyond the limitations of mainstream Judaism, its mystical form, Kabbalah, includes unconventional practices, like meditation. In the tradition, only religious married men over the age of forty study it; that is, until an alternative new-age Rabbi started a Kabbalah center in California. He exposed the secret mystical practices to several famous students, Madonna among them. Coming to his work, I accessed the beginning of my transcendent Jewish vision.

Mystical practice, by its nature, is empirical. Reading, alone, only introduces the subject. To gain experience, I entered a three-year training program in Kabbalistic Healing at A Society of Souls (ASOS). The work tied together the theistic belief in G-d with spiritual thought and practice that would support my integrated path to awakening.

According to Kabbalah, the totality of existence is five-dimensional space and time, composed of four different worlds, ten attributes, and thirty-two paths. Divine Action on earth depends on each and every individual’s moment by moment free-will choice of self-determination.

These concepts rang true to my earth-based, feminist, contemporary beliefs. Contemplative Jewish life practices, heighted my serenity, deepened my faith, and sustained my acceptance of life on life’s terms.

Tree of Life; Knit T-shirt Remnants, Perle Cotton,
Machine Pieced and Hand Quilted; 64”H X 78” W; 2010, Private Collection


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Netzach/Victory; 11”H X 14”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

Dear Friend,

Pieces of Memory, a series of fiber artworks grieving the monumental loss of my parents, will be on exhibition this fall at the American Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh.

The evening of October 2nd on the Fast of Gelaliah, I will be enacting a newly created ritual, Moving Through Loss: A Wise Woman Ritual. I plan to produce a quilt that can be separated into pieces as the physical symbolic representation of impermanence and change.

Can you participate by giving me some personal cultural materials representing your experience with impermanence? I will incorporate those materials into a section of the quilt which you will come and retrieve during the ritual.

Letter from Louise Silk to 43 participants 

Moving Through Loss: Wise Woman Ritual

In 1998, while my parents spent their last winter in Miami, I set about preparing and selling their condo. It was a sad, challenging time. Everything happened very quickly. They move to Assisted Living. With my mom’s deterioration, they were separated, and she transferred to an Alzheimer’s unit. My dad’s health deteriorated, and he died within the year.

In deep grief, I took all of their clothing and textiles to my studio. The gigantic pile included everything from golf pants to a tux from my dad; hankies to dress suits from my mom; plus, towels to linens from their home.

At that moment, I was presented with the opportunity to participate in a mentoring exhibit with my younger daughter. I Am My Mummy was the opening to explore the impact of being both a daughter and a mother.

We agreed upon an installation: a big and a small rocking chair, my quilt table with items on it representing my Mom, and a crate with dress up clothes. On the wall was a broken mirror and a four-panel piece constructed from my mother’s clothing representing my mother, both of my daughters, and myself. It was like cracking open an egg; the debilitating nature of Alzheimer’s, the sorrow of loss, and the interplay of mother/daughter roles, all openly exposed.

After that, a series of twenty quilts transformed every remaining fragment. A quilt, the child-like view of my family and home, was worked completely by hand. Other quilts included a poncho of their coats, a table runner backed with my dad’s prayer shawl, and a book of photo transfers of them as a couple. The final piece was a rendition of a youthful couple walking the Atlantic City boardwalk, using Chinese silks they brought me from their travels. Learn more in the book: Bubbe’s Memory Quilt.

A friend and the gallery director for the American Jewish Museum, formally the JCC gallery, suggested the work was worthy of an exhibition. To create a different ritual, I contacted a Buddhist friend. She reminded me of Tibetan monks and their sand mandalas: I should unmake a quilt. Forty-three women gave me their materials of memory and I created The Wise Woman Ritual, unmaking a quilt.

I Am My Mummy Installed
Wood Street Gallery; 1998
A Wise Woman Ritual Installed; October 2, 2000


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

It helps to remember that our practice is not about accomplishing anything – not about winning or losing – but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is. That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate. That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives.

Pema Chödrön 

Kine Ahora/No Evil Eye; 11”H X 11”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

In 1986, my husband and I used our inheritance from the sale of my father’s business to start a real estate company. By 1990, we found ourselves in a critical financial crisis which included the real possibility of losing our home. During the crisis, our twenty-three-year marriage ended, and I became a single parent. It was shocking and scary, the worst thing that had ever happened to me and the lowest point in my life.

On the quest for life solutions, I saw a program for a master’s degree in leadership. In some peculiar way, the description of their potential student sounded like me. It was a low-level commitment, meeting only twice a month, buying time until I figured out what came next.

In Leadership 101, I was introduced to self-leadership, the style of leadership where the leader instills in followers the skills to move on to lead themselves. I identified the self-leadership style in quilt-making and examined how well it functioned in the current movement. After two years of study, I understood that self-leadership was the key to my personal transformation. I created a website, a Facebook page, and a marketing campaign to become a profitable professional quilt maker.

Having met my childhood sweetheart in 9th grade and being married to him for twenty-three years meant that I had very limited experience in the romance department. Now being single, I was determined to have a date or maybe even two. Then on February 15th, standing by a Broadway stage door, I met an actor. He took my card and followed up by phone. We continued talking, communicating by email and a month later, he came to Pittsburgh to as he would say, lock eyeballs.

From then on, we were a couple, trans-versing North America as he performed. In 1999, he discovered he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He was forced to move to Pittsburgh for his treatment and remained with me until his death in 2005.

Our relationship brought me into a new realm of being. He encouraged the artist in me. He initiated my Zen practice. I felt loved and accepted, allowing the first inkling of my true self to emerge. Learn more in the book: Threads Volume 3: The Kismet Of Happenstance.

In the fall of 2000, we saw the model apartment at Southside Lofts on a fluke. When I walked outside onto the deck and saw the Cathedral of Learning, I knew this was the view I had been longing for, not to mention the huge wide-open living space. I drove around for 6 weeks before I asked my realtor cousin to look at it. She loved it, suggested buying the model and also the additional one adjacent. I would sell and then rent back our house to access the cash I needed for the purchase. By July of 2001, I was an owner and resident of a 2700 sq. ft. loft.


Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Shekinah/Feminine Aspect Of G-d; 14”H X 14”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

When I proposed this exhibition to the JCC on September 21,1992, I had two goals. I wanted to explore the interactive quality of art quilts, my artistic medium for over 20 years. Also, I wanted to learn enough about being Jewish to portray it visually. My larger objective was to combine my vocation as a quiltmaker with my avocation as an active member of the Jewish community. Louise Silk; Artist Statement; Feb. 2, 1994

While my parents had little interest in religion, I was attracted. I enrolled in the afterschool program at the College of Jewish Studies and took a high school English elective on the Hebrew Bible as literature. My father often told me that I would make a good Rebbitzin (Rabbi’s wife). Along with the thinking of the times, the idea of a girl becoming a Rabbi was beyond our grasp.

Years later, a synchronicity of events began with the opportunity for an adult Bat Mitzvah. I joined a group of women at my childhood synagogue learning to chant torah and haftorah and stood before the congregation as a religious adult. Having no understanding of Jewish practice (like how the calendar revolved around the moon or why people stood during a service), learning as an adult allowed for critical thinking and understanding that heightened the religion’s meaning for me.

Building on my knowledge base as an adult Bat Mitzvah, taking advantage of the large window I had to prepare an exhibition, I created a curriculum of books, classes, and private study all with the goal of building a body of quilts about being Jewish.

Some pieces developed easily: Six Days We Create, a quilted microcosm of the active involvement of humans in creation, was a book where the viewer could co-create by turning the pages. With Knowledge, Comes Faith, a stamped collection of truisms was a satisfying way to catalog all of the revealed noteworthy facts that I found enlightening or stuck a cord of agreement with me. 

Others were particularly challenging: For The Prayer Project, I wanted to create an organized aesthetic experience for the viewer to participate in group prayer, as compared to the haphazard way it occurs at the Western Wall. For Bring About Olam Ha BaThe World To Come, I wanted a view of a perfected world where each individual could agree to participate by taking a ribbon stamped: I join in our task to create WORLD PERFECTION.

On a trip to Israel, I met an orthodox rabbi who challenged me to search for the things in the religion that worked for me, rather than criticize all that I found unpalatable. In doing that, I agreed to study with him. 

It was frustrating. He would explain an orthodox practice. I left uncertain and scrutinized what I had heard, uncovering some fallacy, mostly based on a negating view of women. I returned with a challenge. He would suggest additional justifications that continued to make no sense.

I became so angry with this orthodox view of women that I thought about making an artistic statement by erecting a mechitzah, the partition that separates women from men in the synagogue, in the gallery and throwing blood on it.

This action being unrealistic, I labored my way through to something positive: Men create a separation to exclude women. I will create my own separation to exclude men. Women have a spiritual nature that is legitimate and respected. I will make a space for women to explore their true spiritual nature. I will make a tent, an enclosed space for women that excludes men.

I purchased a support structure. I designed the outside with visual images of women’s souls. The inside was a serene quilted landscape, with music, pillows, and writing materials. It took the entire summer to complete the construction, all the while, releasing my anger into the foot pedal of my sewing machine.

Further into my study, I saw an ad in our Jewish newspaper for the formation of a women’s Rosh Hodesh group. Rosh Hodesh is the celebration of the new moon, traditionally a woman’s holiday. Each month, thereafter, I joined feminist contemporaries for Hebrew celebrations of the new moon. We created rituals, studied innovative interpretations of texts, expanded holiday applications and developed Jewish meditative practices.

One of the participants was a young female Rabbi. To decide on a meaningful opening, beyond wine and cheese, I consulted with her. She listened to my process and told me it sounded like I was trying to find my voice. There was a term in Judaism, Kol Isha– women’s voice. It was mostly a negative term. Men should not hear women speak for fear it might incite them sexually.

My assignment was to make Kol Isha positive. Starting with the Hebrew Bible and going through herstory, I located statements spoken by Jewish women. I asked 36 women, the number of righteous individuals on earth at any time, to participate. Each read a different woman’s words standing in the gallery at a pre-designated place so that their bodies formed the letters representing the word VOICE. I became the dot on the I, my mid-life point. Being 43 at the time, content to live until 86, I titled it my Mid-life Ritual.

Bringing About Olam Ha Ba/The World To Come; 66”H X 72”W;
Pieced and Quilted Satin with Hand Stamped Ribbon;1994