Friday, April 5, 2013

The Stitchin' Post Creates a Fantastic New Space

                                                 Dr. Jane Bell and Linda Bowlby  

      Everything is well made and beautifully displayed in The Stitchin" Post's new 7,000-square-foot space at 1501 Macon in West Little Rock.
      From the lovely entryway with displays of  exquisite heirloom children's clothing all the way to the adorable Cafe Room in the back, talent and creativity are exhibited in every corner.
      Dr. Jane Bell and Linda Bowlby, owners of the shop, have created perfect spaces for sewing, quilting and embroidery work .
     "We needed to be able to spread out.  Our inventory had grown and people's interest in the classes had grown. We needed more space in a classic, attractive setting," Dr. Bell said. 
     The Stitchin' Post offers heirloom quality fabrics  that are made of natural, finely woven, often imported fabrics; clothing made from them can be worn and handed down to the next generation. 
       The shop has always been a bustling spot filled with women having fun learning to sew, smock and embroider.
     "Jane teaches heirloom and embroidery," Mrs. Bowlby said. "Carolyn Hartstein, who helped us put this (the new shop) together, teaches our smocking class.
     "We have teachers for quilting and for kids.  That's my favorite part, that we teach children. I think it's really important.  In our Mom and Me classes, kids can start at (age) 8.  We have classes for high schoolers.  Jane has taught embroidery for children, 
and we plan to do that again. Jane does beautiful embroidery."
      Now they have the space to offer all sorts of activities.  
      "We used to have a small classroom space," Jane said. "It was not segregated from the retail space, so it was not quiet.  Now, we have two rooms for classes.  And we have design walls in place."
        Design walls, Jane explained, allow women to take pieces of fabric and lay out quilt blocks.  They can see how they want to position colors and move them around. 
       "We have expanded our selection of threads.  We have brought in some wool fabrics for a lot of quilters and craftspeople use wool felt and applique.
       "We have a larger area to display sewing machines and sewing machine cabinets.  The most basic sewing machine sells for $199. We have  other machines, for sophisticated sewing and embroidery, deluxe machines that sell for $9,999.  We have an entire notions wall."  
         Reaction to the new space has been "overwhelmingly positive," Janes said. "People go 'Wow!'"
         Judi Tolliver of Sherwood, a customer of The Stitchin' Post since 1996, said she loves the new space.  "It's gorgeous."
          The store "is my most favorite place in the world to shop.  They have the best employees,  They're friendly and helpful, and they are wonderful teachers.  They are very patient," Mrs. Tolliver said. "Jane and Linda are both great. If you see something you like and they don't have it, they will try their best to find it for you."

       There's one space everyone really likes, and it has been great for daily use and for special events.
       "One of the problem points in the old location was that we didn't have a place for eating," Jane said.  "With classes and employees and the retail area,  there were always problems such as drinks spilled on people's work.  Now, we have a very nice room that we call our 'Cafe Room.'  
       "And, we have a sitting area in our entry where people are welcome to come in and bring a handwork project and sit and relax.  It helps add to the sense of community," she added.
       Linda said the camaraderie of women learning and working together helps make for the pleasant atmosphere of the shop.
       "Everybody is real happy here.  It's a fun place to be, a fun place to work," she said.
        Jane agreed.  "We are very blessed. We have wonderful customers, and it is just a fun place to be."

        Judi said the shop is a great place to socialize with friends - and to meet new ones.  "I'm over there at least three or four times a week.  You meet a lot of friends there.  It's really a good outlet for young women, as well as old ones like me."
         The shop offers batiste, voile, linen, cotton, Swiss flannel and some silks.
        "We have 100 percent cotton fabrics," Linda said.  "You can tell the difference in good quality cotton.  It's the tightness of the weave.  Heirloom cotton are going to last.  It's the same thing with quilting fabrics.  They expect then to last for generations. People here appreciate nice fabrics.  Some come in just because they want to walk through and feel the fabrics."
        Fabric suppliers include Michael Miller, Moda, Fabric Finders, Spechler-Vogel, Henry Glass, Westminster, Free Spirit  and Anna Griffin.
       "Just outstanding" is how Judi described the quality of fabrics at the store.  "If I am going to sew, I want it to last. I've got stuff I made for my granddaughter, who is 28 now, and it still looks as good as when I made it."
        The shop has a ton of kids clothes on display so customers can see the patterns and fabrics.  These are not for sale, but just there for teaching and so that customers can hold a model garment in their hands.
       A number of women in the community help out in the shop, including Sharon Chandler, Sharron Taylor, Billie Beauchamp, Karen Davis, Carol Flowers, Stacie Ferguson, Peggy McQueen and Barbara Steely.   Mrs. Steely teaches children to sew.  Ms. Davis is a certified technician for Husqvarna Viking sewing machines, the brand the shop carries.
       The Stitchin' Post has operated in Little Rock for 39 years.  Customers come from all over Arkansas and beyond its borders.  Come and join them and share the joy of seeing your children - and then your grandchildren - wear the fine clothing you have created for them.
      To  check out the latest classes, visit the shop's website:
      If you see one you like, you'd better sign up right away.  "They fill up pretty fast," Linda said.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fantastic Jewelry Show by Belgian Artist Steph Brouwers at Gallery 360 April 5

Stone, thread, fine silver wire, old piece of silver from Syria on leather cord

         Gallery 360 is proud to announce "Inner Voices: Wearable Art," a jewelry show April 5 featuring the work of the enormously talented Belgian artist Steph Brouwers.  A reception will be held 6 - 10 p.m.  It is free and open to the public. 

      Ms. Brouwers carefully selects leather, bone, glass, found objects, ancient coins, her own hand-made beads and talismans, African glass beads, animal teeth, fabrics, ostrich egg shells, horsehair, thread, turquoise, amber, and other materials for her jewelry.  Her pieces reflect her humor, intelligence and love of craft.

     Steph is also a sculptor, and she teaches art in Belgium.  She will have artist trading cards from some of her students available for trade at the show.

    Steph will teaching a class on Polymer Clay Talisman 2 - 5 p.m. April 6 at the gallery.  The goal of the workshop will be to create a small amulet or talisman.  She will discuss amulets and talismans.  "We will discover the amazing world of folk beliefs," Steph said.  "Then we will get familiar with the polymer clay and see what an incredible medium it is.  And then we create." Clay and tools will be provided.  She suggested that students bring things  such as ear wires, jump rings, clasps, cotton cord or broken jewelry.  The cost of the class is $35.

    The gallery will be showing the work of Angela Davis Johnson, Byron Werner, Kelley Naylor Wise, and Lynn Frost, as well.  The show will continue until May 4.

    Gallery 360 is located at 900 South Rodney Parham. For more information, call 663-2222 or 993-0012.  Steph's wearable art may be found on Pinterest, on, and Etsy.

 Steph and Mrs. Wise will appear on Fox television's Good Day program
with host Nichelle Sullivan 7:45 a.m. April 5. 

Steph Brouwers Profile 

      When did you first know you were an artist?  I don't see myself as an artist.  I see myself as someone who makes stuff.  I've always been playing, creating.  As a child, I was attracted to my mom's jewelry box and my dad's tool box. Then I got the chance to study at the Fine Arts School.  A lot of people call me an artist.  That's strange to me.  I could not go without doing what I do.  It is a need. 

       What do you like about teaching?  The ability to share my knowledge.  I give them a lot, but they give me a lot too.  I like interacting with teenagers.  I think they are fun.  They are not kids any more and not quite adult, and I quite like that.  I am teaching them sculpture.  It's part of the process.  But my main goal is to make them creative adults, even if they don't pursue a career in art. 

      How many times have you been to the States?  This is the fifth time.  I like the States.  I like the people.  They are friendly and interesting and generous.  I never felt bad.  I never felt judged.  A lot of people in Europe think most Americans are narrow-minded, and I think it is quite the opposite.

      What is a typical day?  I get up and have breakfast, and I go running. And then I go to my studio and play with my supplies.  Sometimes I have an idea about what I want to make.  Sometimes just looking at the beads I have, the idea just pops in. 

      What inspires you?  Ethnic jewelry.  What people call Tribal Art, like African art and art from Papua New Guinea.  And life and death.  That's something you can find a lot in my jewelry.  I think if you ignore one, you are ignoring the other.  They are both part of the path.  And I am interested in talismans and amulets and folk beliefs.

      Who is your favorite writer?  That's a tough one.  I like a lot of American writers from the 20th Century … Pat Conroy, Raymond Carver, Dos Passos.  I like French writers from the early 20th Century.  I like history about the United States and the Civil War and slavery.  I like Giono. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I liked his "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold."  I like Borges. It's always an adventure to open a book. 

      I just finished John Irving's "The Hotel New Hampshire," and it's on my mind.  Do you like Irving?  Yes, I liked "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "The Cider House Rules" and "The World According to Garp."  I also like Stephen King. I love books.  I've got lots of books, and I give them away too.  I have a great pile of books here I need to read, and I keep buying books.  When I went to study abroad in England during the last year of university, I spent my time in the library rather than going to class.  I read all of Orwell, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Dos Passos. I read a great Charlie Chaplin autobiography.  

       Tell us about the work you are bringing for your show.  It's quite eclectic, I think.  Some pieces are tribal, some have found objects in them, some are quite romantic.  They are for every means.  Some pieces are quite affordable.  The prices range from $20 to $250. Last summer, before I started running, I took walks.  And I would pick up things like rock and pieces of metal.  I make swaps with people all over the world.  That's something I really like about the Internet.  And recently, I've sold quite a lot of pieces all over the world and a lot of different states in the United States.  It's amazing.  I am in Belgium, and people so far away can be interested in my stuff.  I know I could do more to try to sell more.  But it would be less time for creativity.  I'd rather take time to make a necklace than to take time to promote my work.

Interview by Bobbi Nesbitt 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Arkansas Literary Festival

Arkansas Literary Festival 

      Arkansas Literary Festival 2013 will be held April 18 - 21 in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
      This is the tenth year for the Festival, which features workshops, performances, readings, opportunities to meet authors, book signings and special events. More than 80 presenters will participate. Most of the events are free and will be held in the Central Arkansas Library System's Main Library campus and other venues in the River Market and Argenta. 
      This year's Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Newbery Honor, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Coretta Scott King Honor, the PEN/O. Henry Prize; the Pushcart Prize, the Barnes &amp, Noble Discover Prize for Fiction, the Pura Belpré Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize. Many of the presenters' works have been translated into multiple languages and made into films.
      Special events include a cocktail reception with the authors, wine workshops, films, a play, and Spoken Word LIVE!, which is a city-wide poetry competition. 
       Children's events include a story time on the lawn of the Governor's Mansion, a book fiesta, The Artmobile, plays, outdoor activities, and Super Hero Activity Afternoon. Some Festival sessions for children will take place at the new Children’s Library, 4800 W. 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street.
       At the Main Library’s teen center, there will be "zombie survival" activities, a video game tournament, and a writing workshop.  Teens will have the opportunity to meet authors and illustrators. 
       Through the Writers In The Schools initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by  authors in Pulaski county elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.
       The Festival is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System.  Brad Mooy is Festival Coordinator. Jay Jennings is the 2013 Festival Chair.   For more information, email Mr. Mooy at, call 918-3098 or visit  

 Kevin Brockmeier is the author of the novels The Illumination, The Brief History of the Dead, and The Truth About Celia, as well as the story collections Things That Fall from the Sky and The View from the Seventh Layer.  Mr. Brockmeier was born and raised in Little Rock, and he taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he received his MFA. He has won three O. Henry Prizes, along with the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction, the Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award, the Booker Worthen Literary Prize, and the Porter Fund Literary Prize.  He lives in Little Rock.

Jay Jennings is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the San Francisco Chronicle. He has worked at Sports Illustrated and Tennis Magazine, and his work has been recognized in The Best American Sports Writing.   Mr. Jennings has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Oxford American, and Travel + Leisure.  He wrote Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City and edited the recent collection Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany.

Tim Gallagher is an award-winning author, wildlife photographer, magazine editor, and currently editor-in-chief of Living Bird. Gallagher spent several years traveling across the South, and then had a sighting of the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker. This sighting quickly led to the largest search ever launched to find a rare bird and ultimately to the announcement of the rediscovery of the species. His new book is Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker through the Wild Sierra Madre.

Paula J. Giddings is the Elizabeth A. Woodson Professor of Afro-American Studies at Smith College. Her fourth book, Ida: A Sword Among Lions, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award and was deemed a best book of the year by The  Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.

Ben Fountain has won many awards for his fiction, including a PEN/Hemingway Award for Brief Encounters with Che Guevara.  He has been honored with a Whiting Writer's Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and an O. Henry Award.  His Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, and a Good Reads Choice Award.  He lives in Dallas.

Ben Katchor is a cartoonist best known for the strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer. He is the author of the graphic novels Hand-Drying in America: And Other StoriesThe Jew of New York, and The Cardboard Valise.   Mr. Katchor teaches at Parsons The New School for Design and has contributed to The New Yorker, The Forward, and Metropolis Magazine. He was the first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship and is the subject of the offbeat film Pleasures of Urban Decay. He lives in New York.

Domingo Martinez has worked as a journalist and a designer in Texas and Seattle.  His work has appeared in Epiphany, and he has contributed to The  New Republic.  His book The Boy Kings of Texas was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award in the nonfiction category, and an excerpt from that book has been nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize.  Mr. Martinez lives in Seattle. 

Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in Little Rock. He is the author of more than ten works of fiction, including Rock Springs, Independence Day, and A Multitude of Sins. Independence Day was the first novel to win both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He has won the Rea Award for Short Story and the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction. Mr. Ford's  2012 novel, Canada, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Boothbay, Maine, and is Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University.

C. D. Wright has published a dozen poetry collections, most recently One With Others, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, winner of the Lenore Marshall Award, and finalist for the National Book Award. Rising, Falling, Hovering won the International Griffin Prize for Poetry. One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster, was awarded the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize.  Steal Away was on the international shortlist of the Griffin Trust Award, and String Light won the Poetry Center Book Award.  Ms. Wright was born in Mountain Home.  She lives in Rhode Island and teaches at Brown University.  Earlier this year, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Rita Williams-Garcia is a bestselling author of books for teens and younger readers. Her most recent novel, One Crazy Summer, was named a Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award Finalist, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and a Scott O'Dell Award winner for Historical Fiction. The sequel, P.S. Be Eleven, will be released in June.  Ms. Williams-Garcia lives in Jamaica, New York and teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Dennis Vannatta has published four collections of stories and a novel.  He is winner of a Pushcart Prize and the Porter Fund Literary Prize.  His story collections are This Time, This Place, Prayers for the DeadLives of the Artists, and Rockaway Children – and a novel, Around Centralia Square. He is a professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Lydia Millet has written nine books and was awarded the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction for her 2002 novel, My Happy Life.  Known for her dark humor and wit, Ms. Millet's first novel, Omnivores, was published in 1996.  She was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Love in Infant Monkeys and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for Magnificence.   She was a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow.  She lives in Tucson. 

Kevin Moffett is the author of two books, Permanent Visitors, which won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, and Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events. He is a frequent contributor to McSweeney's, and his stories have received the National Magazine Award, the Nelson Algren Award and the Pushcart Prize.  He was awarded a literature fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. The Silent History, a serialized digital novel he wrote with Matthew Derby, Russell Quinn and Eli Horowitz, was released as an app for mobile devices in the fall of 2012.

Darcy Pattison is an Arkansas children's book an author writing teacher.  Her work has been published in eight languages. Her nature book for children Wisdom; The Midway Albatross, was first-place winner in the 2013 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards, Children's Picture Books. Desert Baths, which was a National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Book in 2013.  She created the Novel Revision Retreat in 1999 and has written two books on revision.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald and the author of the novels Freeman and Before I Forget.  Nonfiction work includes Becoming Dad: Blackmen and the Journey to Fatherhood  and Forward from This Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2009.  Mr. Pitts is a five- time recipient of the Atlantic City Press Club's National Headliners Award. He has received the American Society of Newspaper Editors award for Commentary Writing and has been named Feature of the Year Columnist by Editor & Publisher.   His nationally syndicated column is published twice weekly.  He lives in Washington, D.C.

Lori Perkins is president of L. Perkins Agency, a New York literary agency, an author, and the publisher of Riverdale Avenue Books, a digital and audio book publisher. She is the editor of Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as twenty erotica anthologies, including Hungry for Your Love, a zombie romance anthology.  She lives in New York City. 

Karen Russell was named a National Book Foundation "5 under 35" young writer honoree and won the Bard Fiction Prize for her story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.  Her novel,  Swamplandia!, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was named one of The New York Times' Ten Best Fiction Books of 2011, and won the New York Public Library's  2012 Young Lions Fiction Award. Her newest work is Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a group of stories.  She is writer in residence at Bard College in Red Hook, New York.

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