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A recent visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was pure delight! Kathy, a designer who founded Smith Street Designs, and I spent an afternoon examining paintings by 18 artists. The exhibit called “By Her Hand Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800” highlighted not only their art, but also ways they entered the realm of professional artist.

Most paintings had realistic textures and colors of shimmering taffeta, matte velvet, and oodles of fabric folds. The richness of the fabric and clothing made me question my minimalist uniform in dressing. The female subjects had wide open eyes, often looking directly at the viewer, beguiling smiles, and complete airs of confidence. Still lifes of flowers and fruit honored nature with lunimnous colors. We learned that these women practiced and promoted their art and art businesses while managing families and households.

We contemplated the art and discussed our creative processes as professional artists. We acknowledged that nature and art give us inspiration. When suddenly, the muse struck. The center of the painting caught Kathy’s attention–and pulled us both in.

Mary Magdalene by Orsolo Maddalena Caccia
Mary Magdalene (1620) by Orsola Maddalena Caccia (1596-1676)
Mary MagdalenÄ™ by Orsolo Maddalena Caccia detail
Mary Magdalene, detail

The arabesque and flower motifs led our eyes round and round. Deep color saturated our senses. Afterward, while reading the exhibit catalog and reflecting on the experience, I created two paintings. One capturing the essence of the lines, motifs, and color. The other uses the Mary Magdalene colors and plays with fabric design.

By MY Hand watercolor painting by glacialpool aka, Beverly Ostrowiecki
By My Hand I, Beverly Ostrowiecki, Watercolor 4″x 6″

I worked at selecting the “right” reds, as my palette contains 17 reds that range from red-orange to cool red-violet. Comparing the Italian master and By My Hand I shows the colors match well. Keeping the pearls “paper white” creates a porous boundary for an imaginary entrance or escape.

By My Hand Pattern Design by glacialpool, aka beverly Ostrowiecki
By My Hand Pattern Design, Beverly Ostrowiecki, watercolor 6″ x 4″

My interests in fabric and composition led me to study fabric design. I have always wondered how the Japanese create asymmetric patterns. When I painted Spirals Near and Far, I thought I selected a simple pattern! Painting it, I realized there were 4 spiral sizes in 6 orientations resulting a complex pattern. That exercise taught me I had a lot to learn. A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight provided me the basics of pattern design. By My Hand Pattern Design works in any orientation and delivers repetition and variety in balance.

The DIA exhibit provided inspiration for several future paintings, but more importantly, the early modern Italian artists taught me it’s the tenacious business skills that bring long lasting social recognition.

Professional artists balance creative processes, business skills, and family life in a perpetually cycle. Each cycle segment is important and all are needed for success and satisfaction.”

Kathy Connor is proven professional artist. Her company, Smith Street Designs, is a quilt pattern company that specializes in embroidery machine applique quilts and projects. Her patterns can be found in quilting and fabric stores across USA and Canada. Kathy recently visited Japan where she met Japanese quilters and quilting associations. She currently presses to launch the 2022 designs at an upcoming quilt and fabric convention.

Kimberly Kight is a “traditional quilter” who moved from blogging to designing fabric patterns for Ruby Star Society. Her fabrics are designed with timelessness in mind. Kim is also the author of A Field Guide to Fabric Design (Stash Books, 2011).

Detroit Institute of Arts By Her Hand exhibit, though now ended, has online resources to learn about the art and artists. See the printed exhibition catalog ( I borrowed mine form the library), a video trailer, and an online photo slideshow educational resource that features six color images.

Glacialpool offers art work and business services.

Photo of artwork showing light blue, aqua, yellow-green, and cream forms