Friday, March 25, 2011

Perfection not required for sainthood

I slipped quietly into my meeting this week, ashamed that I was a few minutes late. Our university's president was reading a passage about a woman, desperate for her lover's approval.

"All the while she lavished love without shame on a partner who made little use of it. But no matter: there was more where that came from, a passion that grew in amplitude and influence far beyond just one dead-end romance. Sainthood and the single woman. Sanctity without incredulity. Sexual love without regret. That’s the totally ordinary, amazing thing about Dorothy Day."

It was not our usual meeting fare.

I glanced down at the photocopied article in front of me, and realized he was reading from a NY Times editorial piece by Lawrence Downes, "The Passion of Dorothy Day."

One of the great things about being a newbie in a job is learning an institution's stories. The story of Dorothy Day is indeed one of those stories that I thought I knew, but clearly not. Dorothy Day to me was a strong Catholic woman who worked tirelessly to improve conditions for the working poor. She was a woman whose deeds were great enough to have a mission center on campus named after her; a woman who is under consideration for sainthood.

Of course, her real story was far more complex.

This synopsis is from a film about her that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, called  Dorothy Day: Don’t Call Me A Saint

Dorothy Day: Don’t Call Me A Saint tells the story of the New York writer and Catholic anarchist who at the height of the Depression unwittingly created what would become a worldwide peace and social justice movement. The Catholic Worker persists to this day in over 180 houses of hospitality and soup kitchens across the United States, in Europe, Australia, Canada and Mexico. Their tenet is based on doing works of mercy and living in voluntary poverty with no attachments to Church or State. And although the Vatican is currently considering Dorothy Day for canonization, she is no ordinary saint.

Caught up in the Bohemian whirl of 1917 Greenwich Village, Dorothy wrote for radical papers, associated with known Communists, attempted suicide and had an illegal abortion, a doomed common-law marriage and a child out of wedlock. The birth of her only child led to her religious conversion.

The film takes us through Dorothy's protests of the 1950's air-raid drills, her last arrest in 1973 with the United Farm Workers and to her death on November 29, 1980 at the home she founded for homeless women on New York’s Bowery.

Interviews with Dorothy, her daughter, and close intimates coupled with never-before-seen family photographs, personal writings and powerful archival footage paint a dramatic picture of Dorothy’s most difficult journey to create and live out a vision of a more just world.

Her story serves as a great reminder that people don't need to be perfect to do good things.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vellum Flower Centerpiece

Spring blooms haven't quite arrived in Pennsylvania, but I find this cheery Marta Stewart-inspired arrangement in my living room is a fine substitute until the real thing comes along. It was really easy to put together with few twigs and some vellum flowers. If you like making paper snowflakes, the technique is similar but with just a few rounded cuts. You can find step-by-step instructions here:  Martha Stewart cherry blossom display.

 It is a great project that can bring a lot of drama into your space for pennies.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jazz Up Simple Letter Stamps

My Great-grandma's crochet hook was gathering dust until I discovered that it could be used to jazz up simple letter stamps. It came in really handy on the latest project that I have undertaken: an inspirational mosaic plaque.

The plaque centers around a couple inspirational words. Since my handwriting leaves something to be desired, I decided to use stamps from my Walnut Hollow Clay Embossing Set. The only problem was that the letters are so perfect, they didn't really evoke the right mood. The crochet hook is the perfect tool to embellish the letters. After the piece was baked, I added alcohol ink into the crevices of the letters so they would stand out.

Here is a "before and after" sample on unbaked clay of the letter "J" . (This is a much darker brown than what I used, but I wanted it to show up for the photo).

The Walnut Hollow Clay Embossing Set comes with letter and number stamps, an embossing tool, and several shaped cutters.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Using Repetition in Design

Deliciously Designed Desserts
I attended a pinning ceremony today for pledges starting a Sigma Chi colony at Saint Francis University. When I walked into the reception that followed, this dessert display, set up by the university's dining services team, caught my eye.

 The sum of the whole is greater than its parts.
Individually, these are cute little miniature sweets topped off with the world's tiniest spoon. Together, they form a sparkling tower of yum because the dining services team has mastered the art of repetition.
Several elements are skillfully repeated here to form the final effect. The most obvious element is the desserts themselves. Each one gets repeated on its own shelf in the center display, yet they mingle on the sides for a dash of variety.

The second thing that is beautifully repeated is shape. You'll notice that circles and squares play a big role. The center shelf tower, as well as the rasberry mascarpone and bananas foster, are all about the curves. The peanut butter dessert, on the other hand, favors angles. Those same angles are mirrored in the glass blocks that serve as clever lifts beside the center tower.

The third element, maybe even arguably the most important element, to be repeated in this display is glass. Glass ties everything together.

Oh, and by the way, they tasted as good as they looked!


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