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Dorothy loved many things in life but among the most prized was her independence. Not wanting to be a burden at the end she pre-paid her funeral expenses and bought a little plot of earth to call her own for eternity. Each time she drove past the cemetary with her daughter she would breezily say “That’s where they are going to plant me”  and her daughter always replied “That’s where you will bloom in heaven.”

Picture of Julia Dziuba's Eternal Garden while in progress.

This is the piece I am creating for my grandma, Dorothy Phinney. It is a textural collage made with sewn fabrics and crocheted work and is about 3/4 complete.

Dororthy, my grandma, was a very religious woman and I hope she found her heaven. When I thought about creating something in my grandma’s memory I knew I wanted it to be about blooming and her heaven. It’s title, “Eternal Garden,” came immediately.

But as I started work on the piece I very quickly came to a dilemma. I wanted it to be a piece I could connect with and because I myself am an atheist it felt superfical to me. I started creating little crocheted flowers I could use in the piece and selecting fabrics but I just could not get it going. It wasn’t right.

Then one quiet evening my girls and my husband went to bed early and I was alone for the first time in a long while. I put on music, got a glass of wine, let my guard down and had one of the most awesome artistic experiences of my life.

I felt warm with inspiration and worked quickly. I was ironing, cutting, sewing with machine and hand and changing threads frequently. Occasionally I would lay out bits and think about the design but I mostly just worked. I sewed for 3 hours and as the time passed I felt like I was letting go and opening up. Accepting and embracing. I felt raw. I was happy but also felt like I could cry any moment.

When my steam ran out I stopped and started to look at what I created. It was perfect. I explored the piece and found each area and the way they came together represented something. It looked exactly how I felt. I had merged my beliefs and my grandma’s into a single work we could both appreciated.

Next came tears. It felt great. I cried for my grandma and how much I missed her. I thought about who she was and how she influenced me. I then thought about others I’ve lost and mourned for them too.

I generally have to race along to keep up with my life and taking this moment to just feel was incredible for me.

The piece is still in progress. When it is complete I will write a little on what each component of the piece represents. Stay tuned.