Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  

Crazy Quilting - It is Much, Much More than You May Think
The Art of Roxanne Barkofsky

by Rita Vainius

If you think avant-garde art and crazy quilting are at different ends of the spectrum, you haven't seen the radically innovative and vibrantly colorful embellished textile art of Roxanne Barkofsky! Even those with more traditional leanings are sure to be intrigued by Roxy's daring approach, which dazzles the eye and soothes the soul. It was "my darling little Bohemian grandmother," Marie Theresa Latr, who taught Roxy at age 4, how to embroider.

French for melody

Roxy, as she prefers to be called, flashed onto our radar when she submitted the winning entry for Caron's first Website Design Contest with "Caron Kelp and Critters," heralding her as an undisputed new talent. Roxanne grew up immersed in music and art. Her mother, Ernee, a pianist, was a member of a "Weaver ­ type" folk group in the '50's. Roxy's Grandfather, E.F. Boles, played the accordion and sang in Chicago Vaudeville. Her father, Paul Buster Brown, had a lovely voice but never sang professionally, unlike his cousin, Al Jolson, considered by some to be "The World's Greatest Entertainer." Roxy muses, "Perhaps the competition was a bit too stiff for my father." He opted instead for a career in business. Music has been a constant in Roxanne's life. She reveals, "I sing everyday the melody is in your head and fingers...The art of the needle is time intensive. Obviously I can sing and stitch at the same time. Singing is wonderful exercise for the lungs, heart, abdomen, throat, and it makes me feel just plain GOOD!"


Detail of Mermaid Holding Treasure Chest   Detail of Mermaid's Tail and Sea Stars  


Roxy has been married to Donald for 30 wonder-filled years; his devotion, encouragement, and support throughout, have been priceless. They have 2 lovely daughters, Stacey and Stephany. Roxy is also a devoted animal supporter and has two Labrador Retrievers. Last year she completed a crazy quilt block that she donated for a Dalmatian Rescue benefit.

Detail of Treasure Chest with Ribbon of Musical Notes Meandering Up to the Sheet Music

Jellyfish Swimming through Seaweed.
While most of the fish here in the Monterey Bay are not as colorful as those found in warm water habitats, our invertebrates (critters without backbones) are positively dazzling.

These days, Roxy is eminently pragmatic about her artistic career, "I'll never be in Who's Who for Artists. All I wish is to not live long enough to see my work in a garage sale!" She lives in paradise ­ on the coast of Monterey, CA. Roxy elaborates, "While my life and work sound 'Pollyanna' in feeling, there is a glitch in this perfect existence. I have relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Although this is quite frightening for an artist, I do not curse this disease, quite the contrary. I doubt that any other single event could have forced me to focus on my art as M.S. has done. It has brought me into the realm of my Mortality, thus giving me a 'focus.'" In spite of, and also because of M.S., Roxy is compelled to produce. She explains, "My output is large because I just know when I leave this world someday I'll STILL have pieces to complete/create. I usually work from between 8 and 10 hours a day on the art."

10" x 12"

This work was created exclusively with Caron Impressions and Waterlilies for the show Threads of Song. All titles have musical definitions. In this case, Ornamenti ­ Italian, meaning ornament, graces. The sheet music cover art dates to around 1880. I stitch directly on the photo transfer of the sheet music. I feel this adds more unity to the whole. It isn't just a photo transfer "stuck" onto the crazy quilt. Beneath the sheet music is a Multi-colored Charm. I have created a larger version of this in Knotless Netting.

A perpetual art student, Roxy has studied with renowned fiber artists and attended courses sponsored by the National Standard Counsel of American Embroiders and the Allied Arts Guild (in Menlo Park, CA.) Everything Roxanne sees, hears, feels and touches has potential for inspiration. She adds, "My work is who I am, and who I am is a part of everything in my existence," a sentiment which echoes Albert Schweitzer's philosophy of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Detail of Ocean Ornamenti:
Looking at the top right hand corner you can see a large conch shell. Within the shell toward the top point is a small conch shell. Repetition of shapes is a technique you find in most of my work. The shell is placed among other shells I created using Caron threads.

Visual art and music form a natural combo in Roxy's work. She elaborates, "Artists can arrange color and design in harmonious patterns, just as composers arrange notes in music. Lyrics by Judy Collins, George Gershwin and Cole Porter have provided the stimulus for specific works. All aspects of music (melody, rhythm, titles and lyrics) present inspiration and evoke memories of people and events in the past."

Detail of Ocean Ornamenti

Originally, Roxy composed larger scale pieces, which employed heavy weight yarns, such as hand-spuns. Because of the M.S., she has had to scale down to lap-size pieces that she can comfortably reach and manipulate with her hands. She has found, however, that working on a smaller scale is more personal and also actually provides her more opportunity to experiment.

Rock-Sea and Caron
(The name is Roxy's deliberate play on words)
10" x 12"

The inner rocks are hand-painted silk. For this piece I scanned the original silk painting and printed out the copy for photo-transfer. The transfer is then hand and tranpunto quilted.

When asked to describe her personal artistic style, Roxanne counters with, "My style is just that - MY PERSONAL STYLE! I enjoy giving viewers of my work, the freedom to interpret my STYLE as they wish. With regard to crazy quilting (a label I really don't care for) I prefer to see my work as a unified whole - a complete design rather than the division of spaces with individual motifs...the challenge of putting together a few dozen pieces of unmatched fabrics and, through careful thought, choice of stitches, color and embellishments, have the finished work coordinate into a single design. I have very strong beliefs in 'CONTENT' being the criteria for fine art, and fiber is no exception."

Details from Rock-Sea and Caron

The Caron rocks are created in several styles using techniques similar to needle weaving. I have included the PROVERBIAL message in the bottle obviously washed up on the beach. Can you read it?"

The primary techniques Roxy uses in her work are detached stitches and needle weaving. She tugs, pulls, manipulates and even distorts; the threads just "go with the flow." She elaborates, "Caron overdyed threads are unifying elements. They gently move the eye with their unique color transitions but allow the needle artist to decide the direction of movement. The threads and the artist become a duo."



Details from Rock-Sea and Caron
Depicting the illusion of shadows on wet rocks I attempted to create using Black "SNOW"


May heralds the debut of Roxanne's new domain site, www.american-artforms.com The first exhibit features her most recent show entitled "THREADS OF SONG," a mixed media, crazy quilt-type artwork incorporating photo-transfer sheet music cover art. Roxanne explains the name, "The definition of 'Thread' by users of Internet lists, refers to numerous postings or comments on a single topic, a continuing element linking thoughts together in a theme. The definition of 'SONG' is the art of singing, vocal music, poetical composition adapted for singing. Pause a moment, take a breath of song.

Detail from Rock-Sea and Caron
The vital element is the stitching done down the seams in the upper right corner. It is Helen Richards Traveling Knot worked with 2 strands of Waterlilies and random Labrador hair (oops!) Ms. Richards developed this unusual knot in the late 70's. Unfortunately she never received credit for it. What is even sadder is another very well known artist plagiarized it and continues to call it their own.

Roxy closes with, "I am a 'Dyed and Gone to Heaven' CARON thread GROUPIE!" Even Caron thread color names spur a musical interpretation, "It's difficult to separate the words from the music, the music from the threads. Some examples are Watercolours "GRAND CANYON", "SAGE" or "PAINTED DESERT" with their soft and muted southwestern earth tones my thoughts go immediately to Ferdie Groffe's enchanting "Grand Canyon Suite". I see HOLIDAY and break into Christmas carols. One glance at STORM CLOUDS and I am Lena Horne singing 'Stormy Weather.'"

E-mail: dozer@mbay.net
Website: http://www.great-american-dogshow.com and

To check out Roxanne's Winning Design on the Caron Collection Website go to http://www.caron-net.com/galleryfiles/galloct.html

Roxy also submitted a design for our "Flower Power" theme. To see this unique needleart sculpture piece go to:

Selected Exhibitions of Roxanne's work have included Sardi's Restaurant, NYC, Dog World Magazine, Dog Fancy Magazine, P.R. Coonley Galleries, Carmel, CA, Bear Flag Gallery, San Juan Bautista, CA, Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, CA, Tehachapi Valley Art Association, Tehachapi, CA and the Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibit of Good Housekeeping Prize Quilts, San Francisco, CA.

© 1999 The Caron Collection / Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003

CARON email: mail@caron-net.com