The art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz

New Santa Fean friend Sue Rundstrom invited me to the Art and Remembrance presentation at the Museum of International Folk Art. Bernice Steinhardt movingly presented her mother, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz’s story of escaping the Nazis at the age of 15. Esther at 65, began creating fabric collage and embroidered art pieces, telling her history. Through film and photographs, we were able to connect and understand her resilience and courage.

Steinhardt facilitates a collaborative story cloth workshop. Below are some works by adults in an English education program.

Sitting Between Heaven and Earth

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It started as a chair for my mother who is no longer on earth. I thought she would have liked this view on a hill overlooking the ocean. I wished she were still here to talk to. I have new questions for her, ones I wasn’t pondering before. I have new understandings I didn’t have before. I always wanted us to be peers, to be able to speak woman to woman. Now it can only happen between worlds.

May this seat hold me between heaven and earth as I face new challenges. May the earth and sky be my allies. May I have conversations with my mother as I look out to the infinite sea.

High School Students Honor Gifts of their Family

I was honored to teach a workshop to youth at the Asian Counseling Resource Services up in Seattle in February. Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) is the largest multiservice organization serving all the different Asian Pacific American communities – immigrants, refugees and American born – in the Pacific Northwest. Their mission is to promote social justice and the wellbeing and empowerment of Asian Pacific American individuals, families and communities – including immigrants, refugees and native born – by developing, providing and advocating for innovative community-based multilingual and multicultural services.

The Gifts of our Family workshop was 3.5 hours and offered to youth involved in ACRS’s student community advocate program. They came equipped with photocopies of family members they wanted to focus on in the workshop. Different loved ones were honored including uncles, mothers, nephews, cousins, sisters, and brothers.

I began by showing a slideshow of how I create art of my family using found objects, photographs, and writing. I then conducted a short visual meditation to get them in tune with details and memories of their loved one. They did some writing of memories, words, descriptions of their family member.

Next I demonstrated painting a background using acrylic paints. The students really enjoyed this part of the lesson and some did many layers of paint, using a blow dryer between colors.

It was time to add the photographs and writing. I appreciated the camaraderie which developed among the students, as they told stories about the family members they were focusing on. Many of the youth had not met before.

Lastly they embellished their pieces by gluing materials like shells, flowers, sticks. Some of the students used needle and thread to accent their pieces. The sewing reminded them of an activity they did with their mother. Two girls added string weavings, another memory of something they did as children.

We originally started out with the idea of cutting out a circular shape for the completed pieces, but some students used the whole paper for their creations so we decided to keep those intact.

At the end of the workshop each student stood up and proudly showed their art. Each of them got a round of applause from their fellow artists.

The pieces are currently displayed at ACRS. Below are some of the pieces which were made in the workshop.

The cruelty of children

If you’re a parent or a teacher, you may have come across kids being mean to each other once in a while. “This American Life” radio program features The Cruelty of Children. It features a reading by David Sedaris on his childhood summer camp trip to Greece and more. A third act segment on You Can’t Say You Can’t Play by Vivian Gussin Paley. Worth listening to, click here.  Via

Colorful valentine kids’ project


Maybe this would be a perfect Valentine Day project to do with your kids today. I came across this lesson “Heart Rubbings” on this wonderful site, everything preschool.

First I scrounged up a piece of recycled cardboard and cut it into boards about 7 x 10″. Then I hot glue gunned bunches of hearts on each board. I introduced the project to the kids as “invisible bumpy hearts”. They each felt the texture of the raised glue hearts (dry and cooled of course). I taped the boards on the table and then taped recycled white computer paper over the boards. The kids scribbled and excitedly the crayon rubbings revealed the hearts. They had a blast and most of them wanted to do at least 2 rubbings.

Learnings: texture, drawing pressure, movement.

I’m thinking of other subject matter to use for rubbings for more kids’ projects and in my own art. This would also be great for wrapping paper, collage backgrounds, etc.




A place for my mom



Priscilla, JJW, and I went to the De Young Art Museum to participate in AAWAA’s art residency collaborative. AAWAA stands for Asian American Women’s Art Association. The theme of their residency was “A Place of Her Own”. They provided materials like boxes and fabric and such for people to come in and work on their own pieces.

Since I just got a nice new big art studio, I decided I want to focus on making a place for my mother. As many of you know, my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and she lives in a fullcare facility in Reno near my brother and his family and my father. My mom shares a room with another patient, and usually she is in her wheelchair out in the public area.

Here is my creation process:

I choose a nice wooden box and line the box sides and bottom with hana (flower) cards. My mother used to play this Japanese card game with some women friends in Lodi. I have fond memories, hearing the voices and laughter of the ladies as they visited. I place a sea urchin shell upon a nest of yarn in the box. The shell reminds me of one that she gave me wrapped in a white napkin when she returned from a trip. It seemed so fragile and beautiful – and that is how she is now. I sprinkle confetti and red string in the box too. I think she needs some fun and always liked bright cheery colors. In the inside of the lid I put a gold flattened cupcake wrapper. Now it looks like a sacred halo. On top of the halo I put a feather. Feathers are messengers from and to God. I think she may have things she may want to say. Lastly I add 2 butterflies. Butterflies for fun, for flitting around, for transformation. I feel a sense of wonder and peace having made this special place for her.

Assisting Aging Parents Class

Wow this sounds like a great class! Wish it was in person instead of online though. Sounds like what a lot of us baby boomers need. I am thinking of taking it. Let me know if anyone else is interested and maybe we could have a group to talk/email about the topics.

Are your parents in their golden years? Learning how to help parents or other loved ones through their transition can prepare us for our own. This compassionate and comprehensive class will give you the tools, techniques, and insights for this passage. Growing older is a part of life. Some aspects are joyful, some bittersweet, some frustrating, some frightening. You will learn what to expect, what to watch for, how to deal with physical and emotional challenges, and where to find resources to help. You’ll understand the impact of retirement, learn how to choose a nursing home, and be prepared to deal with death. You’ll learn about financial and legal considerations, health issues, and family interpersonal relationships. You’ll be introduced to special communication skills, observation methods, and coping mechanisms to ease the burden for everyone involved. You’ll learn to handle most of the challenges you will face while coming to appreciate and cherish the privilege of the journey.

Check it and sign up here. Classes start: September 17 | October 15 | November 12 | December 10