The Travels of Fireball : Diary of an Exhibition

The following diary is written by Carolyn Lee Vehslage, Fiber Artist & Web Designer, and compiled and edited by Jaye A. H. Lapachet. There are also many comments by Carolyn Underwood, who is the co-curator of the exhibit. It is intended for information purposes only so that afficianados can follow the progress of the exhibit.

Friday 1/17/2003

Yesterday, the US Embassy in Costa Rica informed me that our quilts have FINALLY, safely arrived. It took a full month to get them to the military base in Florida and then on a transport plane to San Jose.

The quilts have already been moved to the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in San Pedro and will be installed shortly.

Attached is a 'fill in the blanks' press release for you to send to your local newspapers, guild newsletters, church/synagogue newsletters, etc. Feel free to modify it as you see fit.

Unfortunately, the sponsor choose not to underwrite the grant portion for Cindy Friedman and me to go to Costa Rica and teach quilting to the women in the pueblos. I have asked them to take digital images of the exhibition to forward to you.

We're still looking for additional international venues for the collection. If you have any ideas, let's hear them.

Again, thank you so much for loaning your artwork,

Carolyn Lee Vehslage


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Online Gallery

"ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick 2003"

Tuesday February 4, 2003

After 11 months of planning (with a huge thank you to Karey Bresenhan for her advice and wisdom), finding sponsors, losing sponsors, finding additional sponsors, the "911: Artists React" touring art quilt exhibition opened at its first venue.

48 artists from the USA, UK, Canada, and Costa Rica used the art quilt medium to express their emotional reactions to the September 11th terror attacks. Together the artwork is a thought provoking, tear inducing exhibition. The artists used a broad mix of techniques from pieced to whole cloth, appliquid to torn, painted to burned, quilted to beaded. Their artwork portrays grief, rage, hope, and patriotism.

The exhibition can be viewed online


Carolyn Lee Vehslage, Quilts from USA, UK, & Canada

Carolyn Underwood,, Quilts from Costa Rica

Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano
Calle 37, San Pedro, San Josi Province, Costa Rica
February 4-28, 2003
Hours: M-F 8 AM to 9 PM. Sat 8 AM to 6 PM
Manuel Arce, Cultural Director

My co-curator Carolyn Underwood in Costa Rica was at the opening. Here are her initial comments:

"Overwhelming success last night at the opening. Offers for further exhibitions already in from MASSACHUESSETS, TENNESSEE and Tegucigalpa, Honduras (U.S. Embassy). And, that one was before the exhibition even opened [to the public]!

"People were moved to tears. They would stand and look and look at the quilts which spoke to them. I can hardly wait to go back and take my time and look at it without crowds around!

"Russian Ambassador was there last night. Chris Ward [US Embassy Cultural Affairs Officer] said that he (R.A.) never goes anywhere...

"We have lots of photos and will be sending them along as we write to update you on all that happens and comments we get, etc.

"Thanks for your support, your prayers, your joy and CLV, your work in getting this act together! WELL DONE, DEAR FRIEND!" - Carolyn Underwood

[P.S.] As soon as we have our computer network back online, I'll update the images of the 911 quilts on (after moving 6 weeks ago, we're still in camping mode with no stove and our clothes in suitcases...)

Several of the quilts are for sale. If you are interested, I can put you in contact with the individual artists.


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Tuesday February 4, 2003 5:14 pm

Here are the first glimpses of the exhibition.

Manuel Arce, the CCCN gallery directs is to the right of Carolyn Underwood. Juan Diego, to her left, did a marvelous installation. Each quilt is suspended free floating from the upper wall molding. Halogen track lighting illuminated each piece individually.

"No Tocar" (Don't touch) signs are everywhere. Signage for each quilt is in English and in Spanish.

Carolyn's husband Ed snapped the overview from the second floor balcony. On the near free-standing panel are Mona's & Emily's quilts. The panel to the right has Rosemary's, Jaye's, and Robin's on it. The back wall has Jill's, Betsy's, and Pamela's.

The five participating Costa Rican quilters have a section in the multi-floored, multi-roomed gallery. As you can see, the opening was very crowded.


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Tuesday February 4, 2003 5:24 pm

Maria Teresa Arteaga stands by her quilt. She is co-owner of El Costurero, a quilt store, and is one of the sponsors of our exhibition.

Patricia Mendez is by her "Chaos" quilt.

And here's a picture of Carolyn Underwood the day after the opening writing all of her thank you notes to the sponsors and supporters and 'influentials' who made this exhibition happen.

Should you wish to drop her a line, her email is

Carolyn & Ed plan another trip to San Pedro to photograph more of the exhibition for us. They pass them along soon.


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Tuesday February 5, 2003 8:07 p.m.

More exhibition images arrived from Costa Rica. Sintercafe, the
original sponsor, sent several tropical flower arrangements for our
opening. So print out the flowers image and post it by your computer!

You can see by the 'long wall' image that installer Juan Diego took great care in arranging the quilts by size, color, and subject matter. He achieved a wonderful balance that will lend itself well to the 'compare and contrast' guided lectures for the university students. From l to r is Julie Brook Alexander's "Grief", Christine Adams' "Ashes to Ash: a 9/11/01 Commemoration, Beth Ann Carney's "Waves II", Thelma Smith's "Life After the Fall", Mary Ellen Landry's The Day that Time Stood Still, Elizabeth Rosenberg's "Reaching Up To The Sky III", and Ann Flahtery's Liberty Still Endures (version 3).

The photo with Debi Harney's "Justice" on the free standing wall is one of the least crowded of all the reception images that CU has been emailing me. On the back walls from l-r you can see Mary Ellen Landry's The Day that Time Stood Still, Amanda Perkins "Flowers For the Towers", Cathy Neri's "Tribute: 2002" and Michele Merges Martens Building Bones: Remembering the Towers

Below is the translation of the article that appeared today in La Nacion. You can view it online at by clicking on "Artistas por la paz" under En esta edicisn on the left hand side.

Enjoy the views, CLV

Artists for Peace - By Ana Coralia Fernandez

The harmony of the world is a worry to all. These artists express it through a very original art medium. When the black cloud of the violence invades our space, many people worry and express it, among them, the artists.

[Image of Betsy Shanon's, Wishes for the World, Point by point. This exhibition of Quilts will put you in contact with the theme of peace and its importance for all of humanity. (Photo: File The Nation)] Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano invites you to visit an interesting exhibition on peace from the perspective of the events that occurred in New York in the 2001. Its name is "September 11th viewed through the Quilt"

What is more interesting is that you will not see paintings, photographs or sculptures. The artwork is elaborate pictures created in an old technique known as Quilting. This exhibitions themes are the importance of the peace and the bitter nightmare of the war that affects us to all. It is displayed in a space so that the whole family can reflect on these themes and, also, appreciate the quilting technique.

First Venue

This will be the first stop of the exhibition on a tour of Latin America, Europe and Asia. It is comprised of 45 pieces created by artists of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Costa Rica. The artists wanted to express that the peace is an important value and is necessary to guarantee the future life of the entire world. Together we can achieve unification, communication, and respect.

What is a Quilt?

It is a technique that unites fabrics to form drawings that are then sewn. It was utilized in Europe and in some older cultures, but became more important the United States. Quilt making became a part of the life of the women. They met to sew and to chat. Quilting is so laborious a task that by the 20th century it became valued like art.

Not only in San Josi:

During the exhibition's duration, there will be workshops, demonstrations, guided tours and free conferences on the history, culture, and methods of quilt making.

In March, this collection will be exhibited at Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Cartago, 100 m to the east of Metrocentro and, later, in the Cultural Historic Museum Josi Figueres, in San Ramsn.

All in all..


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Thursday February 6, 2003 9:26 pm

A personal message to all of the artists from Carolyn Underwood:

You were mentioned many times in the opening remarks as the exhibition was formally opened. Your courage was referred to in that you were willing to risk sending your "heart work" here for others to experience. Your talent is overwhelming. We saw many, many people in tears. And this was the first, quick public showing. Over the month we expect even more wonderful results.

One of the administrators in the Centro Cultural Costarrisence Norteamericano said: "It has been amazing. As we've hung this exhibit and prepared for the opening, our students have stopped and looked (intently) at the pieces. This has NEVER happened before, ever." The center is "old" just so you will know this isn't it's premiere exhibition.

Chris Ward, Cultural Attachi at the U.S. Embassy told us at the opening last night that before they came across the valley, he received notice that the U.S. Embassy in Honduras (Tegucigalpa) has asked to host this exhibition.

The Russian Ambassador attended the opening of your work. We heard last night that he rarely, if ever, goes to such events. He introduced himself to Chris Ward who was excited by the Ambassador's presence.

Chris Ward said he'd never seen an opening that well attended. (Chris was the artistic director- for lack of a better term -- of the CCCN in the 80's). Sylvia Larrad voiced many times that it was one of the prettiest exhibitions she has ever seen: "beautifully done!" Sylvia is one of the directors of the CCCN.

The warmth and the enthusiasm of the people (both guests and officials in the American expat community here) were contagious. You would have loved it! I am so sorry you weren't here to see the grand response to your work!!!

This was Juan Diego's FIRST exhibit as "artistic director" (I will find out his official title). He kept saying, "This is so spiritual. It's incredible!" And, then finally as we closed the opening, he said, "God was in charge of this! No doubt about it!" If you all knew or know how things usually work in Latin America, you would agree whole heartedly.

It is most poignant that our show opened in the aftermath of the loss of the space shuttle.

May God bless each of you, and may you rejoice in the healing you are spreading here.

With love and admiration! - Carolyn Underwood

[More photos of the exhibit give you a good sense of the lovely job the team did and the beautiful space in which the quilts are hung]


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Thursday February 13, 2003 9:33 pm

CU embroidered the words to God Bless America in white on the white strips of her flag. The scripture Genesis 50:20 is in red on the red.

Below is from the first email she sent me in early November 2001 after Maria Teresa Arteaga (quilt teacher & one of the sponsors) came back from Festival and told her to look at the AMERICA: From the Heart silent auction quilts on my site.

"I live in Costa Rica. I am a native Texan and have just learned to sew by learning to quilt! Nothing like doing it the hard way. Because we are here and not there and we had no U.S. flag, I sewed one which I am now in the process of quilting, out of fabrics on hand.\ Until Sept. 11th, I did not have much in the way of red, white and blue fabrics, so my quilt is humble and precious to me. What a gift to learn to quilt IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE at the age of 56! I am hooked. And, my quilting helps heal my broken heart and sorrowing soul."

CU has done so much to help her adopted nation understand her native nation's emotions. She overcame numerous obstacles during the 11 months of planning. Her love of quilting, God, and country(ies) carried her through.

As an expression of my gratitude, "Half Mast at Anchor II" was created specifically for her. Instead of detail painting the sailboat to match our Fandango as in the first version, the hull & sail cover remained white in reference to a (holy) ghost ship. It will stay in Costa Rica with CU.

Chris Ward of the US Embassy in CR is coordinating the possible extension of the tour to the surrounding nations. Honduras and Guatemala are very interested in it. (If so, I'll be creating HMAA 3 that we plan to hang on Fandango's bulkhead - that means wall in sailor lingo)

Before the collection leaves Costa Rica, in early March it will be split in half between the Centro Cultural Costarrisence Norteamericano in Cartago and the Historical Museum in San Ramon. After 2 weeks, the halves will be switched.

When the touring schedule is finalized, we'll provide you with the venue information.

Costa Rican Quilters left to right:

Carolyn Underwood with her flag quilt.

Half Mast at Anchor II created for Carolyn Underwood by Carolyn Lee Vehslage


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Wednesday February 21, 2003 3:08 pm

Some more Costa Rican exhibition images. CU wanted you to see that both
the CR & US flag are honored in the show.

Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer
Julie Stiller's quilt in front (with woman), Jaye Lapachet's quilt (upper right)


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Wednesday February 21, 2003 3:13 pm

Beth Friedman's "Twin Towers: Beyond Words" note the sun's reflection in the towers and the shadowing of the surrounding building. Beth embroidered over a 1000 words on the 2 towers.

The other two are by Costa Rican quilters. Don't know their names or titles yet.

Beth Friedman's "Twin Towers: Beyond Words" Costa Rican Tryptic


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Tuesday February 25, 2003 10:45 am.

To view the quilts of "El 11 de setiembre a travis del Quilt"

go to

select Exhibition in Costa Rica

select View Opening Reception Photos

The collection will be split in two with half going to El Museo Histsrico in San Ramon (Gala Opening 3/8 afternoon) and the other half to the CCCN location in Cartago (Gala Opening 3/10 7PM) for the first half of March.

They will be switched between the two venues mid-way through March so that as many Costa Ricans as possible can see all of the quilts.

As you'll see, Manuel Arce and Juan Diego did a marvelous job of organizing and installing this exhibition. The response from the community has overwhelmed them.

Throughout February, there were docent tours, lectures, demonstrations, and quilt workshops. There were at least two separate TV segments on the show as well as several articles in the Costa Rican papers. This exhibition has been positively embraced by the viewers.


Carolyn Lee Vehslage - Fiber Artist & Web Designer

Stay Tuned!!!!!