A Book, A Card, An Aria, A Teaching

Pre-order Sharp Notions NOW!

My contributor copies of Sharp Notions arrived and it is a stunningly gorgeous book. It’s hefty and printed on full colour glossy stock.

The book Sharp Notions: Essays from the Stitching Life featuring Lia’s lung embroidery on the pink cover. The book sits atop the Arsenal Pulp Press Fall 2023 catalog.

My embroidery, she breathed, is on the cover designed by Jazmin Welch. And my essay about my approach to SciArt embroidery is accompanied by images of some of my other pieces. Editors Marita Dachsel and Nancy Lee did such a fan­tastic job putting this all together.

You can pre-order copies directly from Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver, BC. Pre-orders help small publishers like Arsenal create more excellent work, and you’ll have the book in your hands by October!

ME Art Card Project

I took on a small art project by signing up for The Chronic Market‘s ME/CFS Art Card Project. This project aims to raise awareness about ME/CFS—particularly in its severe form, which can mean being permanently bedbound or housebound—and mobilizing healthy allies (or fellow sufferers!) to create art cards for patients. My recipient requested a lion for courage which isn’t my usual sort of ima­gery, but I’m very pleased with what I came up with. It also gave me an opportunity to experiment with stitching on card stock which I’ve wanted to try for a while.

A white landscape formatted card. A black and white Victorian engraving of a lion has been printed, cut to shape, and glued on the top 2/3 of the card. There is a tiny red anatomical heart embroidered on the lion's chest. Below the lion the word "courage" is stitched in large cursive writing.

Lucky Penny Opera Pitch

Fall 2022 I participated in Lucky Penny Opera‘s Pitch and Accessibility project. I’ve been waiting for it to be posted on their site, but it hasn’t been yet so I’m sharing it here.

The project was to write a pitch for their 48-hour Opera Project where opera artists are put into multi-disciplinary teams to create a 5-10 minute opera over the course of a weekend. Lucky Penny also wanted some feedback on the accessibility of such an endeavour. As far as I know, I was the only disabled composer/ librettist to submit a pitch, and I had a Zoom conference with them afterwards to talk about things like temporal accommodations for someone like me who has a fatiguing chronic illness.

What the pitch project allowed me to do was to slightly flesh at an opera idea I’ve had for years. All the pitches had to contain:

– The sound of a baby crying
– A map
– The text: “It was at this moment she saw the irony of trying to fix the machine with violence”

Here is my pitch:

Portrait of Rachel Ruysch by Godfried Schlacken:
A portrait of a middle-aged woman with a serious demeanour. She wears a deep brown velvet dress with a plunging neckline. Her white chemise can be seen along her chest and at the opening of her sleeve. Her right hand with long slender fingers cups the bottom of her left breast. She has a long aquiline nose and thin lips in an oval handsome face. Her curly brown hair is up in a chignon with a strand hanging over her right shoulder. The background is a slightly lighter shade of brown than her dress. She looks at at the viewer with soulful deep brown eyes.

The Anatomist’s Estuary

A snapshot of the life of Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750). Her father, anatomist Frederick Ruysch (1638-1731), was known for his macabre dioramas that contained preserved human specimens, including fetal skeletons. Rachel assisted him in his work and was a recognized painter on her own right. 

Rachel had ten children, and this libretto imagines what she may have felt after the birth of her first child given her work with her father’s dioramas while growing up. 

The opera would start with Frederick working on one of his dioramas, introducing himself, then move to Rachel’s aria—a map of my heart—then end with a duet between Rachel and Frederick about how she must distance her work from that of her father. 

Ruysch Diorama: 
A scan from a book with an engraving of a Frederick Ruysch diorama and descriptive text beneath. The text reads: A composition of fetal skeletons with vascular trees, in which a small bird is perched. The uppermost skeleton, that of a four-month female fetus, holds a string of pearls on her hand. The skeleton on the left holds a miniature scythe. The skeleton on the right is holding a string of calculi, and weeps into a mesentery. The captions associated with this plate express the transitory and miserable nature of life. They include: Cur ea diligere velim, quae sunt in mundo? ("Why should I long for things that are of this world?"); Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore, repletur multis miseriis ("Man that is born of woman lives but a short time and is full of misery"); and Nec parcit imbellis juventae poplitibus ("Death does not spare even innocent youth").
a map of my heart image:
An engraving of an anatomical heart labeled as if it were a map. The title is “a map of my heart.” The tubes at the top are labeled: hollows of childhood. The opening of the aortic arch is labeled: grotto of my birth, and the opening below that: cavern of influence. Down the right side are the labels: banks of stillbirths & infanticides; estuary of father; hills of vision; tributary of art; fork of craft; watercourse of painting; branches of possibilities. Down the left side are the labels: waterfall of growth; mound of mother; river of my child; stream of marriage; the land of love. And the bottom apex of the heart is: peninsula of fate.

a map of my heart 
libretto in the voice of Rachel Ruysch 

if my heart is the land of love 
it is veined with rivers 
if the grotto of my birth 
is my aortic arch 
my arteries the hollows of my childhood 

this map of my heart 
where my life is lined and charted 
where is the line of this child of mine 
a river from the stream of my marriage? 

my right atrium the mound of my mother 
and here I am, a mother myself 
the cries of my child pool in me 
at the base of the hills of my vision 

music for the aria, a map of my heart

the estuary of my father 
his work both macabre and sublime 
these banks of stillbirths 
eroding over time 
and here in my arms 
I hold this living child of mine 
her fragile bones cradled at my chest 
her heart beats so close to mine 

this map of my heart 
where my life is lined and charted 
my child grows her own waterfalls 
a vena cava hollow of her childhood 

In this moment I see
the irony 
of trying to fix my father’s machine 
with violence 

Painting: Flowers in a glass vase by Rachel Ruysch: 
An oil painting of a huge bouquet of flowers in a glass vase with a round base. The colours are primarily oranges and pinks, bright against the black background. The bouquet contains a wild-looking mix of lilies, tulips, peonies, chrysanthemums, and irises, all in various states from budding to at the end of their blooms. Hanging off a bent stem of wheat at the very bottom of the painting is a large orange and white moth with spotted wings which makes the viewer notice other insects placed among the flowers.

I’ve left behind his anatomist estuary 
I’ll take the fork of craft 
the watercourse of painting
in this land of love 
along the river of my child 
I shall follow these branches 
all possibilities 

through this map of my heart 
where my life is lined and charted 
travel these branches 
across the land of love 
to the edge of the peninsula of fate 

After having been so distanced from my composition practice since I got sick in 2015, it felt great to work on this project. It was small and short enough that it felt doable for me, even if I had to pace myself carefully throughout.

Upcoming Webinar

Something I’m very excited about but hasn’t been completely organised yet is I’ll be giving a workshop-style webinar about my symptomatology process with CHASE’s Medical Humanities Research Network at the end of October, 2023. I’ve attended a number of webinar workshops with this UK-based organization and they are always excellent so I was honoured to be asked. I’ll post information here once everything is organized.


If you’d like to keep more abreast of my work, I’m publishing monthly creative work updates on my Ko-fi page, and post regularly on Instagram, Twitter/X, Mastodon, and Bluesky. All of those links and more can be found on my Linktree.