Discovering the hidden perks of a truckload of dung


8 of Cups


Discovering the Hidden Perks of a Truckload of Dung

Update: I was very excited to learn my quilt ‘8 of Cups’ won a blue ribbon for Best Use of Color at Pacific International Quilt Festival while I was at Arrowmont! 🙂



Believe it or not, ‘Discovering the Hidden Perks of a Truckload of Dung’ is the title of the quilt I just sent off to PIQF for the show on October 16th -19th.

I originally started this quilt for the Dinner@8 exhibit called Reflections, but I was so busy this spring that I forgot the deadline and missed the entry.

It’s the 5th in a series of catharsis quilts that I’ve made since my 20 year marriage broke up in 2009. Compared to my first quilt in the series, the 3 of Swords,


3 of Swords

this one is a far happier reflection of my present state of mind.

I’m sure you’re wondering about the name of this quilt, it actually refers to a chapter in a book on finding happiness amongst life’s difficulties, written by Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm, called Opening the Door of Your Heart. I listened to this audiobook for almost a full year every night to help me fall asleep in those early days when basic things like eating and sleeping seemed so hard to do. Each night I just started the audio book in a different place, so eventually I made it through the whole thing, but the book also ran all night while I slept and I think subconsciously it really helped me find forgiveness, and peace of mind.

The chapter in the book this quilt was inspired by is called ‘Who ordered this truckload of dung?’ You can read the story here and you’ll start to understand why I named the quilt what I did, especially after what happened following my break up.

Long story short, the year after my marriage ended, and the recession was at its peak, my ex was living across the country trying to find work and the banks wouldn’t process loans, so selling our loft in Chicago was out of the question. I actively pursued getting a loan modification to no avail, while the bank insisted the only way to qualify was to keep paying the mortgage, so I did, and ran through our life savings, naively thinking B of A would do everything their reps assured me would happen.

At the beginning of the next year, our place slid into foreclosure, I put it on the market for a short sale and went to court every other month to fight the foreclosure. I got a contract to sell our place in June of 2012 and managed to get the foreclosure dismissed by July.  Five months later, and 24 hours after flying back from a week of teaching in Houston, we closed on the sale and drove west on a cold and rainy November night.

One of the first things I did after getting settled in Sacramento was plant a garden, my first garden.before

red sun pink bougain I planted lots of sunflowers and bought a pretty pink bougainvillea. I listened to the birds chirp, felt the warm sun on my back and cried tears of joy. I had made it through what seemed an endless nightmare, and I was so grateful to have such difficult years behind me.

sunflowers instagram


My garden flourished, I admired its beauty and finally felt truly happy.


I started with a big piece of white cotton fabric and sketched several big sunflowers and the bougainvillea on it. Using acrylic inks, I added broad brushstrokes of green and began painting the flowers.painting 1

Next I stamped the fabric with hand carved rubber stamps
and wood block stamps. I like how the stamps show through the layers of acrylic ink, sometimes clearly and sometimes just ghosting if the ink color has more opacity.

I added some plant images printed on abaca tissue paper, and painted more layers with acrylic inks.
painting 2

When I finished the painting, I used wool rayon felt as my batting and quilted it.truckload detail

I had a hard time seeing past that truckload of  $#*t dumped on my life almost 6 years ago, it was truly overwhelming at times and felt so unfair, but bit by bit I shoveled my way through it and am far happier now, than I was before it all happened.

little bee

Now, I’m off to Arrowmont to spend a week immersed in acrylic inks in the foothills of the great Smoky mountains with a group of kindred creative spirits. Life is good, keep creating!

41 Responses to “Discovering the hidden perks of a truckload of dung”

  1. Lisa Chin says:

    A beautiful masterpiece! Such a lovely tribute to the mess you have climbed on top of. You are now Queen of the Hill! I hope Indigo is doing better being away from her allergens. I’m sure that would make your life complete. It’s so difficult having a sick child, even if they are an adult!

    • thanks Lisa! Indigo is doing much better near the coast in Southern CA, hopefully her body is calming down from histamine overdrive, so she can better deal with regular allergens again when she comes back in another 10 days to meet with the Docs.

  2. friestyle says:

    And I am so happy for you! It was tough and you never stop dealing with it.

  3. It is a beautiful quilt and inspiring story to go with it. Long ago I saw your quilt in Quilting Arts Magazine and you are one of the artists who have pushed me forward in my art. I had no idea you had gone through such struggles and am glad you’ve come through stronger and better. Best wishes,

    • Aw thanks Regina. At times, it seemed like it would never end, not to say that everything’s rosey now, lol, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a few years ago and I am very happy, maybe it’s because I live in a constant state of gratitude and never take anything for granted. 🙂

  4. Candy says:

    This is a lovely piece, and I am so happy you’ve come through that pile of dung so happy and at peace!!!!

    • Me too! thanks Candy 🙂

    • teri says:

      It’s a lovely piece and Judy, you are in a lovely place….physically and emotionally. I can’t lay claim to the turmoil you went through. My divorce in 2007 was easy and calm, unlike my marriage. I am now at peace and back to the “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms” that I was before and early in my marriage. Hugs and healing light to Indigo.

      • Thanks Teri.

        Yeah actually compared to the stuff that followed, the ending of my marriage was the easy part! Now my ex and I get along very well, the silly thing is we always got along before our marriage ended, I think that’s why the ending, (and the way it ended, without going into details), was initially so hard. But even though we are basically compatible we weren’t all that happy together anymore.

        Glad to hear you’re in a better place now too! 🙂

  5. Souix Bee says:

    That is a fabulous piece. I hope it shows well. I love your style. Thank you, too, for sharing your story, I’ve sent it off to a friend who is struggling.

  6. Tanya Brown says:

    Lovely quilt; touching backstory. Looking forward to seeing your piece at PIQF. Wishing you the best –

  7. Sue Polansky says:

    To be on the other side of a tunnel of darkness is such a good feeling – I can relate! Glad you’ve been able to move on and are in a better place. I’m sooo looking forward to Arrowmont! Packing my stuff today, but hard to decide what to take, so much potential in everything!

  8. janice says:

    This is an incredible work and the story is so inspiring. i remember taking a class from you in Chicago some years back and am still in awe of your talent. Am so glad to see the wonderful smile on your face in the posted photos and wish you all happiness going forwardl

  9. Margaret says:

    What an amazing story. You are a great source of inspiration to me here in New Zealand. I was so disappointed when your class was cancelled at the Taupo symposium. I hope that you will get out here another time. I just love your work and I have just started to follow your blog. All the best and keep painting those beautiful quilts for the rest of us to see.

    • Believe me Margaret I was as much or more disappointed as you were, I was so looking forward to visiting New Zealand again.

      My first trip to NZ was 4 months after my marriage imploded and even though I didn’t know it at the time, it was exactly what I needed. It was such a healing time for me. Between teaching in Auckland and Palmerston North, I spent several days by myself in Rotorua, hiking each day at different geo thermals. It was off season, so I was able to walk peacefully and think while taking in all that beauty. It was a huge turning point for me, it was on those walks that I realized I was going to be ok.

      Some day I really hope to have the opportunity to teach there again and see more of the country, I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

  10. An inspiring story and a wonderful quilt! I love the layers of detail and the colours. The red sunflowers in your garden are amazing!

  11. It is such a stunningly beautiful quilt, and all the more enriched by the story behind it.

  12. Martha says:

    Hi Judy, what a touching story behind your beautiful quilt. You and your work have always been an inspiration to me!

  13. Mary R. Beat says:

    I love a happy ending….even if this is not the end. For you,, and the off-spring–only happiness. Now…this wall hanging is stupendous! My how you have grown during these years. I will get the audio book you mentioned. Best wishes…..

  14. great story and quilt! I do think that donkey (some call them asses) make the best manure for planting new life 🙂

  15. Your work just gets better and better! What a wonderful, cathartic, evocative piece this is. Bravo!

  16. Your quilt is an absolute joy – and your garden a beautiful analogy for how a truckload of dung can turn into a super positive thing!

  17. Rachel Parris says:

    You never cease to inspire me. Having watched you through this difficult journey, I am more than ever honored to call you friend.

    • and I’m so glad, and blessed, to have such wonderful friends like you in my life Rachel. It would have been truly overwhelming, if I hadn’t had the opportunity to laugh and cry with all of you, during those years. Here’s to strong women… 🙂 <3

  18. Laura Tawney says:

    I downloaded the book last night Opening the Door of Your Heart. Thank you. I finally slept deeply for awhile. I remember when you made the one quilt during the period of your life. I appreciate the post.

    • JudyCoatesPerez says:

      Hi Laura,

      nice to hear from you. I’m so glad the book helped, I have given it to many friends since I first discovered it. Take good care of yourself. Judy

  19. Guila Greer says:

    Judy, ever since I saw your quilt “There’s a Place Called Mars” at a show in Santa Monica MANY years ago, I’ve sought out and admired your work. You have been an inspiration as an artist and now you are an inspiration in so many other ways as well. Thank you for sharing your story publicly and congratulations on this beautiful quilt. And thank you from all of us art quilters ‘out there’ for being so generous and sharing your knowledge and experience.

    • JudyCoatesPerez says:

      thanks so much Guila, I really appreciate you sharing that. We all have stories of pain and sorrow and I hope by sharing mine along with the artwork I made processing those feelings I can help others work through painful times by creating as well.

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