Thursday, October 20, 2011


I share more of Marcia's insight:
"When making a story rope, we may remember our stories better, perhaps revealing both joys and sorrows, to share with others. It is a tactile timeline of one's life or part of one's life. It is also a way of giving permission for many to share their stories.
Making a work of art representing an individual, whether a portrait or a story rope, extends worth and value to that person.
Since we are created by a loving, heavenly Father, the master Artist, our stories, as His artwork, are full of meaning and purpose. He is present in every day of our stories. Sometimes, this truth can be clouded in our lives due to a variety of circumstances. Story Ropes can be a way of affirming each person's worth to his or her Creator and to those in his or her community."
Marcia (front kneeling) in Cambodia with new friends, wearing their story ropes after sharing their pain filled stories of the Killing Fields. Click photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


"A Story Rope can be made to help tell one's story in a colorful, tactile way within a small group of people.
Instead of writing words or speaking words to tell our stories, a fabric-filled rope is created to represent our lives.
Slim fabric strips of various colors are tied along a long, narrow strip of fabric about one meter long.
As participants tie each strip of fabric, on the one long piece, they are remembering different parts of their life stories.
Some parts of our stories are dark, so dark fabric is used to represent that period of time. Some parts are joyful, grace-filled, so brighter fabrics are tied along the "rope" to represent those parts.
Making a story rope is easy for anyone to make. No artistic skills are necessary in sharing one's story this way. It is an art form all can feel they have completed successfully. Many enjoy fabric, so it is a comfortable medium to use. It is user friendly."
I mentored Marcia in story-telling art techniques in spring 2011. She is now helping people tell their stories through art around the world.
Marcia in Cambodia wearing story rope • Marcia's group making story ropes in Hungary

Monday, October 17, 2011


I spent an afternoon with teenage girls on one of my cross-cultural trips. I sat with the girls around a table & asked them to introduce themselves. They told more than their names, they wanted me to know their stories.

They were so young and already had experienced so much pain and struggle. I was struck by their maturity and sense of hope. They radiated joy.
For a fun way to end our time together, I put out tags, painted papers, markers, glue-sticks & scissors. "Make anything you want on the tag," I said. It was such a little space to create on. I wondered if they would enjoy this little bit of art making.

They loved the project and started creating, not at all limited by the small space. With their stories fresh on their minds, the girls retold them now in colors & shapes that formed simple pictures.

When the tags were finished, I asked if any would like to share what they made. They all wanted to! So once again the stories flowed from girl to girl around the table, but now in pictures on little tags.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Guest blogger & friend, Marcia, shares her experience in Cambodia, making story ropes with pastor's wives.

"I was part of a team that hosted, taught & made art at a pastor's conference in Cambodia. I worked with the pastor's wives helping them tell their stories through making story ropes.

As the women shared their stories in small groups with multiple translators, the horrors of the Khimer Rouge began coming out.

Most had been little during the Killing Fields. Several remembered the loss of their father. One was separated from both parents at birth. There were many tears.

As the women shared, we stopped, spoke truth into each situation and prayed.

The story ropes were a bridge to get the stories out. All were amazed and encouraged as prayer and truth were spoken into each story.

Hopefully the healing had begun."

Marcia is in the top photo holding her story rope in front of the group. October 2011.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I was recently in Africa & showed Jane from Kenya, how to tell her story by making a story rope.

As she tied on ribbons and fabric strips that reflected the good & really hard parts of her story, she began to see that God knew about everything that she had gone through & He cares.

Jane shares her story rope in this video.

For more about Jane making her rope: Jane Ties On Her Story Click here. This links to my other blog, The Creative Process.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I'm leaving for Abuja, Nigeria today, to attend the Movement for African National Initiatives Consultation 2011. A thousand leaders have been invited, 850 of them from African nations.
I've been invited as a creative specialist to listen and offer out-of-the-box solutions, ideas to help them in the process of reaching their goals.
With that in mind, I'm bringing African fabrics cut precut into strips, ready to share how to make a story rope. The African leaders might find these helpful in their ministries of sharing the Gospel, discipleship & healing. May God open the doors for my sharing with humility. The story ropes are His idea & His to give away.
More about preparing for Africa. click: The Creative Process

(photo) In Rwanda where making the story ropes started, Marge surrounded by the World Relief staff holding the story ropes, each had just created. Marge showed the women how to create their own 'story rope' using local fabrics, ribbons & buttons. They took turns sharing their stories of suffering mixed with God's mercy.
"I was able to see my life right in front of me," said Josephine, a mother of five. 'I was amazed at the grace of God upon my life...reminded that I don't deserve God's love, yet He chose to love me before I knew him." From the World Relief article: Patchwork of Hope

Saturday, August 27, 2011


"If that was the only thing I did in Kosovo, it would have been worth it."
Melinda Elliot telling about her experience using the story rope with the mostly Albanian team during her 3 wks. in Kosovo. She is holding the story rope she made in Kosovo to demonstrate the process. (top photo)
In Kosovo. The smiles on the women's faces belie the earlier 1 1/2 hrs. of tearful sharing about their life stories. Although this team has been together for two years,this was the first time the women were able to openly talk about things that they had never shared with each other. (middle photo)
The story rope, like a personal time line, was a catalyst to sharing. Made with local materials, the buttons & ribbons were thoughtfully chosen & tied to a strip of fabric in an order representing a sequence of events. If willing, participants were invited to tell their story using the rope.
This creative activity released each storyteller from the deep burden she had silently carried alone & brought a new level of openness, understanding & empathy between team members. So simple yet so powerful!
(lower photo-Melinda in my studio before Kosovo trip, learning the story rope.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I was asked to do story ropes last year with elders in their 80's & 90's at an assisted living residence.
It was so rewarding to sit, listen & watch as they touched & told about each strip representing an important piece of their story. A privilege really to facilitate this looking back.
Some story fragments: childhood was very happy
...then the war
...this was the depression
...and this was Pearl Harbor mother died in childbirth
...there was no work we moved
...Hitler came and it was bad for a long time
...I liked playing in the dirt with my brother's friends father died in Auschwitz
...I went to college
...we were poor mother wanted me to study to get a job
...we went to a lake in Hungary
...we had a wonderful life
Someone I met recently saw the story rope idea & wants to make one with her aging parent in the early stages of Alzheimer's, before all the stories are gone. Deep.
So many situations. So many directions to take this idea.
I've been invited back. I wouldn't miss doing it again.
Photo: My friend, Herb, holding the black rick-rack saying, "This is Pearl Harbor."

Monday, August 22, 2011


Somewhere in the Back of Beyond
her body black and blue
looking so traumatized husband to another country for work, maybe for years sends no money as promised marries, has second family in there comes back unannounced, moves in, beatings restart "we're going to a party" husband said A trick, takes her to empty apt & rapes her marriage arranged-does not love her beautiful wife & 4 children but girlfriends on the side friends to husband, "beat her, show her who is boss." beatings, beatings, more beatings

1 in 3 women experience domestic violence. This is their reality.
How could we help? We could not fix their problems. Thankfully our NGO friends were there to encourage and help. But we could facilitate having them tell their stories in safe, small groups.
There is something theraputic about working out your story in a tactile way. Our groups of women made story ropes, telling their stories sequentially with ribbons (colors they carefully chose) & tied to a narrow band of their ethnic fabric.
An important part of the process came next - telling their stories. BUT only if they wanted. There was much understanding & support as they took turns sharing - touching each colored ribbon, telling the part of their story it represented.
At the end of each session there were smiles and glowing faces.
One young mom looked at me directly in the eyes and said, "I will never forget this day."

Sunday, August 21, 2011


As I was preparing to lead workshops on the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation in the country of genocide, Rwanda, I was challenged here on the home front.
"What do you, as a white woman from America, have to say to genocide survivors on the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation?"
A blunt but fair question. My answer -
"Nothing, absolutely nothing. But I have been through a very dark depression and I know what it is like to feel hopeless, to suffer & feel trapped, wondering if I would ever get better. And I do think I can make quilts to share about that and the process of healing. Yes, I think God can help me do that."
Transparency is powerful. When I was experimenting with story ropes before going to Rwanda, I tied clear saran wrap on after the very black area. That is where I started taking the risk of being transparent sharing my story of a very long, very dark depression, when self esteem was gone and hope lost.
Transparency helps the other person feel safe to share. Click on OUR STORIES on the navigation bar. God wastes nothing.
As Becca and I met with groups of genocide survivors, we both had a story to tell of our broken lives. We were not perfect white women as is often thought in a place like Africa. We had struggled & endured too. But nothing like they had. Never like they had. But our humble little bit of transparency along with honest compassion was enough to break down walls & their sharing after 14 years of silence was nothing short of amazing.


'Patchwork of Hope' is an article by Rose Busingye, writer on the World Relief Rwanda staff.
It's from a Rwandan's perspective. What did a white woman coming from the US know about the pain and trauma of genocide?
And when Rose heard that the contemporary fabric artist would be using art quilts to teach on the sensitive topic her doubts increased.
Read what happened when I came with my quilts & story rope materials to World Relief Rwanda. Article has photos, stories of the 4 Rwanda Quilts & breakthrough reactions. Here's the link: Patchwork of Hope
Photo: Final presentation was speaking at World Relief's the weekly chapel service. Marge in brown with Becca Smth (the WR country director's wife) in blue & my Rwandan translator.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


It was July 2007, Kigali, Rwanda. One of the venues that invited Becca and I, was SOLACE a ministry to the widows & orphans of the Rwandan Genocide. It was one of the sites where we trained women leaders, who would in turn train others. Multiplying.
Becca presented the story ropes. While making the ropes they broke out into spontaneous song. I took 2 video clips of the women working. Now yrs. later the clips are together & you are transported there! Click for video: MAKING STORY ROPES Kigali, Rwanda.
These women watched, endured & survived the most horrendous, incomprehensible acts to humanity. In their brokeness, they will be helping others who are broken. We were so humbled to help them process their stories through this simple thing called a storyrope™.

Photos of the tea break which was provided for by our home church.
Becca in top photo & Marge in lower, enjoying the break with the SOLACE trainers.


The story rope is neither art nor craft but simply a colorful engaging hand made timeline of ones life, using the simplest of local materials. These instructions can be adapted to any culture.

Purchase materials locally
• honors their culture
• familiar - 'theirs' - cultural connection
• found in their markets - they can replicate teaching

What we used in Rwanda
• African fabrics - precut into long strips
• spools of ribbons - black, red, white, green, light blue, yellow
• buttons
• thread
• couple pairs of scissors

How each made their own story rope
• each selected a strip of African fabric
• cut lengths of ribbons, choosing colors identified with each segment of their story
• tied ribbons onto strip in the chronological order of their story
• with thread, tied buttons on to rope representing parts of their story.
Photos: top @ Solace; lower @ World Relief in Rwanda

Friday, August 19, 2011


The simplest story telling method is the storyrope™, which I developed in Brookfield, CT on June 12,  2007. It requires no artistic ability by presenter or participant. I used the storyrope™ in Rwanda in July 2007, where I worked with the genocide survivors with my friend, Becca. Husband, Phil, was at that time the director of World Relief Rwanda & they lived in Kigali.
After sharing the Rwanda quilts (this story in another post), I used this simple hands on project by which each participant could process their own story in a limited time frame. It related to the quilts, using fabric, but did not involve time consuming sewing.

(top) Becca getting ready to teach the story ropes. Rwanda quilts in background with one of the orphans finding his story in the quilt designs.
(bottom) Our translator sharing her story rope.