It has been an honor to know Laverne Zabielski for many years. As a fiber artist, writer and no-nonsense wise woman she inspires me and her community forward into empowerment.

Art that Speaks

Guest Post by Laverne Zabielski

 Living a layered life happens when every thing I do has the potential to be connected.  When I can’t tell where one piece ends and another begins.  When the colors of my shibori dyed silk drying in the sun blend with the flowers in my garden. The lines of separation are blurred.  Every art form informs and draws from another.  This is what I love about Kathleen O’Brien’s life and art.  I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.

Zabielskl shibori drying
shibori drying on Lavern’s porch

I first noticed this when I met her at a Kentucky Crafted Market in 2004. Her booth and her art complimented each others.  The colors on the walls were the same colors in her collages. Many years later when I visited her farm it was the same experience. The soft greens that flourished in the natural world flowed into her art on the walls picking up subtle pastels from the trees, sky and sunset. Even the chairs on her porch were part of her palette.

More recently I was able to experience Kathleen’s layering after I purchased three of her Talismans during her last show at MS Rezny Gallery in Lexington, KY.  When the show came down I picked them up, wrapped in pale green tissue paper, sealed with her logo sticker and carried them carefully home.  That evening I open them slowly.  Appreciating the art of wrapping as much as what’s inside, I gently removed the sticker and unfolded the perfectly creased paper.  Again, the paleness of the green blurred the edges revealing the Talisman for Peace of Mind.  A simple necklace of moonstone, Peridot, glass beads and deer leather.  It was accompanied by a signed card describing each stone and bead and where it was located on the necklace.

"Talisman for Peace of Mind" necklace by Kathleen O'Brien

“Talisman for Peace of Mind” necklace by Kathleen O’Brien

The second piece, a cuff, Talisman for Honey Bees, was also carefully wrapped framing the pastels of the soft beaded fabric. And its signed card revealed the amount of energy included in creating the piece: Carnelian, rose quartz, Peridot, jade animal fetish, vintage Italian glass, antique gentian beads, Dutch donut glass 1700 AD, Venetian white heart 1890 AD, Swarovski crystal, and Peking glass 1800 AD on chiffon fabric with a silk lining and Mother of pearl buttons.

"Talisman for Honey Bees" complete, by Kathleen O'Brien
“Talisman for Honey Bees” complete, by Kathleen O’Brien

 The third piece I purchased, Talisman for Beachcombers, was after the show came down and has become a signifier on the necessity of listening when art speaks.  During the opening reception, she caught my eye; blue macramé and beads, shells and stones hanging from a brass bridle decoration.

"Talisman for Beachcombers" beaded bridle decoration Kathleen O'Brien
“Talisman for Beachcombers” beaded bridle decoration Kathleen O’Brien

Many years ago when I first started writing poetry most of it was narrative with strong, clear messages.  Periodically I would stray from that mode and venture into softer, more abstract writing.  One of those poems was titled Beachcombing for Poems. My husband loved it.  I never took it very serious at the time.   What’s interesting to me now, is that I had never consciously heard the word beachcombing before it showed up in my poem, and here it was 25 years later and I see the word again in Kathleen’s Talisman. I had already made my selection of the other two, nonetheless, Talisman for Beachcombers, continued to speak to me through the poetry of her name.

On the day I went to the gallery to pick up my purchases all of Kathleen’s art was no longer on exhibit. When I opened her art drawer, however, there it was, Talisman for Beachcombers tucked away, speaking to me, as if to say, “Take me to your home. Out of this drawer.  Layer me in the light on your blue wall.”  So I did.  The decision was instant.  She was not wrapped as carefully by Kathleen’s hand using the pale green tissue.  I surrounded her with wrinkle white.  During the unwrapping, later that evening, I gave each stone, shell, and bead mentioned on the signed card equal attention, reminding me, when art speaks, listen!

 Beachcombing For Poems

part one


The girl

on the beach looking for sand dollars

while combing the silver that works it

way up between her toes was wearing

pearls and a bikini.


She was

reciting poetry, facing the sun.  Every

once in a while she would twist her

pelvis to catch the wave’s spray and

rinse dotted sand from her legs.


The coca cola

bottle was broken and the faded beach

towel was useless.  Sand penetrated her

crevices and crinkled inside when she

moved up and down.


The beach

was full of combs she used in her hair.

The color of fish and coral, each comb

brought out a smile from the other side

of the beach where her friends stood



and whistling for her to join them.  She

ignored them, made angels in the sand,

licked salt from her lips and pulled

back her hair. . .


Beachcombing For Poems

part two


The second poem

she recited streamed rhythmically

down her cheek.  She remembered

fried potatoes her mother never made,

roses in the yard her mother never left.


The poem stuck

between her teeth when she saw her

daddy drive the big white van onto

the beach – -the van he packed full of

furniture when they drove across


Route sixty-six

fifty five miles per hour listening to

top forty radio stations fading in and

out turned up loud.


The poem

under her panties was sliding down

between her knees bending her at the

waist to see blood dripping for the first

time but not the last.


The head

was covered with dark matted hair.

As soon as she put him to her breast

her hands slipped down his slippery

back and the shaking finally stopped.


Beachcombing For Poems

part three


The last poem

was running on empty and a panic

set in as she tried to mouth the word.

The salt dried on her tongue and the

beach was overflowing.  She stepped


Over coca cola

bodies nestling up to hers.  The wind

blew yellow ribbons around her neck

twisting them tighter with each word

’til the last word was never spoken, just


Stood at attention

waiting for instructions.  She

stepped over bottles looking for the

cheap Parker pen her mother gave

her when bachelor buttons bloomed


Her mother

wrote long words on the window sill

repeating the last letter over and over

’til her father developed the pictures

in black and white.


That’s where she

saw the first poem tucked inside her

bikini.  She pasted photos in her photo

album, and copied the words from the

window sill.


I love collaborating with Kathleen.  The colors of her palette and the textures she embraces in her art compliment my visions.

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