Chasing Down The Muse: There's always a story behind the art

I am thankful…for each story, each idea, each word, each day.

—Isaac Bashevis Singer


Deep brown eyes cast upward, the slender woman looked up in what seemed to be awe and wonder. I watched for awhile before approaching, not wanting to break whatever spell she might be under as she enjoyed the moment. Sure, I am supposed to be here to make sales, but the moment was too lovely, the woman too beautiful in it.

Still not wanting to shatter the magic of that moment, I moved with soft care to where she stood.

"There's a story that goes with those," I said cryptically.

The woman's gaze shifted just enough to acknowledge me, while not fully taking her eyes off Emma's Technicolor Dream Bags.

With her slight "Oh?" of recognition, I continued to tell the story of how these colorful small purses came into being.

About seven years ago, my husband broke his neck in a fall off a cliff. Confined to a halo device, the visiting nurses came to clean the wounds where it was attached. Each time they left a large package of 4-inch gauze squares behind, so we accumulated quite a few extras. I found myself wondering what else they could be used for.

I use acrylic paints in my mixed-media pieces and often have squeezed out a bit too much paint. So I mixed the paint with water and a stiffening element and painted the gauze squares. I loved how the many colors fluttered in the breeze from a concocted line just outside my studio. Something about this just seemed right, though I didn't yet know why.

Over time, the Dream Bags evolved to what they are today — ethereal-seeming, but sturdy little shoulder bags to use in many ways, from carrying cell phones and some mad money to holding dreams themselves.

Throughout the telling of the story, the woman, who I now saw to be not merely slender but in fact very frail, was mesmerized.

"This story has to be told," she said emphatically. "You must."

I was moved by her vehemence, but not sure what caused it. Soon enough, I got a clue.

She went on to tell me that she was familiar with those 4-inch gauze squares, that she was on dialysis, and that the nurses at the dialysis center just had to know this story. (She also added that my idea was ingenious, which I of course loved.)

We spoke more about her life, how she has been freed by something called peritoneal dialysis. This treatment, which I later discovered has some risks of infection, allows dialysis patients to do treatment without the need of visiting a medical facility. I gathered from this woman that it also gave her greater ability to enjoy life in general. She was thoroughly enjoying her day at the Sawdust Art Festival — that is for sure.

Taking my business card to share with the nurses at the dialysis center, she soon left my booth. I sat down to ponder this interaction, realizing that she was not the only one mesmerized. I was caught up in her story as well and applauded her spunk.

There are many wonderful, heart-warming stories. We need only take the time, share and listen. Rather than being caught up in things that rankle and will soon enough pass, I will be thankful for the moments like this one in my life and the stories that come my way.

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, counselor…always fascinated, inspired, and titillated by the beauty and mysteries of life. She can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745-9973.

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