Monday, August 29, 2016
Former BJ Features editor/pet columnist Connie Bloom, the premier fabric art guru of Ohio and, to quote her Facebook description of herself, “journalist, activist, artist,” passed away this morning (Monday, Aug. 29). She had cancer.
Connie was a fervent supporter of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid, “giving monthly, added another donation today, icing on the cake,” to quote her Facebook post of March 9.
Connie loved dogs and cats. Fittingly, her final post August 3 was a video of a cat chomping on a cake.
Besides Feeling the Berne, Connie also railed against companies destroying the Indonesian rain forest to make a profit from palm oil, Big Pharma “torturing” and over-charging to make a profit and cheered on former BJ political writer Abe Zaidan’s online columns taking the now-dumped University of Akron president Scott Scarborough to task.
“Wit and wisdom from Abe,” Connie wrote, “is always a romp.”
Connie waxed eloquently about Lily, “the white Wonder Whippet,” providing Lily with a brother, Steeler Dittinger, a 10-year-old she took in, too. Connie’s fabric art of Lily is a classic. She also did quilt art for others, including one for recent BJ retiree Kim Hone McMahan about Kim’s late daughter on Connie’s sewing machine, which she called “Bella.”
Writes Kim: “She put so much soul into that work. At times, during the making of it, she expressed a spiritual attachment to Brooke,” Kim’s departed daughter.
Maura McEnenaney had Connie do a pet fabric art for Maura’s husband, former BJ sports editor Ken Krause, that Ken still cherishes in his Medford, Massachusetts home. The subject was Belle, a lab mix that Maura found tied to a fence in Firestone Park in Akron years ago. It took Connie six weeks to transform Belle’s memory into fabric art.
Before Connie did her pet fabric art masterpieces, she visited the family and the pet. She wanted to feel their spirit and their history so she could translate it into another soulful quilt.
Connie wrote that she has “a deep and abiding love of animals and is especially soft on pet portraits, from llamas to snails and dogs, dogs, dogs.” And cats.
She wrote that she “also heeds a higher calling to the creation of memorial art quilts and cloth books, made from the clothes and personal effects of people who have passed. The finished piece becomes a family heirloom to be passed down through the generations.”
Connie and “Bella” did everything from scratch. “I don’t like following other people’s patterns,” Connie told Megan Combs for a Devil Strip article about Connie. “Everything on my quilts is original. There are no little things from Pat Catan’s.” Knowing Connie, that was no slap at Pat Catan’s, just her preference for doing it, as Frank Sinatra sang, “my way.”
“I riff on it,” Connie told Megan. “I just let go like a guitar player.”
For her Magic Realism art quilt, Connie hand-sew 600 Swarovski crystals into her masterpiece. One at a time.
She hand dyed, hand painted and hand printed much of her cloth.
She began sewing when she was 2 years old, and never stopped till her passing.
Connie was publisher/editor of QSDS (Quilt Service Design Symposium), Ohio’s #1 quarterly online magazine about fabric art. Her fabric art web site has nearly a half-million hits. In 2010 she attended a fabric arts tour in Mexico City.
Pets weren’t always Connie’s modus operandi. After she bought a house in Highland Square with a security system that didn’t keep thieves from breaking into her garage and stealing her new bike, Connie, went to the local animal shelter and adopted Emily, a pooch that was 5 or 6 years old.
“I didn’t like dogs because I had been bitten in the past,” Connie told Megan Combs, “but I knew I had room in my heart for a creature.”
Indeed. But not just one.
She got a two-week maternity leave from BJ management to take Emily, who has since gone to Dog Heaven, to PetSmart training classes. That was Connie in a nutshell: She went in full-bore with her passions.
Ironically, Connie’s 350 square foot Quilting Arts Studio on the third floor of Summit ArtSpace also was targeted by vandals, who smashed the windows to her studio.
WJW-Channel 8 brought its camera to Connie’s studio to do segment on her work.
Paula and I often visited Connie at her 140 E. Market Street studio. She was the resident quilt-maker.
She moved there from her Red Light Galleries, 111 N. Main Street, next to Luigi’s. Red Light was the name chosen because the building once contained a bordello.
We also came across Connie at her tent at the Taste of Hudson that included artists in a variety of media. And at Hardesty Park’s Akron Arts Expo.
She was as immersed in her fabric art as she was in doing a yeoman, often thankless job, at the BJ, including tasks that others considered menial.
BJ reporter Paula Schleis wrote that “only a few people in the art community knew she was ill. Connie had an incredible gift for unique quilt-making. Her talent always left me breathless.”
BJ photographer Mike Cardew wrote: “I never knew what to expect when we worked together on assignment. I did know that I'd have fun and have a good story about the day. She was a kind-hearted person who was a gifted artist. The last time I saw her we talked and she was very happy about her art. She was a good soul.”
I heartily second that emotion, Mike. I worked with Connie in the BJ Features Department. She was a tireless worker and editor and pet columnist. And a damn good person.
The former Garfield High majorette’s husband is Bob Shields. They married in 2008 although they were together for nearly two decades. Connie told me: “Bob is an affable guy with a heart of gold, very supportive of my work. He calls himself my roadie.”
Previously, she was married to former BJ Sunday Editor Lary Bloom.
Connie was part of the 2008 BJ exodus that saw more than 400 years of experience walk out the door. Others included copy editors Charles Montague and Betsy Lammderding, reporter Tracy Wheeler, sportswriter Brian Windhorst, photographers Ken Love and Lew Stamp, librarian Diane Leeders, line-drawer/photographer Ted Schneider and artist Dennis Earlenbaugh.
After one of our reunions, Connie wrote:
“It was wonderful meeting you again, John. I have many fond memories of our working together.”
That goes manyfold for me, Connie. Say “Hey!” to Michelangelo and Picasso for me. You were near their ballpark when it came to fabric art.
RIP, Connie. Lily misses you already. So do I.To get a greater feel for the spirit that is Connie Bloom, go to her web site by clicking on http://www.conniebloom.com/blog/ Prepare to be dazzled for hours.
For even more samples of Connie’s fabric art masterpieces, click on http://conniebloom.com/portfolio/commissions/4/