Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meet the artist - Leslie Sowden

 Today's featured artist is a frequent participant in MMSA swaps.  I love her art and have been following her blog, but didn't know much about her personally.  It's a great story, Leslie.  Thanks for introducing yourself to us. (and I have total art-room envy after seeing your pictures!)


Hi all – I’m Leslie. I live in a small town about an hour east of San Francisco with Maggie the rescued dog, Mabel the rescued parking lot cat, Winston the talkative but mean parrot, and Steve the husband (neither rescued, mean, nor overly talkative). I have a large vegetable garden and a few fruit trees. I read a lot and love to bake.
During my life I have worked as (in no particular order): a long-haul truck driver, a dental lab technician, a horse trainer (have ridden all my life until a bad hip put me on the ground several years ago), a short order cook, GM of an international import/export firm, a pharmacy clerk, and currently as Admin – Fixed Operations of the 5 motorcycles stores my husband owns with 2 other guys. Never a dull moment. And yes, I know how to ride a motorcycle, just chose not to at this point in my life. But in my impetuous youth, I sold my car to buy a bike and drove only that for about a year, hauling around my laundry, groceries, bowling ball, etc, on the back seat.
I got my start in all things creative in 7th grade Home Ec class when we sat down at sewing machines and turned out dorky aprons. Then we made an A-line skirt (this was mid 1960s) and I was hooked on sewing. Made all my own clothes for years and began to quilt to use up all that leftover fabric. Learned to macramé in the 70s, then didn’t do much of anything for a decade as I ran wild in the streets pretending to be a hippie. I never sold my sewing machine, tho, and in the 80s I got seriously back into quilting, eventually joined a guild, served as President (4 yrs), Vice Pres (2 yrs), Quilt Show Chairperson (3 shows worth) and an active member until I moved from the area in 2007. During all this time I also dabbled in beading, jewelry making, pottery, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, spinning, and weaving – with varying degrees of success and duration.
About 15 years ago I discovered crazy quilting and jumped in with both feet. I loved it because it incorporated all those previous crafts I’d tried out, plus a few more, and I could make use of all the stuff I’d accumulated – beads, buttons, fabric, threads, ribbons, sequins, etc, etc. I took classes with two of the biggies in CQ – Judith Baker Montano and Betty Pillsbury. Taught myself to do silk ribbon embroidery and then taught it at Michaels for a few years.
But eventually the arthritis in my hands became too painful to do the tiny stitches that every crazy quilter worth their salt strives for, so I didn’t do much of anything for a few years. We’d moved from San Diego where we’d lived for 25 years to where we are now and I was unhappy and missing my friends something fierce. I work full time and found it very difficult to find friends of any sort, never mind artsy ones.
About four years ago I came across a collage online and the irregular piecing reminded me of crazy quilting but required only paper and glue. I tried it out and the rest is history. I now have the entire front room (living room) of our house as my studio. It’s 16’x23’ and I use every inch. All my art junk is in there, plus my computer and a large flat screen TV, so I pretty much never leave it except to eat and pee. 

I do a lot of mail art, art journaling, collage, mixed media, etc, and also a fair amount of digital stuff, working in Adobe Elements 11. The digital thing is just fascinating because the effects you can achieve are limited only by your imagination, and unlike paper and glue, they aren’t permanent. I’m currently on a mission to use up all my old family photos – the actual photos – because I have scads of them and no one to leave them to. So if you get mail art from me, it’s liable to feature a pic of me at five, or my mom at 12, or the family dog from 1960.
My mom died at 62 from breast then bone cancer, and her mother died at 36 from breast cancer.  They’re often the subject of my journal pages because there are questions I have that can never be answered. What was in that salad dressing you used to shake up in an old jar and that I can’t replicate for the life of me? Who is that woman in the old photo with Aunt Helen on the cottage steps?
I post the vast majority of what I make on my blog, plus I post freebie vintage images fairly regularly. Come visit me at
I love MMSA and have really enjoyed receiving the wide variety of art that the swaps produce. I’m always ready for a private swap, so email me at maugreall at
Thanks for having me, Karen!


  1. Great bio, love all your jobs, wow, you have some skills there....I was touched by your use of the photos and your words about your Mom and Grandmother. I lost my Mom at 57 of breast and bone cancer too and feel the same way, no one to ask those questions off. Fab studio space you have created for your self....xox

  2. Having been the lucky recipient of a few of your postcards, I'm here to say they are truly lovely and I look forward to each and every one. I actually see many similarities of interests here between us - it's so nice to learn a little more about you. I'm a reader too - let's exchange fave book reading lists...... :)

  3. I subscribe to your blog, but felt like I learned more about you from this bio. I love how you have taken over your art space and are using your "stuff". I'm out here in the Central Valley doing the same thing, sans hubby and parrot. I'm going to email you as I'd love to exchange some mail art. Janene

  4. Hi there, Leslie! I too have enjoyed your work,and am quite pleased to see you've taken over the living room as I seem to be headed in the same direction! I will wait till the kids are out of the nest before total takeover..! Thanks for sharing.

  5. G'day Leslie...lovely to meet you via Karen. I'll be checking out your blog. You sound like you enjoy your artistic life fully.

  6. Just a great post. Thank you. I think we could start a book reading exchange - maybe a postcard swap where we each make a postcard listing our Top 3 favorite books....

  7. What a fascinating life you have had, Leslie. I, too, lost my mother early, to colon cancer when she was 58. and have no elders anymore to ask questions of. Now, I'm the elder, I guess, although I never think of myself that way. Your studio looks like so much fun. I talked my husband into switching our master bedroom to the guest room and now I have the Master Bedroom for my studio....we have to get our priorities straight, don't we? Thank goodness for understanding husbands. So nice to put a face to the name. I look forward to sharing mail art with you in the future.

  8. Nice to meet you, Leslie. We must be the same age - I well remember the aprons and the dorky skirt. What an interesting life you have had. It's nice to be in your company.
    Karen, thank you once again for bringing all of us together through MMSA.

  9. What a treat to meet you, Leslie! I just received a fun card with fabulous lettering from you, which made my day. A card is going out to you soon. I like your writing style and how I just "hear" you. Thank you, Karen, for connecting all of us!

  10. I love this! Thanks for sharing, Leslie!
    This is an interesting path to and from artyness, but always keeping the creativity flowing. I smiled about the macrame and the sewing, and how I was making my skirts and macrameing things for people. The other day I watched the latest Dark Shadows film and one of the funniest parts was when Johnny Depp discovered Michelle Pfeiffer's macrame room (set in 1972).

  11. Hi Leslie,

    Great story and interesting artistic life. Your play space is the best! I am going to visit your blog and sign up.

  12. Never leave except to eat and pee...I hope to achieve that someday. =)

  13. Hi Leslie - So great to "meet" you and hear your awesome story. Ooh, your art space looks like fun :D I look forward to sharing more wonderful MailArt with you.

  14. Hello, Leslie, I love your bio. Love your art studio.....I am working on mine as we speak. I would love to exchange some type of art with you soon. I am new to "MMSA". Love reading all the sweets comments different artist have made here. Your story about your mother touched my heart. I lost my mother in 2009 my life has not been the same. I still miss her everyday!!! Thanks for sharing your story! Pam