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The Power of Art to Save • by Cathy Bluteau

Cathy BluteauHe was just nearing 18 months young at the time. He and I had been on our own for close to a year. In that year I had been through divorce and was raising my baby on my own while working a full-time job. Although my baby was just 6 months old when I decided to leave, I knew I had made the right choice. I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew I could get through the day — I told myself I was just fine.

Going Through the Motions
As the days and months went on however a different reality revealed itself. While I was getting through each day, I was really just going through the motions. It took a check up with my good doctor who, during one visit, asked all the right questions. The answers this time unearthed a multitude of emotions from guilt, to loneliness, to depression. I was not fine — not at all. The fact that I could not even gather up the strength to go out and get milk somehow was lost on me as a sign of a problem. The too-long postpartum depression, coupled with divorce and subsequent feelings of loss led to a prescribed 12-week leave of absence from my full-time job.

The prescribed rest and relaxation however did not sit well with my type-A personality. I knew I needed the time off to acknowledge what had happened in the past 18 months in my life, time off to consider how I would handle raising a child alone, and time off to simply heal and recognize and understand my own state of mind. But I also knew that for me, the healing process had to be coupled with an activity, an activity where plans could form in the back of my mind, while the forefront of my mind was kept busy doing something else.

Healing Powers of Sewing
Why my trusty Husqvarna sewing machine came to mind, I still don’t know. I had used that machine in the past until the pedal wore thin, but I hadn’t touched it in years. My mother had purchased that machine for me long ago — maybe she knew the healing powers it would have even before I did.

This machine had an embroidery feature with different plates that you could put on the machine to create different patterns. Although I had used the straight stitch endlessly, I had always reserved using those embroidery plates until “I had more time.” Well now I had the time, and out came the templates and endless experimenting to see what I could do with this.

After about a week of mad, crazy, random stitching, I decided that something had to come of this, my type-A personality surfacing again. I cut up a large piece of bleached muslin fabric I had into 12" x 12" squares. I then started creating patterns in each square using combinations of the embroidery stitches. Some squares had floral patterns, some initials, and some embroidered circles. Some squares were stitched with complex scroll patterns and others with naive chain stitches. I stitched from the time I brought my son to the sitters till 4 p.m. in the afternoon when I went to pick him up. At the end of those days I was satisfied. When my son came home we played and enjoyed each other.

Sorting Things Out
As each new morning began, the crazy stitching resumed. I became so engrossed in this work that I went at it with a fervor that had matched nothing else in my life except time with my son. I was producing these embroidered squares at an alarming rate, yet each square was thoughtfully, carefully, and beautifully composed. Each square was a work of art.

What I could not see at the time was the power of this creativity. What I could not see was that while the forefront of my mind stayed busy designing and stitching, the back of my mind was busy sorting things out. It was as if the creativity was so strong that it quieted my conscious mind enough to allow my subconscious mind to ask and answer all the questions I had been faced with.

This for me is truly, truly the power of art. Art has the power to allow you to focus in a quiet place from where you can believe that anything is possible.

A Place of Peace
All those squares of fabric, over 70 of them by the way, were turned into a beautiful quilt that rested with me on my bed for many, many years. Today, 12 years later, my life is much more calm, safe, secure, and loving. We came out of everything just fine. But not lost on me is the role that art played in my life at that time.

I continue to create on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be only in times of crisis — in fact, I go there every day, on good days and on bad days. I go to “that place” where there is peace for me. It doesn’t take away all the craziness of everyday life, but it sure is nice to know I can go there whenever I want.

To learn more about Cathy Bluteau, visit

Cathy Bluteau

Cathy Bluteau

Cathy Bluteau

Cathy Bluteau


Cathy, what a heartfelt story with a wonderful message. Yes, creativity in any form is good for the soul and it certainly got you through a very difficult period in your life and you went on to do great things with that type A creative soul, lucky for us! Big hugs for you my friend.

thank you Margie - as always you are there with kind comments

Cathy, i've just read this and feel so proud to be putting you on my blog. I think you're so brave to say all that you have in this post.. I also had a hard time dealing with life a little while ago and returning to art has turned my life around again. so glad i found you on Etsy my friend x

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