Artful Alchemy

Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating

Edited by Anne Copeland

With the assistance of Barbara Williamson

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Click on cover image for larger version.

© 2017 by Anne Copeland

This book contains a collection of beautiful art, plus the personal stories of the 23 multi-talented contributors. The common thread through their lives is that each woman has overcome physical and other challenges to become a successful artist in the textile medium.

Many of these women have websites and sell their work through the Internet sites, while others sell in galleries, exhibits, or through their teaching. Some create to speak to political and other social issues, while others use their quilts to educate the public about their physical challenges. If you have dreamed of expressing your own creativity, this book will provide the inspiration you need.

Additional editing and proofreading by David and Leonore H. Dvorkin
Cover art by Laura Jean Freeman
Print layout and e-book production by David Dvorkin

The Story Behind the Book

With deep thanks to Barbara Williamson

What started as a very small nonprofit that assisted physically challenged artists with getting exposure for their work and teaching them professional development has culminated in this book and the stories of 23 physically challenged women artists and their creative work.

The nonprofit was called Fiberarts Connection of Southern California, and it existed from 2005 to 2015.

This whole idea started when I met a woman named Barbara Williamson. I had been thinking about starting a nonprofit, and had some ideas for what I hoped to achieve with it, but until I talked to Barbara, nothing was clear. Barbara had called me because she was a paraplegic who quilted, and she wanted to create a business with her quilting. Talking to the Small Business Administration volunteers, she was told that quilting was just a nice hobby and that she could never make a business of it. I was frustrated upon hearing that, because I am very much in support of ALL people who dream of starting their own business being able to have the right and the support to do it.

Over the many months that followed, Barbara and I talked more, and we quickly became good friends because of our common interests. Barbara was my hero, because despite the severity of her injuries, she was volunteering to help me with getting the nonprofit going and even volunteered her caregiver as the treasurer. So with the help they provided, we were able to get the little nonprofit going. I wrote our bylaws with great input from Barbara and made sure that everything could work from a distance. We finally received our certification as a valid nonprofit that would make no more than $10,000 a year. Throughout all the years Barbara and I worked together, we consulted each other on many issues, such as what exhibits we would hold next and any difficulties that came up. Without her help, this organization would never have existed.

When this book was started, we consulted each other on who, how many, and what types of physical challenges we would try to represent via some of the 100+ quilters we encountered. Although Barbara did not do direct editing of the book, she gave me the feedback to help with the number of the quilters, the types of physical challenges, and the quality of the work we wanted in the book. She checked with many organizations that work with the physically challenged to get information for us. She did hours of research into the specific quilters and the nature of their challenges, and we made changes along the way as we needed to. She gave me a lot of wisdom about some of the challenges that helped me to understand them better. We had to get new quilters several times after people we wanted to use passed on, or we lost them as we got closer to finishing the book because they had decided they did not want people to know much about their physical challenges, a common problem.

I wrote this piece to acknowledge Barbara for all of her many contributions to this book.

— Anne Copeland, Editor

Purchasing Information

Click Below to Read a Sample

Article about Barbara Williamson and Her Work

A nice write-up about Barbara and her work appeared on the website Sue Vincent's Daily Echo. To read the article, click here.

Magazine Article

Artful Alchemy was featured in the December 2017 issue of Craftposium Magazine, a free online magazine. Click here to read the article. Note: The magazine is free, but you have to create an account to read it.


The book is compelling and provides a well-orchestrated account of people who went on to live a semi-normal life after suffering a debilitating injury. In addition, the artwork is fabulous!

Rochessa Washington
Public Information Officer
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center

Anne Copeland

Anne Copeland was born in Fort Jay, New York, in 1941. She has lived with her significant other in Yucaipa, California since 2014. She holds two degrees, one in archeology and one in criminal justice. She is a professional writer of nonfiction articles, books, and poetry, as well as a mixed media and fiber artist. From 2005 to 2015, Anne and her business partner, Barbara Williamson, ran a small nonprofit, Fiberarts Connection of Southern California, to assist physically challenged fiber artists with professional development. Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating is the culmination of that nonprofit work. The book was compiled with the assistance of Barbara Williamson.

Contact Information

Phone: 909-509-9533
Member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates)

Barbara Williamson

In Her Own Words

My name is Barbara Williamson, and I'm a self-taught, physically-challenged fiber artist who makes landscape quilts. I was born in Tulare, California in 1949 and grew up in Fresno, California, where I went to high school and one year of college.

In 1995, I moved to Paradise, in northern California, where I started making landscape quilts after being inspired by a program on PBS about Natalie Sewell.

I'm a member of the Studio Arts Quilt Association (SAQA) and was Secretary of the Board for the non-profit Fiber Arts Connection of Southern California. I won a Best of Show award at Bryn Mawr Rehab Center and was the featured artist at a large show in Galway, Ireland in 2013, called "Spirit Rising." Some of my pieces have been shown in 500 Art Quilts, by Lark Books; in Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine; in Quiltposium Magazine; and on the Dharma Trading Company website.

In addition, I’m a mom and grandmother, and a domestic violence and cancer survivor.

Contact Information

Phone: 530-876-9731
Member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates)

Workshop Taught by Barbara Williamson

In October and November 2017, Barbara taught a four-week workshop on creating miniature quilted landscapes at the Paradise Art Center in Paradise, California. Details are on the flyer at this link: