How Connie Bloom got her groove back
words, video and photos by Megan Combs
Growing up in Akron as an only child, Connie Bloom always thought the hole she felt in her heart was because she didn’t have any siblings. Only later in life did she learn her missing connection was with animals: animals that ended up connecting her back to her art.
In her late 40s, Bloom bought a house in Highland Square that was equipped with a security system. When thieves still managed to break into her garage and steal her brand new bicycle, she felt violated. So she headed to the local animal shelter to adopt a dog.
“I found this beautiful mutt,” she said. “I didn’t like dogs because I had been bitten in the past, but I knew I had room in my heart for a creature.”
At the time, Emily, a pooch with pointy ears and a sweet face, was about 5 or 6 years old. She had a beautiful light brown coat peppered with white and darker brown spots. Because Bloom had never had a dog and didn’t know how to be a “dog mom,” she asked her boss at the Akron Beacon Journal for two weeks off. It was a different sort of maternity leave, but maternity leave nonetheless.
She learned how to take care of Emily and took her to training classes at her local PetSmart.
Along with being a writer, Bloom has also always been a seamstress, sewing mostly clothing. She didn’t start making modern day quilt tapestries until she brought Emily home.
“You’ve heard that expression ‘my dog ate my homework,’” Bloom asked. “Well, my dog made me do it. She made me want to create again.”
In her Summit Artspace third floor studio, Bloom sits at her precious sewing machine dubbed “Bella,” surrounded by her work. Her tapestries are all handmade with a non-computerized sewing machine. Every twist and turn in every stitch is created at her hands. Her fabric is specially dyed, not commercial. And every piece has a story.
“I have never made a bad quilt,” Bloom said. “I don’t like following other people’s patterns. I love to mix them up. Everything on my quilts is original. There are no little things from Pat Catan’s.”
As she loads thread onto Bella, a HQSixteen HandiQuilter sewing machine, she explains that there are no feet on the machine to pull her fabric through. And when she starts sewing, she explains that any pattern or stitch she makes just flows from her brain to her hands.
“I riff on it,” she smiles. “I just let it go like a guitar player. When a human makes shapes in fabric, it’s different than a computer. As an artist, I believe your hands should be in it.”
Bloom’s art inspirations come from nature and animals. She’s immortalized many beloved animals in her quilts, not only hers but other people’s pets as well. But before she does any sewing, she makes a personal visit to each pet and its family.
“I have to meet everyone, especially the creature,” Bloom said. “I ask the parents what the pet is like, and then I ask the pet its story. And the pet’s story is almost always different than what the parents say.”
For example, the owner of a black lab wanted Bloom to create a tapestry of her dog before it passed away. Before meeting the dog, Bloom was under the impression that this dog was going to pass soon. When Bloom met the woman and her dog at a dog park, she described the dog as having a coat that “shimmered,” and that it was acting like it just couldn’t wait to get out there and play with the other dogs.
“That dog was so far from death,” Bloom said. “I ended up stitching him to look like an African warrior with the warrior stripes. When I create animal tapestries, they’ll look like your animal, but in a way you’ve never seen.”
Bloom has her tapestries on display in her Summit Artspace studio, and she also offers prints of her work.
Megan wants Connie Bloom to be her fairy godmother.