Diddy Wa Diddy

"You can not explain me with "isms". They are very bad for the artist"
- Marc Chagall

Thus said, I struggled for days, trying to write a conventional, "right-handed" biography. I wrote one and set it aside for a few weeks. Dusted it off and re-read it. It said nothing about me. Laying out my life on paper, trying to alchemize art into language, was like trying to sell perfume on television. It stank. It stunk. It did stink. So now, a left-handed version:

Me and my babies in my studio

Me and April

Photo by Tess Durham

I work from instinct. I have come to believe that craftsmanship serves an idea. Art can bring thought into the physical realm. And so, while endeavoring not to take myself, "Art" or any of the above too seriously, my focus has been to transmute my inspirations into multi-dimensional forms.

I am a native Missourian and self-taught mixed media artist. For twenty plus years, I have beaded and hand-sewn figures and jewelry. My "art supplies" include European glass seed beads, discarded ephemera and bits of bric-a-brac from past generations. I combine holy emblems and relics with assorted trifles from day-to-day living, often adding written narrative as the new creation comes to life. In this way, the mundane becomes sacred as disparate and unlikely remnants evolve into hand-made figures.

In the 1980s, I began creating pieces for private commission, followed by juried art shows and fairs across America. Since then, museums, galleries, and boutiques that have carried my work include the American Folk Art Museum (New York City), Doodlets (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, Wisconsin). From 1992 through 1995, my husband, sculptor Rhett Johnson, and I maintained our own art gallery, Diddy Wa Diddy, in the historic river town of Weston, Missouri. In 1998 Rhett and I were honored with our first retrospective show, Partners in Art, at the Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Since 2000, I have devoted my time and energy to creating a series of Muñecos Santos (Holy Dolls). A group of these Muñecos was on special exhibit at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art (St. Joseph, Missouri) and the International Marian Research Institute Library in Dayton, Ohio. Three of these figures appear in the book, 500 Beaded Objects (Lark Books).

I live and work in rural northwest Missouri, near the small town of Dearborn, where Rhett and I share our farm with Gus the Dog. I teach beading and narrative adventures workshops at my studio on the farm as well as for corporate clients, including Hallmark Cards. In addition to creating new pieces, I restore beadwork and stitching on antique clothing and artifacts. When working with these precious pieces I continue to be amazed and inspired by the exquisite skill and imagination of the craftswomen who came before me.

Diddy Wa Diddy