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FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016




Strategies for survival


Artist Bren Ahearn stands in front of a large sampler he created that explores gender roles. His exhibit is on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum

Bellevue Arts Museum exhibit explores gender roles, homophobia and violence

Photo by Ryan Murray

by Ryan Murray


ren Ahearn doesn’t have time for your gender norms. You can see as much in his current exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum, where “Bren Ahearn: Strategies for Survival” will hang until January of 2017. Ahearn’s art is a series of “samplers,” or embroidered messages on large textile canvasses. Some are emotional, personal moments from his life. Others are slightly morbid and probe into what is accepted as “domesticity.” All are tongue-in-cheek or outright political messages fighting against what passes for femininity and masculinity in this country. “In about 2007 I went back to school and went to a sampler collection,” he said. “It was eyeopening to see this interpretation of how girls were educated compared to the violence, which is the SURVIVAL PAGE 12



Bereaved Bellevue mother creates custom jewelry to help heal others PG 10

Author, retired attorney writes book based on case; book proceeds benefit nonprofit PG 13


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Healing through art

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016

Grieving Bellevue mother who lost one of her twins helps others to heal by creating unique monogram jewelry using loved ones’ initials. A doctor drapes a blanket over the incubator and Isabella Arnold cries. When the doctor takes the blanket off, the two-pound newborn stops crying and looks around. “I want to be heard, I want to see everything that’s going on and I want to be alive and I want to be part of it,” her mother, Maja Arnold, describes of how Isabella reacted during her two-month stay at the hospital after Arnold gave birth to her twins. Nearby, Isabella’s twin, Lukas, sleeps content in another incubator. While Arnold keeps most details of her personal, tragic experience private, she discloses this memory as a testament of her daughter’s strong spirit — a strength that empowers and inspires Arnold to create meaningful jewelry as an up-andcoming monogram designer. “She is this spirit — this amazing, amazing spirit,” Arnold said of her daughter. “She was fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting until the end.”


Arnold dreamed of being in the fashion industry growing up in her Slovakia hometown. When she was 15, a modeling agent discovered her and she broke in to the fashion industry as a model. Arnold eventually met her husband in Seattle, moved to Bellevue and they started their family. “I had a very difficult pregnancy,” she recalled of carrying her twins, which led to a one-month hospitalization and bedrest during her entire pregnancy. She delivered her twins during her 32nd week of pregnancy. After her twins’ two-month hospitalization, she took them home, only to lose her daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) two weeks later. “She passed away and I’m so spiritually close to her, I said to God, ‘I want my girl back,’” Arnold said. “I remember those words. Obviously, I was devastated, but I knew I had to be strong because I have another twin to fight for and I just can’t give up.” Nearly two years later, she gave birth to her daughter, Ella. Arnold felt a need to have all three of her children with her. She searched for meaningful jewelry, but she couldn’t find anything that resonated with her missing

Contributed photos

twin. She holds up two sterling silver necklaces she wears around her neck that have what look like symbols. One of the necklaces, she explained, has an overlapping “E” “L” and “I” — Ella, Lukas and Isabella — that she sketched by hand before a Bellevue jeweler cast them in digitallyrendered wax molds. The other necklace highlights Arnold’s faith, with a cross in the center and the blended letters “GOD.” After she designed her first necklace with her children’s initials, she felt complete. “Now I have my three kids with me, I’m good,” said Arnold, who has a degree in typography. “It’s really weird. It’s just a necklace, but the truth is, it really does a lot when you wear it — you feel complete somehow.”

Now I think, ‘Is my second twin going to die?’ I had no idea what I was going against — again.


A year after Arnold gave birth to Ella, she felt a lump over her son’s kidney while she was changing his diaper. A doctor confirmed that he had stage-three kidney cancer. “My husband was crying on the phone, my mother-in-law was crying on the phone, we were all crying,” she recalled. “Now I think, ‘Is my second twin going to die?’ I had no idea what I was going against — again.” Doctors removed a baseball-sized tumor and her son endured chemotherapy and radiation over the next year.

Above, Bellevue mother Maja Arnold models a custom sterling silver necklace she designed to help heal others. Left, Arnold sketches a customer’s loved ones’ initials, which will be cast in sterling silver using a bold modern font. She blends up to six capital letters in each design. Below, a necklace she designed has a cross with three overlapping letters: GOD.

Now 8 years old, Lukas has been in remission for over four years. “When he started school, people started asking me about my necklace because nobody knew my story,” said Arnold, age 42. “I said, ‘well, this necklace represents my three children and everything I went through with my children because every child in my life is a miracle.” As she shared her story with others, many asked her if she could design them a custom piece of jewelry too. So began her company, Maja Arnold Design.

She creates one-of-a-kind monogram necklaces by sketching initials by hand, before they are cast in sterling silver using a bold modern font. She blends as many as six capital letters in each original design. Each of the pieces, which start around $350, comes in a one-inch size and take about three weeks to complete. In addition to initials, she also created her Life Collection that includes the words HEALING CONTINUED ON PG 12

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happy, hope, love or God on the jewelry. “I try to inspire other people, but the truth is that there are so many people I found who inspired me,” she said. She cries when she talks about how her work has helped her neighbors, people across the country and even Europe, who have shared their personal journeys with her. A professor at a New York university heard about Arnold’s jewelry through a story in a Seattle magazine. She emailed Arnold and said since she shared her story about the loss of her twin and her son’s battle with cancer, the professor wanted to share her story too. The professor explained that most people had no idea that her husband had abused her for the past 10 years. The woman, who had just divorced her husband, asked Arnold to design a necklace with her initials. “And finally she’s back to herself with her own initials — who she actually was originally — and her initials remind her every day who she is and who she was.” Another woman from Bellevue asked Arnold to design a necklace using her late husband’s initials. The woman’s daughter wore the necklace the day of her wedding so her father could be there with her, Arnold said. She’s also designed monogram jewelry for other bereaved parents and those who suffered similar tragic experiences that Arnold went through, including a mother whose daughter was at Children’s Hospital having open heart surgery. Arnold said hearing people’s stories is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to her, and she is blessed that her daughter, Isabella, inspired her to create healing through her art. “At the end of the day, we are all the same as people,” Arnold said. “We all are sensitive, we all have so many feelings and emotions and we all want to comfort ourselves and feel good about ourselves. Ultimately, I’m trying to do something good for other people where they are missing a piece of something, maybe to just remind them that it’s OK.” For more information, visit


Freedom treats

Red, white and blue goodies Only a few days until July 4th — a day to spend with friends and family. Here in the Northwest, it’s HOT! Much hotter than usual, which makes me turn to a cool treat for fireworks watching. Stripes and stars, red, white & blue, and so delicious, whether you’re 8 or 80! You can make this ahead, store in the freezer, then transport in a cooler, filled with ice packs, along with spoons, napkins, and of course — wait for it — a can of squirt cream! You can make it incredibly easy by using purchased vanilla ice cream, a raspberry or strawberry ice or sorbet, or you might want to make your own. Recipes are below. I used canning jars, because the lids make it so easy to take, serve, and share the fun!

Red, White and Blue Icy Treats

• quick buttermilk ice cream and one recipe each strawberry ice • fresh blueberries • one can of squirt whipped cream • small canning jars, with rings and lids Layer buttermilk ice cream to about 1/3 full in a small canning jar. Top with another third of strawberry ice or sorbet. Then add a layer of fresh blueberries, taking car not to overfill the jar. Top with lids and rings. Seal and store in freezer until ready to serve. To serve: Remove lid from each jar; top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Quick Buttermilk Ice Cream • 1 ½ cups sugar • 1 cup cream • juice of 1 lemon • 1 tablespoon corn syrup • pinch of salt • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract • 2 cups buttermilk In a small saucepan, bring sugar and cream to a boil; remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, corn syrup, salt,


way men are supposed to be.” Samplers were a way for girls and young women to receive some semblance of education starting in the 15th century in Germany, England and later the United States. They would learn how to sew, weave and embroider while also learning the alphabet and how to read and write. Is there a better medium to challenge toxic masculinity? In “Strategies,” Ahearn tackles gender roles, homophobia and violence in what has become a disturbingly relevant exhibit. Not even 48 hours before a terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando killed 50 and wounded scores more, Ahearn’s already mildly-uncomfortable exhibit premiered at the Bellevue Arts Museum, and has gained much in the wake of the tragedy. One piece, stitched in a bold font reminiscent of fraternity letters, gives the order of preferred options when dealing with a mass shooter situation. “1. Run 2. Hide 3. Fight.” Another is a copy of what to do during an active shooter situation printed on a handy flashcard by the University of California, Davis, “lovingly” recreated by Ahearn to point out the absurdity of how casually many Americans treat gun violence in the United States. “I’m sad that the pieces are so relevant,” Ahearn said after the attack in Florida.

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016

Ryan Murray/staff photo

San Francisco artist Bren Ahearn stands in front of his artwork that mourns his own death in the 1980s.

Stefano Catalani, director of art, craft and design at the Bellevue Arts Museum, said when he saw Ahearn’s work on display at San Francisco State University, he knew Bellevue would benefit from having the works. “In ‘Strategies for Survival,’ each work is like a personal, private page of his own diary,” Catalani said. “He is able to distill those defining moments down.” In “Sampler 2,” Ahearn stitches the sentence: “When

vanilla extract and buttermilk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chilled. Freeze in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. Makes about 4 cups.

Granita di Fragole (strawberry ice)

• 1/2 cup sugar • 1/2 cup boiling water • 4 cups strawberries (about 2 pounds) • juice of one lemon Dissolve sugar in water, chill. Wash, hull, and puree strawberries, strain to remove seeds. Add strawberries, lemon juice to cold simple syrup. Chill entire mixture. Freeze in ice cream freezer until like consistency of snow, or freeze as directed below.* Serve, garnished with lemon peel twists. In the unlikely event that you have any leftover, the ice can be tightly sealed and stored in freezer. *Alternate freezing technique: Pour into shallow pan; freeze about two hours or until nearly firm. Break ice up into chilled small mixer bowl. Beat at low speed of electric mixer till fluffy. Freeze until nearly firm, stirring once or twice. Makes about 4 cups ice.

About the author

Carol Dearth is the owner of Sizzleworks cooking school in Bellevue. A Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Dearth is a Certified Culinary Professional designated by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Dearth offers free recipes and tips at

daddy dresses me in my blue uniform, I become a man” with the date after his birth underneath. Many of these samplers take a specific moment in Ahearn’s life and add some cheek to it, such as in “Sampler 2,” where “daddy” and “uniform” can mean quite a bit more than at first glance. “You can see it says “aged 1 day,”” Ahearn said. “That’s a newborn baby being given gender roles by society.” His previous work as a receptionist, questioning of violence and contact sports and enjoyment of crafts, flowers and other things that society deemed “not manly” make the viewer look at their own preconceptions about what it is to be a man. While much of the message is playful, some moments address situations in his life where he wasn’t far away from death. Catalani describes the exhibit as “a crescendo from personal to political.” Many historic samplers were somewhat morbid out of necessity, as not dying in childbirth was considered a pretty good outcome, all things considered. These samplers show a fascination with death and a nasty, short and brutish life. Ahearn’s samplers deal with a more modern sense of mortality, including an HIV scare in the 1980s and a bit of vertigo nearly causing a fall after a late-night tryst. “Bren Ahearn: Strategies for Survival” will be on the second floor of the Bellevue Arts Museum until January 2017.

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016



Author’s book based The Don’t Miss List on heartbreaking case By Carrie Rodriguez

by Katie Metzger Staff Writer J. Stephen Funk wasn’t always an author, though his second career was inspired by his first. He spent 48 years as a trial attorney in King County. After retirement, he decided not to relax or travel, but to start a new hobby — telling stories and writing. Recently, he self-published a novel inspired by one of his cases. In the mid ‘70s, a prospective client visited Funk’s office and told him a heartbreaking story about his young wife’s death. She had given birth and was experiencing residual bleeding, and her doctor prescribed a drug that didn’t help. “The nurses charted her decline over a couple hours until it was down to nothing, down to the last drop of blood,” he said. Island Books will host a reading from 3-4 p.m. July 17 for Funk’s “The Last Drop of Blood,” a legal and medical mystery about the negligent doctor and the “conspiracy of silence” that protected him. Funk was able to research the case through hospital records, which he said were later altered. Due to the “conspiracy of silence” surrounding medical malpractice, the facts were difficult to prove, but in the end, Funk “provided an orphaned child just legal compensation for the loss of her young and innocent mother.” The case fascinated Funk, who, as a former medic in the Air Force Reserve, said he was “well equipped” to write about malpractice and do the necessary legal and medical research. He decided to use the case as a starting point for a fictional version of the story in which the doctor is not just lazy or careless, but a truly evil, “heartless and amoral” person who attempts to cover up the incident to maintain his respect and prominence in the com-


An evening with the Piano Guys (pictured above) is coming to Marymoor Park during the annual concert series. In addition, Weezer and Panic! At the Disco will perform the same weekend. Photo courtesy of J. Stephen Funk

J. Stephen Funk poses with his self-published book, “The Last Drop of Blood.” Book sale proceeds go to his daughter’s nonprofit organization.

munity. Other characters include a relentless attorney and a courageous young nurse. Funk participates in many writing groups around the Eastside, including a TELOS continuing education class for creative writing at Bellevue College, and a group that meets at the Mercer Island Library once a month. He resides in Bellevue with his wife of 52 years, and is close to his two children and four clever grandchildren, to whom he devotes as much of his time as he can when he’s not writing, he said. Family is at the center of Funk’s universe, and all of the profits from his book sales go to the nonprofit organization, The Pink Daisy Project, established by his daughter, Debbie Cantwell. When Cantwell’s children were only 4 and 5, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, the illness that claimed the life of her grandmother, Daisy. Funk helped his daughter form the charity to help young mothers by giving them gift cards (through donations) for groceries, gasoline, medications and meals. It has grown to help women nationwide, and in 2011, Cantwell was nominated

and became one of 10 finalists for CNN’s Heroes of the Year. Funk said that he enjoys writing, even if not all of his work gets published. He is currently working on a collection of short stories. The self-publishing process can be challenging and expensive, but it provides Funk with an opportunity to tell stories that he can read to his grandkids, he said. He first became interested in writing when making up stories about a character called “Willy the Worm” for them. His advice to other writers is to “assemble heroes from people you’ve known,” then “turn the characters loose and see what they do.” “People ask me if I write an outline first, and I suppose that would be a reasonable way of doing it,” Funk said. “I find it easier to start with a problem and figure out the characters that would be involved. [In “The Last Drop of Blood”] a girl has died in the hospital, and we want some justice.” For more, see and www. Funk said that his book is available digitally and at Island Books, University Bookstore in Bellevue and on

Visit for more information.

WHEN: 6 p.m. July 29 (Weezer and Panic!); 7:30 p.m. July 30 (Piano Guys) WHERE: Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond


Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater, in its Golden Anniversary season, presents Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Performed under a canopy of trees in its open-air amphitheater and surrounded by SFFT’s 95 undeveloped acres of woods, meadows and streams, this show will delight fans of all ages. Theatre-goers will also enjoy signature barbecue dinners cooked by professional chefs over a fire pit. For more information, call 425-736-7252

WHEN: Through Aug. 21, with shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays WHERE: Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater, 36800 SE David Powell Road, Fall City.





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theEastside Scene - July 2016  
theEastside Scene - July 2016