Paradise lost: fabric artist, Barbara Williamson loses her home

A few months ago, I featured the work of American fabric artist, Barbara Williamson, whose use of joy and colour in her art quilts delighted me and whose inspiring story is one of incredible determination.

At the time, Barbara wrote:

“I’m a paraplegic and paralyzed from mid-chest down because I was shot in the chest in 1969 with a 45. I was pregnant at the time of the shooting and it left me in a coma for a month. My mother came to pray for me everyday and I believe that is why I survived. Thankfully the spirits were looking out for me and my child lived.

When I came home to my mother’s house after being released from the hospital, I had my child on my mother’s front porch with the help of a friend and my mom. My baby was a preemy, 3lb 18oz.

I had amnesia when I finally woke up. Court was held in the hospital two days after I had woken and the man who shot me got 6 weeks in jail for stealing the gun he shot me with because I had lost my memory and could not remember him. He was later killed in prison for another crime.

I had to decide whether to live or die and I chose to live. I had my little one to think of. I had to spend years in rehab learning to take care of my self and go to school to help regain my memory and my mom took care of my son while I recovered.

I fought my way back and have now become a professional artist, a member of SAQA, a member of my local art center and I sell my things in a local shop here in my town of Paradise . The shop helps the physically challenged in our community.  I make bags, dolls, fabric bowls, fabric cuff bracelets and 3D landscape quilts using scrap fabric, and beaded bracelets, necklaces, and brooches. I was voted artist of the month last month in my local art center and I’m a grandmother of four wonderful grandchildren. My son is a wonderful father and I’m so proud of him.”

Barbara is an active member of the community, donating her time and her work to support many charities and community projects and sharing her expertise with young people.

This morning, I had an email from Barbara. ” I was looking through my emails reading some from better times and saw yours. I haven’t kept in touch. So sorry. I was very ill and had surgery and my sister passed away. On Nov 8 tragedy struck my town of Paradise and our town was wiped away by fire. My friend saved me but our home and my business burned to the ground. I lost all my quilts except for three that were in an exhibition. I’m hurt but determined to survive and make my quilts again.”

Barbara had lived and worked in Paradise, California, in the path of Camp Fire, the deadly wildfire that has devastated the area and cost so many their lives and homes. A family member writes that she,”is an amazing woman” who has already faced more than most of us can imagine “with perseverance and self-reliance.”

Barbara’s home was destroyed, along with “all her quilts and art, her orthopedic aides, tools, supplies, and sewing machines”. Just a month after “a serious, long, medical battle and three months after losing her sister to cancer. Her wonderful caretaker Rob, a retired carpenter, is helping her relocate.”

Barbara’s story is just one amongst thousands, but few can have faced quite so much with such strength and determination and not everyone can create paradise from the ashes of tragedy.

This is one story amongst many, but it is one you can help to change and bring to a happier ending. A crowdfunding campaign has been set up to raise funds to rent a new home for Barbara and to replace the mobility equipment and crafting supplies lost to the flames. Please help Barbara rebuild her life in any way you can. Even the smallest donation will make a difference….and if you cannot afford to donate, please help spread the word by pressing the share buttons.

Read more about the campaign, share and donate if you can, at the Go Fund Me website: Lifeline from Camp Fire.

To see more of Barbara’s work, please visit her website at Threadscape Studio.

All images copyright Barbara Williamson except the last one, which is taken from the gofundme campaign that has been created to help raise funds to help Barbara find a new home and replace the medical and art supplies lost to the flames.


About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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86 Responses to Paradise lost: fabric artist, Barbara Williamson loses her home

  1. Ritu says:

    This is so sad…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shared on Twitter.


  3. Is there no government help for people like Barbara? If that happened here it would be considered a natural catastrophe and her home would be rebuilt for her.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jenanita01 says:

    We are happy to help Barbara, but wish it could be so much more…


  5. Darlene says:

    How terrible. I am always astonished that so many bad things can happen to one person. She is an amazing person and I wish her well. Thanks for sharing her story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tidalscribe says:

    I certainly remember your original post, I loved the look of Barbara’s creations, but I hadn’t recalled she actually lived in Paradise. It must be a miracle she was rescued at all, the fire had no mercy for the less able bodied.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tidalscribe says:

    Reblogged this on Times and Tides of a Beachwriter and commented:
    I remembered reading Barbara’s amazing story on Sue’s blog a while back, but until today did not realise she was one of the survivor’s of the terrible Paradise fire. Read her story here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ksbeth says:

    i am so sorry to read this. this has been such a terrible loss for so many


  9. Jordan says:

    My heart hurts for her and her loss. 🙏


  10. rivrvlogr says:

    Thank you for posting this, Sue.


  11. Barbara’s life, although filled with its share of tragedies that are incomprehensible to many of us, is also filled with inspiration. What an enduring strength she has. ❤


  12. What a tragic set of circumstances. I know she has the fortitude to survive. She is an inspiration. 💕💕💕


  13. Dale says:

    Some people have more than their share of hardships. I hope this really helps her!


  14. Goodness, that poor lady! Her resilience is an inspiration. I’m so glad she and her friend escaped that tragic fire {{hugs}}


  15. Prayers for Barbara and for all those suffering around the world in so many ways… Thanks for sharing Barbara’s story–she is surely an amazing and talented lady. Sharing… ❤


  16. Wow, what a story this brave lady has. So pleased she survived the fire but sorry for her, like many others losing her home. Tragic


  17. dgkaye says:

    Absolutely heartbreaking! Barbara sounds like a beautiful soul and that’s why God kept her here with us. Nobody should everrrrrr have to endure what she has. I’m sharing around. ❤


  18. Widdershins says:

    Done, and done … I hope it all comes together for her again.


  19. Woebegone but Hopeful says:

    Reblogged this on heroicallybadwriter.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Woebegone but Hopeful says:

    Tragedy. Thanks for sharing Sue. Reblogged.


  21. joylennick says:

    My heart goes out to the lady. No-one should suffer like she has.What a brave soul, bless her. xx


  22. Jennie says:

    This is incredibly sad! My son buys his quality woodworking tools from a guy in Paradise, and like Barbara, the guy has lost everything – except his life. Every life matters.


  23. Norah says:

    So tragic. Barbara has had more than her fair share of tests to her endurance. I hope she gets all the support she needs to reestablish her life.


  24. Hi, I have known Barbara for going on 20 years now, and she did not mention that she was born blind in one eye, lived through being stabbed in domestic violence, has had cancer, and had an artery in her stomach burst in 2015 when she nearly bled out.

    Barbara and her caregiver were living in a rented home at the time of the fire, which is why she has had to start all over again. Because she lives on disability plus whatever she can earn from her art, she always had to struggle just to have enough to pay the rent and utilities and buy food. And Medicare kept cutting back on her supplies to tend her physical needs; she has had to wait years to get a new wheelchair when the old one broke down, and was forced to buy her own gauze to wrap the pressure sores she tends daily. She has also had to wash and reuse catheters, resulting in constant infections. Barbara and I together ran a nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists for years, and we learned a lot in that 10+ years about how difficult it is for those with physical challenges (at least here in California) to get their needs met. She could not see a dentist when she had severe dental issues because the dentist would not work on her unless she could get into his dental chair.

    Anyone dealing with people with physical/developmental/emotional issues must know how difficult it is for those living this way, so to continue to find ways to create beauty when having to create tools and methods to be able to create beauty while never having quite enough to take care of physical issues is truly admirable. Barbara and I worked together to create a book about some of the women we have found to be admirable who are physically challenged fiber artists. The book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating, is an inspirational look at those who struggle to live, but continue to create and to evolve their art when their physical challenges increase. It is available through in E-book and paperback.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. What an amazing story of strength and resilience, and overcoming tragedies. My heart goes out to this amazing artist. I can’t imagine the sorrow of losing her home and her quilts. Thanks for sharing, Sue. Barbara is inspiring and you’ve inspired me to help. ❤


  26. joylennick says:

    Hi Sue, Thanks for reading my modest post….What a heart-breaking story! Barbara’s harrowing experiences almost defy belief. It’s incredible how brave some people are. She deserves the smoothest path in the future. What a humbling person she is! Hugs xx


  27. customprintedfabric says:

    It’s not a Tragic story of Barbara it’s portrayed the strength and overcoming tragedies. and I fell in love with this such a great artist ❤ and her beautiful art work 🙂


  28. Pingback: Story Stitching; #Fandango’sFlashbackFriday | ShiftnShake

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