The Teacher Learns from the Student – My friend Tom Russell

Tom Russell is one of those people who come into your life and hold a special place in your heart forever. I met Tom in junior high in my art class. He was so mannerly, funny and so very talented. We hit if off immediately.  He had a wonderful handwriting and loved to draw character animals in his unusual style. Whatever the assignment was, he did it creatively and with artistic maturity. He took different classes throughout the years, but in one class we made the first quilt of 65 quilt projects that spanned a 30 year period of time at Morrilton High School. Tom graduated and went off to school and ended up in Knoxville then Houston.

Through the years he has been a constant friend. Whenever he would travel back to his hometown he would always come by and we would catch up. When he started quilting he came to Arkansas to our retreats and workshops. It still amazes me he took a class from me years ago and now I learn from him. His work is incredible and meticulous. I can make a whole quilt top in the time he does the hand embroidery on one block. You can see the flaws in everything I do, but there is never a flaw in Tom’s perfect work.  Since he moved to Houston I get to see him at the big quilt show. It is always fun to watch him dissect a quilt and show me tiny things I would never see. Oh, and patience! He has the patience to shop with me. Tom is a not a big collector, He is quite the opposite. Where I seem to have the need to purchase and acquire, he doesn’t. I don’t think you would call him a minimalist, just doesn’t need things. He has taught me so much about life, art, creating, and being a friend. So, many of my friends are now his and I absolutely love some of his close quilting friends. I wish we all lived closer, so we could create together.

One of my most prized possessions is an autographed HGTV “Sparkling Vases” pattern. He wrote, “Jim, Thanks for showing me the way. Love, Tom.”  One of my favorite things to read is his blog. I love the way he describes things, and his photographs are fantastic! He just has an eye for the unusual shot filled with fantastic colors and textures! Go to his blog: It’s just like Christmas. It’s always great to have him in Arkansas, but today we are now only an email, cell phone, or blog away. Here’s to you my special friend! I am so glad you are in my life

About Jim Gatling

Artist: primitive watercolors, colored pencil. Quilter: Original designs, Scrap quilts. Craftsman: Woodburning, Recycling Teacher: Retired MHS, SHCS K-12 Part Time. Collector: Antiques, Quilts, Glass, Buttons, Petit Point, Needlepoint, Hankies, Figural Perfume Bottles. Son, Father, Grandfather, Neighbor, Friend.
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8 Responses to The Teacher Learns from the Student – My friend Tom Russell

  1. Patricia Eaton says:

    Jim, Being one of those ‘friends’ of you and Tom….I so appreciate this post you’ve written. You are BOTH special and I’m so glad to be friends with you. I have always found it interesting that you were Tom’s teacher and so enjoy that sometimes it’s the other way around now. See, this is ideal….we should all be learning from each other….and in the blogging world, I think we do. Lovely post, sir!! pat

  2. Jim Gatling says:

    Thank you, Patricia. Been thinking about making your chicken salad for lunch.

  3. Brenda Wall says:

    It is always wonderful to hear more about Tom and get to know his work better. You, Tom and Pat are such special people and the more I know you the better I like all of you.

  4. Jim Gatling says:

    Bren-Bren, We think you are special, too!!! Love you!!!! JIM

  5. Dot Collins says:

    Jim, thank you for a wonderful edition of your blog! Tom is so very special and it was fun to see the pictures of him as a teen and some of the wonderful drawings he did then – and the designs for the quilt! I always find that I learn from my students, even when I am teaching them! I am so grateful to count both of you as friends! I love your blogs! Thanks for taking time to write them. Dot

  6. Jim Gatling says:

    Dot, you are so kind! I wish I was closer so we could hang out and qult! Oh, email me your mailing address and I’ll mail you that bird fabric I promised………………
    Thanks for beng a friend!!! JIM

  7. Tom Russell says:

    Thanks for the sweet post. You’ve captured lots of happy moments for me. I’m glad you were there when so many good things were happening. Love you.

  8. kathycolvi says:

    I’m Oh soooooo late to this party but Jim I have to leave a note and hope you see it. You shared some things about Tom he’s never shown me and I got a chance, through your post, to see some of Tom’s history. The day I met Tom was life-changing for me – one of my life’s biggest blessings. Not only am I one of the fortunate ones who gets to hang with him and call him my friend, but he has enriched my life with friends like you who I would never been able to know. Thanks, too, for being my friend as well. You can’t begin to know how I’m looking forward to next February and then, even before that, I will get to see you and hang with you and Tom during Festival in Houston.

    Much love to you, teach!


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