Wednesday, May 04, 2016

when I was young

I knew I loved to work with needle and thread from a very early age.  I loved it.  My first memories of stitching include embroidery on commercially stamped pillow cases, making my own clothes, and making Barbie clothes that I sold.  I would do those things forever.  I wanted to.  I felt right when I was stitching.
I made my family stitched gifts, a pillow for my older brother, a night dress for my mother.  When I gave my little sister a knitted skirt for Christmas one year, she cried so I bought her something else instead.  I made my husband’s wedding suit and he wore it.
When I was young I also realized that I had a talent to draw and paint and so I entered poster contests in elementary school.  I remember painting a bear for one of those.  I was asked to design the cover for the regional music festival and drew a portrait of Beethoven.  In high school I was allowed to use the art room at lunch hour and was provided with oil paint and canvas boards.  The teachers bought my paintings.  I wanted to go to art school after high school, but went to Teacher’s college instead.  I was 19, and that was the last year that you could enter teacher's college without a university degree. Also, it was free.  I met Ned during that year, taught school two years, and then married him.
I've used my paintings (our four children gave me such a beautiful and meaningful subject) to explain to others how I came to think of my quilting as art.  Painting made me realize that I could communicate what it was like to be me.
" I am here.  I was here.  I made this.  I am alive."
When I was mothering those children my art was about that experience.  I loved being a mother.  I loved watching my children and learning from them how to have fun and I painted that experience.
But my self.  My true self is with a needle and thread in my hand.  

I make paintings (art) with my sewing.  I have not stopped.

"I am here. I live here. I have relationships. I observe and dream and think."

Images are of some preparations for the Perivale gallery season which begins May 22.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

fold lines and silk patchwork

women's vintage handkerchiefs, some cotton, some linen,  unfolded
My dear friend Connie gives me things when I visit her.
Over the winter she gave me a box of handkerchiefs.  Then she gave me another.
I pinned the hankies up to see if they would cover my design wall,
Yes, I think they will.

Then I noticed the beautiful folds.
The hills and valleys, the lines and creases.
Then I thought about how those lines came to be.
Washing, bleaching, ironing, folding carefully, ironing again and again.
Making small packets of empty heat and time.  Holding it secret.
No stitching other than the occasional monogram, which I believe was done in a factory.

I just wanted to make a note of this.  Of me noticing.
Martha Agry Vaughn Quilt 1805  Maine  silk patchwork
I have also been looking at this beauty.
It's giving me a path.
It is in the collection of the Winterthur Museum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

moon cloth

I worked from the back of the cloth, cutting strips off the bottom and couching them in angles and circles.
The fabric became so energized with hand work and marks I could hardly hold it.
I was inspired by the rotation of the moon, female figurines from pre-history and the immensity of our raw and vulnerable inner selves.
  new work

Thursday, April 21, 2016

time passes over the earth

time passes over the earth detail 2015 Judith e Martin  plant dyed velvet, hand pieced, hand quilted
I seem to be taking on many diverse projects again.  I am teaching in Australia next April and tell myself that everything I am doing prepares me for those workshops.  Yet I feel scattered.
One of my best friends turned 80 this year.  Life seems shorter all of a sudden.
I've been working.
I've been walking.
On my walk I discovered that my daily path is like the watery spring ditch.  A reflective line.
I discovered anew that willows grow in that ditch
and that the golden winter grass is trampled down around that ditch.
I noticed the beautiful textures surrounding me
and realized that the colour of April in my corner of the world is gray.
I love gray.
Nature IS the medium and we can learn so much from the cycles and rhythms of growth and decay.
"Part of the terror is to take back our own listening."  
To use our own voice.  
To see our own light." 
Hildegarde von Bingen

Saturday, April 16, 2016

interior and exterior

Oracle 1992 by Steven Heinemann  Pressed earthenware, once fired
This post is about two sculptures that I saw this past week while in Toronto.  They are in the Gardiner Museum, third floor.  The above piece resembles a bundled figure, and it immediately caused me to recognize my self.  The artist is Steven Heinemann.

It appears to be a heavy, massive closed container, but the interior empty space is very important.
 "I'm intrigued with the way spaces can appear to be concentrated.  God knows that its the same space everywhere - inside or outside - but there's something about the dynamic of containment that seems to charge one's attention."  S. Heinemann
Under the Rocks and Stars #2 1988-1990 by Steven Heinemann, pressed earthen ware, sand blasted, multiple firings
There were two sculptures, side by side.  Both of their inner spaces opened with an archetypal shape.  This designed opening creates a tension and union between the natural clay and mankind's historical culture.  Interior and exterior.  Decorative and austere.

About the interior space, Heinemann says:  "I'm only partially conscious of it.  It's the one commonality in all my work.  It haunts the work."
tree hugs 2011 by Judy Martin  variety of dimensions, balsam branches wrapped with dyed cloth
Raphael Yu speaks about Steve Heinemann's work  in this video.

I've blogged about my own bundle explorations here, here, here , here, here, and here if you are interested.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


with your dominant hand
 ask yourself a question
with your non dominant hand
write yourself the answer

Text: spoken by fellow participant Anne Barkley during our workshop with Janice Mason Steeves over the weekend
Images: some of the studies I did with cold wax and oil paint

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

inner horizon

Again and again I pull this piece into my lap.
She's un-finished.

When I get close to finishing her, something makes me re-think and un-do and today I mended her again.  Those slices I made last August opened her into a female figure
but she's no princess.
She's been through a lot.
She's been generous with her time.
Listening and holding me thorugh a winter of doubt,
a spring of uncertainty and travel,
and a summer of family.
I like to say that I approach my work as if I have all the time in the world, but the truth is, I don't.
This moon is waning.
I worked the stitches from the back, the distortions and un-planned marks guided me.

This is me.
This old moon.
My surface smoothed out and easy, hiding that inner turmoil on the inside.
Not very well.

This old emotional moon.
Patched and stitched with circles.
Why do I keep coming back to blue circles?

It's not just me - we all do.
We all go back to where we started eventually.
That is who we really are.

When I draw a circle quickly on paper, I start it at 12 noon and go counter clockwise.  I go against time when I rush like that.  But when I stitch circles, I can go either way.  Stitching is a slower way of marking a circle and it encourages stepping not running.  Breathing in a considered manner.
In order.  Kind of.
She is just as interesting on either side.
When I worked on paper, I never worried about what the back of my painting looked like.
It didn't seem important.
But when I stitch into cloth, there are two affected sides.
I noticed this first when I made the quilts and the backs became as important and beautiful as the fronts.
There are two sides of everything.
All things contain their opposites.

Works in cloth are full of metaphors.
I love that.
The deer made their small heart marks in the snow just before I went out for my walk.
They didn't think about it.
I love that too.

Monday, April 04, 2016

in Marian Bijlenga's studio

Last May, I had the privilege of visiting dutch artist Marian Bijlenga in her studio in Amsterdam.
I was there with other members of the European Textile Network who attended the Leiden conference in 2015.
Marian Bijlenga creates serene, contemplative drawings from small elements.  The little parts that make up the larger whole are similar but never identical.  The artist takes her inspiration from nature, the curves and movement of leaves on the trees, the swirling motion of water, the fungus that grows on rocks and trees.
Marian was very generous and showed us her methods of working, her walls of inspiration, her collection of art, and the loft where her children would sleep when they were little.
a wall in Bijlenga's studio

a wall in Bijlenga's studio
She has had this studio for 30 years.  There are two buildings close together with 120 artists working in them.  Above you can see a glimpse of her wall of postcards  that she calls her 'brain'.

Her materials are dyed horsehair, cotton thread.  She can manipulate the horsehair into circles and other shapes.
These she sews into a water soluble fabric which is then washed away.  Her technique gives the pieces a look of fragile transparency, but they are actually quite strong.  The cast shadow on the wall is part of the work.  A video of this process is here.

Every two years, Bijlenga creates small spiral bound albums that record her recent work as well as the exhibitions and her sources of inspiration.  These are personal records.
 She makes small samples of 3 inch squares and puts them together as an archive.  
Her newest book of sixty miniatures has just been published.
Marian Bijlenga doesn't do commissions.  She works alone and rarely teaches.
Although her work keeps evolving, it remains true to her personal aesthetic.
I plan to write more about her work and will indicate that article with a link here.