Friday, February 27, 2015

a thousand ant holes

circle motif, white cotton thread, eyelet stitch, on indigo dyed cotton cloth
Part of the embroidery that covers the chest, torso, and upper back of a man's robe from Nigeria.
detail of eyelet stitch, nick named 'a thousand ant holes'
The cloth for the robes was woven by men, embroidered by men and worn by men for special occasions like weddings and funerals.  They were also made for kings, chiefs, and important men. The first ones were made in the 15th century by the Hausa, Nupe and Yoruba cultures.  Saved as family heirlooms, the robes continued to be made through the early 20th century.
African Tunic, cotton, stitch, indigo dye,  Collection of the Art Institute of Toronto textile department, donated by Anne Wilson
Several men did the embroidery, following the lead artist's design, over a period of months.  The design used here is a variation of eight knives, a protection motif.
I first saw these kinds of garments in the Textile Museum of Canada,  It is the time involved in creating garments like this that hits me in the heart.  Here, time is an aesthetic.

I was inspired to use the eyelet stitch in the meditation panel, Layers of Time.  It took several of us 6 months to cover the upper half of a large circle with the stitch.
Once the robe was completed, the embroidered area was beaten with a wooden mallet over a smooth log so that the cloth took on a glossy, ironed appearance and the threads of the work were compacted.

Information is from Australia's powerhouse museum.
Images are from my recent visit to the textile collection of the school of the art institute of chicago.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


When I was lead artist of the Manitoulin circle Project, I worked alongside a group of women who had a wide variety of sewing skills.  We made four large panels together with hand stitch.

There were enough techniques that people could find out which ones they enjoyed the most.  Several of the women just did hand quilting in the frame and that's all.  Others never went near  the quilt frame and preferred to work on small hand held pieces to make the quilt tops.
It all worked out and although I was continually creating (figuring things out), and continually teaching, the panels were the big reward and definite goal.  All of us worked towards an end product to the best of our abilities.
We enjoyed the process of learning and making.  If that was teaching, then the manitoulin circle 'class' went on for four years.
Translating that lengthy and relaxed experience into a three to five day workshop is not as straightforward as I thought it would be.  To work the bugs out I've been practicing in my local community.  Last fall, three artistic volunteers came to my home studio and we went through the workshop I'm presenting this fall in Newfoundland.
From these young women,  I learned that they wanted to learn and practice the embroidery stitches and construction methods in the meditation panels, and that takes time.
From my sweet guinea pigs I learned that the design process is so thrilling, it can very easily take all the time.
Time is the biggest challenge for me in presenting a workshop.

I keep forgetting that time is limited, because I approach my own work as if I have all the time in the world.
I tell my students to do the same.

All images in this post are from the fall trial workshop.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Nuno designers Reiko Sudo and Alfred Bimbaum were inspired by the amate paper made from tree bark by the Otomi peoples of central Mexico.  
They named the velvet and paper cloth they created in 2000 Amate.   
a grid of washi paper 
Textile samples like these were an important part of the exhibition Reiko Sudo + Nuno: textiles from Japan held last fall at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte Ontario.  The samples covered a wall where participants were invited to PLEASE TOUCH.
Amate was my favourite of the variety of  NUNO cloths that dressed the 22 columns in the gallery.
It has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Historically, the Japanese word, nuno, meant cloth that was not made from silk, but over time, the word has evolved to define the unusual cloths that Reiko Sudo and her collaborators have created from natural and synthetic fibres over the last thirty years.
The wabi sabi beauty of the Norah Rosamond Hughes gallery itself, lovingly restored in the historic woolen textile factory, reminds us that everything changes and that there is beauty in age.

I've written more about this international exhibition on modernist aesthetic, here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

the body is emotional

 gathering myself   detail   hand embroidery on vintage bed linen (pillow case) 2009
 This week I've been revisiting this embroidery from 2009.    (complete view here)
It expresses the feelings I receive when I am wrapped in my favourite garments and also when I perform the action of wrapping.  I love to wrap bundles of branches.  (here ,  here)
I have three vintage monogrammed pillow cases.  I washed a second one, traced and transferred an outline.

I started this wrapping and bundling when my mother died seven years ago.  I continue to find that the process of wrapping is healing.  Gently manipulating cloth into tidy bundles gives me a sense of inner happiness.
encircling, embracing, warmth,
feeling my way,
imperfectly perfect,
emotional therapy,
self nourishment
I get an in-explainable feeling of safety from the repetitive action of wrapping.
The human body is a subject of great importance.
It is ourselves. 
I should hardly dwell on it.
It is so obvious.

Kenneth Clark

Friday, February 13, 2015

looking at the sky

 Looking at the Sky  silk, indigo dye, stitch resist 2010  Judith e Martin
I was going to write about teaching today, but not yet.  Maybe tomorrow.
Today, I just want to think about repetition of mark
about memory and day dream
about birds murmuring
about stars up so high
about connecting outer with inner through these things
and through touch

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Normal School Sewing Book

Today, a post about the Hamilton Normal School Sewing Book, loaned to me years ago by my friend Nicole Weppler, curator of the Gore Bay Museum here on Manitoulin Island.  Above, the sample for beautifully executed patchwork mending.

Patching:   a patch is a piece of material inserted for the purpose of strengthening worn or thin places 
The student's name was Helen J Scott, she was in the grade A class, room 4.  It was 1910. 
Normal school is not where you go to become normal.  Normal School is a term for what we now call teacher's college.  My mother went to Normal School in the 40's.
Sewing is the process of drawing thread through material by means of the needle. 
Cloth is the material made of animal and vegetable fibres
straight stitch
1.       stitches and spaces are of equal length
2.      Looks the same on both sides
3.      Stitches and spaces follow each other straight along the sewing line
4.      The stitch is as small as the cloth will permit 
slanting stitch
1.       Looks the same on both sides
2.      Stitches and spaces are of equal length
3.      Stitches and spaces are at right angles
4.      Stitches are always parallel and so are the spaces
Use – to prevent raw edges from ravelling
slanting stitch
       1.  looks the same on both sides. 
       2.   Stitches and spaces  form right angles.
       3.  Looks like overcasting, but the thread is carried through the body of the cloth and over the edge.
Use  to fasten an edge smoothly to the body of the cloth.  A) hems  b) facings 

Definition- a button hole is  a slit in the material with the edges protected and strengthened by thread and used to slip over a button to hold two pieces of cloth together

Marking – mark where the shank of the button should come.  If cutting with ordinary scissors, mark a point at both ends of the button hole

Cutting – when cutting stick point of scissors in at the shank end of the buttonhole and cut a straight slit the required length.
Do not double the cloth but cut through all the layers at once
Whenever possible, the cut should be straight with the warp or woof

Making – 
1. Make the stitches deep enough to prevent fraying but not to look clumsy
2. Stitches not crowded but close together – just showing the cloth between
3. Begin almost any place with two or three stitches in the same place about the width of the stitch from the edge, hold the thread down firmly with the thumb, throw the thread over the needle to make a loop then draw this firmly and smoothly in place.  
4. Repeat. 

Definition:  Darning is the process of inserting new threads in material in order to repair worn or broken threads
size of bag  width 5" depth 5"
 The book is hand bound with a shoe lace.
I appreciate this book.

Friday, February 06, 2015

counting my blessings

counting my blessings   1999  about 80" x 90"  velveteen, cotton, chenille threads, machine pieced, hand applique, hand embroidery, hand quilting.
The vertical panel in the middle is like a child's counting book.  one - two  - three - four
We have four children.
On the back of the quilt I wrote the names of mother artists with more than two children.  Two writers:  Alice Munro  - 3 kids and Carol Shields -  5 kids
two visual artists:  painter Mary Pratt - 4 children , sculptor Barbara Hepworth - triplets

Looking for role models, I read about their lives to find out how they balanced their blessings with their creativity.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

the b side

 Lake side b  Wool, indigo dye, stitch resist, hand quilting   66" high, 53 " wide, 2014  by Judy Martin
The stitched line, no matter how fluid and organic, bespeaks time.  
It is an actual line, a physical presence, a manifestation of effort and choice.
It is not an illusion, nor the residue of my hand's gesture.  It is itself.    Lou Cabeen 

I put side A of this piece on my new work blog in November 2014.
Please click here . to see it.