Saturday, May 30, 2015

regarding my teaching

slow stitch sampler by judy martin
Q:  Do you have a favourite fibre technique?  what is it and why do you love it?

A:  I love to stitch.  I think that if life allowed it, I would stitch all day.  The repetitive marks made by hand that I stop now and then to admire with my fingertips, carry me into my boundless self, away from the every day.
Q:  What can students learn from your classes that they can't learn anywhere else?

A:  A class situation is a very condensed period of time.  What I share in my classes is an attitude of accepting - even loving the slowness of the labour involved in hand stitch and slow design. 
It is the responsibility of the teacher to provide ways of working as an artist once the class is over.
It is the responsibility of the student to absorb as much as possible during the limited class time.  The 'real' work will be done when you are back in your own studio.
Q: Why are your classes so unique?  

A:  Key to my own approach is looking at a lot of art.  I bring samples of world textiles and a wide variety of images into the class. 

For the meditation panels workshop in Newfoundland, I am bringing the four large hand stitched meditation panels of the Manitoulin Circle Project. 
slow stitch sampler by Lucie Medwig
Q: Why do you recommend that students take your class? 

A:  Needles, thread, pencil, paper - these are the first tools - so small, practical and inexpensive. 

You can carry your hand stitching and notebook with you everywhere.  It is life changing to be able to pull out some handwork and stitch because the repetitive movement of your hands seems to allow thinking, dreaming, envisioning.  The notebook is there to capture the ideas that almost always bubble up.  Hand stitched original designs are thus very accessible and also very healing.
Q:  Why do you have such passion for teaching?

A:  I feel that my blog, Judy's Journal, is a place where I constantly teach by example.  I like it because I can reach a lot of people who choose when they are ready to receive my mentoring.  

Actually, I find preparing to teach a defined workshop quite difficult and I either procrastinate or over-prep.  Partly it's because every time I begin to prepare I get so carried away myself by a new idea. 

One good thing that comes out of preparing to teach is that I slow myself down because I am forced to organize my thoughts.  That burst of intense workshop time is so short.  It sounds selfish, but I think I teach others so that I better understand my own way of working, but whoops, now I want to go make another sample.  
slow stitch sampler by judy martin
Q: Talk about your favourite memory from teaching?

A:  I've taught a long time.  I began when I was 16 by teaching classical piano to children.  I taught primary school for two years and then more piano when my children were in school.  I also taught art classes in my studio and through the local community college.  I've taught workshops at conferences and to quilt guilds.

However, my favourite memory of teaching is from when I showed my daughters and nieces the basic hand stitches, and then listened to them chat to each other as they manipulated their needles. Quiet satisfaction came over them as they improved.  The knowledge that my girls have these skills pleases me because stitching is a way to happiness. 
Q: Can you share a direct experience related to fibre?

A:  When I reflect upon the Manitoulin Circle Project I realize that it was an act of social change.  People told me that the gathering together every week of women from the community to make the four large contemporary quilts (meditation panels) was a magical thing, but I didn't really take in the importance of the project until I had time to look back on it.  

There are so many concerns in our lives today, just listen to the news.  The meditation panels do not dismiss the fearfulness but they can give us hope and Jack Layton told us that hope is better than fear.  These panels were made by real people as gifts for the future and are a tangible way to show belief in that future. 

They are made from reclaimed tablecloths, wool blankets, and lace doilies, textiles that contemporary families have no use for and keep in bottom drawers or give away to thrift shops.  Wool blankets, useful during the cold Canadian winters, and linen tablecloths, which in previous times were laid out on Sundays so that families could sit face to face and discuss, announce, plot, or celebrate are now transformed into touch filled celebration panels.  They are permanently installed in a church sanctuary where people come to sit and be quiet.  When the church goer returns the following week and gazes upon a favourite panel, he/she can re-visit worries from the previous week, or the plots, or the dreams.  Meditations are kept safely.  In this way the panels are like a private place one might have in nature, a thinking place.  

Layers of time are embedded in them not only from the old materials, but also the four years of time that we the makers put into them, and the time that each thoughtful congregant returns with week after week.  All this time is held by those panels for the future.  

The process of community coming together to slowly hand stitch these panels from beautiful but used domestic textiles is something to celebrate.  Those panels represent a gentle, slow revolution.  A change of attitude, a social change.  Where the doing itself is more important than the object.  When people work together, more is more. 

The opportunity for my students to see the hand work and touch the panels is probably the best thing about the workshop I will be teaching at the Newfoundland conference. 
slow stitch sampler by margot bickell
Q:  What is your favourite tool, accessory or yarn in your studio right now - the go to product that you frequently turn to? 

A:   I would not be able to create the work I do without my design walls.  At home I have 3 walls covered with 12 inch square ceiling tiles. Other important tools are my journal, my digital camera and my kitchen timer.  I set the timer for one hour...and magically it seems as if I have all the time in the world.  
Q:  In addition to your craft what else should we know about you?

A:  I've never lived in a city.  I visit cities, but I have lived all my life in rural isolated areas.  I think that this absence from the urban has given me a deep understanding of the hand made and of our human inherent connection to nature.  I'm not confronted with cement, high tension wires and consumer goods every single day and never have been. My husband and I made a conscious effort to give our four children a rural childhood with easy access to lakes and open spaces.  I think it is a gift they will cherish more and more as they get older.
slow stitch samplers by Lucie Medwig
Q:  What about Fibre Art Newfoundland excites you the most?   

A:  The location!!  Gros Morne is astounding. 

It will be unforgettable for those who have not been to Newfoundland. and I encourage people to visit this beautiful area.  I live on the largest island in a fresh water lake in the world, Manitoulin Island, and it is beautiful too - but Newfoundland is more.  I'm also excited to meet some of the remarkable teachers coming in for this conference.   Also, I have a piece in Wild Pure Aesthetic Wonder, the main exhibition, and am looking forward to seeing it installed in the Discovery Centre in Woody Point.

Images in this post are from my last visit to Newfoundland in April and of the Slow Stitch samplers I have been making along side of others this past winter on Manitoulin.  
This interview is also on the Fibrearts Newfoundland website where one can register for the three day workshop this October.  I've put an updated supply list for the Newfoundland workshop here for those interested. 

15 comments:

Simone de Klerk said...

Such inspiring Qs and As! My favorite sentence: where the doing itself is more important than the object. That's the real work and peace of mind, When enjoying the process.

Liz Ackert said...

Such wisdom in this:

"I teach others so that I better understand my own way of working."

To teach is to learn ... likewise to reflect is to see things more clearly.

Margaret said...

Oh, Judy...we have to get you to teach out West!

Mo Crow said...

thank you for this gentle insight into your processes Judy, visiting your art and words here on your blog inspires & helps me centre and focus on the work at hand

Heather said...

I just browsed through the conference website. Oh, what heaven it will be! I would so love to be there. But will echo Margaret's comment above - we have to get you out to the west coast!

Robbie said...

I too just love hand stitching and your posts/work are always inspiring to me!

jude said...

Your blogging has taken on a new softness, and I sense you as a flower opening lately. Your words ever so true and clear. it is so fine that you are teaching.

Tina said...

Judy, thank you for posting this! I have been reflecting on your words and answers last. Isn't and today. The is an awesome, thought provoking post

Christine said...

Judy, I wish you well in having your class fill. No doubt, it will.
Some day, we will sit and stitch together. hugs, Christine

Carole said...

Judy, I especially love the Meditation Panels - saw them in Oakville. Have followed your blog since, and today's entry has convinced me to join the class in Newfoundland. Signed up at 7:30 this morning.
Carole

Doris said...

Judy, I always follow your blog and love your work but don´t comment. But this time I want to say that your words gave me so much to think about. Thank you!

Heather Hutchinson said...

~ the Manitoulin Circle Project was indeed 'magical' ~

Unknown said...

I have to echo Doris in thatI have followed your blog but not commented as lots of others have put down what I was thinking.This post is so inspirational and it's about time I said 'Thank you'

Claudia Fisk

Fresca said...

You are teaching on your blog too:
this winter I started sewing on a machine for the first time in 40 years--a friend recommended your blog and Jude Hill's---and last night I began my first hand-stitched piece!

What a difference, and a wonderful one--I was not bothered at all about being productive, and I didn't resent undoing some stitches I didn't want:
unstitching felt like an integral part of the sewing itself, whereas on a machine it feels like a waste of time.

So: thank you!
I look forward to my fingers toughening up.

Jenny M said...

I just wanted to say...Thank you for taking the time to connect to us, your readers. Especially when you would rather stitch all day long!
I have saved this post so I can go back over your words, to think & reflect on why I sew/stitch, want can I do to gather & retain ideas for future stitching projects, and to think about the community of stitchers both past and current.
Yes, your blog is a way of teaching and mentoring those of us that live across the seas. So once again thank you for sharing.