Sunday, January 22, 2012

the lower half

I was invited to make another presentation about the Manitoulin Circle Project yesterday. This time the presentation was for the regional United Church clergy who were meeting in Espanola, about an hour's drive from my home. I had seven minutes, as other people were also presenting.

Very briefly then, the circle project is the creation of four large meditation panels using hand stitch. They are designed to hang in the sanctuary of the Little Current United Church. They are liturgical pieces and use the gentle colours of Christian faith. White and gold for celebration and holiness. Green for ordinary days.

A circle of women come together to stitch on these panels every Thursday. The four large panels each have a large circle within a large square. They measure between 90 and 100 inches across.
The archetype of the circle is an old and important symbol for all of us. It’s one of the first shapes that Carl Jung believes is in our unconscious. The circle symbolizes perfection.
It symbolizes eternity and completion.
There is no beginning or end with a circle. In my research I learned that when a horizontal line divides a circle, the lower half is like the ark and represents water, while the upper half is like the rainbow or heaven or sometimes called the upper water. I found this idea of representing water very inspiring.
Pictured is the third panel of the project, "Precious Water".


  1. I've told you before, but I'll say it again--This is one of the most elegant, simple and inspiring works of community stitching, ranks right up there with The Magic feather project, and has my warmest appreciation. I hope the traveling weather was kind.

  2. Diana Bliss9:48 am

    I love these circular pieces- they chime in so well with own work and a textile piece i made for our quaker meeting house under the title of 'the gathered meeting'.i was also very interested in your comments on the bisected circle as this too is one of my themes- and wondered if you could pass me on the reference?
    many thanks for the continuing insights into your work and inspiration (and good luck with the degree!)

  3. the eternity of the circle and the joining of hands with stitch do bring the heart to the heavens in many ways in the project, the people that stitch it and the inspiration it brings to so many. i never fail to want to touch this magical cloth. thank you.

  4. I have more admiration for this project than I can say - the concept, the imagery, the wonderful communal work, it must be thoroughly imbued with talk, laughter and the thoughts of all who've worked on it. it is so simple, complex, peaceful yet full of spirit.

  5. Judy, I so admire your dedication to your art and your generosity in sharing it so freely. I believe that the urban-rural divide is less meaningful in the age of the internet. I recently had the pleasure to hear Dorothy Caldwell speak about her work and she too has lived for decades in a rural setting. I wonder whether that "removed" quality might allow for less distraction from the creative process. I have a question of a more practical nature: in your quilts, what do you use as a middle layer? I guess that your wall hangings might have no middle layer, but the bed quilts ...? Thanks for taking the time.

  6. Just love how this cloth is unfolding... simple, elegant and meaningful.

  7. Judy, this was an excellent overview of your project. I love how it is progressing and that it is a community project that brings people together.

    As for Lillian's comment about rural living and focus. I'm a former rural chick who lives in the city. I'm able to focus very well in the city-- it helps that I am an introvert and that I've designed my life around my studio work (I work most of the time). Good question, Lillian! =)

  8. Thank you Michelle. I really appreciate your positive feedback.

    Diana. The information about circles divided horizontally is from the classic book about symbols by J.C. Cooper. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols

    page 36
    "The lower half of the semi circle is the Lower Waters and the ark and the upper half is the Upper Waters and the rainbow. Together they are completion; the Cosmic Egg, the completion of a cycle of manifestation."


    All of the circle project quilts have bamboo batting in the middle.
    Jack's baby quilt had a cotton batt. My newest quilt which I'll show sometime soon has a wool batt.
    These are all quite thin, recommended more for machine quilting than for hand quilting, but I like the thin old fashioned look they give my work.
    Energy Cloth, a wall quilt or summer quilt has no middle layer. So it varies.

    Thanks to all for your positive remarks. Shall keep on.

  9. Diana B4:58 am

    Thank you Judy for the reference!

    Can I bore you rigid with something i have reading - and last night reached the page...

    Ageing: the beauty of the inner harvest.
    Time as a Circle.

    The human eye adores gazing, it feasts on the wild beauty of new landscapes, the dignity of trees, the tenderness of a human face, or the white sphere of the moon blessing the earth in a circle of light. The eye is always drawn to the shape of a thing. It finds some deep consolation and sense of home in special shapes. Deep within the human mind, there is a fascination with the circle because it satisfies some longing within us..... (and so it goes on)

    Anam Cara. john O' Donohue

    (The format also reminds me of medieval images of the earth and also the 'Hours of the Duc de Berri'.)

    Keep stitching!

  10. I love learning about this quilt, this amazing community project (I think there should be a book about it). So beautiful and a wonderful story.

    I didnt know that about the colours in this piece...I love knowing these little snippets of inspiration, and the stories behind the circles. Thanks for always sharing this with us.

    Jacky xox

  11. Diana, that is such a beautiful quote. fits with everything.

    Jacky, there will be a catalog about this and my stitch journal for an exhibition in 2013....but a book just about the project and slow progress of the making of the panels...I think that would also be worthwhile. Hmmm
    Thanks for your support.

  12. "when a horizontal line divides a circle, the lower half is like the ark and represents water, while the upper half is like the rainbow or heaven or sometimes called the upper water" I had never considered this concept, but I find it resonating in my mind conjuring images and symbolism in which the ark stands for redemption/absolution but ultimately for LOVE; the rainbow being a covenant represents COMMITMENT. Without one the other is somehow incomplete? Like the way the bottom of the circle would rock/teeter and the top always wants to pour out its contents? Am I making any sense at all? I feel as if I am rambling! All these whirling thoughts and images need some time to settle and coalesce in my mind. Thanks for the mental nudge. I needed it today as I have been in a bit of a brain fog!

  13. This is so gorgeous, I cannot stop looking at it.
    Love your work, so inspiring!

  14. Bonnie: I love your work. It is subtle but refined. You are a good role model for moving me towards the lighter end of the color spectrum!


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx