Tuesday, December 12, 2017

medicine earth

I have been spending the last ten days in uncertainty
working on this eco printed 2 sided piece.

I can not tame it into my aesthetic.
It roils and bubbles and gets lumpy and ugly.
I can't seem to please it.
I can't seem to find my way with it, and yet it holds such promise with its beautiful earth - archteype- thin place lovliness/anxiousness

I can't just abandon it.
It is typical of what so often happens for me with dyed fabric.
An example of how hard it is to be simple.
I respond to the marks made by the bundled plants
I respond to the beatuiful accidents and want to sing along with them.
But when I do that, the aesthetic of simplicity that holds my work steady
is abandoned.

These marks are exciting.
Is it possible to carry their energy with my hands back to my simple quiet spirit home?

and also dance with them in their own space?
Yet these exciting and beautiful marks resist me.
They are too strong.  They are willful
They are difficult.
I sit and stare at it a lot.
Does it need some colour?  I pin pink linen to lower right.
Does it need a red bit?  I pin a thin horizontal line.
I make a red cross.
I make black and white borders.

I need to work through this piece.
It needs me.
I've experienced some loss recently

I need to be needed.

Making is medicine for me.
Art work made by hand is a physical outward attempt
to communicate something terribly inner.

(from an old journal)
The archetypal shapes are helping me.

the circle
the cross
the grid

Marks that connect human psyche across time and place.

painting is so difficult, life is so short 
                                                                                                            Louise Bourgeois

Friday, December 08, 2017

Permanent Dangers by Anna Torma

I have been wanting to post images of Anna Torma's exquisite two sided embroidery that was part of the first Canadian Craft Biennial at the Burlington Art Gallery, Ontario since mid-October.  The co-founders of the Biennial, Emma Quin (director of the Textile Museum of Canada) and Denis Longchamps (director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Burlington) indicate that the second Craft Biennial will happen in the spring of 2020.  Good news for all of us who love art that is materially based.
This piece by Anna Torma uses her now familiar language of child-like drawings of monsters, here in combination with human figures.  A very prolific artist who works completley in hand stitch, Anna's creates bodies of work for exhibition, such as Superlayers    Blood ties  (and also here) is a recent exhibit she held with her grown son.   I have written about her work before (here) but if you are interested in seeing her newest work, she is active on facebook.
Look at the amount of stitching!  These stitches are like drawn marks with coloured pencil.

The variety of scales and subjects in the imagery over whelms our senses.
It's different than  anything I would do myself.
It throbs.
It excites the viewer.
The two sides of this piece are each beautiful
Black cloth backing, white cloth front.
The thread drawings join these two opposites.
Then the artist stitched through all images and backgrounds - everything -
with thick white thread so that the back looks as if caught in a snow storm, and the front is quieter.
Not erased, but muted.
and the edges.
Don't you want to touch? 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

the Ingrid Interview

Q When did you become interested in embroidery - or the textile arts?

A I became aware of world embroidery at age 25 when I was travelling in Great Britain.  I bought perle cotton, embroidery floss and a pattern book in a street market and worked on a linen sample, which I carried in my bike pannier over a period of months.  I also embroidered all the clothing i was wearing on this bike trip.  It was 1974.  I had been quilting since 1970

Q  What background do you bring to your interest?

A  Around the age of ten I learned to embroider by following stamped designs on pillowcases.  I remember loving this activity.  My mother helped me with some of the simple stitches.

When I was twelve I began sewing most of my own clothes.  Throughout high school I made the latest styles for myself such as flowered pants with solid co-ordinated jackets and zip up leather jumpers (made from upholstery fabrics).  I loved the challenge of creating them myself.  I wore these clothes to Expo 67 in Montreal when I was 16.

I also made a lot of Barbie doll clothes at that time for my younger sister's doll and was hired by several mothers to make wardrobes for their daughter's dolls.  These clothes were very imaginative and I used my mother's sewing scraps for them and very tiny buttons and trims that I found in the local Stedman's.  I also had success with my painting in high school and sold oil paintings to the teachers.

Q  How did you source your materials?

A   There were not many fabrics suitable for quilting in 1970 and I used recycled clothing in a variety of weights, as well as an old curtain to stitch my first quilt.  (which is probalby why it did not last).  For embroidery I used embroidery floss from the local five and dime.  When I was pregnant with my first child in 1978 I embroidered several blouses based on Eastern European designs adapted for maternity wear.  I did a lot of smocking and some embroidery for my baby Oona, born 1978.

Q  How did you source your designs?

I adapted sewing patterns and used embroidery designs I found in craft magazines.  I taught myself from diagrams and still have some of those maternity blouses.  I was also knitting and crocheting at the time and had a big collection of knitting magazines.

When Ned and I travelled through Western Europe in 1974 and 1975, a new magazine entitled Craft originated in Great Britain and was available on the Fort Frances newstands.  I asked my mother to collect them for me when we were gone (for over a year) and she did.  I still have those somewhere.

Q  Why did you pursue textile?

A  I think the main reason that I kept coming back to working with textiles is because I could fit it in with my life.  I had a passion for fine art and started painting with intent at the same time that I started having children in the late 70's.  However, embroidery, knitting and quilting could be picked up and put down again more easily and I found them satisfying and a great comfort.

I should also metnion that I began a fine arts degree in visual art in 1976.  I continued to work at this degree for nearly twenty more years, graduating in 1993.  My graduating exhibition was an embroidered quilt and a stitched paper installation in the form of a house.
Judy Martin in 2006 with her self-portrait quilt from 1985  (manitoulin expositor newspaper photo)
Q  How did your decisions impact your work?

A  Some decisions that I made during the 70's that had an impact on my work were:

1.  to have children (eventually we had four by 1987)
2.  to live in rural north-western Ontario (rainy River, thunder Bay, Kenora )   we moved to Manitolin Island in 1993
3.  to take a fine arts degree
4.  to have the ambition to make fine art

But this question is confusing as so many of life's decisions are made for you or happen along the way.  It takes a lot of will to be an artist of any type.

Q  What were your successes and what were your not so good results?

A  The 70's

In 1978 I made a lovely baby quilt for my dear friend Susan.  It was one of the first quilts I made.   It had a rocking horse appliqued and embroidered in the centre of a mass of triangles.  The colour scheme was red and white.   I made several more baby quilts during this time for my own children and also for my friends who were all having babies.

The 80's - I designed my first original quilt in 1982 and was really excited about it.  It was called Sleeping Giant and was an abstracted interpretation of a local landmark.  I remember being very excited to have such control over the arrangement of the geometric pieces and have them tell a narrative.  It was a break through. Before that I had made traditional quilts such as Bear's Pa,w, Dresden plate, Crown of Thorsns.

Another breakthrough came when I began dyeing my own cloth.  I started this after we moved to Kenora in the early 80's.

Another break throughs came in the 80's.  I stitched magazine papers into traditonal quilt designs and also family photographs which I arranged with seasonal fabrics.  I also began to use more and more embroidery in my quilts, and my piece entitled In the Centre of the Body is the Soul was made in 1996.  Every square in the central medallion is covered with dense chain stitch embroidery.

Q  What else can you tell me about your journey?

A  I spend time in the Textile Museum of Canada whenever I go to Toronto and over the years have been very much influenced by the world textiles on view there.  One year I saw large Indian embroideries that changed my life.  Covered with yellow, red, green and blue chain stitch, these hangings had such power and I felt such resonance when looking at them, that I knew I had to follow thorugh with this much hand stitch in my own work.  I've since taught myself some of the unique stitches used in Indian embroidery and have also studied African and Japanese dyed and stitched textiles.

A  Do you have images to help tell your story?

Q  Yes.  Lots.


This interview happened ten years ago (2007).  I came across it when cleaning out a drawer.  I do not remember who Ingrid was - I think she may have been a student from a college in Sudbury who chose me as a subect for a project.  If you are reading my blog, Ingrid - please let me know either through a comment or email.

As I go through my shelves and boxes and come across the items mentioned in this post, such as the clothes I embroidered in Europe and the blouses I embroidered when expecting babies - I will post them.  I have saved some Barbie Doll clothes too -

This is the first post that I have ever done that has no images.

Judy Martin in 2007 with daughter Grace (Manitoulin Expositor photo)

Friday, December 01, 2017

earth and air

I've named this piece Earth and Air, and I've been thinking about why I did.
Initially, it came out of the Luce Irigaray quote I was inspired by for my exhibition entitled The Cloud In Me.
"How do I make earth out of air and protect the cloud in me?"
The earth figure is intuitively pieced from men’s wool suiting fabrics.  These were dyed with a variety of plants gathered from the ditches and fields of Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada where I live.  The figure was hand quilted by hand to a linen tablecloth with coloured threads, a little red.
Surrounding the figure are wide expanses of torn linen damask table linens.  These strips have been pieced together so that the horizontal seams are exposed.  The raw edges seem fragile, but in truth they are strong.   This sky area has also been hand quilted to the tablecloth backing, with white silk thread.
The dualities contained in the work are:  horizontal / vertical, wool / linen, colour / white, male / female, and Manitoulin Island’s Indigenous / European settler societies.
This artwork is about the affirmation of nature and the support of the huge sky above and around all of us humans in the world.  We all, at some time in our lives, stand alone and look out over horizons.  We are all given access to our own inner immensity by such standing and looking, and we all feel connected to the place where we stand.   Being quiet and alone in nature, we begin to understand how the earth has been here a very long time and we begin to believe that it will continue.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

grandmothering in Alaska

 Time is the most valuable thing we possess.
The 8 year old bakes with me.
The eleven year old sets up the explorers version of Catan.
(Notice his baby quilt as wall art)
 I have started to sew the borders for Maia's quilt while visiting her cousins in Alaska.
We have been enjoying the sunny days.
The backyard sauna.
The neighbours. (and jamming with them)
Thanksgiving dinner.
The chickens.
The wildness near by.
Jack and I take turns drawing in my journal.
(my favourite grandmother activity)
The light at dusk is violet.
The mountains visible through the windows.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bird Images from Cape Dorset

Qupanuapak (Big Bird) by Sheojuk Etidlooie  stone cut 24.5 x 28"
On southwestern Baffin Island is the Canadian Arctic Territory of Nunavut.
The artists of Cape Dorset have been pulling prints for nearly forty-five years.
Bird Song by Nikotai Mills  Lithograph  22 x 30 inches
The artists depict important elements of their culture.
Language and stories and their connection to the Arctic.
Images in this post are from this book, one that I gave my Alaskan grand-boys a while back and noticed here, on the book shelf.
Young Goose Preening Kavavaow Mannomee  stonecut and stencil 25 x 18.5 inches

Illustrious Owl by Kenojuak Ashevak  lithograph 22.5 x 30 inches
I'm in Alaska visitng our daughter Oona and her family.
This will be my first American Thanksgiving.
Mitiq (Eider Duck) by Sheojuk Etidlooie  Lithograph 30 x 22.5 inches
These bird images are for you my friends.  xo
just because 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hold Me

I made this quilt just as we were moving from Kenora to Manitoulin in 1993.

I remember stitching it in the truck during the 2-day drive back to Kenora to organize the moving van.  We left our kids with Ned's sister so that they could continue to attend their new schools.

I remember the beautiful views of autumn colour along the north shore of Lake Superior.
I remember quiet time with my husband in the vehicle as we drove back to the house I had loved.
I stitched, he drove.
We talked and looked out the window.

The text in the quilt borders is by Diane Ackerman from her book A Natural History of the Senses.  It reads:
When you consider something like death, then it probably doesn't matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, and care for one another too deeply, in an effort to know life.
I entered the quilt into the biennial Fibreworks show in Cambridge galleries the following spring, and it was awarded the purchase award by the jurors, one of whom was Ralph Beney.
It became part of the permanent Canadian Fibre art collection and has been in the vaults of that gallery for over 20 years.  Hard to believe.
I am moved to write about this piece today, (and scan the old slides I have of it) because the Cambridge Art Galleries are showing the entirety of the collection this winter.  The launch is next week and there will be a symposium about the collection in January.
I believe that it is important for public galleries to collect work of artists.
I am so proud that Hold Me is part of this particular collection.

Also, my work is in permanent collections of two other art galleries, both in northern Ontario.  Click on their titles for more info. When Asked: She Replied  and Canadian Pioneer.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Notes from my journal

 silk and wool coloured with coneflower and iron
My teacher told me that my work did not fit into the modern aesthetic. 

But we aren't in the modern aesthetic.  That has happened.  Whistler.  Monet.  Monet only became really good when he was 70 and did those water lily paintings.

It took him his whole life to find his own voice
Monet empowered himself. 

Monet said to himself - "why should I paint a background -  a foreground -a middleground - when all I really want to show is the foreground?"   Those water-lily paintings are  huge. 

Monet would have failed art school.

Use your imagination.  Work beyond the eye.
What is imagination?   Is it your mind?  Not only.
You have to let your heart loose too.
Connect with your HEART.

If you want to reach a different level - an inner attitude, more pleasurable, more imaginative - then you need to go beyond what other people think.

Carl Beam
Images in this post are of fabrics I dyed with plants this past month.  I used coneflowers, walnuts, iron, and time.

As I continue with my project of reading old journals and then wrapping them, (see here),  I come across remarkable things.  In this post I am sharing notes I took while listening to Manitoulin Island's Governor General's Award winning artist, Carl Beam  speak in 2004.