Thursday, January 11, 2018

I was waiting I was waiting

By Chance

That's what John Cage said when Anni Albers asked him how he started to find his way in his work.
 so "Don't worry"

says Anni Albers
Images in this post are of two pieces of art that I have in my house this week that will go back to rightful owners soon.

The stitched piece (Beginning with Time), was loaned for an exhibition in Thunder Bay and the painting of pussy willows with text by Anne Michaels needs some repair.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Our daughter and her art work

Windy  (detail)  mono print with textile collage

from left:  Pink Hill ceramic, April installing the mono prints with textile collage, Windy and Breezy,
 and Royal Mountain ceramic sculpture
April and I spent a couple of days in Sudbury this weekend.  She installed her work at the Northern Artist Gallery at Artists on Elgin on the Friday, and then Saturday, January 6,  was the reception.  The exhibition, Effloresence, will be on view until January 30.
 This is her third exhibition in seven weeks.
foreground:  three of the twelve untitled factory sculptures made entirely from clay glazed with oxides, each sitting on custom made plinths from welded metal, background:  found linen with custom wooden stretcher
The first opened on November 17 at Roots and Culture in Chicago, the second opened December 1 at ACRE Projects in Chicago.  We were so pleased to see both of those shows when we went to Chicago in mid December to pick up April and bring her back to Canada.  I've written about them on Modernist Aesthetic - click here for direct link.
The people that we worked with at the gallery (Lauren and Stephanie) were very helpful.
left:  Untitled Factory clay sculpture, middle: Breezy monoprint with textile collage, right: Royal Mountain ceramic
For myself, it was a real treat to see my kid with her playful and brave art.

She has made art all her life, knew about Vincent Van Gogh when she was three years old. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

daily practice

I make large hand stitched drawings.  
My work reflects upon the place I live, a sparsely populated island in Lake Huron, Canada.
I use the aesthetics of simplicity, time, labour, and repetition in combination with the sense of touch.
I spend quiet time with the work, and make repeated, interesting marks.
At the same time, I keep hand written journals (about 200 so far) where I document my daily life, my thoughts, and notes on what I have read. 
Perhaps because I am a parent of four children, I’ve been interested in how mother artists and writers manage their creative lives.  

I have a daily practice of journal-writing.

This year I am paying even more attention to my journals.
I'm re-reading them.
I feel as if I'm really knowing my self.

I'm reminding myself about who I am, because its hard to stay true when one is easily inspired.
On New Years Day there was a super moon.
I stood outside and looked up at it around midnight.
It was awesome, large and bright, with a large ring around it.
The air was super crisp and cold.

I'm starting a new daily practice of stitched collage, using up a piece of contrary felt that I purchased in Alaska in 2009 as a base to stitch into.
A new thing here is that our daughter April will be based out of our house in January.
Her energy is sure to influence how I spend my time.
I look forward to being with her a lot, but I also want to hold on to my self.

My own work.
I feel that these collages will give me a place to play with patterns.
I will allow patterns.
We are given these shapes or archetypes or patterns and we just need to record them.

It's destiny.

In most of my work I try to pare extra shapes away, in order to give more empty space for dreams,
but in these collages, I will let them come.
The first shapes.   

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


fresh snow.
new slippers
warm hearts

I'm sending out love this holiday season to you who read and support my writing and making.
Thank you.  
Let's continue.  xoxo

Monday, December 18, 2017

the reason we are here is to grow

Untitled felt on felt 2017 by William J O'Brien
Festive Greetings from my family to yours.

This felt on felt artwork is by William J O'Brien, and I saw it on Saturday, part of his solo show at Shane Campbell Gallery,  Chicago, Illinois USA.
It has so much positive energy and exhuberance.

It feels to me like how I feel when I am in the USA.
This is my fifth trip to the United States in 2017.
All of them have been really positive experiences, full of energy.

Chicago, Lincoln, Athens and Rosendale, Anchorage, Chicago
Full of friendly people and beautiful landscapes.

Ned and I are here to see April's two exhibitions and to bring her  home to Canada.
We drove along Lake Michigan and will return the same way.  It's a big land.

Look at the circles and the hands and the upward energy in this large applique. (60 x 72 inches)
The wintery palette.   
William J O'Brien, thank you for reminding us that the reason we are here is to grow. 

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)