Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Keynote Address, Espanola fibre festival

detail, Layers of Time  The fourth panel of the Manitoulin community circle project.  Materials:  re-cycled wool blanket, recycled lace doilies, linen damask, beads, french knots, cross stitch, back stitch, eyelet stitch, all by hand, completely constructed with hand stitch and quilted by hand.  Judith e Martin and community, 2013.
Earth Ark (left ) and Precious Water (right) installed in the Espanola United Church for the Espanola fibre festival
I’d like to speak tonight about the process of making .  I want to state my belief that making something slowly with one’s hands is perhaps one of the most nourishing things one can do.  Creating something from nothing – or better, creating something new from something no longer needed or wanted is healing for the planet and for us.   

The panels of the Manitoulin Circle project are now finished objects.  It seems that every few months they are invited ‘out’ and the women who made them and I are given a chance to re-visit them.  We re-consider them.  We reflect.  
The Marimekko secret back of Earth Ark in foreground, Layers of Time in background
These panels are different than my personal work.  They are larger.  They are more.  More hands, more touch, more laughter, more conversations, more personal trauma, more catching up on books or television series.  The process of making them is held within them, and is why the finished products seem so important.

I’m a dyer and I'm learning about local Manitoulin plant dyes.  I'm a stitcher and am attracted to work that is not only large in measurements, but also in length of time.  I like it when I can’t see the end of a project, and when I can’t touch the edges.   My work is about the  process of making it. 
Two women thinkers I’d like to remark on tonight.  The first is Sue Bender, author of a book called Plain and Simple, a woman’s journey to the Amish.  She lived with an Amish family for 6 months, and noted that the women treated everything they did as if it was a ritual.  Whether breakfast for the family or a stunning jewel toned quilt – everything was given respect.  Art making is connected to daily life. 
The second woman is a British metal smith who writes and thinks about slow craft as social change.  Her name is Helen Carnac.  Helen Carnac calls making things by hand and experiencing the nourishment that comes from creating for its own sake rather than for commercial purposes   a  social revolution‘.   I haven’t used those words before about hand work and am struck by them.
Marimekko secret back of Precious Water (foreground) and Mended World (background)
One week ago Friday Thanksgiving weekend, I was stitching by the fireplace.  It was raining outside.  I realized something.  I realized that ALL I really want to do is stitch.  All I want to do is hold cloth and mark it.  I love it so much.   I’ve been pretty busy with the career side of my work in the last month  - speaking about it, writing about it, promoting it on facebook, receiving awards for it, shipping it to exhibitions, getting it into urban commercial galleries so that more people can see it, perhaps buy it,  but in reality, that all comes second for me.  I just want to DO the work.   I just want to stitch.  The career stuff won’t be there anyway if the work didn't come first.  The work needs to be done, not just for itself, but for me.  For my emotional health.  I need to do it.  It’s who I am.  Last week on that rainy evening by the fire I stitched and realized that the process of the making is as important as the end result. 

The nice  thing about textile art is that it is possible for others to see the process.  It’s not as mystical as some other art media.  The process is evident.  The hand’s gesture is evident.  So go with that.  Take pleasure in what you do.  
Mended World, (left), Trinity (centre) and Layers of Time (right) installed in the Espanola United Church for the fibre festival.  Also notice the book of hands open on a table in near left of photo
My passion has always been stitch.  I've stitched nearly every day since I was about 8.  Stitching is a life-long love affair.  As I get older I worry less and less about making a product that others might like, and more and more about spending what time I have left to dye and stitch on a large scale.  I will be teaching the techniques of the project in Newfoundland next October, and have started to prepare for that.  It’s really challenging to fit four years of slow making and a life time of inspiration into a three day workshop that people will actually pay the craft council  of Newfoundland to take.  The prep is taking quite a bit of time but perhaps it’s like writing this speech.  Both make me look at the circle project again.   Re-considering how the panels went together and what the project meant is helping me to think through what and how I want my life to be like.  Artful.

I am ambitious and have the dream to be recognized for my stitching but it’s way too easy to let the career advancement become more important than doing the work.  Doing the work is the most important thing.  Take great pleasure in the doing.  Slow down, breathe, stitch, dye, knit or felt, whatever it is that you do, do it with respect.  Honour the experience. This is my motherly advice tonight.  

The above text is just part of Judith e Martin's keynote address to the Espanola Fibre Festival.  If you want to read the entire lecture, email Judy and make a request.
One of the nicest things that happened that evening was that several of the participants spoke spontaneously about their experience stitching with Judy. 

No comments:

Post a Comment