Prayer To The Sky
hand stitched wool quilt 60 x 64.5" 2019
included in Quilt National 2021
A list of exhibitions, lectures, workshops coming up.
Velvet, silk tie fabric, daily applique journal on felt base, 2018
This piece measures 33" x 20" and it sold into private collection through the Perivale Gallery last month. The Perivale Gallery is on Manitoulin, and Judy has shown work there every single season since she moved to the island in 1993. Click here to see Judy's work for the 2021 season and also the other fine artists at the gallery.
|Island Heart, rust and plant dyed rayon and silk quilt|
Textile artist Judith E Martin lives on an idyllic, sparsely populated island in the Canadian waters of Lake Huron, slow stitching large-scale drawings and art quilts, for which she has received recognition across North America as well as other parts of the world. Since 2010, she has been harvesting and processing natural plant dyes from the local fields and her kitchen to use in her work.
Cate Coulacos Prato: Your artwork and your approach to it seem very calm, soft, and contemplative -- yet powerful. Can you tell us about your inspiration and the message(s) you're conveying through your art?
Judy Martin: My inspiration is the huge world within each of us. I think the power you feel in my work comes from the evidence of the passage of time that is held within the work through the slow process of making it, stitch by stitch.
The aesthetic of simplicity is important to all my newer work. I have to keep reminding myself this as it is difficult to be simple when the materials are so lush. I am concerned with the passage of time and use hand stitch as a metaphor for time and touch Subjects I keep returning to in my work are: vulnerability, female-ness, the inner dream world, and love relationships. Finally, I continually seek the spiritual and try to hold spirit within my work.
|Noble Tenderness, wool and cotton embroidery quilt|
CCP: Many of your quilt designs look simple and spare. But when you get closer, there's a lot going on with stitching and fabric manipulation. Tell us about that dichotomy.
JM: Recently, I've been cutting holes in the cloth to reveal an inner layer, often pink or red, or I fill those holes with soft silk velvet. I want my viewer to yearn to run their hands over the varied surfaces.. The sense of touch is the mother of the senses, and I use it as a powerful communication tool to the emotional side of my viewers. I consider touch and time to be partners in my work. I want my work to communicate on an emotional level.
|overhead the sun, linen damask dyed with golden rod, wool thread, hand quilted|
CCP: At what point did you decide to commit to being a fiber artist?
JM: I decided that quilts and fiber arts would be my primary media when I was studying fine art part time through Lakehead University in the 80's and was involved in a group art show. I made an art quilt for that exhibition by arranging triangles into an abstracted local Thunder Bay landmark. I remember being excited that the large-scale format of quilts and their connection to the bed gave me a wide scope to tell stories, paint pictures, reveal secrets and demonstrate my concern for loved ones and the environment all with the traditional female skill of sewing. A feminist, I believed then and now that art quilting is a way to honor both those skills and everyday family moments.
CCP: What hand stitches do you use on your quilts? How do you decide what stitches to use? Does the quilt tell you, or do you start with a plan in mind?
JM: I use very simple stitches such as running stitch, stem stitch, back stitch, blanket stitch, and seed stitch. What brings power and beauty to my work is the repetition of the same stitch over large areas.
I like the texture and drape of densely stitched cloth. I study contemporary fine art and world textiles constantly. Australian women painters interest me now as well as African bark cloth and contemporary Japanese embroidery artists Junko Oki and Rieko Koga.
It's really impossible to know if a stitch I've chosen is the perfect one until I've put three or four hours of work into the piece, and then pin it up on wall and look at it. I very often have to remove stitches. It's all part of the process. I have to listen to the artwork. I have to pay attention. I have to be open to change.
|red thread hearts, 16 women's handkerchiefs applied to linen damask|
CCP: Circles feature prominently throughout your work. What do circles symbolize for you and why are they an integral part of your designs?
JM: I do use the circle a lot. Many philosophers have written that it represents the self, and in my case the circular outlines within my square quilts contain areas of either intensity or emptiness. The circle gives me a way to speak about my spirit or my heart being contained within my body.
I also approach the circle as one of the shapes that Carl Jung identified as archetypes that are understood intuitively by people around the world. Circles, squares, triangles, spirals, and repeated dots are a universal language of symbol and pattern. In many cultures, the circle is considered a dynamic shape with no beginning or end and represents the spirit while the square is more solid and represents the body or the earth.
I also use circles as representations of the sun, the moon, or the planet Earth.
|sky with many moons, wool and silk fabrics,|
CCP: Tell us about your art-making process. How do you begin?
JM: My work is led by the fabrics. I will often pin lengths of cloth to the wall just to become familiar with them, placing them next to others as a painter would. Generally, my process begins with the materials I gather and I am led by them. Each piece has a different route, but all my work begins with a search for poetic meaning within the materials themselves. I use sketchbooks or journals every day. I keep my thoughts nad ideas in them, and re-read them. In addition, my pin wall is crucial.
I stitch every morning for at least two hours and during that time it is just me and the birds. From the third hour I will probably listen to an audio book. I also like to look through art books while I'm stitching, turning the pages slowly. I do watch TV in the evenings with my husband and stitch then as well. I usually stitch at least five hours a day, often more. I love it. I would do it all day if I could, but my body needs breaks. I use a timer on my phone and set it for an hour at a time. My timer gets me off the chair to do things like housework or paperwork. I set the timer for those, too, so that I know when I can go back to stitch. A timer seems to give me all the time in the world.
|prayer to the sky, wool quilt dyed with indigo and madder|
CCP: What made you start working with natural dyes and how do you like to apply them?
JM: I read books by Jenny Dean, Rebecca Burgess and India Flint and plunged in. I love the slow process of dyeing several different types of fabric in the same dye bath. Each fiber reacts differently to the natural dye and I am rewarded with a wide palette of neutral colours to use for quilt tops and backs.
I harvest an abundance of one type of wild material, chopping it into small pieces and pouring boiling water over it in a large canning pot. Then for at least three or four days, I bring the plant material to a simmer for an hour and then allow it to cool down and steep several times before straining. Once the fabrics are added there are more days of simmering and steeping. It's important to air dry the fabrics without rinsing them and letting them to rest unrinsed for a week or so before washing and drying.
CCP: How has your art evolved over the years?
JM: My art has evolved a great deal over the years. From the beginning, I loved the textile arts and always had a project on the go such as knitting sweaters or sewing toddler clothes. I realized I was an artist, however, with motherhood, because I had to paint my children. They were so beautiful in the sunshine, playing in the puddles or the sand or looking at bugs. They moved so quickly that I had to paint from photographs while they slept. I also discovered art quilting at this time of early mothering and loved that I could do it when they were awake. The stitching was portable and could be interrupted. The quilts I made in the 90s were all autobiographical story quilts about relationships or beliefs. Currently my work is much simpler and, I believe, more universal.
|rescued wool blanket, saddened with iron and then embroidered and cut into|
CCP: You live in a very beautiful, natural environment with a lot of solitude.. . How do your surroundings inform your work?
JM: Living on Manitoulin does inform my work and I am grateful and humbled to live here. During the pandemic lockdown of 2020 I was especially nurtured by the island's sweetness and spirituality. Thinking about it, I realize that the large empty spaces of this rural area are gifts for the spirit and I experience them with appreciation, The view from my home is over a body of water and my daily walks are on a quiet country road. Manitoulin is also an important spiritual place for the first peoples of Canada. I don't think that my work would be the same if I lived elsewhere.
To learn more about Judy, visit her website at judithemartin.com
The director of Quilt National has asked the exhibiting artists to prepare videos of themselves speaking about the work that will be in the biennial exhibition this summer. In her video, Judy speaks openly about her poetic vision and how her work in textiles might give us the feeling when we look at it as to how we feel when we are alone in nature. She also speaks about the techniques she used to create Prayer To The Sky. View that section here.
Judy Martin was the guest speaker for York Heritage Quilt Guild in Toronto, October 20, 2020.
The meeting was held over Zoom, and the lecture was pre-recorded.
It has now become available online and can be viewed by clicking HERE.
It's 45 minutes long, and throughout Judy speaks about how making is healing. She shows the projects that she worked on between March and September of 2020. Near the end of the recording, she shows some of her more recent finished pieces.
The Visions museum and gallery was not able to mount the exhibition because of pandemic restrictions in San Diego, California and so it is a virtual exhibition only. Click here to view the exhibition.
The Visions Website profiles each artist and quilt with Q and A interviews. Click here to view Judy's Q and A page.
Finally, there were three meet and greet live zoom talks during the first week of November. Judy Martin spoke in #2. Click here to view this one which also includes 6 other artists (listed below). Judy speaks about her piece, My Awakened Heart/ Noble Tenderness for about 7 minutes beginning around the 42 minute mark.
Links for all three Meet and Greets are below:
#1 Includes: Bobbi Baugh, Linda Beach, Betty Busby, Laura Fogg, Valerie Maser-Flanagan, Karen rips, Libby Williamson, Hope Wilmarth
#2 Includes: Susan Bianchi, Laurie Bucher, Bonnie Bucknam, Paula Kovarik, Viviana Lombrozo, Judy Martin, Mary Pal
#3 Includes: Deborah Fell, Paulette Landers, Irene roderick, Karen Schulz, Jan Tetzlaff, Charlotte Ziebarth
|Millennium Journal: Inner Sonnet|
|Millennium Journal: Personal Identity|
|Millennium Journal: winter solstice|
|Millennium Journal: Inner Sonnet (front)|
|Cloud of Time 13" x 75 ' by Judy Martin|
re-purposed linen damask and new silk
2014 (this piece was re-configured in 2017)
Judy Martin was one of three jurors for Land Art: From the Forest to your Balcony, an exhibition now open on the virtual gallery of the SAQA website. Her statement: "It was both an honour and a serious responsibility to be one of the curators for SAQA's first Land Art exhibition. When humans interact with artwork set in nature, we discover new connections and meanings in what was so familiar. Because most of us can only experience these ephemeral installations through books and online experiences, it is important for artists working in this evolving art form to remember that excellent photography is crucial. The climate crises, the pandemic, and humanity's mark are subjects explored by some of the artists in this exhibition, but the most common theme remains the imagination itself, and how it is ignited by the experience of being outside. Sincere thanks to all who entered and made this exhibition so successful. "
Eighteen artists were selected. View the Exhibition!