Monday, September 26, 2016

spirit island

Manitoulin Island is called spirit island.
Manitoulin has a long history of settlement by a spiritual people.
Traces of these people go back at least 10,000 years in the area where I live.
I am allowing the spirit of place to come into my work.
I live on Manitoulin Island and I am white.
The culture that is true to the place where I live is not mine and I keep that in mind.  
The spirit in this land is generous and alive.
I use a hoop to help me hold the cloths I stitch.
When I work at a large scale, I feel as if the hoop helps me to hold the land.
Place and the spirit in the land are held in my lap.
Like each of us, I walk my own path of life story.
I have always lived in northern Ontario and my work reflects the isolation, solitude, big sky and water views that I grew up with and continue to live with. 
 My relationship with this land is that of an immigrant and of a settler.  A Canadian pioneer.
I look to history books, novels and poetry about the time periods in Canada when the settlers came.
I am inspired to work with vintage domestic embroideries and linens and wool blankets because so many of them came over from the old country.

I try to help them and me have a dialog with the land here in northern Canada.
I think about what daily life was like for the women pioneers and look at material objects that might hold history of it.
It takes me a long time to figure out how to honour these old textiles and make them relevant within contemporary thought and aesthetics.

I used the house shape in earlier work and now I use the bundle as metaphors for self and for the women pioneers who came to Canada and specifically, came to Manitoulin.  
I use saved domestic cloths.

I use the idea that all of us look out our windows no matter what our culture.
 All of us look at the full moon and the stars.
All of us stare endlessly at the horizon.

The text and pictures are from the talk I presented last Thursday in London Ontario.
More here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

junko oki

More than often, studying something too much may lead to confusion - Junko Oki
 I used red thread to create stitches that capture my soul - Junko Oki
When I said to someone that I wanted to show both sides of my work, I was told that to do so was unprofessional.  I should only show my best side, the side which is more beautiful and commit to it. Sensible advice, buut I still want to show the back side.  Why?  I don't know.  Maybe finding a reason to that question is an important topic for me to pursue.  Junko Oki
When I touch an old fabric I feel like I'm going back in time.  Junko Oki
Memories can be implanted into material - Junko Oki
I want to make many small pieces.  I love to work spontaneously and follow the path my intuition leads me.  Junko Oki

All images and text in the above post are from Junko Oki's new book, Punk.

Art by contemporary artists like Junko Oki  combine with traditional folk textiles from around the globe as inspiration for the one day workshops I'm teaching in London this week.
The circle:  A universal sybol of wholeness and unity, timelessness, no beginning, no end, no above, no below.  Spacelessness.  Dynamic and endlessly moving, a complete cycle, natural perfection.  J. C. Cooper

Friday, September 16, 2016

I chant my steps

I've been able to resume a daily walk.
I use a cane, I count each step, chanting in my mind
...twenty two, twenty three, twenty four.........
I don't know why I do that.
Each day I can get a little further without stopping to rest.
The act of walking has become a brave repetition of small movements
that strengthen me, ground me, and give me ritual.
I am sewing a line to celebrate my daily walk.
I've have been considering doing this for years.
Last winter, each time that I completed the walk, I moved a square of white linen into a basket, although I didn't know how or what I was going to do with them.  Some kind of path perhaps.

The repetition of day after day of stepping reminded me of stitching.  It was as if I was sewing myself to my local landscape.  I wanted to make something that referenced the running stitch I guess.
A walking step/stitch.
Then I broke my leg.
No more walk.
Instead, I looked at the horizon.  I sat on my deck.
I began wrapping those squares of white around around sweet clover.  Wrap wrap wrap.
The clover stalks grow as tall as me.  In the summer they smelled sweet.
I bent the branches, cut the stalk, and bandaged them with cloth and thread.
I thought that somehow, these could still represent me and my walk. The walk un-walked.

My daughter told me that they looked like bones.
go over, go through, go into what we already know
material objects open a door to inner ness
I spaced the white steps into a relaxed gait, using cloth that I have saved, full of memories.
My life path, a patchwork of time.

My path will measures the distance of the walk I can do now and I'll speak more about it when it is installed during the elemental festival in 2 weeks.

Gravity is measured by the bottom of the foot.                  Juhani Pallasmaa said that

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Sometimes, I ask myself, do I feel that time is LOST when I use so much of it to stitch?  Or, do I think that time is saved?  Answer:  When I am lucky enough to spend an entire day with stitching, I never feel that time has been lost.

Time is my main material.

Shown: the back of Cross My Heart when I just started it.  The front is a grid of overdyed linen squares layered on a piece of dyed velvet.
I remember debating about which side I preferred.   The finished front here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

connected across continents with time and thread

The white cloths are from India.
The black cloths are from Sweden.
These are inspiring me now.
Don't you love how they resemble each other even though the makers never met?
Central floral, circular border decor, fantastical animals.  Red thread.
(The images are from books:   kantha and yllebroderier  )

The intensity of work built with thread, with its suggestion of obsession or even a kind of brilliant insanity is part of the viewer's experience.                                                                                                                                                                                     The process of stitching is meditative, essential in many cultures and traditions to quiet the mind and allow the spirit to evolve. Yet at the same time, there is a link to time passing and to the artist as a being in this world and the work is thus both physical and transcendent.
The contemplative, reflective nature of the process lends the work a depth and compelling gravity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   There is a tradition of needlework through the ages and all that it means for women and cultures.  The ancestral legacy and dignity of needlecraft connects generations.    
                                                                                                                                                            Elaine Lipson (paraphrased a bit)                               

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

I said thank you

On Sunday I visited Dad and he was in the middle of something.  He was going to see a woman about a movie and was by the door so I opened it for him and we went out.  He told me just to wait a few minutes, he'd be back.  I said OK and found some shade and took out my stitching and he rolled his wheels away from me with his hands very slowly, getting stuck now and then.

He has dementia and I haven't had a real conversation with him for months and months.  Granted, I didn't see him during the ealry part of the summer when I had that broken leg, but now I try to go in every other day.  He knows me, but exactly who he thinks I am varies.
During today's visit I told him that I had just come from paying the rent for my studio and was planning to start working there again.  He asked me how much was the rent, and then told me that he had a space he'd like me to have for free.  Does it have high ceilings? I asked and it did.  He said it would please him very much if he could give it to me, so I said thank you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

running in circles

the running stitch
above, not running stitch
start with two drawn circles instead
running stitch on hankerchiefs
one sided flat stitch
running in zig zags
running and running and running

I've been enjoying producing samples for the workshops in London Ontario next month.
Inspired by traditional embroideries from India, Japan and Scandinavia, I am finding powerful and beautiful connections in our human hand-work across centuries and continents.
A work of art is a gift.
It circulates among us as a reservoir of available life.
Lewis Hyde

Friday, August 26, 2016

think with your heart

put your hand on your heart
shift attention to funny, happy, uplifting thoughts

  hold that  feeling for fifteen seconds
my youngsters
then think of something you unconditionally love for 15 seconds