Community Circle Project lives on with new Slow Stitch workshop series

Island fiber artist Judy Martin helps participants of the Slow Stitch workshop series create meditation panels.

LITTLE CURRENT—The Manitoulin Community Circle Project—a four panel fiber project created by Island women over four years under the leadership of Manitoulin artist Judy Martin—may have concluded last year, but a new off-shoot workshop has started teaching the stitches from the panels through the creation of individual meditation panels.

“The idea for the (Slow Stitch) workshop series came from the community,” explained Ms. Martin. “After the circle project ended, some of the women who participated (over 140 were involved in the original project) were asking ‘what’s next?’ Learning what an impact the project had on the participants lives and sense of community, it inspired me to work with the community again in this way and teach the stitches from the meditation panels for individuals to create their own.”

Slow Stitch started at the Little Current United Church (the host of the circle project and where the panels are displayed) in February and runs weekly on Thursdays from 1 to 4 pm.

“There are no rules and people can drop in whenever,” explained Ms. Martin. “You can start whenever too, you don’t have to have been coming since February. Also, it is free, I’m just asking people to bring their own materials.”

Slow stitch, or ‘slow cloth’ as it is commonly known, is a term defined by fiber artist Elaine Lipson, noted Ms. Martin. She said that Ms. Lipson’s 10 requirements for slow cloth include joy, contemplation, skill, diversity, teaching, materials, quality, beauty, community and expression.

The Manitoulin Community Circle Project consist of four panels: ‘Layers of Time,’ ‘Mended World,’ ‘Precious Water’ and ‘Earth Ark,’ and was born out of an assignment Ms. Martin was working on through the Julia Capara School and a course she was taking on liturgical embroidery.

The stitches being taught by Ms. Martin from the panels include French knots, chain stitch, St. George’s cross stitch, eyelet embroidery stitch and packed stem stitch, to name a few.

Diana Parrill was one of the women participating in the workshop last Thursday when The Expositor stopped in. She explained that she had been part of the circle project briefly, but that due to other commitments, hadn’t been able to participate on a regular basis.

“I have more time now and I’m pleased that I can come and work on a piece at my own time and pace,” she said.

Maureen Armstrong added that she had been in the same boat as Ms. Parrill and was also pleased she had more time to participate in the new workshop series.

“Judy is an inspiration,” Ms. Armstrong told The Expositor. “I’ve really been enjoying this (Slow Stitch).”

Jocelyn Sobeski travelled from Espanola to attend last week’s session as well.

“I plan on making the drive as often as a I can,” said Ms. Sobeski of the Thursday workshops. “I’m constantly evolving as an artist and I want to see it (fiber art) in a different way, through Judy’s eyes.”

Jan Stenschke also made the trek from off-Island to attend a session. Ms. Stenschke said that a fellow artist learned about Judy’s Slow Stitch workshops online and thought it would be interesting.

“I like to try new things,” added Ms. Stenschke’s friend Carmel Tidd.

Ms. Martin said she is also using the workshops to help prepare for a course she’s teaching at Fiber Arts Newfoundland 2015.

“My course is on the mediation panels,” said Ms. Martin. “I will be bringing the panels with me in suitcases from the United Church and teaching a course over three days on how to design and make a meditation panel.”

As for Slow Stitch, the workshop series is open ended, and Ms. Martin urges anyone who is interested to drop by the Little Current United Church any Thursday from 1 to 4 pm to learn more or try their hand at fiber art.