Cloth of Time

Penny Berens & Judy Martin

Artist Biography

Penny Berens was born in Bournemouth, England into a military family which meant moving homes and countries every couple of years. Penny has lived in Canada with her husband and sons since 1975 and, since retiring in 2007, she and her husband have made their home in Granville Beach, Nova Scotia.

Penny has a City & Guilds diploma in Embroidery & Design from Dundee College, Scotland but her education in stitch started many years earlier under the loving guidance of both grandmothers and her mother.

Penny’s work has been shown in solo and group shows across Canada and internationally. Penny has always loved teaching and encouraging others to follow their own stitching
path. She writes about her work, her process and sources of inspiration on her blog “Tanglewood Threads”. Since moving to Nova Scotia Penny’s work reflects her interest in recording the passage of time.


Judy Martin creates large hand stitched drawings that usually refer to things of a
spiritual or a celestial nature. She holds an HBFA (chancellor’s medal) from Lake head
University in Thunder Bay, as well as a BA in Embroidered Textiles from Middlesex University in London, England. A two-time Quilt National exhibitor, with recent solo exhibitions at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Sudbury and the David Kaye Gallery in Toronto, Judy Martin is the recipient of numerous awards. She has received recognition for her work in several books, including Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art by Claire Wellesley Smith and Art Quilts International: Abstract and Geometric by Martha Sielman. Her work is included in several collections including the Cambridge Galleries’ Fibre Art collection and the Canada Council Art Bank. Judy Martin has exhibited in the USA, Europe and Japan as well as across Canada.

Exhibition Statement

Penny Berens Artist Statement
“Since coming to the woodlands and shorelines of Nova Scotia my work has become a mindful reflection on the passage of time. As a child time was an eternity…there was so much of it. As a young adult time was something to use to maximum effect. Now, as an older person, life is slower but time just flies by. Perhaps that is why I feel the need to record it or maybe provide proof that I have lived it! But mainly it is fascinating to me how the small daily practice of adding a line of stitch, or perhaps a shape, grows into such a large work reflective of the year that has passed.

‘Daily Scratchings’ was stitched every day over a four year period (2012-2015). Within that timeframe my daily practice evolved from adding a simple row of stitch to a more graphic record of events from my day and finally to larger stitch experiments that spread over several days at a time.

For 2016 it was the challenge of including the iconic symbol of two crossed lines in small weekly pieces that interested me. Each piece had to include a cross be it obvious or subtle. The result is a collection of 52 (4”x6”) pieces entitled ‘CrissCross’.

Early morning walks among trees or along rocky shores are always rich in inspiration. It is not the huge vistas that inspire me but rather the small seemingly unimportant that draw my attention. Perhaps a pebble or even a small mark would be what calls to me.

For my 2017 journal I decided to pick up a pebble every day and render it in cloth and stitch. ‘Stone Pathways’ is a group of twelve hangings that came from those daily stone collecting walks.”

Judy Martin Artist Statement
“I love to stitch by hand. I need to do it every day, or I do not feel settled. I stitch for an hour or two every morning before breakfast as a way of preparing my inner self for the rest of the day. I schedule appointments for the afternoon so that they do not interrupt this quiet time with my self.

I think a lot about love and things spiritual, and the tactility of those marks made with thread helps me to communicate my ideas. The gentle bumps of thread in cloth beg to be touched, even when we are in an art gallery where touching is not allowed, yet we still know how pleasurable the simple repeated stitches will feel under our caressing fingers. Touch has been called the mother of the senses, because it is able to reach each of us on an emotional level, more so than the sense of sight.

The largest piece in this exhibition, Not to Know But to Go On, addresses mortality and the relentless rhythm of time. Fabrics that I’ve saved for years were couched onto canvas with an entire skein of cotton floss each day for three years. Inspired by the Finnish rugs of my heritage and the writing of Agnes Martin, this piece makes the whirl of time visible. The large wall piece, Cloud of Time, although made with the same techniques as the sculpture, has colours limited to those of a cloud filled sky and is not a journal, but a document of one year of time. The Sun, The Moon, And Also the Stars, are three small wall pieces that evolved through the practice of creating small daily collages. Plant dyed velvet and other fabrics were stitched into individual designs to wool felt bases which were then stitched together in order. When I ran out of felt, I turned the pieces over and drew into their backs with black thread.

I think that the main reason that I make things with cloth and thread is that the process heals me. Creating something that was not here before gives me a sense of well-being. Also, I consider my stitched pieces to be poems as much as they are drawings but I’ll talk about that at another time.”


Published ©2021 by the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photography courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.