Last Sunday we were all amazed when we entered the church sanctuary to see the new banners for Palm Sunday.
Yesterday I mentioned to Joy that I would like to do a blog entry about her work with the banners, and asked her for some thoughts on this – such as why she creates them, what inspires them, and how she sees them as being part of worship. She said, “What if I send you an email message … ?“
So this is what I received this morning … (I added the photos)
I have been working in hand sewn felt works since the early 70's. Up until 7 years ago, my pieces were always small ornaments, or small hangings no bigger than 12 inches by 10. Then one day, I found a book of church banners. One appealed to me and I made it, using felt and satin. However, it was not until I joined Whitehorse United Church that I really began to create large pieces for the church.
The song "Many Gifts One Spirit" seems to embody this place. I kept for many many years a picture of an embroidered piece and up until that day, I never knew why. This piece is also felt and fabric, a hard combination at that time. It is small compared to the banners that came after it. Now they are rarely less than 5 feet across and 5 or 6 feet long.
After that, ideas came at any time and place. I would sketch them or write cryptic notes on any blank part of bulletins( yes I know I always look like I am listening to the Sunday sermon). Bits of music, or scripture are always in my head to inspire me. That is the easy part. It's the material that can be the problem. An example is the parable of the lost sheep. I knew what I wanted but spent at least two years trying to locate sheep like fabric. Several people went Outside with tiny bits of the closest I could come to what I wanted. Then the perfect fabric showed up in town in 2 "sheep" colours! People tell me how much they enjoy the "90 and 9" banner, the 99 sheep, some eating, some with their backs to the viewer, most of them quite smug on their green field. Soon the church had a respectable collection for the year.
Christmas and Advent still needed something and nothing was coming to me. Last year, I had the idea of 4 panels of 4 tall candles with the words Love Joy Hope Peace. I let it "cook" in my imagination and then in summer, I saw them as clearly as this page. Each would have a different blue background and candle, and I would put them up one at a time. Each would be 15 inches across and 65 inches long, so together they would fit the width of the space where they would hang.
One night I woke up with a start. How great would it be to make them reversible with Christmas on the other side! This plan had several drafts; pieces of paper all over the house, as I tried to come up with the perfect combination; 4 panels 15 inches wide and 65 inches long. The Words "O Come/Adore/Him with a glorious golden angel with stars (and silver slippers) and the sparkly silhouette of a village at the bottom. I was inspired. Then at the end of October, I broke my wrist.
As if that was going to stop me. It was not my needle hand, just my fabric holding hand. Sewing the letters was easy; so was cutting. The first Advent panel went up before the cast came off. Now for the hard part. Because I was hanging the panels as they were finished each week, I had no guiding panel to make sure all of them would be the right size. In spite of some wrong guesses (hidden by adding another layer of "village" to the bottom), when all the pieces were up, only one was out by a half inch. All hand sewn in gold and silver metallic threads. Nobody saw the Christmas side or knew about it until the Christmas Eve service. I cannot remember ever enjoying giving a gift so much!
Unless it is the latest Palm Sunday banner. Palm Sunday was the second piece I had made for the church. The choir liked it so much they wanted it left up through Easter. But the background felt is stretchy and I was never happy how it hung, no matter how hard I tried to fix it. This past January, at our annual retreat, I started having visions of happy running children. And a donkey. They never left me (well, the donkey bowed out pretty fast) and I realized that they were the children running to greet Jesus.
I found some images in a colouring book, had a friend draw them all the same size so I could blow them up for patterns. How could I make this? If I used green or blue background, I could not use those colours for clothing. One morning I woke up and I knew. These children would be free of backgrounds and panels.
So there they hung on Palm Sunday, suspended from the rod by fishing line, with weights in their toes to keep them flat against the wall. They made me so happy I cried as I saw how they looked. I remember wishing I could draw so I could make them look like children in the congregation. I don't know why I ever worried. People saw those children's faces in the fabric ones. It made them smile. It made them happy. Another gift to give.
Because they are all gifts. A thank you for all the support and kindness and compassion given by the congregation to me and to others. I suppose these are my sermons, my prayers, my songs. My contribution. And there will be more. A handful of flower patterns and my favourite line of music, "Hearts Unfold Like Flowers Before Thee". Someday there will be a golden "Rise Shine, Give God Glory." I have stopped worrying about colour and content. After fretting that February's "Love is All you Need" in pinks and reds on a dusty rose background might be all wrong for the wall, it turned out to be so calming and pleasant (to me at least) it will go back up for Mothers' Day. Unless a better idea comes along.
Isn’t she wonderful?
Posted by Hank