Let Me Introduce You to ... Isla Marsh
An interview by Beryl Burnett, originally published in Embroidery Canada, November 2013.
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Why do you stitch? Are you intrigued by projects or do you like to keep busy?
Isla loves to keep busy; she literally can’t sit still without doing something. At the end of each day, Isla feels her accomplishments have brought her closer to her goals and she has made progress! Isla has a world of interests and no matter which way she turns, there is always something to work on.
Are you a process (enjoying the making of a project or learning of a technique) or a project (I want the finished object) stitcher?
Isla is a project stitcher. She likes stitching the project but is particularly gratified to reach its completion. However, if the project doesn’t get finished, that's okay! At Seminars, Isla especially likes to see how other stitchers interpret the same project.
At what age did you start stitching/embroidery? Do you recall what technique it was? Who taught you?
Isla was six years old when she started doing handwork. She began with darning socks in the traditional woven method. She still enjoys doing this! When Isla’s Mom sat down to do her darning, Isla watched and begged for lessons.
Like many of us, the first needlework Isla attempted was the lazy daisy stitch and stamped cross stitch. As she honed her technique, she completed cross-stitched pictures for donation to church craft sales. She also learned to knit and crochet from her Grandma Marsh who continued to knit even after she lost her sight. Isla's other Grandma taught her the finer points of quilting, an art that remains dear to her heart to this day. Isla’s Mother was a dressmaker but in her work seldom got the opportunity to finish her garments with embellishment.
What techniques have you tried over your stitching years? What technique(s) do you particularly enjoy or keep going back to, i.e. your favourites? Why do these technique(s) appeal to you?
Isla has tried almost every technique over her lifetime and is well versed in many of them. Her absolute favorite is counted embroidery. She is a huge fan of Carolyn Mitchell’s designs.
She likes counted work for the discipline it requires, and she loves the control she has over the end product. She also loves whitework. She does admit, however, that as we age and our eyes fade somewhat, tone on tone has become more difficult.
Some techniques which are not on the top of her list include Brazilian embroidery and surface work. Stitching with wools poses a problem for Isla as she is allergic to it.
If you have UFOs, what happens to them? Are they recycled, given away? Or – heaven forbid! – tossed out?
Isla had a laugh over this question and quickly replied, “My UFO corner multiplies like hangers!” She readily admits that – courtesy of her UFO stash – she always has something at hand to work on and never runs out of things to stitch. She confesses that a major bonus day is actually completing a UFO!
In response to what happens to her UFOs, Isla responded emphatically, "TOSSED?! – NEVER!!!" She feels that eventually she will finish all of her UFOs, though she cheekily admits that she might have to live to the age of 300 to accomplish this.
What are your other talents/interests outside of stitching /embroidery? Please elaborate.
Quilting is a “biggy”. Isla belongs to the Manitoba Prairie Quilters. She has been on its Executive for four years, though her term will soon be complete and she will be "retiring." As a quilter she has participated in many quilt shows and has travelled all over North America for classes and shows.
Isla also plays the organ and piano. She has been organist for 12 years and pianist for seven years at St Peter's Dynevor, the Anglican church just outside of Selkirk (30 minutes north of Winnipeg). Her father was the minister of that church back in the 70s. She noted that “she plays because she does not like to sing.” She also sits on the Archives Committee for the Anglican Diocese of Rupert's Land.
As is evident, Isla loves music and the arts and regularly attends performances of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She is an avid reader and insists that the only reason she went to school was to read ... nothing else! She is a member of Chief Peguis Heritage Park Inc. and is currently its Treasurer.
Isla's true love is her cats. At the moment, Ebony, Ivory, Keiko, and Maggie have all taken up residence with her and keep her highly entertained. They especially love her needlework.
As EAC Librarian, Isla has extensive knowledge of the Library and its contents. In addition to providing efficient and helpful service to EAC members seeking resources, she says she always has a ready supply of books to read (back to that old love!). Isla has been an EAC Board member now for five or six years. She donates her time and talents freely and enjoys corresponding with members seeking information. She is also an active member of the Winnipeg Embroiderers' Guild, currently serving as WEG Archivist and coordinator of the monthly raffle fundraiser.
Isla enjoyed a long career as a nurse having graduated from nursing school in 1965. She has been happily retired now for several years.
How did you become an EAC member?
In 1992, a work colleague of Isla's was leaving to attend Seminar but had to drop out at the last minute. She asked Isla if she would like to purchase her spot so Isla joined EAC and attended her very first Seminar. She went again in 1998 and has since attended every Seminar, with the exception of 2011.
What would you tell a friend if he or she asked you about EAC or your chapter?
Isla was quick to note that she would talk about how membership provides an opportunity to learn all kinds of needlework, meet people from many walks of life, and get to socialize with a great circle of wonderful new friends.
What would you tell other members to encourage them to attend Seminar?
Having attended more than a dozen Seminars, Isla can attest to the fact that Seminar makes it possible to meet people from across Canada and make friends with folks who share a love of needlework. Also, the Seminar Members' Show each year displays some of the greatest pieces of embroidery gathered together in one place at one time – such a treat!
As you can see from getting to know Isla, she loves to be involved and is an enthusiastic supporter of EAC!