Embroidery as an art a passion for Cut Knife resident

Before It Is Lost: Thirty Stitches is the name of the embroidery art exhibition on presently in the Windows Salon of the Chapel Gallery in North Battleford.

It features embroidery art by Marcella Pederson, a Cut Knife-area resident you would think hardly had time for embroidery, but it’s something she loves.

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Pedersen is a reflexologist, beekeeper and activist in addition to being an award-winning embroidery artist. Her show, she hopes, will interest others in embroidery “before it is lost” and highlights the variety within embroidery art. As the show’s name suggests, there are in fact “30” different kinds of embroidery, something she discovered in 1978 when she joined the Nimble Thimbles Guild, a branch of the Saskatchewan Embroiderer’s Guild.

Pedersen first began talking to City of North Battleford Curator/Manager of Galleries Leah Garven some three years ago about showcasing the work of embroiderers in the Battlefords. It can take some time to plan and organize a show and then find a time slot for it. As an embroidery artist with national recognition, Pedersen hopes she’s paving the way for exhibitions by more local embroiderers.

“I only wish that some of the incredible embroidery of others be showcased,” says Pedersen. That may not be easy, she admits, as the embroidery guild has disbanded, mostly due to the age of the members. However, she says, “if they were encouraged, I am sure we could come up with a display from other local stitchers with contacts that I have.”

Pedersen’s fascination with embroidery art started when she was young, watching her Great-aunt Ida making bobbin pin lace, one of two main kinds of handmade lace in which thread is braided and twisted from bobbins and held in place with pins on a pillow.

“She moved those bobbins so fast, and made beautiful lace,” says Pedersen.

Pedersen began stitching at age 10, taught by her mother and encouraged by her cousins.  Her first project was a sampler of stitches in the shape of a Christmas tree.

She discovered hardanger, a traditional Norwegian form of embroidery, when she joined the Nimble Thimbles. After taking several workshops in Saskatchewan, Pedersen joined the Embroiderers Association of Canada about 16 years ago. She has tried nearly all 30 kinds of embroidery, and still comes back to hardanger as a favourite to have around to pick up whenever she wants to do a little stitching.

“Every five minutes of waiting on someone makes a difference in getting [a] project done,” she says.

Another favourite is needle painting of landscapes, animals and flowers.

“This form of embroidery is the kind that when you start, you want to stay with it, without interruptions,” she says, so she generally has both styles on the go at any one time. 

When she took classes of new kinds of embroidery, she would try to make them applicable on shirts and blouses, so people could see the different kinds of embroidery, for example: Brazilian, Bargello, Ribbon, Blackwork and Cutwork all lend themselves to being put on clothing, she explains.

The newest thing, she adds, is mixing techniques and mediums. 

Her interest in hand embroidery is also fueled by the worry of losing the art, especially such techniques as making bobbin pin lace. 

“With machine embroidery and factories making our clothing, hand embroidery seems to have lost its popularity,” she says.

At least where she comes from that seems to be the case, she explains. So she has worked at learning as many different kinds of embroidery as she can before they were lost all together. Now that she is involved with the Embroiderers Association of Canada, however, she is not as worried anymore. She is also happy to have passed on her interest in embroidery to her daughter (but not, unfortunately, to her granddaughters). 

Pedersen says, because embroidery is so relaxing, she “just has to have a needle in hand regularly.” She loves creating artwork and it can sometimes be very addicting, she says.

She has also ventured into other crafts such as wheat straw weaving, quillwork, beading, and Easter egg painting. 

She notes her interests are explained partly by her ancestral heritage. She is one half Belgian, one quarter French and one quarter British, so, laughingly, she calls herself all Ukrainian, a culture she loves because of their wheat straw weaving, egg painting and embroidery.

Her passion for embroidery has resulted in acclaim. Pedersen has won third prize Viewer’s Choice at EAC seminars twice, and second for seminar theme twice.  She has entered two pieces in Ontario’s Threadworks Show, one of which she sold for $400 to someone from Switzerland. As a landscape artist she has been influenced by well-known teachers, Margaret Vant Erve and Tanja Berlin.

But her life isn’t just about embroidery. Pedersen lives on a beekeeping farm at Cut Knife, where she gardens, and works professionally as a certified reflexologist.

She works and teaches in Cut Knife, Unity, Maidstone and North Battleford and on Sweetgrass First Nation, as well as from her home. 

“I began doing reflexology at 13 years of age, taking the course in 1979, and became certified in 1991,” says Pedersen.

But her interests don’t stop there.

“With one year in university nurses training, I am especially interested in health and food issues,” says Pederson. “With a background in farming and the National Farmers Union, I am very concerned about farm security and food sovereignty as it relates to health, which is one reason I grow my own chickens.”

Pedersen has had a long involvement with the NFU, having held local and district president’s, director’s and secretary’s offices, and in 2014 she held the National Women’s Vice-President’s position.

She is currently Women’s Advisory for Region 6, Saskatchewan.

Her NFU involvement has fanned out to the Women’s Information Network of Saskatchewan, she says. During the winter of 2011, she facilitated 11 presentations related to International Women’s Day about Economic Violence Against Women, including one-and-a-half-hour long interactive workshops on food sovereignty.

The list of things Pedersen loves is long, and she shares her passions with others.

“I love National Farmers Union canvassing, any kind of embroidery, making church banners, wheat straw weaving, Ukrainian egg decorating, beeswax candle-making, gardening, landscaping and cross-country skiing. I have taught classes locally in most of these areas,” says Pedersen.

She was also newsletter editor for the Saskatchewan Embroiderers Guild from 1996 to 2000, continued on the SEG executive as director, vice-president, and president and returned to the editor’s job in 2007, which she continued in until 2013.

In 2006 she published my husband’s family history book as well as compiled a history book for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish for their 60th Anniversary, a parish in which she has been deeply involved as well.

If that were not enough, she was also in Tupperware sales for 15 years and worked in Home Care as a home health aide for a dozen years.

Throughout it all, she has been happily married for 47 years to Gilbert and they have two children.

“My married son, Yens, 45, is a lawyer in Regina. His wife, Maureen, and Yens blessed us with two granddaughters, ages 12 and 8. My daughter Karen, 44, is a farmer, that is, beekeeper,” she says.

“Gil and I started out as grain/sheep farmers as well as beekeepers,” she explains. “Eventually beekeeping won out, so that today my husband, daughter and his two brothers run 800 hives and hire six to ten student employees.”

They live in a passive solar-heated home with a small wood stove and are concerned about energy and environmental issues. 

“We joined the North Saskatchewan River Environmental Society in 2009 in a struggle to stop nuclear development as well as to encourage wind and solar energy uses and energy conservation,” she says. “So in November, 2010, our farm installed four wind turbines and installed solar panels for heating the honey house.”

She is a woman of many interests and passions.

Pedersen says, “I have been an activist all my life, hoping to make a difference.”

Pedersen’s embroidery art show is on at the Chapel Gallery until Jan. 13. The Chapel Gallery is located at 891-99th Street in the Don Ross Centre. Regular winter hours are Wednesday to Sunday from noon until 4 p.m. During the holiday season, however, the gallery will be closed Monday, Dec. 24, Tuesday, Dec. 25, Wednesday, Dec. 26, Monday, Dec. 31, and Tuesday, Jan. 1.

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