Why Am I a Liturgical Textile Artist?

As a minister at the very beginning of writing my dissertation for a doctor of ministry degree, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection lately as I try to decide on a dissertation topic. One question that keeps coming to the fore is, “Why Am I a Liturgical Artist?” It is not really a career that little girls or boys aspire to. How did I get here?

First of all, sewing is one of the few things that I am really good at. I had one home ec class 45 years ago and I’ve been self-taught from there. The more challenging the pattern, the better as far as I am concerned. For five years, I had my own business making clothing for plus-size women. That’s where I taught myself pattern-making and to experiment with wearable art.

As a minister, I have never felt a call to pastoring a church. I do feel a great call towards working with the lost, the least and the locked out, and my first call as a Presbyterian minister was to begin a women’s empowerment group called the Lydia Women’s Empowerment Project in the very “urban” section of north Minneapolis. We worked together on spiritual empowerment, family empowerment, economic empowerment and social change empowerment. I (and many volunteers) taught the women to sew, and we made clergy stoles and church paraments for churches all over the Twin Cities, and even farther. I found that how a woman handles a sewing project is very informative as to how she handles life issues.

Lydia Women's Empowerment Project
Stars of the Lydia Women’s Empowerment Project

When the Lydia Project ended, I decided that I had many more stoles in my heart to make. It seems that my congregation is the pastors, and often their friends and family members, who visit Lydia’s Hands or my Etsy shop online. I love hearing how proud family members are of graduating seminarians. On custom work, I enjoy the collaborative effort of minister and maker together, which often includes a lively theological discussion. I love educating my “congregants” on the finer points of how to wear a stole, liturgical colors, and why my stoles are made the way they are. Just as a pastor prays for his/her flock, I pray for the ministries of those who wear my stoles.

Why am I a liturgical artist? Because I don’t think I could be anything else!