It was a project that lasted 20 years.
Finally, retired chemistry professor Bro. Martin Sellner has finished his embroidery of the periodic table of the elements.
To the delight of Internet users, the 82-year-old Lasallian brother posted a photo on Facebook on July 17.
The embroidery measures 58 x 54 inches, and every inch has been meticulously hand-sewn by Bro. Martin himself.
This is an effort that spanned two decades and ended during the containment phase of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But, it all started with a debilitating health problem.
In a conversation via Facebook Messenger, Bro. Martin told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal): âIn 1999, I developed severe back problems while working in the Philippines. I returned to the United States to resolve it.
“Surgery was not an option, and the other procedures did not help, so I made the decision to stay home. Teaching was no longer possible.”
As he had to withdraw from teaching, Bro. Martin needed a hobby to pass the time.
âA dear friend of mine, a mother of my former student, suggested that I sew – knit to be exact – with a needle on a plastic grid.
âI liked doing that, making covers for boxes of tissues. The sides were rectangular, and after a while I thought of the periodic table with its 118 cells.
A PASSIONATE PROJECT
Boyfriend. Martin was a professor of chemistry and mathematics for 26 years in Chicago and Minnesota in the United States.
In 1985 he moved to the Philippines to teach and help improve the science curriculum at De La Salle schools in the country.
He taught in the Philippines for ten years, with stays at De La Salle University in Taft, Manila, and at De La Salle Santiago Zobel School in Muntinlupa City.
After a few years, he returned to the United States to seek treatment for his back injury.
âIn 2000, when I returned to the United States, I was asked to take care of the elderly brothers, with a total of 19 under my care.
“Besides cross stitch, I also started genealogy, another very interesting hobby.”
But brother. Martin finally found his way back to Manila.
âIn 2012, at the close of the centenary year of the La Salle Brothers in the Philippines, for which I returned, the Brothers asked me to consider a return to Manila.
âI loved this place so much before that it was an easy decision for me to make, so I returned to Manila in 2013.â
One of the things he brought back with him was his cross stitch.
Boyfriend. Martin had been working on various cross stitch projects over the years to keep him concerned.
But he never lost sight of his ultimate goal: to complete the embroidery of the periodic table of elements.
âDuring those 20 years, I got tired of the same project, so I started others just for some variety,â Bro said. Martin said.
âI ended up doing 20 or 30 more cross stitch projects, giving them to my family, relatives and friends. And keep sewing the periodic table until it’s finally finished a few days ago.
He added, âWhy wouldn’t I want to finish it? In cross stitch, I never set myself a time limit to finish anything. I think if you did that you might be stressed out and it wouldn’t be a hobby anymore, it wouldn’t be enjoyable anymore. So I plug in and finish something every time.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown meant more time for Bro. Martin to sit down and carry out his most ambitious project.
He recounted the factors that both prolonged and accelerated the process for him.
âWhen I had most of the table sewn, there were nine unnamed items, three of which had not yet been made. I really assumed that doing these three and naming these nine might never happen while I was there. But I resisted, “he said.
âFinally, seven years ago, the manufacture of the final element was verified and accepted. Six years ago, the remaining elements were named, given a symbol, and the most stable isotope determined.
âThen it was a matter of finding the time to sew them on my table. And I found that moment during this pandemic containment. When the confinement started, I first did other things, things that were more important in my mind, and eventually I started doing the periodic table. “
What was the most difficult challenge for him with this project?
“I would rather change that to what was most boring!” And that was sewing the border. The border took twice as long as the table itself.
âThere is nothing exciting or creative about sewing a row 58 inches long, for a total of about 1,000 stitches, then coming back to those 1,000 stitches to complete the cross. It was a row. How many rows? 45, and it was just up the border. There was still the bottom and the two sides. Talk about tedious work.
âThis was back when so many other cross stitch projects were undertaken and completed. But no project has given me as much joy and excitement upon completion as this table, that’s for sure.
Boyfriend. Martin currently resides on the DLSU campus, along with 18 other brothers. There, he taught his Lasallian brothers how to cross stitch, while being active on social networks, including TikTok.
He plans to frame the periodic table embroidery for posterity’s sake.
âMaybe I’ll hang it in my bedroom, taking up most of a wall, and just admire it, and remember all the different steps,â Bro. Martin reflects after completing the periodic table.
âNothing like good memories to cherish. “