This week we have spoken with our Makers about their work within the wider context of the history, storytelling and techniques of embroidery.\n
From field notes and foraging, to sentimentality and materiality, our makers are part of a much wider cultural context where each stitch is significant. Throughout history, embroidered textiles have provided a deeper understanding and illustration of the experiences of humanity - in some cases created by people who never had any other opportunity to be heard. Ornamental motifs and patterns are not merely decorative but tend to be embedded with meaning. The choice of colour, material and composition also have great importance. Many of the techniques used today remain the same as those found in ancient textiles.\n
Rosemary Milner uses embroidery to introduce tactility and texture to her Arran collection, which she feels would be hard to achieve with printing alone. The collection is designed as a love letter to the coastlines of Scotland.\n \n
Rosemary was taught to embroider by her grandmother at a young age and found herself continually brought back to embellishment. She particularly enjoys Sashiko and Kantha stitches, finding inspiration in historic embroidery across different cultures - noting an impressive embroidery and tapestry exhibition at SOAS showcasing part of the Karun Thakar collection.
Using a combination of chain stitch, running stitch and french knots, Rosemary brings her studies of seaweed to life. She also uses stab-stitch to fill in large areas and create texture.\n \n
With a family history of working in the textile manufacture industry in the Midlands, Aimee Betts felt that although she couldn’t remember learning craft as a child, textile making was part of her very DNA. She began working with historical techniques from the Midlands, experimenting with new uses and combining hand and machine processes. One of her favourite stitches is the herringbone stitch - often used in tailoring, needle lace and as a decorative fill.\n
“Embroidery is often thought of as a domestic craft, which I love, but it is also architectural. It can be used to create a constructed surface. I wanted to bring that background and tradition of embroidery into a piece of furniture.”\n
We see this architectural application brought to life in Aimee's Stitched Sideboard developed in collaboration with Gareth Neal.\n \n
Aimee recently came across the work of Martha Edlin, whose exquisite embroidered items can be seen in the British Galleries at the V&A. Martha was born in 1660, and some of the earliest items she made were when she was eight years old.
“I was amazed by how accomplished she was from a young age, and her forward thinking to apply her skill to items such as caskets and purses. It’s a remarkable experience to view Martha’s work, created during a time when needlework was a priority in education.”\n
Embroidered casket, Martha Edlin, 1671, England. Museum no. T.432-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London \n
As well as historical references, our makers look to their contemporaries for inspiration. Lora Avedian enjoys looking at fashion, with couture houses and designers like Dior and Simone Rocha providing fresh takes on the traditional skill.
Often looking at antique embroideries and the Costume and Botany collections in the V&A, Lora Avedian combines old and new to express her distinct voice. In her latest collection, she uses patchwork and embroidery to enliven archival folk drawings which were made by Pennsylvanian Germans between 1700s and 1800s.\n \n
Initially working with embroidery as a teenager, Lora went on to study Embroidery and Mixed Media Textiles. Her textured pieces are created through an interplay between materials and embroidery:
“I love using couching to stitch down materials because it works really well with braids, which I like to use for stems and other details. Embroidery holds a lot of historical weight, so I try to use techniques which are reminiscent of certain times and places to create new narratives.”\n
Lora’s work often uses whatever is available around her to create her textiles. Over the years, she has collected fabrics that often kindle an idea, being led by the colours or materiality - even cutting up pieces of her own wedding dress to form white poppies. Lora adds further dimensionality to the pieces in subtle ways, such as embroidering contrasting fabrics to make the leaves feel full and rich.\n \n
Storytelling is at the heart of Caitlin Hinshelwood’s practice and uses embroidery as one of her tools to construct narratives. Her work is backed by an enormous wealth of historic references, particularly folk textiles and costumes, which often use embroidery and embellishment techniques.\n
From traditional Greek textiles, to English stumpwork, to the Brazilian outsider artist Arthur Bispo do Rosário, who created incredible embroidered works of art from found objects for over 50 years, whilst confined to an institution. Rosário’s work was autobiographical, sharing snippets of a life spent in the Navy, boxing and ecclesiastical references.\n
Bispo do Rosa?rio Embroidered jacket, Vestment - i came, 12.22.1938 midnight, n.d. \n
Caitlin uses embroidery intuitively, mixing motions and materials to get the results she wants. She draws inspiration from folk storytelling to share snippets of her own life, in this collection she shares her discoveries jotted in field notes while out walking through fields and hedgerows.
Her charming collection combines silk and wool felt to share her discoveries noted while out on walks through fields and hedgerows. She uses appliqué to arrange illustrative motifs and geometric shapes, cut from wool felt and applied with delicate stitches to her hand-dyed silk.
Discover our unique collection, incorporating stitched and embroidered textile elements, below.