Thursday, 28 April 2016

Inspired by the EG

I have been neglecting this little space in the blogosphere because I have been rather busy. We've had several good sessions at the branch of the Embroiderers Guild that I belong to; another of our mini workshops, this time my choice was ribbonwork, but I've not done enough finishing to share with you here yet. We also had a marvellous talk by Anthea Godfrey about the work of her mother, Margaret Nicholson. It was so interesting to hear about someone who forged her own path at a time when women were still expected to stay at home and look after their families. Anthea brought an utterly inspiring set of her mothers embroideries for us to see.

Margaret used a wide variety of embroidery and beadwork techniques, employing all sorts of materials and methods. She particularly enjoyed Or Nue which is a goldwork technique which involves laying metal thread on the surface of the fabric and attaching it with embroidery silks in such a way that the stitching, using different colours, creates a picture which sparkles and glimmers in the light. It is a very old technique; a great speciality in this country during the 14th and 15th Centuries, when it formed part of the repertoire of English embroidery, known as Opus Anglicanum, or English Work. You can see examples in the V&A and we exported embroideries across Europe, often to religious foundations or churches, as the Church was a major patron of the arts then.

Margaret took this technique, combined it with others and, with her wonderful talent for design, created beautiful images full of imagination and colour as you can see here.

Anthea brought so many pieces that we could have spent all day just looking at one or two; the technique is so fine, and so labour intensive, it seemed miraculous that one woman could create so many beautiful embroideries in a single lifetime.

After such an inspiring talk I came home full of fire to get on with another Guild project, our regional challenge which we have every year. The theme this year is "Inspired by Royal Jewels" and the branch are busy creating all sorts of bits of embroidery to display at the annual Regional Day. I had a good look at royal jewellery and found myself rather uninspired, until I thought of the Alfred Jewel which is held in the Ashmolean (always a place to spend many happy hours!). This took me to the Anglo Saxons, and I discovered this rather lovely brooch found at the burial site of an Anglo Saxon princess in Kent. 

That seemed pretty royal to me, and much more inspiring than tiaras and diamond necklaces, so off I went. Drawing on the techniques I learnt at our Wendy Dolan workshop last year, I decided to create a cuff or bracelet based on the design of the brooch. Much trialling and stitching later, and I'm really rather pleased with the result - if you'll excuse the "old dear wrinkles"!!

Goldwork, beads and layered organza cut back with a soldering iron to emulate the cloisonne technique of the original.

I just might see if I can do something else now.