Embroidery in art and craft – my rambling thoughts
Have you ever read something in a book or website or whatever medium and it made you think about it all day? This happened when I read the passage below in an embroidery stitch book from 1920. I read it last year, but when I watched a couple of artists on Youtube talking about their discussions with their art teachers and the art world in general, it made me think of it again. Here it is:
“Perfect expression is not attained by absolute imitation: it is a mistake in embroidery, as in all decorative art, to be realistic. To absorb and transform the real is the true function of art. However pleasing faithful imitation may be it is not a high form of art. The avoidance of realism is a question of design as well as of technique, for the two cannot but go hand in hand.
Such things as naturalistic floral designs are best avoided by the worker with the needle. There is a place for nature and one for art, and when nature is adapted to artistic uses it needs a certain formalism to make it suit its artificial environment.” – Mrs. Archibald Christie in “Samplers and Stitches – a handbook of the embroiderer’s art” in 1920
This quote is out of one of my favorite books for embroidery stitches. And yet, every time I read this quote, I shake my head in disagreement.
Why is it so important to make a distinction between art, crafts, and design? All of them go hand in hand to create something new. There is no art without the craft. If you don’t know how to transport your vision into the real world, your art is not existent outside of your head.
Without design, there is no purpose, no direction, no plan of your art and craft. And without a sprinkle of your personality, your own spirit, your passion, everything you do won’t reach the real potential it could have had.
So why don’t we just let the terms go and bring good things into this world – no matter what it’s called?
In embroidery, we have a couple of different approaches and groups, too. There are the counted stitch stitchers, traditional stitchers, modern stitchers using traditional stitches, stitchers who don’t use traditional stitches, people who stitch on everything but fabric and I’m pretty sure there are even more groups.
All of these groups have many subgroups, too. The bargellos and cross stitchers, the sashikos, the needle painters, the pulled threaders, the surface stitchers, the silk-shaders, the plant stitchers, the expressionist stitchers… you name it!
How do you measure art?
Is one of these groups making better things than the others? How could someone measure it?
You could sort it by practicability, beauty, conversation making ability, level of perfection or skill. And all of these criteria are subjective.
For some people different things are practical. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. There are many conversations you could have over a piece of embroidery – only some of them are political or about society – is it worth less then? A piece of high perfection and skill can be meaningless and boring to some, while a naive or bold piece can impress – or not.
In the end, it comes down to one thing: Whatever you do, do it because you love or at least like it. Whatever your craft is, it’s not important that everybody loves or even understands it. There are people who love it and there are people who don’t. It’s impossible to please everybody and that is good! It would be such a boring and dull world if everybody liked and did the same things, wouldn’t it?
What do you think? Is it possible to measure art? Are arts and crafts separate?
I would love to read your thoughts about this!
Here are the links to the incredible embroidery pieces shown above (you can click the pictures, too)