Finding inspiration in Medieval embroidery
The foundation of my embroidery process and technique is via constant experimentation and study. I am an embroiderer with many years' experience in designing and creating embroidered artworks, including bespoke pieces on commission. Taught to sew originally by my mother, I come from a family of stitchers, but I’ve taken this art form further, learning from what I discover through my research.
I am based in the North East of England; I find inspiration in the history of my craft - in the work of Medieval embroiderers and the flowing designs of both the Arts and Crafts movement and the Celtic Revival. Often taking fruits and flowers as a starting point, many of my designs are then stylised and shaped to fit a more geometric form.
Over the years, much of my work, including the St Cuthbert's Banner commission for the Northumbrian Association for presentation to Durham Cathedral, where it is now on permanent display, have used the classic Medieval Opus Anglicanum techniques of goldwork and split stitch, which allow fine detail with a sense of opulence. More recently, my signature flower pieces have developed this further by introducing the softer feel of long and short stitch to achieve the subtle shading effects of needle-painting.
Each piece requires careful planning and a detailed and painstaking process to complete. The flowers are entirely hand embroidered and are presented on a velvet background. Embroidering directly onto velvet can be difficult, however, as the pile can come through the stitches; to prevent this, the embroidery is worked onto organza, then, once completed, the back of the stitching is painted with watered-down PVA glue to hold it in place. Once dried, the embroidered shape is carefully cut out then appliquéd onto the velvet background fabric, before the completed piece is stretched onto board for framing. While the entire process takes a long time to complete, it ensures that the background fabric of the finished piece is perfectly smooth.
I enjoy the demands of working to commission. Although I work to her own original designs, and develop each unique project from start to finish, I enjoy discovering the client’s requirements, and the fresh ideas that develop from them, leading to truly bespoke textile art.
More of Ruth's work and contact details can be found on her website, http://www.rutholearytextileart.co.uk/