Friday, June 30, 2023

When the Store is Closed - the Mice Play

It was a very busy May for me with two graduations flanking a big trip to Europe I took to document gold thread making and silk velvets.  Those types of trips end up paying dividends for years with new threads, understanding, relationships, papers, and lectures spinning out of them.  My cameras and notepads are full and the boxes of threads are already arriving.  So while it might be really annoying to plan your purchases a little or wait an extra few days/weeks for packages to arrive, there are huge benefits to me getting out there.

I was also able to spend a day at a collection in the UK investigating many pieces of 17th century embroidery I haven't seen before but have been on my research list.  And there have been many other productive things I have been up to!  I wrote an enormous article on Martha Edlin for publication and I am more than super excited about that.  Can't wait until it is in print and I can start talking more about that work.  

And another out-of-the-blue request came in that I was able to squeeze in before I left for a family trip to Africa to celebrate the graduations.  I am going to be a guest voice on a museum audio guide!!  

The Baltimore Museum of Art is launching a very large exhibition on October 1st, 2023 about women artists of the 1400-1800 period.  Not a surprise, but there are many embroidered objects in the exhibition and in fact they are borrowing quite a few 17th century pieces that you will want to see.  

A really lovely concept was forwarded for the exhibition audio guide - ask contemporary artisans to comment on the pieces from their own perspectives as female artists.  I was asked to choose several of my favorite pieces that will be on display and record in the studio.   What was absolutely fabulous about the objects in the exhibition up for me to choose from was that I had researched every one of them up close and so knew them very well and had my own photography to rely on for coming up with the stories I wanted to tell.  

I can't reveal any details right now but if you love 17th century embroidery, put a stop in Baltimore between October 2020 and January 2024 on your list.  And listen to the audio guide and you just might hear me talking!


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Good Embroidery TV Watching

I am always looking for good YouTube or other documentaries on PBS to watch while I work putting threads into kits or embroidering for instructions.  Yesterday I came upon a nice 2.5 hour documentary on YouTube I thought I would pass on.  

I love seeing artisans who make things be profiled.  You get to appreciate the work that goes into their craft and understand why something is valued (or should be valued).  It also serves as a top level documentation of their processes.  

For some reason, Business Insider has been doing this for a long time with documentary crews going to different parts of the world to record the 'last of'.  Their series is called "Still Standing" and this is the playlist of amazing traditional crafts and their stories of the people keeping the tradition alive as well as documenting the process.

There are weavers, block printers, dyers, carvers, stone shapers, soy sauce makers, painters, etc. featured.  In each case you see the love for the craft and hear of the pressures on their survival.  For those of us who are lovers of fine embroidery supplies, you know the hardships it has taken to keep our suppliers working.

This is very relevant to me as I spent part of May in Europe visiting artisans in Venice, Vienna and the UK as part of a joint Gold Thread Artisan grant with my colleagues Cristina Carr at the MET and Mary Brooks of Durham University.  We have been working on a study of gold threads of the 17th century and it was time to visit my manufacturers so they could see it live and armed with new knowledge gleaned from primary sources I have been digging up, we could ask pointed questions of those who do.

One of the sites we visited was Mario Menegazzo's gold beating workshop to see him make leaf by hand.  Gold leaf was used heavily in the 17th century to make Venice Gold threads.  We had observed many things under the microscope and needed to show him pictures and discuss what he knows (he is also a metallurgist like me) and what has been written (not so accurate which was what we thought).  

You can see a lovely short documentary about his work here.  It was fabulous to see the entire process that day and film it.  But the conversations after were priceless.  What a lovely and wonderful family as well.  I purchased gold and silver leaf for my casket feet and can't wait to gild them to have special memories of the people who made the material incorporated into my casket.