Although embroidery skills existed throughout China the embroiderers of Suzhou were renowned for their expertise and artistic flair. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) it is recorded that the royal family favoured embroidered products from this region.
EVOLVING STYLES AND SKILLS
Skills and styles evolved over the years including “double-sided” images sewn on a very fine silk backing which is mounted in a revolving frame and provides a perfect image when viewed from either side. The single silk thread used is almost invisible, so a great many stitches are needed to build up the rich and textured images. This technique is particularly impressive on those works that show birds or cats where great realism is achieved.
During the 20th century different effects were used to imitate oil painting techniques by way of a “random” stitch. This utilises stitches of different lengths and directions in much the same way as a painter selects a particular brush stroke. This very different technique is used to great effect on the Vera Repina embroidery. More detail of this can be seen in our photo gallery
Embroidery is still done today in Suzhou but the time involved in training embroiderers to create the very finest pieces means that they are becoming rarer. Understanding of the great strain this work takes on the artists’ eyesight also means that care must be taken to rest sufficiently when working with such fine threads.