An ancient love between needle and thread which emerges as a beautiful art, yes, it’s “Embroidery” art we are talking about. The process used to patch, mend, tailor, and reinforce cloth nurtured the development of sewing techniques, and the decorative likelihoods of sewing led to this art.
Embroidery is one of mankind’s ancient needlework art. It has been a common form of art and craft work since ages. The origin of embroidery has been dated to the Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC) of ancient China and documents early surviving fragments that are estimated as being 4,500 years old. In South America embroideries from the fifth century B.C.E. have been recovered from tombs. Textiles were a significant trade in centuries past and this, along with the immigration of people between countries, facilitated a perpetual exchange of ideas. The style, fabric, thread and design of an embroidery speaks about history and places.
It is not just the long history of embroidery. A striking fact of embroidery art is that, till date the basic techniques, materials or stitches remain the same. For instance, the surviving examples of the earliest embroidery—chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch remain as the fundamental techniques even now. In contrast, we often find in early works a technical accomplishment and high standard of craftsmanship rarely attained in later times.
Embroidery is an art of working raised and ornamental designs in threads of silk, cotton, gold, silver, or other material, upon any woven fabric, leather, etc., with a needle. This hand work art also incorporates other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. Because of its decorative potential besides its knack to connote status, hand embroidery was from the beginning included in the series of haute couture's specialized techniques.
Embroidery art is being used worldwide to embellish textiles for decorative and communicative purposes. When used on attire, it may reveal the person’s riches, social status, ethnic identity, or even systems of faith. It is not just in apparel, embroidery art is extensively used in furnishing and to make unique decorative pieces of art. Furthermore, some materials, techniques, and stitches occur across many cultures, while others are specific to region.
For instance, India, being a diverse country with various cultures and customs has an immense variety of embroidery works throughout the nation. The regional embroidery styles vary in the fabric used and the designs and stitches crafted. Here are a few of the embroidery styles which are popular in the international markets.
a) Gota- A form of appliqué work using zari (gold thread) in fabric to form elegant patterns on women’s formal attire. This art is from Jaipur, Rajasthan.
b) Kantha- A popular embroidery work from West Bengal and Bangladesh. Done using simple running stitches and comprises of folk and floral motifs.
c) Phulkari- As the name suggests Phulkari is associated with floral motifs on fabric. This art of surface satin stitching using silk floss threads has its origin in Punjab.
d) Chikan Work- Originating from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, Chikankaari is well-known for the elaborate details and fine artwork done by white yarns on colourless muslins called tanzeb.
e) Kathi- An embroidery art from Kutch, Gujarat. A very versatile embroidery art called as “Abhala” in which small round pieces of mirrors are fixed on to the fabric using buttonhole stitching. The mirror work is done in combination with appliqué work and chain stitch.
f) Chamba Rumal-An embroidery art from the highly skilled craftsmen from Himachal Pradesh. The rumals (square pieces of cloth) are prettily embroidered. A very thin white muslin cloth with a double satin stitch embroidery locally called do-rookha. Unfortunately, this is a flagging art form in India.
g) Kashida- Commonly known as Kashmiri embroidery. It is a mix of printing and textile embroidery. Inspired by the landscape around, this embroidery is prominent for its magnificence and richness. Craftsmen use patterns like chinar leaves, cypress cones, the lotus and almonds on woollen kurtas, rugs, and stoles with the base cloth being white wool or cotton.
h) Pipli Work- This art originates from the Pipli village in Orissa and some parts of Gujarat. Based on patchwork this process involves making a large piece of cloth by joining figurative animals, flowers, human forms, vehicles and motifs patterned fabric pieces. Designs include human forms, animals and vehicles. The products include handbags and home décor items, such as lamp shades, garden umbrellas and bed covers.
The above is just a glimpse of few of traditional Indian embroidery art. These arts have acclaimed global fame and are in high demand throughout the world.
In embroidery art, the needle and thread used are not bound by any geometric foundation, as on a loom. Thus, giving lot of room for the embroiderers to get innovative with their designs and craft either linear patterns or flowing pictorial compositions of their choice.
Embroidery styles are usually incredibly challenging to produce and many individuals lose their patience before completing one canvas. Traditionally, a lot of people associate embroidery art as a housewife's companion. But over the last few decades, it has been observed that a lot of men are picking up this craft in a big way.
Today, with the advent of sophisticated machines, even the clumsiest rookie can try and stitch something appealing by using computer software or high-tech sewing machines. In spite of, the technology advancements available today, it is the hand embroidery that still continues to fascinate mankind. Even today, artistic embroiderers favour authenticity and continue to dedicate their time doing everything themselves. Till date, the finest details cannot be produced by any high-tech sewing machines, because embroidery is most of all a kind of art, and all that art needs is it’s talented and devoted artists.
Gauri Arts will take you on the journey of various forms of embroidery style of India and other parts of the world in coming months.
Chamba Rumal: www.niftcd.wordpress.com