Monday, 16 November 2015

Elizabethan or Stuart Casket (Work for Newark Park)

On viewing the casket at Newark Park, it was suggested that the box was Elizabethan, but on further reading about stumpwork and considering the fashion style shown in the drawings, I think the casket might be from the Stuart period. 

According to Judith Harper (2014), Stumpwork which is currently enjoying a revival, originally had its heyday during the second half of the 17th century when it was called raised Embroidery. The term 'Stumpwork' was an early 19th century description derived from the word 'stamp work' because the picture was worked over a pre-stamped or hand drawn outline on the backing material. 

Many of the stories conveyed the religious and political divisions that occurred in England during the Civil War. The beautiful feminine art of Raised Embroidery conveyed docility, obedience and love of the home (Parker, 2010) but it also provided an art form that reflected societies opinion. 

Stumpwork panel with a central oval cartouche depicting a young lady, mid-17th century (Telegraph, 2014)

Batten (2014) suggests that stumpwork's popularity was probably aided by the pedlars who travelled around the country to wealthy families selling kits that contained many luxurious threads and patterns. On the box that I am copying, black threads can be seen and these may have been the outline threads.

Whilst wondering about the relevance of my work and why I am spending hours copying someone else's drawing or pattern from a kit, I considered starting again but telling my own contemporary story. However, if I did that would I then have to use the Stumpwork technique just as contemporary artists who make samplers use cross stitch.

Caren Garden‘There are no words to embroider that single desolating fact.’ Site responsive piece by Caren Garfen. Framed sample, hand stitched. Cotton material, silk threads

And then I thought of Cornelia Parker's 'Magna Carta, an embroidery', a hand stitched embroidered drawing of the wikipedia page made through a collaboration of many individuals as was the case for the writing of the Magna Carta. 

At our last meeting we discussed how I might continue as part of our creative review. 

There was support for continuing with the piece: a reproduction of the beautiful remains of an exceptional work of art, made by a young lady over 500 years ago. As I struggle with the tiny detail and obsess over thread changes which at times, may be for no more than two stitches, I can imagine how hard it must have been to do this by hand with candle light and a bone needle.

Batten, P. (2014)

Miller, J. (2014)

Parker, R. (2010) The Subversive Stitch. Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. I.B.Tauris and Co Ltd. London