To talk about embroidery today means to tackle a very complex topic, which brings a lot of baggage with it. Perhaps you’d be surprised to know that this fascinating technique, dating back to the 5th century BC, has started to take up a significant amount of space on the contemporary arts scene, and it’s nothing like you’re used to seeing either.
Over the overdue course of male dominance over all spheres of society, women’s art quietly developed, through means of traditional crafts practices such as quilting, needlework, sewing, china painting and embroidery. Trapped inside their homes and the widely-accepted idea that it is nothing but scandalous if a woman doesn’t know how to use a needle, women created pieces for their homes, husbands and children. Ironically, their talent was never fully appreciated by the same body which demanded they be done. Although embroidery has such a rich history and a long-standing presence in our history, it took quite a while before it came out of its stifling concept and reached for its well-deserved title of an art form. Some say that the two, ‘embroidery’ and ‘art’, first became a part of the same phrase after the year 1798, when a collection of over 100 embroiled copies of old masters were exhibited in a show at the Hanover Square Rooms. They were the work of Mary Linwood, the first needle woman ever to have such pieces seen in public – or better, outside the domestic environment. The truth was this: these were proper artworks, created for a non-utilitarian purpose and not for a house wall, and they were considered fine art only because embroidery, at that point, was a craft medium used to imitate the fine art of painting.\ \