Thursday 24 January 2019

January Meeting - Alison Larkin

Our January speaker was Alison Larkin, telling us about Opus Anglicanum (literally 'English Embroidery').

Before the talk I looked up the term, and the ever helpful wikipedia came up with this definition:

'Opus Anglicanum or English work is fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds'.

Alison of course explained in much greater detail!

An example of Alison's work
Using many pictures, with fantastic close-ups, Alison took us through the history of this style of embroidery, and how it was regarded during its lifetime and beyond.


Miniature embroidery

More exquisite miniature embroidery

From approximately 1200-1350AD this highly skilled style of embroidery was produced in England. A typical feature is the 'underside couching' of usually metal threads, resulting in a much stronger and harder-wearing embroidery.

Much was exported to Europe- with a large number (at one time 150+!!) reported in the Vatican's collection at the time, which gives an idea of how highly valued the pieces were.

Unfortunately due to the reformation in England, and the destruction of much of church property, not many examples exist in the UK itself any more, and to see the best examples we must travel abroad!

Alison also mentioned the exhibition at the V & A museum in London, which some of our members had also visited.

A link to the exhibition details is supplied here:

V&A · Introducing Opus Anglicanum

The earliest work on display was a seal-bag dated to 1100 – 1140, made to contain the seal from a foundation document of Westminster Abbey. Art produced at Westminster and the Royal Court between 1250 and 1325 was incredibly influential.

In later years, similar, but cheaper and quicker methods of embroidery were developed on mainland Europe, which resulted in the decline of this highly skilled and labour intensive art.

The talk was very interesting, and Alison led a thought-provoking Q & A session at the end, as well as showing us examples of her own work in this style, which is very impressive.

In other things...

The Young Embroiderers will have their next workshops in February.

February's branch meeting will be an open meeting where we will be showing off our equipment, with members on hand to give demonstrations, and help others to have a go!

Refreshments will be provided as usual!