Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Books, books

I've been trying to cut back on the paper I bring into the house and, at the same time, the money I spend on magazines. I've cut back on subscriptions (I still get a long list...) and don't browse the stores nearly as often as previously. I used to spend evenings browsing the magazines. Now, instead, I'm delving into my piles of books and exploring them deeper than I may have before. I don't know about you but I find a periodic review of my books is a good thing--I see things I've missed before or just revisit old friends. As I learn new things, I often see designs and techniques that I've seen before in a new light.

This, book, however is not from my library. It's a gift from a friend and it's really great. It's at the top of my pile this week.

I was reading Maggie Grey's blog around the time or shortly after she wrote this book and so some of it seems familiar but very different. I had no opportunity to see it so hadn't bought it and I'm really glad my friend did. It's got all sorts of ideas for using your own photographic images in embroideries by printing them onto paper, fabric, even metal. It's very inspirational. It's full of ideas and techniques I've never explored.
This book was also a holiday gift, at my request, from my whole family. It was rather expensive. My husband found it at Lacis and I must say their customer service is absolutely wonderful. It's hard to resist shopping there more (we visited there once, in the 80s and I remember it being a fairyland of lace--I'd love to go back now when I'd be more likely to know what I'm looking at.)This book provides the techniques, stitches and details for the ten Phase pieces from the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta. I'm slowly working on phase 1. This book is amazing and if you are doing any of these pieces, or contemplating it, I can't recommend a better book. I began at the Center but once I left I was lost and didn't touch the piece for a long time. I'm in classes now, locally (if you're interested in Japanese Embroidery and in the Chicago area, contact me!), and that helped, but I still felt lost on occasion. This is the perfect remedy.The above is a diagram for one of the plants in the bouquet I'm working on. This is not as much a browsing book as a book to have at your side as you stitch.

This is the book I've been spending most of my time with, reading it in detail. I found it several years ago in an antique shop and I knew that it was something I had to have (it was a bit more than my budget was happy with). But life was busy and I flipped through it and set it aside. The author is a local woman, in her upper 80s now. Years ago I tried to get her to come and speak at our embroiderer's guild but she was coping with an ailing mother at the time. I wish I'd kept in contact with her but didn't. I can't find anything personal about her on line (education, background, etc.) She worked at the Chicago Art Institute. She comes across as extremely knowledgeable in the text and as someone I'd love to get to know.

In Embroidery Masterworks she takes an in-depth look at a selection of embroideries from the Art Institute's collection. The pieces are arranged chronologically and are mostly European and Near Eastern. I bought the book for the detailed photos and line drawings of the embroideries (above). There are a few color photos.

This trip through I'm focusing on Mrs. Bath's text. Each piece is put into historical and cultural context, which I'm finding really fascinating. The images of the embroideries are discussed along with how they fit the culture and time period. The materials are discussed in detail, in part to make up for the lack of color pictures (she is often very specific about colors and what color is used where). The stitches are all discussed, too. For each piece of embroidery there is an overall photo, detail photos, a line drawing, and sometimes a more detailed line drawing, often with stitches shown (the less detailed drawing to be used to transfer the image to your fabric).

I thought the "adapting it for modern use" section would be my least favorite. And it is, but that doesn't mean I don't really like it. I just enjoy the detailed focus on the pieces so much that anything else is be second. Her suggestions are often interesting and show sensitivity to the designs, available materials, and the vast amount of time it would take to replicate some of these as originally done. This is a book from the 70s so some of that sensibility prevails, but she definitely does not "dumb down" anything. And I'm from the 70s, too, so it's a comfortable fit.The book ends with a practical section on how to enlarge and transfer the designs and the stitches used in them. She talks about sugar-solution transfers and that has me intrigued. I'm about 3/4 through the book now, reading one or two sections each morning as I eat breakfast.

I've found the images most intriguing and have been working on a crewel design based on them.

The book is long out of print, but if you can find a copy through a used book outlet or a library, it is well worth reading.


Anonymous said...

I'll say it have the BEST books. Your very own private library. Love the japanese one...the stitching looks really delicate.

Kim B said...

Great books!! It sounds like you have a wonderful personal library.

Jenny Woolf said...

The Masterworks book looks fantastic. I love reading about anything where the author really knows their stuff and loves it. I think that adapting for modern use can be yucky (and "modern" quickly gets out of date) but when it is done with a real feeling for the originals then there is a case to be made for developing an existing tradition in an insightful way.

Rachel said...

Absolutely. Books are a great way to remind yourself of something, or give you a new way to think about something you've not quite got properly planned yet. I use them for just that reason, and I've lost count of the number in my library!

coral-seas said...

I don't know where I would be without my Japanese Embroidery through the Millenium at the moment. I have had to refer to it again and again while working on my cords. I certainly would not want to learn JE without my tutor but while working at home this book is invaluable to me.

Erica said...

I rushed to Amazon's site after reading your review of Embroidery Masterworks and have bought a copy. It arrived today - I live in New Zealand so it takes a while - and I just love it! Thank you for drawing this wonderful book to our attention. And thank you for such an interesting blog. I have it on my Google reader so I never miss it.