This week I would like to continue with the Italy adventures, share some of the beautiful pieces of embroidery done by the ladies of the Arco embroidery association, and talk a bit about embroidery in Italy.
Embroidery or Ricamo, as it is known in Italian, is not new to the Italians – it is an ancient craft that has been passed down through many generations and it is common to see both young and old with a needle and thread in hand. Needless to say they are very talented, expert embroiderers! What I found so endearing about these ladies is the way they encouraged each others achievements – if one of the ladies has a particular talent she will teach all the other ladies, it is a matter of commitment and pride in their heritage to ensure that the art is passed on. Below you can see some of the embroidery done by the ladies at the Arco assocation.
There are so many techniques used – to name a few: Hardanger, Ricamo antico, Ricamo classico, Ricamo bandera, Rococo, Reticello, lace making, and of course my favourite punto pittura (stitch painting) An excellent source of information on each style of Italian embroidery can be found here.
I was thrilled to see that many of them did needle painting and whitework with colour, and had several copies of my books. Despite the fact that they are in English, they use the pictures and follow along as best they can – awesome! ( I hope to see my future books translated into additional languages to help with this.) They loved the idea of adding color to the white work embroidery and were interested to know where the idea came from – I said that coming from Africa we don’t have formal traditions to follow, so tend to make it up as we go along!
In Venice I was fortunate enough to see some of the exquisite lace making, known as Burano lace and also to be gifted a stunning piece of lace, hand made by Giovanna in Arco. The lace was still attached to the card that it was made on and it was not until I had painstakingly removed all the basting threads that I fully realized the extent of the work that goes into stitching every little bit of lace. It now has pride of place in my studio, thank you Giovanna, it will be very treasured!
The Legend of Burano lace. Legend has it that a long time ago in Burano lived a fisherman named Nicholas. He was beautiful and good-natured, and considered to be the most eligible bachelor in the area. All the girls wanted him but he had eyes only for Mary, his fiancée. A few days before their wedding, Nicolò was at sea fishing when he began to hear a sweet song. In short he saw that his boat was surrounded by a group of beautiful women: they were the mermaids. However, Nicolò was not enchanted and in his mind stayed only the image of Mary. The mermaids were really affected by the love that Nicolò felt for his girlfriend and donated him a magnificent embroidery, created with the foam of the sea. Nicolò gave the object to his the bride on their wedding day, and Mary, extremely proud of her gorgeous lace, set to work to recreate the lace. Hence, Burano lace was born!
The island of Burano in the Venice lagoon is a magical place filled with small colourful houses, delicious cookies, small restaurants offering the best seafood … And above all, handmade lace! The lace-makers are really an attraction of the island and even the biggest international fashion houses have often used this fine embroidery. You can find more information here Martina Vidal
Next time I will share with you the embroidery class in Verona. Till then keep smiling and happy stitching. Trish