Embroidery is a technique for decorating textiles by using a needle to apply a thread, or sometimes a wire, to a ground cloth. The designs that may be produced in a variety of stitches are sometimes embellished with beads, feathers or precious stones. It is an art that has been practiced throughout the world, by amateurs and professionals, since at least the fifth century BCE. The illustrated lecture surveys embroidery and its makers: historical masterpieces commissioned for cathedrals and palaces; embroidery as a domestic pursuit in polite Western society; and the expression of symbolism in patterns stitched for significant stages of the human life cycle in traditional societies still connected to ancient beliefs and superstitions.
DR SUSAN SCOLLAY is an independent art historian specialising in Islamic art and culture and in historic textiles. She is a contributing editor to HALI, the prestigious, London-based journal of carpet, textile and Islamic art, and is a fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain.
Susan has lectured at The Johnston Collection since 2008 and in 2010 was guest curator of FLUID BORDERS: Ways of Seeing Oriental Rugs. FABRICATING THE WORLD | A Survey of the Global History of Textiles continues a series of lectures especially convened by Susan Scollay for TJC.
detail from designed by Charles Le Brun (France, 1619–1690) Silk, wool and metal thread on canvas collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York