Embroidery as Art

What makes embroidery art? What is required for embroidery to become a masterpiece? I have read a few books on embroidery but I haven’t come across a reflection on this question. As I am rather new to embroidery, I can only use my fine art (painting) knowledge.


A work of fine art is mostly appreciated for technical and artistic exquisite execution (skill and artistic talent). Having said this, there are many works of art that are regarderd masterpieces because of social, political or purely creative qualities.

For a beautiful piece of embroidery some criteria are similar to painting; technical skill, colour-choice, composition, originality of concept/theme, and quality of materials. Don’t underestimate originality; it is enjoyable and valued to see artisans using their your own source of inspiration. Their artwork reflects their life and their conflict or love for their life living in a certain place and time. Such inspiration creates a unique and uncompromising style or signature.

Blue Tufted Ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Returning to the question ‘What makes embroidery art?’ Embroidery demands an equal amount of skill as painting, drawing, woodwork, and ceramics. For all artwork counts that more skill leads to increased quality and value.

‘Blue Ducks’ & ‘Green Ducks’ in the series of Tufted Ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

I used gold thread & various blues plus freehand-stitch, pekinese-stitch, french-knots & openchain-stitch. I always use my own designs, based on my coloured pencil drawings or oil paintings. Occasionally I use my sketches for making lino-prints too.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

Woolgathering

I learned a new word: woolgathering. I like new words and I especially like woolgathering because I like textile craft, cotton, wool and gathering supplies. But that is not what woolgathering means, however woolgathering was original used for gathering the leftover pieces of wool after sheep shearing. Woolgathering now means to indulgence in aimless thought or dreamy imagining, in short, day-dreaming. Can artists day-dream? Or do they rush to their sketch-books, canvasses, notebooks in a bee-line to pen down their inspirational ideas?

William Wordsworth wrote in his Daffodils poem that when he is ‘In vacant or in pensive mood, They (daffodils) flash upon that inward eye’. Is that vacant and pensive mood daydreaming or woolgathering? I don’t think so.

Poetically reflecting is closely related but it seems different from woolgathering to me. Woolgathering is without focus; poetic reflection demands concentration. However, the effect is the same; inspiration floods the mind. Off I go, rushing to my desk where my sketchbooks, notebooks and soap-stones are waiting for me. I leave the woolgathering to others.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram