Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Embroidered Box

photo by Judy Cooper
I've been doing some 'spring' cleaning in my studio. Maybe I'm putting off getting some 'real' work done! I came across an article in an Embroidery Autumn 1987 magazine called The Embroidered Box by Margaret Swain (historian and author). To my surprise this box was the very one our tour group saw at the Embroidery Guild, Hampton Court Palace, UK in October.

According to Margaret Swain, 'it is a handsome addition to the Embroiderers' Guild collection, and is the gift of Miss Hester Clough, founder member of the Mid-Wessex Branch . . .' The box 'is the typical oblong shape with a flat top. The lid, edged with silver braid, is worked on white satin, using silk, coloured bullion, metal thread, seed pearls and mica for the windows. It displays a dazzling variety of stitches, some of which, leaves, flowers and the wings of insects, are stiffened with wire.'

Swain goes on to explain that this is raised work which we commonly refer to as stumpwork. The term stumpwork is relatively modern and only goes back to the turn of the century. I found her quote about stumpwork, from work by John Nevinson,(1938), interesting. '... that  the term stumpwork was not found in any contemporary 17th century document, and is meaningless, though perverted ingenuity has made the unlikely guess that the carved wooden heads for the miniature figures were called stumps'.

The fashion for raised work appears to have died away at the beginning of the 18th century as did the fashion for these ornate boxes.

Since I had actually seen this box up close, I found the historical reference interesting. 

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