Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I realized a couple of years ago that there is nothing so obsolete as an old encyclopedia.  The information is out-of-date, the pictures are dated, the books are so heavy, and you can find whatever you want on the internet in less time than it takes to take the right book off the shelf.  So I decided to donate my 1978 World Book to the cause of art, and ever since have been happily cannibalizing it for collage and conceptual art.  As a result, I look at the books more in a given week than I did in the previous decade.

I was paging through the E volume the other day and came upon the article on embroidery.  In less than a page they got it pretty well covered, and even showed how to make four common stitches.  The author of the article was Dona Z. Meilach, one of my heroes from the olden days.  I used her book on macrame as a bible when I was in that phase of my artistic development.

Turns out that she's truly a Renaissance woman, having written books not only on fiber arts (macrame, stitchery, batik and tie-dye, rugs, soft sculpture, off-loom weaving, ) and cooking (biscotti, bagels, bruschetta, liqueurs) but on other crafts like woodcarving, basketry, plaster, printmaking, furniture making,  collage and ironworking, not to mention pregnancy, belly dancing and jazzercise.  Whew.

But what intrigued me most about the article was the illustration.

Yes, she's stitching onto a commercial stamped pattern!  And not very well, either; look at all those traces of blue around the edges of the petals.

I think we've come a long way, baby.  Kits were the way people did embroidery in the 70s; I know because that's the way I did it too.  The whole concept of stitching as original creative expression was yet to come.

But it did come, and while you can still buy thousands of different kits, should that spirit move you, stitching without a pattern is commonplace today.  At least I don't think you'd see a commercial kit pattern in an encyclopedia illustration, if they still printed encyclopedias.

See, there is progress!

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