2015 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2015 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Creative Yarn: TELLING STORIES IN STITCHES

Storytelling is an old art form; early humans vocally grunted, signed language and hand painted pictures in caves. Over the centuries life became more sophisticated and what was once a primitive form of communication evolved in other ways in their lives. Before tapestries could be conceived, the concept of fabric was developed. 

Around 27,000 years ago there was the first evidence of weaving that appeared as impressions on hard clay.  Fabric or covering of one's bodies for decoration, protection or social rank has been documented to the late Stone Age in the Middle East. And archaeologists believe that human beings may have begun wearing clothing as far back as 100,000 to 500,000 years ago with the advent of the sewing needle some 40,000 years ago.

That is a brief history of early textile development which was critical to the advance of craft using fibers to depict a story.  

The Bayeux Tapestry (which is actually embroidered not woven) was one of the first notable works and most probably was created around 1070 in England . The 230 feet long Tapestry was made on linen cloth and illustrates the events which led up to the Norman conquest of England and concluded in the Battle of Hastings. There are approximately 50 scenes with Latin captions and is now displayed in a museum in Bayeux, France.

The Unicorn Tapestries, probably woven in the Netherlands, consists of seven tapestries which date between 1495 and 1505 and can be viewed now in The Cloisters in New York. The tapestries depict a group of noblemen and hunters pursuing an elusive unicorn which was a fairly common theme in art and literature at that time. One of the unique aspects of these magnificent  tapestries is that they were perfectly woven in richly colored wool, metallic threads, and silk.

Gobelain Tapestry, Beauvais Tapestry and Aubusson Tapestry all had different beginnings and were developed around the 17th century. 

Like the previous tapestries that were created for and about royalty, contemporary story telling by Bjørn Nørgaard has had a similar direction. He is a Danish artist who has explored making many different types of art with many different types of materials.  Having seen his work,  Queen Margrethe II, on her 50th birthday, contracted Bjorn to create a unique piece of art. She paid 13 million Danish crowns for a series of tapestries that would trace the history of Denmark from its beginnings to the present day. The tapestries were based on Nørgaard's full-sized sketches and were woven by the historic Manufacture des Gobelins in Paris. Completed in 1999, they now can be viewed in the Great Hall at Christiansborg Palace.


For many centuries tapestries were reserved for the elite to depict aspects of their world.. They were created to tell stories related to the noble class or as a pictorial history spanning many decades. Commissioned, they were meticulously executed by expert crafts people.

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz depicted stories through her fiber art also.  However these stories were not about royalty but about her life during the Holocaust. She created an extraordinary embroidered collection of panels after immigrating here from her survival days in Poland.  Although Esther had no formal art training and no prior art experience, she was trained as a dressmaker and at the age of 50 she began telling her story with one hand stitched panel after another that cried of war and touched on remembrances of family life. Rich in colors and textures, each of the scenes is detailed beautifully and her tapestries were displayed at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.. A book about Esther and pictures of her work, Memories of Survival  was first published posthumously in 2005 (4 years after her passing), and there is also an award-winning thirty-minute documentary, “Through the Eye of the Needle”.

Telling stories using stitches is an art legacy that is unique. It empowers the creative mind to produce pictures using a variety of fibers and stitches to convey a moment in time.


Storytelling is important. Part of human continuity.    -Robert Redford
 
A picture is a poem without words.       -Horace