Last month we invited RoseMary Cullen to come and speak about her work and her journey in the world of contemporary embroidery. RoseMary teaches ‘Exploring Creative Embroidery’ in NCAD and provides workshops in Ireland and the USA among other creative projects.
RoseMary brought lots of samples of her work which we happily examined to see how they were produced. Over the years, her work has evolved and developed in different directions from her thesis ‘Agnus Dei’, on piety cases of all things!, to a project based in the Ulster Folk Museum using threads that the linen weavers had used.
A bird motif is a current theme running through her work – printed, distressed, stitched or dyed fabrics are layered and then appliqued or over stitched with a bird motif.
Text has a strong presence in RoseMary’s work. She brought along ‘Dress Code’, tiny vintage linen or cotton baby dresses which she had embroidered with text in red thread. So beautiful and nostalgic. No wonder they had been chosen as part of the ‘Entwined Memories’ exhibition of textiles by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland which exhibited around Ireland and also travelled to the UK. Unfortunately, we don’t have an image of the dresses, but this is a snippet of one of them from the exhibition catalogue.
RoseMary also told us about her project in a library in the USA, ‘Wordplay’, where she worked with users of the service to find phrases and words in discarded books that had meaning or significance for them and they re-worked those snippets of text into stitched bookmarks.
And, oh my God, her notebooks! If ever we were looking for inspiration to put more effort in to our notebook work, then this was it. Each notebook was a work of art in its own right. A particular favourite of ours was a notebook based on circles… lots of cut out circles, stitched circles, cut outs of various sizes providing windows through to the next pages which were all stitched in different ways. One page had stitching that looked exquisite, and different, from both sides of the page – very hard to do!
And here is where the circles notebook work has appeared in reality – a beautiful hand stitched cushion cover :
She encouraged us not to be afraid of drawing or sketching… it doesn’t have to be perfect.. and showed us an example of how she had transferred a simple child’s stick drawing into a stitched piece. So maybe now we might be braver with our sketching.
Hand stitching is Rosemary’s daily practice…. words, names, dates, things that have captured her attention while travelling, simple stitches worked on a length of cloth and rolled up when finished. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of RoseMary as we could do with her creative and contemporary input into our stitchwork.