May Morris came from a family of artists; her father practised textile designs, poetry and prose writing, while her mother posed as a model. Raised in the arts, May focused on embroidery which she learned from her mother as early as eight years old, although she was no doubt inspired by her father’s impressive reputation in textiles, as well.
At the age of twenty-three May Morris rose to the top of the embroidery section of her father’s business, Morris & Co, showing her dedication and passion for her trade. Many of her designs feature floral patterns, which is perhaps a result of the time she spent in fabulous garden estates on holiday with her family.
She worked on large-scale commissions such as wall hangings and altar cloths, and if you want to learn more about her work, you can read her book on embroidery, ‘Decorative Needlework’. One tip you might take from May Morris’ designs is to look to nature for new ideas.
Anne Wynn-Wilson was the founder of the Quaker Tapestry, a project inspired by the Bayeau Tapestry, spanning seventy-seven panels, four centuries, fifteen countries, and four thousand men, women and children. In addition to bringing countries together with this international work of art, Wynn-Wilson also invented the Quaker stitch which allows for sharp curves in lettering.
The Quaker tapestry movement was contagious. The original plan held for only fifty panels, but many embroiderers were so charmed by the idea that the project continued to run for a further twenty-seven panels.
Many artists feel secluded and lonely whilst engaging in their craft, but the Quaker Tapestry overturns this loneliness by weaving the world together with thread. If you’re stuck for inspiration, consider bringing in some friends to help you brainstorm.
Ana Teresa Barboza
Barboza is a Peruvian artist who, like May Morris, takes much of her inspiration from nature, but she is also influenced by her studies in clothing design and fabrics. One key aspect of Barboza’s work is her refusal to work within boundaries; her designs often flow outside of the embroidery hoop. She is never afraid to try new things and has embroidered photographs, with some of her designs escaping into pools of knitting that flow onto the exhibition room floor.
You can look up tips for machine embroidery onto paper textiles if you are feeling like testing your Brother embroidery machine in the art world. Barboza is a great advocate of hand-stitching, but you can let your machine lay down the groundwork so that you can spend time adding embellishments by hand, working on other projects, and making sure that your designs stand out from the crowd.
Meredith Woulnough creatively uses her embroidery machine to create natural forms with great delicacy. She uses water-soluble fabric in order to free her stitches from their ‘fabric-induced prison.’ Like Barboza, Woulnough is an advocate of escaping physical constraints through her art. On the other hand, Woulnough and Barboza’s embroidery inspiration coalesces with May Morris’ love of nature, which is proof that there is an enduring tradition of replicating nature through embroidery. Woulnough’s love for nature is such an integral part of her art that she even partakes in scuba diving as part of her creative process.
These are just four famous embroiders, but there are plenty more out there to draw inspiration from. The lessons that we can learn from these four is to keep an open mind to the world around us; nature provides an endless wealth of ideas. Think outside the hoop! Embroidery is much more than the individual design; consider where your design is going, where else it could be applied, and whether you are using the best materials for your image. Whatever your plans for the future of embroidery might be, we recommend the Brother embroidery machine to help you achieve your dream designs.