The Global Language of Needlework

10th July 2020

One of the results of the internet age is that we can enjoy learning about the work of others regardless of the country they live. However, despite more than 50% of the information on the internet being written in English – a startling statistic, seeing as only 20% of the world actually speaks the language – there is still a lot of information which is unreachable due to language barriers. 

French artist Bénédicte Meffre is passionate about historic embroidery  (source)

For our purposes, this means that there are a lot of embroidery artists out there who we simply don’t know about because either the information written on them is not in English, or because they are a member of the majority which doesn’t communicate in English. As such, their stories are much harder for us to discover.

But as needlework is both a universal and global language, it seems a tragedy that any barriers between stitchers should exist.

At Inspirations Studios we do our best to bring you profiles of artists from different countries, as well as featuring designs from all parts of the world, but we are very conscious of our own limitations in this regard.

One way of rectifying this is to connect with those incredible people who are bi- or multi-lingual and who can help to introduce us to needlework artisans whose language and life experiences differ from our own. 

Céline Lepage and one of her designs titled ‘Esquisse Lueurs’ (source)

For instance, one of our international collaborators is Claire De Pourtales from Le Temps de Broder, who works hard to showcase French speaking textile artists. Claire recently translated her interview with Céline Lepage for us. Céline is an embroidery artist whose colourful works have been highly influenced by her travels in Turkey, Morocco and India. Céline, who now exhibits and teaches, has developed her own style from these influences, as well as classes she took to learn Glazig, a style of embroidery from Brittany.

Céline Lepage Tableau Atomic Circus (source)

Although many needlework techniques that are common in the English-speaking world stemmed from non-English speaking countries, such as Hardanger, Kantha and Chinese Silk embroidery to name but a few, there are so many more techniques out there to discover. Céline’s work with Glazig embroidery is one example. Our recent article in All Stitched Up! issue #237 on Toda embroidery from Tamil Nadu in India is another. 

But there are many others carrying on traditional needlework techniques passed down from their ancestors as well as others inventing and developing new needlework traditions from all over the world.

However, in order to discover them, there are often language barriers to overcome.

Claire’s efforts are so important. Although there is such a thing as Google Translate, it is by no means perfect, so being able to openly share the information from her is a tiny step forward in realising the universality of our craft. And this is something that each and every one of us can help with by sharing our work visually.

Although it might seem intimidating to open a website or a book, or even a conversation, and be met with a language we don’t understand, there might just be a treasure within it, waiting to be discovered. 

A wonderful way of starting that journey is to explore highly visual resources such as Instagram. It doesn’t matter what language someone’s profile is written in – everyone can understand the beauty of the photographs and the work depicted therein.

Hungarian artist Agnes Herszeg – miniature work (source)

The visual medium is a way for us to communicate without the difficulty of words and acts as a first step to connecting with other embroiderers from all over the world. When people share a passion, they will always find ways to understand each other which transcend mere verbal communication.

Just think of all those stories, skills and talents we’re yet to see because we’ve been unsure how to exceed the limitations of our own language.

We all need to make the effort to see beyond what we might not understand, in order to realise how much we share.

If you’d like to read more about Céline Lepage, you can find the translated article on our website HERE

Also, Claire’s website Le Temps de Broder which translates to ‘Time to Stitch’, offers the perfect way to start discovering non-English speaking artists and embroiderers. You can check it out HERE.

It is in French but is filled with images and stories which you may never have seen before, although you might find a few of your favourite Inspirations digital patterns available there – in French of course!

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