Whether you’re an “art lover” or the “common person,” you’ll come to appreciate the value of silk embroidery once you learn of the skill and effort that goes into creating each piece. To create a high quality piece, an artist must split a single silk thread into several thinner threads. It can be split into 12 to 48 thinner strands – depending on how fine the artist wants to be with his/her piece. The embroiderer then stitches layer after layer using threads of a variety of colors to reach the final wonderful effect. Embroiderers are known to take frequent breaks – every 10 to 15 minutes – to rest their eyes due to promotional products
the strenuous nature of their work.
Due to the labor-intensiveness of the work, some larger and more intricate pieces of embroidery may require a year to a year and a half to complete by an artist or group of artists. Those works sell for thousands of dollars, – which is reasonable – considering the skill and time involved in creating the work. Of course, smaller pieces are available that are of high quality yet sell for much less.
Four Types of Silk Embroidery
The adoption of different needling methods through the years has resulted in four distinctive embroidery styles in China:
1) “Su” embroidery of Jiangsu Province – known for its delicacy and elegance, this style is usually very simple, highlighting a main theme. Its stitching is smooth, dense, thin, neat, even, delicate and harmonious. The thin thread is divided into up to 48 strands that are barely visible to the naked eye. Su embroidery is where double-sided embroidery originated. Su embroidery products were sent to participate in the Panama World Fair in 1915.
2) “Xiang” embroidery of Hunan Province – became the main craft in places around Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, in the Qing Dynasty. Xiang embroidery was developed from Hunan folk embroidery methods, but it also drew on the skills of Su embroidery and Yue embroidery. This method uses loose colorful threads to embroider the pattern with the stitches being not as neat as those of other embroidery styles. The various colored threads are mixed together, showing a gradual change in color with a rich and harmonious tone. Designs on Xiang embroidery mostly derive from traditional Chinese paintings of landscapes, human figures, flowers, birds and animals. The most common designs on Xiang embroidery are lions and tigers. The tigers appear strong and bold, revealing their power and menace as a king of animals. Xiang embroidery won the best award in the Torino World Fair in Italy in 1912 and the First Award in the Panama World Fair in 1933.