Image: Canal Beauty (detail)
Karen Fullalove embroiders stories. An artist and designer based in the UK, she uses canvas embroidery and inlaid woven embroidery techniques to embroider designs that embrace the styles and sacred symbols known to many cultures.
Canvas and inlaid embroidery are both are traditional techniques; early surviving examples being from the 13th century and between 5th to 9th-centuries, respectively. Canvas embroidery has historically been used as decoration on walls and furniture. It’s a slow art, taking many hours, as every part of the base canvas is covered.
Symbolism has existed since the earliest discovered Palaeolithic drawings in caves, over 30,000 years ago. These drawings of creatures and geometric forms held important meaning, their purpose being to invoke, empower or announce. With the advent of weaving, these symbols were transferred to cloth.
Women were the embroiderers and used cloth as the basis for their symbolic language. They were the architects of their designs and would use this language to express their individual identity, the identity of their family, their homestead, region, country, and spiritual beliefs. It was one of the ways they supported the emotional wellbeing of their family. Symbolic embroidery has been performed for thousands of years and the similarity in use and meaning from quite separate cultures is significant – a mystical united verse.
Image: Sea Journey (detail)
In keeping with the principles of these ancient art forms, which both also have a traditional history in Britain, Karen uses local materials, mainly wool which she prepares, spins, and dyes herself with natural plant materials. Her pictures embrace the styles and sacred symbols known to many cultures. They are inspired by nature and life in Sussex but are relevant to many places.
In Karen's embroidery Sea Journal she explores how life by- and on the sea is a a life of embracing the elements. "The winds, moon phases, sun and waves are, like our journey of life, to be navigated. Ebb and flow – when to act, when to retreat – it is a life which brings colour and miracles".
Each canvas embroidery embraces an abundance of embroidery stitches and techniques to emphasise meaning and give a beautiful texture. It is a slow and complex art. The design, colour balance, stitch selection, yarn processing, stitching, and finishing take a minimum of four months to complete. The result is a window into a world which radiates peace, warmth, and beauty. An oasis of calm you can return to each day to feel free.
Image: Life in Balance (detail)
We're delighted that Karen will be running a workshop on canvas embroidery on Saturday 5 & 6 March for Selvedge.
She will lead participants through the process of creating a beautiful image with ancient symbols that speak; from learning about the embroidered symbols which empowered women throughout history and using wool to create different stitches and textures, to finishing your project for framing or display.
Find out more about the workshop: