Rebecca Devaney is a textile artist, researcher and our go-to authority on French couture embroidery. We’re very excited that Rebecca will be joining us on Wednesday 9 June for our Sew Far So Good talk, an evening of discussion on the different forms stitching and sewing can take in the work of our exciting panel of guest speakers.
Rebecca recently designed and made a haute-couture embroidery of a lotus flower for an auction organised by Green Shakti — a charity that organises environmental projects, education programmes and tree planting initiatives in India — and raised $6,300 for the Green Sakthi workers and their families. In the video below she discusses the design process behind the embroidery with Art Consultant Sonya Bekkerman.
The lotus flower has a very special meaning in religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as well as ancient cultures in China and Egypt, often symbolising beauty, love, harmony, creation and creativity, fertility, transition and transcendence, non-attachment, purity, summer and even the divine. The delicate petals, curling leaves, long stalks and firm roots are all assigned powerful meanings and the beauty of the flower has inspired poets, musicians and artists throughout time. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of abundance, love, beauty and joy is often pictured sitting on top of a lotus flower. Narayani is the mother goddess, encompassing the strengths and qualities of all the other female goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. Om Namo Narayani means to surrender to the divine mother goddess.
For the work, Rebecca used the embroidery technique ‘silk-shading’ to embroider the lotus flower, leaves and water reflections. The technique, used for embroidery in the royal households of China, travelled across Asia and North Africa before it reached Europe and is notoriously difficult to master. Each stitch of thread is similar to a stroke of paint and needs to be stitched with precision in order to create realistic effects of form and colour blending, so that from afar the embroidery could be mistaken for a painting.
Taking Rebecca over 150 hours to complete the artwork, the pink lotus petals were embroidered using thread made by Au Ver à Soie, a fifth generation family run business in Paris that have manufactured the finest silk threads used in Haute Couture for the last two hundred years. The water was created with navy, ultramarine and sky blue metallic threads and then embellished with ribbons, sequins and beads to give the effect of reflecting sunlight. The leaves are opaque with a hidden layer of lustrous satin ribbon beneath a rich layer of sumptuous green organza. Glass tube beads create the contour of the leaf with vintage gold accenting the reflection of the lotus petals.
The glittering golden words Om Namo Naraynai were stitched using the Lunéville Hook technique with Fil au Chinoise gold metallic thread, which has been used in embroidery in France since 1847 and is still used in the Haute Couture embroidery ateliers of Paris today. This technique of embroidering with a hook was mastered by Indian and Ottoman artisans centuries before it reached the Royal Court in Versailles in the 18th Century. When it arrived, it’s newest convert was none other than Madame Pompadour, the official mistress of King Louis XV and an avid embroiderer. The technique was known as the Point de Pompadour for many years until the late 19th century when the embroiderers in a town called Lunéville adapted the technique to add beads and sequins to Haute Couture fashions.
We’re looking forward to hearing more from Rebecca about her passion for embroidery . To book tickets for the Sew Far So Good talk visit the event page: Sew Far So Good, Virtual Event with Rebecca Devaney, Takashi Iwasaki, Pascal Monteil and Sophie Carr