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8.02.2021 Monday

“Wrocław Cultural Guide”: Why embroidery?

photo: Marcin Szczygieł

photo: Marcin Szczygieł

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Article available also in PDF 
3 minutes read time

I still cannot get over what activities people enjoy these days. Spinning, baking bread, making pickled foods, soap, candles, calligraphy, home brewing, cheese-making, home upholstery, smoking, beekeeping, herb growing, bookbinding, weaving, recording music on unusual media like floppy disks and cassettes…

What most of these activities have in common is certainly direct contact with the matter – fleece, meat, cloth, electronics… When you get a ready-made product, it is usually sterile and tightly-packed – there is no dust, chips or other remains. The object looks like as if it emerged from the void, out of a vacuum and suddenly appeared on the store shelf; however, our relationship with matter is crucial to us. In Girls, Adam Sackler (portrayed by Adam Driver) discovers his love for carpentry and claims that “wood is honest”. When we take up a new craft, we have to learn numerous things – we need to find out whether the selected material stretches, how it reacts to moisture and how well does it handle temperature changes. The properties of matter largely determine the form and characteristics of the final product. If we go against them, it should be justified by a deeper thought or artistic vision. The embroiderer needs to know what to embroider with, how to embroider and what materials to use. If they want to go cheaper with their yarns, they need to be aware of the consequences of that choice.

Locked in our homes, we become reproducers, processors, manufacturers. We turn passivity into action. At first glance, the fruits of our labour seem to be practical and pragmatic – after all, we get food, clothing or a purse. However, this is hardly the case with embroidery, seeing how it is used for decoration. One would be hard-pressed to say that we produce or make something by embroidering – other than maybe some beauty. The renaissance of crafts was not brought about by the pandemic. Even before that – despite living our lives to the fullest – we left our homes, met our loved ones and friends, spent time in cinemas and cafés, but we also engaged in weaving, brewing beer and sewing handbags. As you can see, it’s human nature to want to be able to do something, while work, food and a TV show are hardly enough for many of us. We are in for a life of discovery – there are more and more crafts waiting for us to pick up, and we will have to once again wonder if we are wasting our time. Nope – not at all!

Olga Budzan
ethnologist and cultural anthropologist. She also graduated in textile design from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. She works as illustrator and engages in various crafts. Author of the “Let’s embroider!” series in Barbara venue, author of illustrations featured in Fanfik by Natalia Osińska (Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej Publishing House) and the Dolnoślązacy guide published by the National Museum in Wrocław. Her works were published in “Rita Baum” and “Mały Format” magazines. She works in the Education Department of Ethnographic Museum in Wrocław.

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