A Menagerie in Stitches at the Royal School of Needlework: Animals in Embroidery

A brand new exhibition is coming to the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) Embroidery Studios at Hampton Court Palace on April 18. The exhibition, Animals in Embroidery, will be a zoo of beautiful embroidery and impressive stitches, techniques, and designs— each bringing an artistic rendition of the animal kingdom to life.

It will feature over 80 animals handstitched by RSN students, including current and past students on the RSN’s Certificate & Diploma, Degree Course, and Future Tutors programs. Animal embroideries from the archive collection will also be included.

animals in embroidery

A beautiful example of silk shading by future RSN tutor student Amy Burt.

Animals are one of the most common subjects of embroidery, as we can see from many historical examples such as Berlin Work, which you can read about in PieceWork September/October 2017. This exhibition will show both realistic and imaginative portrayals of all kinds of animals. Embroidered animals include a wild tiger, a colorful flamingo, and even beloved pet dogs.

See techniques such as silk shading, which helps achieve the most realistic images, and more conceptual renditions achieved with Jacobean crewelwork. This technique is centered on Jacobean designs that originated in the seventeenth century. Original designs were inspired by exotic wildlife and plants, and English embroiderers later added their own twists with quirky, fun animals.

animals in embroidery

A cheeky little chipmunk featuring advanced silk shading techniques by RSN diploma student Teresa McAuliffe.

“Whilst many hand embroidery techniques in the exhibition demonstrate a realistic interpretation of a chosen animal, look out for the mythical aspects of Jacobean Crewelwork where the size and scale are less important as large birds perch on tiny branches and insects reach epic proportions,” says Dr. Susan Kay-Williams, RSN Chief Executive and the curator for the Animals in Embroidery exhibit. “The animals, insects, and birds represented will include the familiar and fantastical!”

RSN will also offer tour options including a curator’s tour that will give a look at and rare insight into other pieces from the RSN collection. The exhibition is only open on certain days, so pre-book your spot at www.royal-needlework.org.uk or email education@royal-needlework.org.uk.

—Jenna Fear

Featured Image: A chipmunk embroidered by Teresa McAuliffe to be featured in the Animals in Embroidery exhibition at the Royal School of Needlework.


Learn more about needlework from around the world in PieceWork!

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