|Harper's Bazaar April 2016
The outdoor mall where I shopped was holding a sort-of arts and crafts fair. One of the booths sold embroidered portraits, landscapes, studies. I had to look really closely to see that they were in fact stitched and not painted. The artist was working on a canvas of beautifully realized blue birds. He was Chinese. He told me that his mother taught him how to embroider and explained that only a very few embroidery artists are left in China. The work is precise and takes many hours to create a single piece. He draws some of the pattern for each piece onto the canvas, but, for the most part, he lets the needle flow across the canvas as it will. Another woman standing there asked him how long it took him to create one of his works, and he answered that he didn't know. 'When I am finished, I am happy.' I would have loved to own one of his pieces. The bird piece that he was working on was particularly lovely, but they were dear: $4-5,000. Actually, the value of his art was worth much more given the intricacy and time that it would take for him to complete one picture, but I was shopping with coupons ... the bird in the cage earrings at $1600 is getting a little closer to my budget.
When I saw this next piece featuring the Valentino Haute Couture Collection in "Bazaar," I thought of the China man with the needle. An hand sewn couture dress is a work of art, I would argue. The embroiderer may not know how long it takes him to finish a master piece, but for this, the hours have been clocked. The green dress: 1,800 hours; top white: 2,800 hours; to the right of it, the brocade: 2,100 hours; the flirty sheer'd black: 2,200; and the buterfly'd sheer: 1,300.
Once when I was Italy, we visited a cameo workshop. The apprenticeship was many years before one could establish oneself as a master. It was fascinating to watch, and I wonder if the design houses ever open their sewing room doors to viewers. Wouldn't that be wonderful. I would love for that opportunity. I do understand, however, that the couture business is a competitive one, and a designer may not open up to display what is to come. A cameo, after all, is a cameo. There are variations, true, but not so much.