Weaving Silk Paintings: The Ancient Art of Su Embroidery
Whimsical, extraordinary, impossibly precise – the words jumping out of one’s mouth to describe the immaculate designs created by Chinese needle painting masters. Originating in Suzhou, China over 2500 years ago, Su embroidery is the most celebrated form of Chinese needle painting. The master needle and thread ‘painters’ use strands of silk split into filaments barely visible to the eye, only to take your breath away with lighting, shading and colors so vibrant, it’s challenging to tell the difference between the original Renaissance painting and the needle painting.
Only natural silk fibers are used in Su embroidery, as only natural silk fiber refract light in a manner characteristic to this art form. A single silk thread can be split into close to 130 small individual strands, making some pieces finer than human hair. Ever after all this the threads still need to be installed within the needle for use. The treads come in a variety of tints, traditionally hand dyed resulting in slight variances in color, there are as many as 1500 different colors. Masters of Su embroidery identify several nuances, from size to uniqueness of color in their work.
There are three schools of thought in Su embroidery, the traditional method avoided overlapping threads, the second is realistic works of art, and the last involves overlapping threads – a common practice in today’s Su embroidery masters.
Enjoy a few stunning examples of Su embroidery mastery. For the avid art collector, or cultural curator consider investing in one of these magnificent pieces to round out any collection of cultural motifs.
What does Su embroidery look like in present day. Enjoy watching these embroidery masters in action in the video below.
By J.H. White