03 December 2011

Second-Generation Snutki (Polish Spiderweb Embroidery)

Return To The Place You've Never Been

The Polish embroidery technique known as snutki developed in the 18th century as an imitation of costly Italian lace. A labor-intensive, delicate form of cutwork, it was traditionally worked on fine white cotton or linen with white thread. Symmetrical shapes were drawn on tightly stretched cloth and connected by anchored single threads. These shapes, as well as eyelets created with a stiletto, were outlined by precise, close buttonhole or overcast stitches. Finally, the designs were painstakingly cut out to create the lace. Snutki was used to decorate clothing and folk costumes, household items, and linens for churches and manor houses. Women accepted snutki commissions from the wealthy to supplement their incomes; others worked snutki items for the Church in the hope they would be blessed for their labor in this life or the next.

The Sum of Everything You Remember And They Forget

I reinterpret this tradition from the perspective of a second-generation Polish-American who grew up with family in both countries. I can appreciate traditional needlework, especially when it reflects my own heritage, but I cannot imagine myself doing it traditionally. My snutkis are not homages to a romantic past in the Old Country. Instead, I utilize hand-dyed linen and asymmetry to explore origin, memory, loss, and transformation. Solid shapes are tenuously connected across voids by easily severed thread, and I am never sure which is more important, the fabric or the space between. As one moves from one world to another, one life to another, one self to another, what is cut away? What remains? Which part is the truth, and which is only embroidered longing?

First Day In The New World

Repeat The Words You've Never Heard

Remember The Things That Never Happened

These three pieces were part of the Handweavers Guild of America Small Expressions 2011 exhibition at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. The show's juror was Jeanne Brady, professor and head of the fibers department at Tennessee Tech University's Appalachian Center for Craft. An article about the show appears in the Fall 2011 issue of HGA's Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot magazine.

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