Art Kaleidoscope

Between art and craft

Ubrus Gold embroidery workshop

Ubrus Gold embroidery

Saint Trinity. Embroidery art by Ubrus Gold embroidery workshop

Ubrus Gold embroidery workshop
The origins of this art form, mentioned in the Bible and in Greek mythology, are lost. Textile scholar Lanto Synge posits that it probably originated in China, and documents early surviving fragments that are estimated as being 4,500 years old. Throughout the history of embroidery, religious institutions have been among its greatest patrons. In Russia, goldwork embroidery received the greatest development in the second half XVIII – first half XIX centuries. Then Torzhok masters embroidered hats, muslin sleeves, aprons, belts, morocco shoes, purses, folk costume parts and ecclesiastical objects. In summer 1999, students of the School of Church and gold embroidery embroidered the Ayor (covering in the orthodox church, rectangular in shape) for Optina monastery in St. Petersburg. This date can be considered the beginning of the Ubrus Gold embroidery workshop.

Our Godmother Shroud (corner)

Closeup. Our Godmother Shroud (corner). Ubrus Gold embroidery workshop

During its existence the workshop masters have created a lot – the Shroud, liturgical vestments, covers for altar, embroidered icons and much more. The level of their artistic and technical craftsmanship is constantly increasing. The sophisticated embroideries are made on the finest linens and velvet, with silk threads in a split-stitch technique and also utilized an underside couching technique to secure the decorative gold and silver threads.

The Workshop develops its own designs and sketches for each item. And a source of inspiration for the creativity are a rich Byzantine and ancient church tradition. The workshop contains unique material on iconography, ornamentation, and embroidery. Besides, constantly enlarges the collection of books on the history of Christian art. In addition, the skillful embroiderers work with art historians and painters. All this allows the masters to work on a high professional level.

Advocating for the revival of religious art in its spiritual fullness and original splendor, and trying to convey the experience, the workshop annually enrolls new students to a church school of traditional embroidery and gold embroidery. As a result, for 4 years the students learn the art of ornamental and iconic sewing, composition, ornamental icon-painting and drawing, based on the knowledge of the old Russian history, the iconography and church art.

From the first days the students are motivated to work in the workshop. The main principle – work within the canon, and focus on the traditions of ancient golden embroideries. All work is manual, according to old technologies. Such work requires extreme concentration, accuracy and internal discipline, because hand embroidery items will be in the service.

As in the Middle Ages, large objects are sewn “in council”, ie collectively. This is especially important in today’s world, where reigns the spirit of individualism, and competition. Work on the big things, such as the Shroud, can take up to 3 years. With the participation of different masters in it, it is very important to preserve the unity of the composition, tone, character, and general emotional mood of the future temple shrines.

Participation in the general work brings patience, the ability to hear the others, humility and obedience, according to the words of the Apostle: “Carry each other’s infirmities, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

In addition to the canonical principles, Workshop teaches the principle of openness: gold embroidery workshops at Optina farmstead have no “tricks of the trade.” Any person can get a piece of advice on any matter relating to the embroidery.

Following the ancient custom, modern masters do not sign their work. In the workshop embroiderers become friends, and like-minded people. And these people come together to contribute to the decoration of churches.

Ubrus Gold embroidery workshop