AESTHETIC
MEMORIES

The Embroidery Edition. A limited range of art objects created in collaboration with fashion designer Jackie Villevoye.
Currently on view and for purchase at the NewWerktheater.

INTRODUCTION

We started Editions to explore disciplines beyond those of our own. To create great things with great people. To see what we could start and where we could end up.

Each piece was hand-embroidered in the Jupe by Jackie atelier in India’s Uttar Pradesh. Jackie has developed her atelier of artisans for eight years, now employing around 160 embroiderers*. This extreme level of skill and expertise can only be found in India, where the craft of embroidery is considered one of the country’s ‘treasures’. Different regions use different techniques, all handed down between generations within families with century-deep lineage in embroidery.

The works of ‘Aesthetic Memories’ primarily use Zaardozi and Aari techniques. Zaardozi work involves making elaborate designs using ornamentation and traditionally, with metal threads alongside the cotton. For Aari work, the fabric is stretched on a frame and stitching is done using a hooked needle, which enters the cloth from above, while the other hand feeds another thread from the underside.

The technique requires the craftsman to work blindly (since he can’t see the underside of the fabric), rendering it an advanced stitch and only possible for the more experienced artisans.

Through growing bonds in Uttar Pradesh and over the course of the long-term relationship, Jackie’s principal ambition has become to draw attention to the artisans’ expertise and methods, to give hand-embroiderers of India the recognition they deserve.

A CONVERSATION BETWEEN JACKIE VILLEVOYE
(JUPE BY JACKIE) AND …,STAAT

Jackie Villevoye started ‘Jupe by Jackie’ in 2010. “…The entire brand was born in my gut. I had this idea to create neckties for women. My husband said “Where is your business plan?” to which she replied “I don’t have one”. That gut instinct has proven exquisitely accurate. Since then, Jupe has grown to be the fashion industry’s go-to for all things hand embroidery. Villevoye is the woman behind the embroidery for Comme des Garçons’ women’s ready-to-wear collections from 2013 to S/S’17. Following her collaboration with CDG’s Rei Kawakubo, Villevoye has gotten together with …,staat to turn her creations from on the body to on the wall.

…,staat is an independent creative agency of 35 minds assembled from around the world. Questioning the boundaries across a spectrum of communication and design crafts; branding, graphic, spacial, product, interior, experience and beyond.

On the body
to on the wall

STAAT — You’re best known for your fashion work, but this is not the first time you’ve moved from on the body to on the wall, is it?

JACKIE VILLEVOYE — There was one before, around two years ago, when I was invited by the Dutch Embassy in Paris to exhibit with Lidewij Edelkoort. All the works were in blue and white. I did an embroidered design for a big woollen cloth. But, of course, it was not allowed for me to pin it to the delicate walls of the embassy. Screws were not possible there. So, what I did, I made it into sort of an art installation. I put it on two big legs, poten (Dutch for legs), and in a box made of acrylic glass.

S — Oh, wow.

JV — Yes. It’s here in my office. I will try to make a picture later on (01). But of course, there’s always, the difficulty of the reflection of the photographer in that picture!

S — Please! So now we are presenting art objects to the public for the first time. Shall we talk collaboration?

01 – Embroidery for the exhibition with Lidewij Edelkoort at the Dutch Embassy, Paris.

02 – Textile Wall Sculpture by Tapta (Wierusz Kowalski Maria Tapta 1926-1997) via Morentz

03 – All works were mounted by Park Avenue Art Studio and framed by Dokter Plexiglass.

ON ‘THE CLICK’

JV — After our mutual friend Merel introduced us there was an instant ‘click!’.

S — Yes, I remember that. We felt the same.

JV — And then we went through ideas for designs and saw opportunities. And from there we took it, didn’t we?

S — After seeing your test books from Paris, it was then we all fell in love with it. And then, we met you and there was also on a personal level, a click.

It was later when we saw your artwork, behind you in that picture of you standing in your house, I guess, with a fantastic massive work behind you. And then we said, “Oh, man, forget cushions, imagine if you blow this up like an art piece.” And then we had the whole energy because you’re kind of full of energy. I’m kind of relaxed, if we look at you, and then it was like click, the click.

JV — The click.

S — I remember feeling like “Oh man, what if we make this happen?” Especially because the whole area of textiles is quite a difficult art.

ON TEXTILE ART

S — I also spoke to some other people doing Textile, and it’s really a difficult art in terms of respect and understanding. A lot of people have a kind of… well, when you see photography, you fall in love with it. When you see a painting, you understand all the craftsmanship of painting. But if you see embroidery or Textile Art, people find it difficult.

Even downstairs in the restaurant of the NewWerktheater, we have a big textile artwork (02) by the Belgian artist Tapta and people either love it – but really love it, to the max – or people really hate it – as in they shout it out loud. There is something really emotional about textile and embroidery as an art form. People have a first initial reaction to it, and that sticks.

JV — That’s why it’s so good that you made the decision to frame them all (03), because then it totally uplifts them to the level they deserve. For instance, you all know Tracey Emin.

S — Yes, of course.

JV — Emin is famous for her neon lights, etc., but she also makes tapestry cloths (04). All boxed. You see this a lot in musea – ancient Chinese embroidered cloths are also boxed and behind glass. The thing is, the cloth is likely to fade with sunlight. So, for that reason you have to frame it. It’s curious though how you, simultaneously, also uplift it to an art piece.

ON ABSTRACT FORM

S — We are so pleased we decided to go really abstract in our collaboration. I know normally embroidery is about the elegance of flowers, of nature, of human beings, or really Naive Art… but no, we went for very geometric shapes.

JV — I think we have to pay respect to the hands because in many art forms, you can correct mistakes during the process. With pencils, you can erase. With paint, you can paint over. But with embroidery, there are just the craftsman’s hands, the thin, thin, thin threads and the needle.
They need to get it right the first time. Otherwise, you have to cut, you have to throw it away.

S — In doing these abstract forms, we draw total attention to the hand. To the extreme expertise and detail in these works. There is no figure to look at. Nothing to distract from the technique. Just pure form.

04 – Details

05 – Details

06 – Details

ON EXTREME
EXPERTISE

JV — The embroiderers in the atelier are experts to the extreme. They made these works from A to Z immediately. This is mind-blowing. Mind-blowing. This is why filming it is essential (05).
I want to show people how the works are made. This is my experience of the past year. Only when you show the hands at work, the precise repetition, the intricacy of the stitches, only then, people can understand and imagine and feel what the craftsman did there for hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and hours.

S — These embroiderers, how long have they been doing this for?

JV — It is inherited. The father determines whether his son, because it is only men who embroider, will become an embroiderer. It’s for that reason, the child cannot play outside in the fields as much as other children will, otherwise he will develop tough skin on his fingers.

So, the skin of his fingers need to remain baby soft when he grows up. Otherwise, he won’t have the sensitivity in the nerves of his fingers to guide his needle during his career.

During his childhood, he sits next to granddad, because his father is often working. And his granddad teaches him the stitches while he is a child. And once he is 19, 20, 21, only then, can he enter the workfloor as a professional embroiderer.

First, he has to learn the speed, because if there is no speed, the same as driving a car, you will make mistakes during the process. When they are 24, 25, they start what they call the first ‘hooked’ stitches. These are the Aari 7.

Aari work is like a sewing machine – an up and down action with a hooked needle coming down from the top while the other hand feeds a thread through at the underside. The hook brings it up, creating a chain stitch. They do this entirely blind!

Then when he is deeper in the process, he will learn Zaardozi 8. And this is really similar to how we stitch on a button if it falls from our shirt. It is really intriguing. There are loads of different stitches, they’ve taught me many and I’ve seen being performed on the work floor. It is needle art.

The really mature adults, 35, 36, 37, the ‘oldies’ in the team, they have mastered the most mind-blowing things, and with such speed. But when they’re 40, they can no longer fulfil their talent, because their eyesight has diminished. It makes it hard to do this precise work. They don’t have that same sharpness in feeling that they once had between the top hand and the intricate blind hand underneath the cloth. They don’t have that sharp feeling of where the needle needs to come out since their eyesight isn’t there anymore. There is, in a way, a very short amount of time in their lives that they are an embroiderer.

Their lives are dedicated to this craft. Later in life, often they go back to their villages and become farmers. They become a farmer with all their master expertise!

There are one million embroiderers in India, but there are few who are capable of this level of intricacy. Most of the embroiderers in India are there for the wedding industry, which is their biggest embroidery industry. These guys stitch on beads, sequins, more stones, more stones, only bling, bling, bling, bling, bling because this is India, of course.

ON NON-TRADITIONAL
DESIGNS ENTERING THE ATELIER

s — Wasn’t it funny for the embroiderers when you came wanting our geometric shapes?

JV — Each time I come with something new. I am stumped by how they come up with the right technique for the design. For them, it’s all about mastering the technique. They are not afraid of newness.

At the beginning of a new work, we set out to find the best type of stitch for the design. We sit with a few of the top masters and discuss what could be the technique that gives the character we want to express. Which technique to make it embossed, for instance. Then they tell me “Well, it’s no use to do this with a single thread. So, what we’ll do is make a line using a bunch of woollen threads and then slowly, slowly wrap them using little stitches using a cotton thread”. It’s incredible how they do it.

When I first arrived, and was asking them to “Please make only a few red flowers” they said, “No, this can’t be beautiful.” They wanted elaborate designs or bling, but now, years later, they have learnt this (Jupe) handwriting and are proud to be part of something different!

s — I remember I thought, “My God this… Will they manage to make this?” They made it and everybody said, “Yeah, but this was done by a machine. This was done by a machine.” Their talent is unbelievable.

And this is why we have to take a huge bow for these wonderful masters
because it’s hard to achieve this level of embroidery. I couldn’t have found this in Europe. It’s not that I just go to India and ask them to make something I’ve designed. It’s all in the long term. We have been working together for eight years now. Reflecting on this development, seeing the level we have grown to, makes me immensely happy. Respect to these Aesthetic Memories.

THIRTY HAND-EMBROIDERY ART OBJECTS

All artworks come beautifully framed in clear acrylic glass boxes.
Currently on view and for purchase at the NewWerktheater, or via editions@newwerktheater.com

A.M.01

A.M.01

Black cotton threadwork, white cotton embroidery 720x1420mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 748x1448x67mm) ED. OF 3

A.M.02

A.M.02

Navy cotton threadwork, black cotton embroidery 720x1420mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 748x1448x67mm) ED. OF 3

A.M.03

A.M.03

White cotton threadwork, black cotton embroidery 720x1420mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 748x1448x67mm) ED. OF 3

A.M.04

A.M.04

Navy cotton threadwork, white cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.05

A.M.05

White cotton threadwork, navy cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.06

A.M.06

Black canvas, black cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.07

A.M.07

Black canvas, black cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.08

A.M.08

Navy cotton threadwork, black cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.09

A.M.09

Black canvas, black cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.10

A.M.10

Navy cotton threadwork, navy cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.11

A.M.11

Yellow cotton threadwork, yellow cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.12

A.M.12

White cotton threadwork, white cotton embroidery 710x520mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 738x578x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.13

A.M.13

Black canvas, white cotton embroidery 520x760mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x788x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.14

A.M.14

Black canvas, black cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.15

A.M.15

Navy Cotton threadwork, black/yellow/white/navy cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.16

A.M.16

Black canvas, black/yellow/white/navy cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.17

A.M.17

White cotton threadwork, white cotton embroidery 520x760mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x788x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.18

A.M.18

Black canvas, black cotton embroidery 520x760mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x788x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.19

A.M.19

Black canvas, navy cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.20

A.M.20

White cotton threadwork, black/yellow/navy cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.21

A.M.21

White Cotton threadwork, black/yellow/white/navy cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.22

A.M.22

Black canvas, black/yellow/white/navy cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.23

A.M.23

Black canvas, black cotton embroidery 400x400mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 428x428x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.24

A.M.24

Yellow cotton threadwork, yellow cotton embroidery 600x600mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 628x628x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.25

A.M.25

Black canvas, black/yellow/white/navy cotton embroidery 520x670mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x698x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.26

A.M.26

Navy cotton threadwork, black/navy cotton embroidery 520x670mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x698x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.27

A.M.27

Yellow cotton threadwork, yellow cotton embroidery 520x670mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x698x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.28

A.M.28

Navy cotton threadwork, black cotton embroidery 520x670mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 548x698x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.29

A.M.29

Navy cotton threadwork, white/yellow cotton embroidery 670x520mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 698x548x67mm) ED. OF 8

A.M.30

A.M.30

Black canvas, white/navy cotton embroidery 670x520mm (framed in clear acrylic glass box 698x548x67mm) ED. OF 8

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