Defined by its delicacy and exquisite taste, Su embroidery is undoubtedly the most popular embroidery technique in China. Developed around two thousand years ago in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu it continues to flourish today in contemporary embroidery employed in home decor.
Inspired by Chinese ancient paintings and scenes of nature, Su embroidery design is characterised by the presence of birds, natural motifs and floral patterns like butterflies, bees, fish, tigers, and plants, but it often incorporates oil painting techniques as a result of European influence.
Su embroidery employs a unique stitching technique characterised by the use of split silk threads. Originally, embroidery masters would employ ten stitches, but over time the technique has developed and today more than forty threads are employed. To produce patterns, each silk thread is split into several other threads, and the thickness of the thread will vary depending on the motif that is being made for a particular design, allowing the crafting of shades, tone variation, and texture. Thinner threads are used for delicate motifs, while thicker threads will be used in larger scenes.
To achieve a perfect finish, embroidery masters employ different stitching techniques. In the ‘even embroidery’ technique, the stitches can follow multiple directions. It employs the ‘neat stitch’, which uses threads of the same length. This technique has been traditionally used in the production of small motifs and especially for the stitching of animal motifs. On the other hand, ‘random embroidery’ represents the development of Su embroidery in the modern era. It emerged in the 1930s and employs a more complicated method achieved through the use of crossing stitches and the incorporation of other materials. Another popular technique is known as the ‘double-sided’ technique and employs very thin threads and complicated stitching techniques to produce patterns that can be seen from both sides of the fabric.
Redefining traditions at Ori Bespoke
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, crafts and workshops declined in the country and were not reopened until the 1980s. After disappearing for several decades, Su embroidery reemerged and expanded through its increasing presence in shops, museums, and workshops. From the 1980s, new embroidery techniques started to appear and, since then, a new generation of embroidery masters have sought to redefine embroidery traditions.
Ori Bespoke belongs to a new generation of contemporary craftsmanship that seeks not only to honour traditional embroidery heritage but also to redefine and adapt tradition to contemporary home decor trends. With a strong visual identity, Ori Bespoke draws on traditional motifs employed in Chinese embroidery for thousands of years: flowers, plants, and animals are still present in our designs to commemorate the national tradition of silk embroidery.
At Ori Bespoke we like to produce objects that tell stories. We produce timeless and contemporary luxury decor lamps, paintings and bespoke embroidery with the purpose of bringing the national tradition of silk embroidery to the international arena. Our mission is not only to provide customers with home decor but also to tell our story: the story of Su embroidery, that has characterised a nation for thousands of years. To find out more about the designs, materials, and techniques we employ, you can visit our Shop section.