What is Su Embroidery?
Su embroidery is known for its extraordinary detail, immaculate precision and refined craftsmanship. It's the most popular embroidery technique, with a history of more than 2500 years which originated from Suzhou in Jiangsu province. Su embroidery artists "paint" on silk canvases with needles and threads that can be split into a maximum of 128 strands (even finer than hair), which are barely visible to the eye. The finest strands are used to embroider feathers, hair and extremely delicate details in order to reach photorealism. Su embroidery uses the finest silk that has been dyed with natural or synthetic dyes, but also different materials such as, silver, gold or feather spun threads for various projects. The embroidery technique is only passed on from mothers to daughters, and it's been recognised and protected by the UNESCO World Heritage.
Ori Bespoke - Lotuses have been often used throughout traditional Su embroidery, and they represent one of the most sacred symbols for purity.
A Brief History of Su Embroidery
The first records of Su embroidery date back to Spring & Autumn period (770-476 BC). Since the Three Kingdoms period (A.D. 222-A.D. 280) Suzhou was the centre of the world for silk production; many families were raising silk worms and the Silk Road journey traded as far as to Persia, Greece and Rome. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) the artists had developed a rich range of embroidery themes such as, peacock, phoenix, flowers, and various religious motifs. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) remarked one of the most vibrant historical moments for Su embroidery; many artists were commissioned to produce embroidered clothes, quilts, shoes and home decors for the imperial family. Here is one piece of the embroidery from the Tang Dynasty collected by The British Museum.
Dragons were used to depict power, dignity and authority, and were worn by the emperors during the Qing Dynasty.
A New Era for Su Embroidery
During the turbulence of Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) Su embroidery was dramatically affected and almost got destroyed by the movement. China reopened itself to the world in the 1980's, and the craftsmanship slowly came back to life. The government has been putting a significant amount of effort to preserve and protect it by funding research centres, workshops and museums to revive this art form. Many new embroidery techniques have been invented, and the video below shows one of our embroidery artists Yingzi Zou, whose inspirational story showcases how she developed her new technique 'Didi' embroidery.
How to Implement Su Embroidery in Interior Design?
While the artists have been embroidering different themes on clothes, there have also been extensive uses in home decor purpose such as, wall panels, screens, wallpapers, cushions and decorative objects. You can place embroidered wall panels at the focal point of the room, or a piece of embroidered silk wallpaper behind the headboard in a bedroom. Silk is one of the most resilient materials, so it's even suitable for high traffic areas.
The aforementioned examples are traditional uses, however, we have created our innovative designs of embroidered table lamps with a touch of classic motifs and shapes. All of our hand-embroidered lamps are fully bespoke, and you can pick some patterns and colours from your favourite wall paper or even your dress. We will then draw them with either watercolour or coloured pencils before sending them to our embroidery artists in Suzhou.
Ori Bespoke - Lotus Ethereal