Mr X Stitch Presents: The Cutting (& Stitching) Post – Beryl Dean

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Contemporary embroidery art via Mr X Stitch

This week’s Cutting (& Stitching) Edge post features the work of Beryl Dean, one of the most significant embroiderers of the 20th Century.

Beryl Dean - Reproduced with permission of The Beryl Dean Archive Beryl Dean – Reproduced with permission of The Beryl Dean Archive

 

Trained at the Royal School of Needlework, Beryl Dean was a formidable talent who received high praise from her tutors and qualified the three year teaching diploma with the highest possible grade from the School. The sampler below was her Graduation piece and was one of the pieces on display at last year’s Knitting & Stitching Show. I must have spent at least five minutes staring at it in close detail, understanding and being amazed at the quality and breadth of embroidery in this single piece.

Beryl Dean - Ecclesiastical Sampler - Reproduced with permission of Gawthorpe Textiles Collection Beryl Dean – Ecclesiastical Sampler – Reproduced with permission of Gawthorpe Textiles Collection

In 1958 Beryl Dean wrote Ecclesiastical Embroidery, a book exploring how a modern approach could be applied to embroidery and textiles for churches. Acknowledging the changes in secular embroidery whilst honouring the rich tradition of ecclesiastical embroidery, Beryl  oversaw the production of all manner of garments and altar frontages, including work for Canterbury Cathedral and the Bishop of London. The design of the pieces was a contemporary approach to the subject, and yet they remain timeless classics. The piece below is the Enthronement Cope for the Archbishop of Canterbury, finished in 1980; a magnificent piece of work of the highest standard that defies its era in style and design.

Beryl Dean - Enthronement Cope - Reproduced with permission of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral

Beryl Dean – Enthronement Cope – Reproduced with permission of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral

The effect that Beryl Dean has had on the modern embroidery movement cannot be understated, and her work remains a portfolio of the highest standard. I’m not even going to attempt to encapsulate her story in this blog post, yet I felt it necessary to draw your attention to someone who shows us how wonderful embroidery can be.

Combining technical excellence with thoughtful design, Beryl Dean’s work is quite astonishing to see. I was fortunate enough to enjoy her work at last year’s Knitting & Stitching Show, where it provoked some strong emotional responses. I’ve never been moved by embroidery in the way I was when I saw her exquisite goldwork and whitework pieces.

Beryl Dean - Festival of Britain - Reproduced with permission of New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

Beryl Dean – Festival of Britain – Reproduced with permission of New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

You can find out all about the life and work of Beryl Dean in a book written by June Hill and published by the Beryl Dean archive. It’s a terrific read, filled with big pictures of her work and insight into the working practice of this amazing woman.

The book is available to buy from the Beryl Dean Archive – contact them via email f0r more information – or from the Twisted Thread website.

If you want to look at some of the best work in recent years, you should consider getting a copy of this book. I’ve got one and I’m never letting it go.

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