Textile art: Embroidery – the craft, the art, the history

The Indiana State Library has an abundance of books on a variety of types of textile art. I found 127 on embroidery alone in our catalog. These include not only instruction books, but books showing how embroidery can be high art, as well as texts that tell its history.

The brief history of embroidery in “Design for Flower Embroidery” by Elisabeth Geddes (ISLM 746 G295d) mainly focuses on how floral patterns were used throughout the history of embroidery. The book states that textiles were first produced in the New Stone Age, also known as the Neolithic Era, and that a “later development was the addition of patterning worked into the warp threads with a needle.” It also mentions that bone needles were being used thousands of years before woven cloth was created. The author suggests that floral patterns were significant due to the fact that people would have seen the flowers as a sign of easier living and the hope of a good harvest. There are illustrations of floral patterns from different eras, such as the Egyptian Amratian period, as well as a few geometric patterns from similar time periods. The book also includes detailed descriptions of the items shown as examples. Included are descriptions of the colors of the items, which is good since the photos are in black and white. The evening bag shown below is one of these examples.

The book “A World of Embroidery” by Mary Gostelow (ISLM NK 9206 .G67) contains examples of works of embroidery from around the world. An embroidered cap from Nigeria, a whitework kappie from South Africa and a gargoush mezzahar, which is the ceremonial headgear of Jewish women of Sana’a, Yemen, are included as a few examples of headgear. The book also contains a number works that are exquisite works of art from different countries, as well as brief descriptions of the types of embroidery done in those countries. The image below is of an unusual item of embroidery; it is a flour sack embroidered in Belgium. These were the sacks from food sent to Belgium by the United States during World War I. So, to show their appreciation to President Wilson and the Belgian Food Relief Committee, groups of Belgians embroidered the logo on the flour sack. It was then sent to the president and the committee as a gift.

The two images below are examples of everyday items being made more beautiful. The first is of a pillowcase used by the Russian Princess Zeneide Warvaszy, who left Russia to go to England before the Russian Revolution. The second image is of an elaborately embroidered waistcoat that would have been worn by someone who had the money to have such an artistic expression created.

If you are inspired to possibly do a bit of embroidery yourself, we have instruction books with detailed descriptions of different stitches. One of these books is “Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches” (ISLM 746 T459m). It contains instructions and illustrations for 210 different stitches. The stitches are arranged alphabetically, but the book also has a “Uses at a Glance” section so you can find out which stitches to use if you want outline stitches, insertion stitches, border and band stitches, etc. We also have “Art Nouveau Embroidery” by Lewis F. Day and Mary Buckle (ISLM TT 770 .D27 1974) that has more in-depth descriptions of the types of stitches, rather than the individual ones. Come take a look at our collection of embroidery materials to see which ones will work for you.

Also, you can check our catalog for other textile art materials. Weaving, rug-making, knitting and more… we have it all here at the Indiana State Library.

This blog post by Daina Bohr, Reference and Government Services Collection librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services department at (317) 232-3678 or email us at Ask-a-Librarian.

The Barbara Stahl Collection’s fascinating journey within the Indiana State Library

We’re often asked, “What happens when materials make their way to Indiana State Library?” In this post, we’ll explore a collection’s journey with a recent acquisition from local artist, Barbara Stahl. The Barbara Stahl collection includes the first abstract work by a female artist to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division.

Barbara contacted the division in September 2016 after she learned about the library’s services through a friend. At the time, WISH-TV published an article about her work in downtown Indianapolis with the Indiana Pacers. For those of you who might not know, Barbara is the artist and owner behind Stahl Studios Inc., specializing in commercial and public art in Indianapolis and the surrounding area.

In October 2016, staff met with Barbara about the possibility of displaying her artwork at the Indiana State Library. A short time later, we made a site visit to Stahl Studios and discussed her career as well as the process behind creating her new series of large-scale oil paintings titled “Skybridge.” The paintings are a release from her earlier, more chaotic works; a metaphor for reaching one’s higher self.

The exhibit was well-received and led the Indiana State Library Foundation to purchase “Consciousness Rising,” one of six paintings from the series. Notably, this was the first purchase of abstract work created by a female artist for the permanent collection. Stahl mentions “Being included in this prestigious collection is very special and something I am extremely proud of.”

Further conversation led to the acquisition of her drawings, photographic prints and personal papers to the division. At this time, Barbara’s collection includes over four cubic feet of material. Rare Books and Manuscripts staff have thoroughly enjoyed working with her on the project – an opportunity she describes as “creating her legacy.”

The collection items are carefully looked over during the accessioning process. An inventory and record is created with temporary housing selected for the library’s secure, temperature and humidity controlled vault. The conservator creates special housing to ensure the longevity of her complex formats, particularly wax on wood panels and mud paintings completed in Belize.

Simultaneously, staff begin processing and creating the finding aid for Barbara’s collection. The finding aid or guide is a detailed record providing an intellectual overview of the collection as well as a detailed list of its items. Once the finding aid is complete, we add it to the online public access catalog, Evergreen, our Finding Aid Index and digitize the items for our digital repository, the Indiana State Library Digital Collections. These services provide top-notch accessibility to Barbara’s collection in our library and around the world.

Patrons can stop by the second floor of the library during regular business hours to see the Barbara Stahl collection in-person. As a bonus, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division is now open until 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings for research needs. Not only will you love seeing her work up close, you’ll also enjoy sitting in the beautiful, 1930s art deco inspired reading room.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Recent acquisition: Local abstract art and papers of Barbara Stahl

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division recently acquired a collection of drawings, photographic prints and personal papers from notable Indianapolis artist, Barbara Stahl. The collection will continue to grow and be available for public viewing after processing is complete.

Barbara Stahl portrait, 2000

A native of Vincennes, Indiana, Stahl moved to Indianapolis in 1992 after receiving her MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. Stahl is the founder and owner of Stahl Studios Inc., which specializes in commercial and public art. She is well-known for her Indiana Pacers schedule wall near Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the commemorative Super Bowl XLVI art project “Morning Magnolias” mural along the White River Canal.

Barbara Stahl, Morning Magnolias mural, 2012 Image Source: http://magazine.iupui.edu/12Spring/impact/46forXLVI.shtml

The Barbara Stahl collection is the first donation of abstract work by a female artist to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. It comprises over four cubic feet of material, including clippings, photographs, undergraduate artwork slides, wax paintings on wood panels, screen and intaglio prints, charcoal drawings and mud paintings completed in Belize. Her 2014-2015 “Tiny III” artwork is pictured below.

The Indiana State Library Foundation recently purchased “Consciousness Rising,” a large-scale oil painting from her 2017 “Skybridge” series. The painting is on permanent display at the library and can be viewed during regular business hours.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Meet Susan Knight, new director at the Franklin County Public Library District

I recently sat down with Franklin County Public Library District’s new director, Susan Knight. Susan’s first day in the library was Jan, 2, 2017. She comes from a school background, spending the last 12 years as a media specialist in the Greensburg school system.

Susan Knight, new director at the Franklin County Public Library District

The library has some exciting plans on the horizon. They break ground for an expansion in April that will double the size of the building. The project is expected to take about a year, will expand their heavily used genealogy section and create a meeting space for the community.

The library as an extensive collection of art, which is displayed around the building

When I visited, I just missed National Pie Day. This is an annual event celebrated at the library with many pie themed activities for all ages and pie is served when the library opens until all the pie runs out. This year they served 688 pieces of pie!

The library has a die-cut machine available to the public

I had a few questions for Susan:

What is your favorite thing about working in libraries?
Meeting people and serving the community.

What’s one thing coming up at your library that you’re really excited about?
I was looking forward to Pie Day, which just happened. Also, the library expansion. That’s a big one.

What are you currently reading?
Board minute packets, the Indiana State Library website and the new director packet.

To learn more about the Franklin County Public Library District, you can visit their website here.

This blog post is by Courtney Allison, professional development librarian. For more information, contact the Professional Development Office at (317) 232-3697 or email statewideservices@library.in.gov