About Silk Art

You’ve probably seen thousands of oil paintings, but have you seen paintings 100% hand embroidered with silk threads?

Having over 2500 years’ history, Silk embroidery is the most famous handmade embroidery art among all embroideries in China. Because it is originated in the city Suzhou, it is also called Su Xiu (Xiu means sewing beauty with a needle). It is known that silk embroidery was very prosperous during Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 A.D.) and reached its peak during Ming (1368 -1644 A.D.) & Qing Dynasties (1644 – 1911 A.D.).

A Hidden Oriental Jewel: “100% Chinese Hand-Made Silk Embroidery”:

Silk embroidery is titled as the pearl of oriental artor Hidden Oriental Jewel for its beautiful design, unique material, varied stitches, superb workmanship and brilliant colors. As a unique art style, Silk embroidery is an ideal choice for home decoration and art collection and its value won’t depreciate with age.

The following paragraph is taken from the book called “Threads of Light” published in USA and edited by Patrick Dowdy:

Do you know what “silk embroidery” is? Do you know what it looks like? Many people I come across in the U.S. are either unaware or unfamiliar with what silk embroidery is. Moreover, for the few who are familiar with this specialized Chinese skill, I have discovered that they do not have a true knowledge and appreciation for this fine Chinese art form. Thus, the implication can be made that “silk embroidery” is truly a “Hidden Oriental Jewel” that has been under appreciated in the West due mainly to the fact that the common person is ignorant of the time, effort, and skill required to create high-quality “silk embroidery” works. Hence, the purpose of this article will be to inform and educate you (whether the art lover or the common person) on: What is silk embroidery? How it is made? How to appreciate it? etc. My hope is that you will acquire an appreciation for the uniqueness and value of this oft-overlooked Chinese art. Whether an art lover or not, I think you will come to appreciate the value of this “Hidden Oriental Jewel”.

What is Silk Embroidery?

Silk embroidery is a type of Oriental wall art that results from the traditional Chinese skill of pulling fine strands of colored silk through a canvas to create a beautiful work of art. The most common way to enjoy silk embroidery is as a framed, wall-hanging object. Hence, it is ideal as a gift, collectible, home decoration, souvenir, or office piece. The art of skill embroidery originated in China and has been practiced there for over 3,800 years. It reached a high level early in the Qing and Han dynasties, with silk and silk embroidery being the main products transported along the ancient Chinese Silk Road.

China was one of the first countries to transform embroidery into an advanced art form. The use of special embroidery techniques and styles sets apart Chinese embroidery from embroidery created in other parts of the world. In the past, embroidery skills were considered to be an essential skill every woman was to possess. A woman who could create a high-quality embroidery piece was admired and well-respected. Women from rich families took on embroidery as a hobby while those from poor families did it for a living. Today, high-quality embroidery works are treated on the same level as the best Chinese paintings and Tang/Song Dynasty poems

There are two varieties of silk embroidery based on techniques applied: single sided embroidery, double sided embroidery of different colors. Double sided embroidery, the specific style of Su embroidery can be appreciated from both sides. Pictures look exactly the same and wonderful on both sides. Some wonderful double sided embroideries even can have two totally different pictures on the two sides of the silk embroidery. Special ways are used in knitting instead of knotting. The end of the silk thread is invisible. It is knitted in the right angle without piercing the other side. Both sides will present the same excellent effect.

How to Appreciate Silk Embroidery

  1. Quality
    Fine Silk embroidery works have much higher quality in almost all aspects compared with average Silk embroidery products. All fine Silk embroidery works are designed by artists. The embroidery craftswomen also have to pass certain qualification to perform the needlework for fine embroidery.Fine Silk embroidery pieces are highly collectable and valuable. To create a high quality piece, an artist needs to split a single silk thread into 10-48 thinner threads and embroider layer after layer with threads of a variety of colors to reach the final wonderful effect. A top quality Silk embroidery piece can take 5-6 embroidery craftswomen several years to complete.
  1. Embroidery Size
    If two embroidery pieces are of the same quality, the large one is reasonably more expensive because it takes more time to complete. Generally speaking, the larger the size of an embroidery piece, the higher the value of the piece. But customers should be aware that not all large-size embroidery pieces are more expensive than small ones. This is because some large embroidery pieces are not fully embroidered- the background of the embroidery pieces is not hand embroidered but painted. Partly embroidered pieces are always cheaper than fully embroidered ones. So customers should know if the embroidery item they plan to buy is fully embroidered or partly embroidered when purchasing embroidery artworks online. Otherwise the size may mean nothing.
  1. Embroidery Technique         

The process begins with firming a piece of silk tightly over a wooden stretcher. A design is then sketched on the silk by drawing simple outlines, then the artist uses fine needles and colorful silk threads to bring the image to life. The combination of the quality of silk, the thinness of the threads, the size of the picture and its complexity determines the difficulty and the cost of the production. One strand of silk can be divided up to 16 smaller threads. The thinner the silk, the finer the art work. Layer upon layer of thread is built up to create dimensions, shadows and highlights, adding to the complexity.

  1. Artistic Value
    The most collectable embroidery pieces are top quality pieces with classic painting styles or embroidered reproductions of masterpiece paintings.