08 July 2015

Magna Carta

Cornelia Parker's embroidery is at the British Library till 24 July. It's impressive.

She didn't do the actual stitching, but still it's referred to as "her" piece. She had the idea, and real-ized the piece: made it happen. Much of the stitching was done by participants in Fine Cell Work, prisoners who are identified in the wall text and booklet only by their first names. Some words were stitched by the great and the good - the booklet says, for instance, the Baroness Shirley Williams is responsible for the word Parliament in section 29, line 4, and staff from the US Embassy (their names are listed) stitched "selected words relating to the American Constitution".

American Constitution? 1776 and all that ... and Magna Carta was, what, 1214?

What's embroidered is not the Great Charter itself, but the Wikipedia article about it, as it was last year, on the 799th anniversary of Magna Carta -- the article was output as a printed pattern on fabric, divided into 87 sections, and sent round the country to be stitched by more than 200 people, the sections reunited at the Royal School of Needlework. 
On display (via)
It's almost 13 metres long, shown laid out under perspex; underneath are a few mirrors so we can see the back of the work!
Mirrored text, at ground level
All those stitched words are impressive - and the images, thanks to members of the Embroiderer's Guild, are wonderfully rendered. The "ball" is done by Janika M├Ągi of Hand & Lock -
In the accompanying film, Anthea Godfrey says it took her 450 hours to do the goldwork (or nue) - it's A4 sized -

 Anther illustration was embroidered by Janet Payne -

See them all on the Embroiderers Guild website; below are a few of my own photos, which can be clicked on to enlarge -
By Ann Carrick and Elaine Dunn
By Jane Drummond
Image by Shirley Smith, text by Zita Szabo
The short film is definitely worth watching; the version on YouTube does away with the subtitles. These two stills give an idea of the individuality of the stitching, however "perfect" each person tried to make it -

The wikipedia entry on Magna Carta attracts more than 150,000 page views a month. And it changes  from time to time - "it is constantly being amended as the debate about the document and its legacy ebbs and flows".  Picture-wise, it's certainly looking quite different now than a year ago!

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