I had other commitments on Tuesday, and couldn’t do my volunteering shift at the Oxfam bookshop, so I popped in today, spent the morning tidying shelves in the storage area, treated myself to curranty, sugary Derby biscuits from the baker’s next door – and bought this beautiful book, Creation: A Celebration, by Sue Symons, who uses painting, calligraphy and embroidery to depict the story of Genesis.
The project, which has around 40 panels, took her two years and on completion was displayed at Bath Abbey, where her earlier work is housed. With their vibrant colours and intricate designs, the panels call to mind those highly decorated ‘carpet’ pages in old illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels. All but one have a central painted panel, surrounded by textile borders worked in a variety of stitches and techniques, using hand and machinery embroidery, appliqué, canvas work and beading, to name but a few. The overall effect, even in this two-dimensional format, is incredibly rich and textured – and the ‘real thing’, as it were, must be absolutely stunning. It makes my own embroidery look very clumsy.
The book includes Sue’s design notes on the panels, describing the techniques she has used and, as with the panels themselves, each of these printed explanatory pages is set in the centre, with an embroidered border running around. Sue’s work is even reproduced on the endpapers, which show painted and embroidered butterflies.
Published in 2010 by independent firm Shepheard-Walwyn (which regards books as food for the heart and mind), Creation: A Celebration appears to be one of 500 copies signed by the artist, which would normally make a book more expensive. Sadly, however, one of the endpapers had been cut in half – perhaps to remove a dedication or the owner’s name – which reduced the value considerably.