Hoopla; the art of unexpected embroidery.

Leanne Prain

Hoopla; the art of unexpected embroidery.

Vancouver, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011

ISBN: 978-1- 55152-406-1

I can’t be sure, without looking back through all the reviews I have done for the newsletter, but I think this is the 

first Canadian book I have reviewed. It is quite different from any other embroidery book I have read or perused and I did enjoy it.  It was a serendipitous find.

The ten chapters cover many of the usual subjects we expect to find in a good embroidery book… ‘Tools and materials,'

‘Finishing techniques’, which I must peruse again, and ‘Stitching resources’ which suggests suggest websites, books and magazines.  Other chapters cover rather unexpected concepts.  each includes a quite detailed profile of several embroiderers/artists from several countries, and seeks to explain where their particular concepts for embroidery come from.  Each profile is well illustrated and peppered with apt quotes; Krista Muir's is 'The more I travel, the faster [my embroidery] gets done.  I only work on it when I'm in transit - bus, car plane or train! She embroiders gorgeous maps.

Some of the profiles are very brief, others more detailed.  Some take the form of an interview, such as that with Ray Materson, who taught himself to stitch while in prison and embroiders miniatures - not your usual  miniatures - some of which have 1,200 stitches per inch. Who counted them I wonder? His story is inspirational.

Quite a few men are featured in the book. Many of them call what they do 'manembroidery', which I confess irritates me, as though their stitching is somehow different from that done by women.  They still use fabric, needle and thread, so why the need for a separate term?

If I had to choose a favourite from this 400 page book, it is the work done by Takashi Iwasaki, a male embroiderer who does not call himself a manembroiderer!  His work has such interesting forms and exquisite use of colour.  Its delicacy is breathtaking. 

So many styles of needlework. So many stories. Such unusual expressions of embroidery. So many emotional, personal and social statements.  So thought provoking.  I do recommend this book for anyone interested in examining the several ways art and the human condition can be expressed in needlework.  Oh, and there are also projects included in it too..

I think I am going to re-read the whole book before returning it to the library.

Erica Marsden