Embroidery and Weaving at Ushaw

At Ushaw, where I have my studio (see here for details), there is a most interesting exhibition on at present, called ‘Hand in Hand’ and which includes drawing, painting, print-making, woodcarving, embroidery and weaving.

'Hand in Hand' exhibition sign, at Ushaw

All the items on display were created by a single maker – a Benedictine nun given the name Sister Werberg, who was born Eileen Grace Welch in 1894.

Sister Werberg, from the exhibition 'Hand in Hand' at Ushaw

She entered religious life at the age of twenty, but before that she had trained at Bournemouth and Bristol Schools of Art.  I found it very moving to discover that she had expected to set aside her artistic gifts and talents on entering the convent, but found instead that she was encouraged to continue to use them as an expression of her faith. She became known for paintings, carvings and designs for ecclesiastical vestments.  She did not, however, seek renown: her name was often not attributed to her work, she simply referred to herself as ‘a Benedictine of Stanbrook’.

In 1922, the Abbess of Stanbrook set up a studio for woven and embroidered textiles and the nuns often worked to commission, making ecclesiastical textiles. Dame Werberg (as she later became) not only produced designs for this work, but she also designed cards, book plates and service sheets which were printed on the Abbey’s own press. In addition, she produced wood carvings.

This elaborate embroidered peacock (representing eternal life) is delightful:

Peacock embroidery by Dame Werburg Welch, in the 'Hand in Hand' exhibition at Ushaw

There was one on each end of this priests’ stole:

Embroidered stole from 'Hand in Hand' exhibition at Ushaw

I loved the bright colours, the decorative elements and the spectacular stitching in the embroidered creatures, representing the gospel writers, Luke (the man), Mark (the lion), Matthew (the bull) and John (the eagle) in the decoration on this chasuble:

Embroidery by Sister Werburg in the 'Hand in Hand' exhibition at Ushaw

Much of Sister Werberg’s work is marked by early twentieth-century Art Deco influence, as seen in the figure of the angel seen below – this time in a woven strip…

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…which formed part of this vestment.

Weaving by Sister Werburg,'Hand in Hand' exhibition at Ushaw

This mixture of couched goldwork with appliqué was very striking.

Embroidery by Sister Werburg, 'Hand in Hand' exhibition at Ushaw

Counted cross-stitch also made its appearance in this ear of wheat.

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This remarkable woman died in 1990, producing works of art into her old age, as witnessed by this photograph, which is included in the exhibition.

Dame Werburg Welch

Photograph by Ski Harrison

The exhibition was made possible by Stanbrook Abbey, who loaned the work. All photographs here are included by permission of Ushaw. The exhibition runs until 29 June 2019. (There is a link for more details at the end of this post.)

Thank you for reading my blog.  Please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you – there’s a contact form.  If you have a friend who would enjoy this blog, please would you forward it to them? If you would like to read this blog every week, look for the words ‘Follow this blog by email’ and enter your email address. The blog posts will arrive each Monday in your in-box. If you would like to receive my special monthly newsletter, complete with colour inspiration, design inspiration and a free tutorial, please complete the pop-up form or get in touch via the contact form. I will never share your email with anyone.

This is my pattern for a single-bed quilt ‘Copper and Gold’, which you can find here.

Copper and Gold quilt pattern, by Amanda Jane Textiles cover

This is the postal address for Ushaw: Ushaw College, Co. Durham, DH7 9RH (although, if travelling by car with a satnav, the best postcode to use is  DH7 9DW)

For more information about ‘Hand in Hand’ click here.

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