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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Embroidered casket covered in mica.

My favourite historical embroidery is from the seventeenth century. One day I am hoping to recreate a stumpwork panel as I am sure I will never be able to afford one.
        I also like to think that I am pretty clued up on the techniques and materials used in caskets especially as I have conserved one at The Royal School which enabled me to get up close and personal so to speak. So I was really surprised to discover this casket at the V&A museum this week. This casket is dated 1650-1680 and totally covered in mica. At first I thought it had a conservation covering on it as it is in a well lit cabinet and caskets are usually in the dark to protect them. This casket is not stumpwork but silk embroidery which is very fragile, so the maker has covered it in sheets of mica on all surfaces. You can see the reflection of the light bouncing off.
      Mica is a mineral which is usually used on caskets as window panes and mirror glass but this is the first I have seen it as a covering. Mica itself is fragile so it is very rare for the mica to still survive until now. You can see a little missing on the left hand door.
       I have some sheets of mica myself for my future stumpwork projects so I have taken some pictures of them so you can see it in it's natural state.
     
Embroidered casket from The V&A with a covering of mica on all surfaces.

The top part of the picture is mica as you would usually buy it. It feels like a sheet of glass and has a slightly brown colour. The bottom part is a layer if mica which I have peeled off . As you can see it bends and feels like acetate. This is the form that you would use in embroidery .

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