Here are some example icons of Stitch. Their work continues to inspire each generation. In the case of the 'Big Names' they are still actively leading, challenging, innovating and nurturing. Their influence is far-reaching and touches many, from those who are keen to develop their stitching skills to others who are continually pushing the boundaries of art and design.
Julia Caprara was a towering figure in the world of textiles and recognised as a master of colour. A foremost textile artist, author and teacher, she was a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and the Honorary Exhibiting Member of the 62 Group of Textile Artists. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in both private and national collections in Japan, USA, Canada, Australia, Europe and the UK. Her book, the Magic of Embroidery was published by BT Batsford and her work has been featured in many magazines and publications including Stitch Magazine, Classic Stitches, Quilting Arts, Embroidery and Workshop on the Web.
She studied stained glass at Hornsey College of Art and then taught at all levels of education – primary, secondary and adult learning throughout the UK and internationally. She was head of Art at the Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb, the Stanhope Institute and City Lit, teaching City & Guilds, Open College of the Arts and Leisure classes. She taught numerous courses and day schools in addition and was visiting tutor at other colleges. She was a mentor to the Textile Study Group.
In the 1980s Julia and her husband Alex founded the Stitch Design school which became the Opus School of Textile Arts. Their mutual commitment to creative education and belief in the importance of stitched textiles as an expressive force in the visual arts, resulted in the founding of this school in 1983. It remains the only educational establishment to teach embroidery to degree level, as a distance-learning programme, bringing people together from all over the world. To read more click here
Margaret G. Nicholson followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, father and brother. At an early age it had become very clear that her chosen career would have something to do with the arts.
After five years of training at Sheffield College of Art she graduated and entered a midlands consortium as a dress designer until the outbreak of war in 1939. Like so many others at that time, her life had to change. After the war she returned to her career with renewed vigour. Having enjoyed teaching in the community she decided to pursue a path in design education and, when family commitments allowed, became a full-time and peripatetic design teacher inevitably. Margaret became an examiner in the world of embroidery; she joined the Craft Council of the Women’s Institute and became a member of both the Embroiderers’ Guild and the Society of Designer Craftsmen.
In 1965 she joined the staff of The London College of Fashion which was known for its commercial fashion embroidery. Her deep desire to impart to her students a proper and complete design process, necessitated a massive change to the ethos of the course she ran. It wasn’t long before the well- established technical course rooted in machine embroidery and tambour beading had developed into one under-pinned by visual studies and a creative process recognisably in the tradition of schools of art and design.
Beryl Dean belongs to the 20th Century. At the start of the second decade of the 21st and the centenary of Beryl's birth, the world and its art look very different. If she were alive today, Beryl would be engaging with both enthusiastically.
She had a strong capacity for finding inspiration in anything new, basing her appreciation on a sound intellectual grounding and acute artistic understanding. She was able to reinterpret images and ideas in new contexts and this ability shines through in the extraordinary range of work that she achieved in a long career, most especially in her endeavour to bring modern art to ecclesiastical embroidery.
A gifted teacher all her life, Beryl has much to offer present day students. The richness of her design is backed up by absolute rigour in her needlework, exemplifying a pursuit of excellence that is central to the creative mission of all true artists.
Life Member of the Embroiderers' Guild and recipient of the Broderers' Prize
Betty's early career was as a teacher but she decided that she would like to experience trade so spent time at Fortnum and Mason. After that she attended Reading College of Technology where one of her achievements was to devise tests for sewing machines and then after 13 years she moved to Highbury College Portsmouth, as head of the Technology Department, also becoming an examiner. She was a determined lady and a real task master but was very well respected.
Because of her growing love of embroidery she put much effort into founding 11 branches of the Embroiderers' Guild. These include Liss, Alton, Hartley Wintney, Wokingham, Farnborough and two in Basingstoke. As a thank you she was awarded the Broderers' Prize in 2002.
After the Alton branch closed in 2008 she became a member of the Basingstoke branch.
Some of the members of the South East West Region recount fond memories of Betty Laker
"I remember Betty for her wonderful support and encouragement when I was a very new Chairman and really unsure about what I should be doing! I recently found a lovely note she wrote to the Andover branch when it was being formed, wishing us well for the future - and the branch is thriving!"
Eleanor Jakeman - Andover Branch
"Betty was a charming, gentle lady who joined the Basingstoke branch after her Alton branch closed. We knew she was special and she immediately became a valued member, helping whenever she could and always happy to give advice on sewing projects. She specialised in hand sewing of the highest quality, producing many pieces of canvas embroidery and beautiful cards for special friends."
Rachel Haver - Basingstoke Branch
"I only met Betty a few times at branch and regional events. She was a gracious person who always took an interest in what you had to say. Her enthusiasm for stitch was evident and Betty was a great ambassador for the Embroiderers' Guild."
Carol Winter - Wokingham Branch
"Betty was certainly a great asset to the Guild and was a friend to Wokingham branch, whcih was very close to her heart."
Elaine Izod - Wokingham Branch
"Betty was always incredibly enthusiastic and driven. I had so much admiration for her - a lady living on her own who travelled many miles back and forth across the region. She was such a live wire with her interest and enthusiasm for our mutual interest. She is a lady whose "get up and go" vitality will be very much missed."
Amanda Smith - Oxford Branch