A unique book that combines contemporary interpretations of ancient art and embroideries with historical narrative. Beautiful colour photographs throughout. A fabulous collection of works by one of the UK's most highly respected embroiderers.
Jan Messent qualified as a teacher in the mid-50s and, after teaching Art, History and English, became deeply involved with embroidery as an art form. As a member of the Embroiderers' Guild, she taught embroidery design to its members, wrote and illustrated design books, and lectured worldwide. She became interested in the experimental use of knitting and crochet and hoped, by her books on the subject, to open up new dimensions in the creative use of yarn. Now, having retired from lecturing, Jan writes historical fiction full-time, embroidering as a side-line, reading, painting, and listening to good music.
This is a large hardback book with the feel of a historical tome, which is entirely appropriate given its subject matter and content. It is a history book, history of embroidery during this period, an art study, embroidery and instruction manual all in one. Jan Messent presents us with her interpretation of the Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon period in a series of works in the form of immaculately executed handmade books and artefacts. Every art form you could possibly imagine is included here - stitching, weaving, painting, dyeing, collage, line drawing and crocheting, and you can only imagine the huge and amounts of time and effort invested in these pages to create works so lovingly made and painstakingly recorded. It is clear that these pieces are all inspired by the art and textiles of the time (although the latter is not so easily preserved) and their influence is obvious, but all the work has a very contemporary look. Attention to detail is spectacular and can be seen in the stunning photography throughout. It is here that the advantage of a larger book size becomes apparent. You are able to see all the pages of the books on a double spread, which allows close scrutiny of the work. You can literally see every stitch. Coupled with the details given of how the pieces were achieved, it is a very accessible and informative book, giving ample instruction on how you could achieve (or aspire to) works in this vein. There are also patterns for some of the pieces of work, instructions on how to make them. A lot of the materials presented here are available from local craft shops, with recognisable yarns, threads and materials that the average embroiderer or textile artist would be familiar with. I can't stress how lovely this book is to look at, and how packed with information and guidance on this time of history it is. A wealth of varied art forms are contained here (too many to mention) and well as the seven major works of art featured in the handmade books. This is a book that could last you a lifetime in study; every time I have looked at it, I notice tiny details previously missed. These are the kinds of handmade books that most of us aspire to. To have a book like this documenting them in such fine detail is a must for anyone with a love of this kind of work.-Workshop On The Web This book celebrates the art of Jan Messent through recreations of Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon artefacts, encompassing embroidery, writing, artwork, history and books. Her creations combine myriad materials, inlcuding hand-stitched threads, glued papers, fabrics, fibres, paints and beads, and presented as a series of 'altered books'. A unique book that combines contemporary interpretations of ancient art and embroideries with historical narrative. Beautiful colour photographs are displayed throughout this 144 page book.-Needle & Handicrafts Wow and wow again. This has to be not only one of the best books I have seen this year, but also for a long long time. There are so many reasons to buy this book. It's an up-to-date, contemporary treatment of ancient embroideries, translated into very popular book arts. The historical treatment is interesting, the renditions fascinating. Jan uses mixed media to create inspiring textiles that you will want to come back to many times. I have no doubt that this is Jan's finest work, it is a true testimony to her skill and to her inventive mind. She has delved into all manner of media to create her handmade books in stitch with thread, fabric and paper, paint and beads. The result is amazing. Search Press have not skimped on production and this is one of their finest books. The photography focuses on the details and is superb. I cannot pick one piece of work over the others, it is all superb. I turned the pages in wonderment. Again and again - this book will never lose its magic for me. Anyone working in textiles would love this book and I would go as far as to say that every artist or craftsperson would look admiringly upon it. It is, however, not a step by step instruction book, I don't mind that, but I know some do. I think there is more than enough insight to fire the imagination, and encourage you to do your own thing. If this does not inspire, you are already dead. Absolutely spectacular - a treasure that you will keep forever. I cannot recommend this highly enough.-Karenplatt.co.uk I should think that all embroiderers and yarncrafters have heard of Jan Messent; her work has been praised and loved for many years. Now here is a book showing her fascination with early embroidery, all presented in a series of altered books and other artefacts. This is a lush, large format hardcover that will look great residing on any coffee table. You and your guests won't be able to resist taking a good long look at it and being impressed with the standard of the work, the sheer imagination, the research and of course Search Press' beautiful photography and presentation. It is not a book of projects but the culmination in words and pictures of the author's longtime love affair with the subject. However, it is the sort of book that is likely to spark an interest in altered books and in making them about one's own crafting passion. The author covers a lot of ground in here, from showcasing what early embroidery looked like, through to the clothes and accessories people adorned with it, ecclesiastical and royal uses, how it differed between the various peoples covered and much more. There are excerpts from old documents, thumbnail portraits of historical people, descriptions of the author's own processes and even some templates to help those who want to have a go themselves. It all rather defies description, but it is impossible not to be impressed and become even more so on reading the text and discovering not only about the subject but how much research has gone into doing it. I can imagine that this book will be of great use also to all those on textile courses having to put together display boards or books of samples; having done this myself I can see now how to do it properly! Who knows, maybe in time it might get filed in the bookcase and your coffee table groaning instead under the weight of your own work - highly recommended.-Myshelf.com Combining contemporary interpretations of ancient embroideries and art with a historical narrative, this book features an extensive collection of unique pieces by the artist, including unique recreations of Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon artefacts. Touching on everything from textiles and clothing to accessories and stitching, it celebrates the rich history of embroidery in the UK and features a range of beautiful, awe-inspiring photography throughout. Designs incorporate a diverse selection of materials, with hand-stitched threads, glued papers, fabrics and beads all making an appearance.-Craft Business Information and inspiration oozes from every page of this glorious book. A celebration of the centuries-old traditions of English embroidery, Jan brings the ancient textile skills to life, and her exquisite mixed-media creations bring them up to date. Historical facts mingle with beautifully executed examples, such as Aethelstan's Sunday Best and Morwenna's Tasselled Sleeve, which are presented as the sort of 'fragments' that might be found displayed in a museum. Work is also collected into seven handmade books which combine writing, artwork and embroidery. The Book of Ancient Accessories, The Dressing-Up Book and The Bayeux Stitch Book are just a few of the book titles, but it's impossible for a simple title to convey the richness of the content; every handcrafted volume is a treasure and there are treats on every page. If you enjoy hand embroidery, this is for you; if you enjoy history, this is for you; if you enjoy exploring techniques in a contemporary way, this is for you. This book is certainly for me - and has just taken the top spot as my favourite embroidery book.-Stitch A remarkable book packed with gloriously large and close-up photographs of Jan's latest work. It combines Jan's love of history, art and embroidery culminating in a remarkable book that is fascinating to read, to look at and to work from. The stitches and techniques of the period such as Bayeux stitch and couching, are presented in handmade books which are the perfect means to present the three-dimensional quality of stitches together with embellishments and mixed media. Other projects include needle and scissor cases but mainly this is an inspirational and tantalising book for all experimental and creative stitchers.-New Stitches Have you ever picked up one of those 'must have' books? This is one of them! Pages of a stunning pictorial feast make this a reference book to treasure. By combining contemporary interpretations of ancient embroideries with historical fact, this exquisite book brings to life the ancient textile skills of Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon women, and celebrates the centuries-old tradition of embroidery in England. The mixed-media creations combine myriad materials, including threads, papers, fabrics, fibres, paints and beads and these are presented in the form of handmade books and artefacts. This is certainly an inspirational read.-Fabrications This is a beautiful jewel of a book. For those of you familiar with Jan Messent's work, you will be expecting creativity and imagination but this, in my opinion, surpasses her other publications. Some may find the title a little misleading. This is not a report on archaeological or documentary textile finds, it is a lovingly produced modern interpretation of ancient embroideries and artifacts, by a craftsperson who has a deep feeling for the period represented. This book began as a private project, a labour of love and only half way into the project was it mooted that it may become a book and that joy of unregulated creativity shows. This is not really a 'how to' book with patterns or instructions to follow, it is a book for inspiration, just as the author has used everyday objects which would have been familiar to women of the period. The stories are told mostly through 'altered books', an artform which had not come my way before but which is perfect for the purpose. Cushions, purses and wall hangings are added if they lend themselves more fittingly to the subject matter. Many materials are combined, such as hand stitching, fabric, paper, fibres, beads and paint. The work begins with a short historic survey of the three cultures of the title and goes on to deal with who would have done the embroidery and for what purpose. The contents include Celtic Influences, The Book of Stitches, The Bayeux Stitch Book, The Dressing Up Book, The Book of Ancient Accessories, The Book of Motifs and The Domesday Book. Each section has a factual introduction giving information on what is known or surmised about embroidery of the period and then goes on to describe the 'altered book' dealing with that section, page by page, an describing briefly how it was made. The book has been beautifully produced and has page after page of stunning colour photographs. There are very few books which I would describe as true treasures, but this is one. If you are at all interested in art, craft or textiles, or just need a lift to your spirits, then buy the book. Hazel Uzzell-The English Companions I wanted to say what a perfect book this is. It is inspirational and a thing of beauty in itself with huge amounts of background and technical information.-Carolyn Merry (customer) This sumptuous book is a feast for the eyes for all embroidery and textile enthusiasts. Lavishly illustrated throughout with close-up colour photos, it features the exquisite work of Jan Messent as she recreates extraordinary textiles based around the traditional skills of Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon women. Presented as a series of hand-made books and artefacts using mixed-media techniques involving threads, papers, fabrics, fibres, paints and beads it provides a delightful combination of historical facts, inspiration and practical guidance for those looking to produce similar contemporary pieces. Each book is shown in detail and accompanied by references to the original techniques used plus an explanation of Jan's own methods and materials. As most of her work is small-scale and hand stitched this is the perfect title to peruse on cold winter evenings in front of a warm fire and provides a fascinating insight into the arts, crafts, dress and lifestyle of our ancestors.-Sewing World This book is a real treasure trove. It is packed with beautiful, inspiring images from both ancient sources and from Jan Messent herself. She describes her work as 'sheer self indulgence' as it is a personal reflection her own interests. Her use of mixed media captures the powerful spirit of the ancient work and she presents her responses as a series of beautifully crafted creations. It is not a teaching manual, but an inspiration to anyone with an interest in historical sources and a love of stitching. Different chapters range from Celtic influences through to the Bayeux tapestry, the 'Dressing Up' book and the book of 'Ancient Accessories'. It is a joy to read and every page is a delight with excellent illustrations. Jan Messent was one of my heroes when I did City and Guilds and she is still inspiring me today.-Megonline.co.uk