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Mstera embroidery

One of the well-known folk art crafts of Vladimir land is the Mstera embroidery.  The art of embroiderers of Mstera has been known since the 17th century. According to a legend, the Mstera white satin-stitch embroidery first appeared in the Mstera women's monastery of St. John the Merciful in Bogoyavlenskaya Sloboda settlement (the future Mstera). The art of embroiderers was carefully preserved for centuries and developed as a field of modern decorative and applied art.

White satin-stitch is distinguished among other techniques and one of the most elegant embroideries with white threads on the white field of cotton fabrics. It was distinguished by the fact that it was sewn along the drawn outline using a variety of plant elements that filled the surface of the fabric. Skilled craftswomen achieved complex light-tone overflows of white color.

The Mstera white satin-stitch embroidery is famous for the fact that its items, having no face side and underside, look beautiful at both sides. Graceful small patterns of floral ornaments, delicate images of human figures and architectural forms are skillfully created by Mstera craftswomen. It is believed that this sophisticated technique is perfectly mastered precisely by the embroiderers of Mstera, continuing the artistic traditions of the past.

In the second half of the 19th century the white satin-stitch turned from home craft into a developed trade which was concentrated in the Vladimir province in Mstera, Kholuy (now the Ivanovo region) and other villages. Products embroidered here, often made to order, were exported for sale to Moscow, St. Petersburg, other Russian cities, and even abroad.

The beginning of the modern craft was established in 1923 by the "Model Artel of Artistic Embroidery" (later – Embroidery Factory named after N.K. Krupskaya). Since the end of the 1930s, the export of expensive products with exquisite white satin-stitch has declined, which gave a push to the search for new embroidery techniques. Mstera embroiderers turned to color decorative embroidery (color satin-stitch), which was called the Vladimir seam

The Vladimir seam is performed by the so-called upper seams – the threads slightly cling along the contour line of the pattern, passing only on the surface of the fabric. Outwardly, it looks like the white satin-stitch, covering the surface of the fabric. The Vladimir seam is made with thick threads: large stitches seem to mold the shape of a flower or leaf. The prevailing bright red color is enlivened by small inclusions of blue, yellow, green, which resemble cloisonne enamel. 

Since the second half of the 20th century the craftswomen had been developing the ornamental field of embroidery, using wildlife motives (fancy flowers and herbs, singing birds on the branches of apple trees, etc.), they had also turned to fairy tales. The factory produced tablecloths and table napkins, bedspreads, curtains, lingerie and light dress, men's shirts – decorated with master's embroidery.

In 2003, the embroidery factory was transformed into the “Mstera embroidery” company. The original products manufactured by the enterprise were a great success. Basing on traditional approaches, craftswomen created works of authorship that were demonstrated at Russian and international exhibitions. The work of the factory is currently suspended. However, the traditions of the Mstera embroidery art are retained by the arts and crafts studios and individual craftswomen. Unique embroidery collections are presented in the Mstera Museum of Art, in the "Crystal. Lacquer miniature. Embroidery" Museum in Vladimir and others. 

Modern masters of embroidery

The funds of the Regional Center of Folk Art contain unique items decorated with masterpiece embroidery made by the masters N.V. Pchelyakova, K.S. Sukhareva, L.N. Chkalova and others. Personal exhibitions of eminent embroiderers are regularly held.

The personal exhibition of  the Member of the Union of Artists of the Russian Federation N.V. Pchelyakova "Patterns of Mstera embroidery"   at the Regional Center of Folk Art (RCFA) displayed more than 50 works (panels, tablecloths, towels, etc.) performed in the Vladimir seam techniques, white or "pearl" satin-stitch, etc.  Nina Pchelyakova worked at the Mstera embroidery factory for almost 30 years. Today, the embroideries she has created are presented at many international, national and regional exhibitions.

Much work on the preservation and development of the traditions of the Mstera embroidery is carried out by Master of Arts and Crafts K.S. Sukhareva. She is the author of more than a dozen books on the history and techniques of Vladimir embroidery. More than 15 years she has led the folk arts and crafts studio "World of beauty", she holds master classes on artistic embroidery at the RCFA. Klara Sukhareva owns 27 types of embroidery, creates the author's compositions, landscapes, panels, paintings on household, historical, religious topics. She has many innovative works – portraits embroidered in a graphic manner, embroidered coats of arms and bookplates. The works of K. Sukhareva are kept in the funds of the State Russian House of Folk Art named after V.D. Polenov, the RCFA,  were exhibited at more than 50 solo exhibitions. K.S. Sukhareva repeatedly became the laureate of the all-Russian exhibition-competition "Embroidered picture".  

Master of Arts and Crafts L.N. Chkalova is perfect in Mstera embroidery techniques. Her original works are presented in the Regional Center of Folk Art and can be seen at national and regional exhibitions. For almost ten years, Lyudmila Chkalova has been managing the folk arts and crafts studio of RCFA and implementing the author’s program "Secrets of Folk Art".  

Author: V. Korolkova