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Magna Carta as a stitching collaboration

by Feb 23, 2020

This morning, I received my weekly Inspirations: All Stitched Up newsletter  in my mailbox.  (Issue 222, FEB 21, 2020).  Reading this is always a welcome way to start my day with creative ideas.  If you do – or admire – hand work, you can sign-up for this beautiful newsletter at Inspirations Studios.  If you are so inclined, you can also catch up on the spectacular work in past issues.  Be warned:  that is a exercise almost guaranteed to take you off on a journey of exploration that might well steal hours from your day.  Happily, it is oh, so worth it.

An article that really connected with me this morning was the
story The Magna Carta Reimagined by Nancy Williams.

Ms. Williams described a large piece currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney, Australia.  It is a gigantic work of the Magna Carta: An Embroidery created by British artist Cornelia Parker for the 800th Anniversary celebration of the signing of the document in 1215.  In honour of this show, the MCA has posted a conversation with Cornelia Parker and MCA Chief Curator, Rachal Kent.   Ms. Parker describes the

For my piece Magna Carta (An Embroidery) (2015), I took an image of the Wikipedia entry of the Magna Carta on its 800th birthday and had it printed onto fabric. The fabric was 15 metres long by 1.5 metres wide – and was cut into around 50 strips so that all the words were embroidered by many contributors. That’s what I like about Wikipedia; it’s made by hundreds of
people imparting their little bit of knowledge, rather than the definition being written by one authority figure. I liked the idea of multiple authors embroidering the definition of the Magna Carta, from prisoners to judiciary to
lords to MPs to well-known personalities and infamous whistle blowers, like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who both embroidered for me.

(read more of Cornelia Parker in conversation with Rachel Kent )

This short video gives you some additional insight into the planning, motivation and process of creating a piece of this scope.

If the video doesn’t display, try this link Magna Carta (an Embroidery) on daily motion 

I find this project really exciting in its success at bringing many different people together on one creative expression.  It is especially moving in its success to allow space and encourage individual touches and variations.  It incorporates accidents, stains, errors and variety. Participating embroiderers range from beginners to established professionals and educators and the range of skill is reflected and embraced in the work.

I love that this piece also reflects changes that have taken recording and reporting from a limited few people of means and inherited privilege to a project such as this that reflects people of a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.

Have you taken part in a collaborative work? What was the result?  Did the experience impact your process or style?   Share your experiences, or your thoughts on Magna Carta: An Embroidery in the comments.

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller

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