Embroidery is the handicraft of decorating fabric with needle and thread. It is most often used on dresses, caps, coats, blankets and etc. There are various techniques of embroidery, which are the basic characteristics for stitching today. The derivation of the word ‘Embroidery’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for “edge” but the technique of embroidery was being used long before the word discovery. The origin of embroidery dates back to the ancient China during the 5th – 3rd BC. ‘Suzhou embroidery’ is one among the famous ancient Chinese embroideries. The artists of Suzhou embroidery took the opportunity and started to seek the innovation in the field of embroidery under the influence of western civilization during the early 20th century. A profound Suzhou embroidery artist by name ‘Shen Yunzhi’ of those days incorporated the properties of portraits in oil-painting into her embroidery work and crafted a new style called “realistic embroidery”. Later her works on portrait embroideries like “Portrait of Italian Queen” that was sent to Italy and the “Portrait of Jesus” exhibited at US received great acclaim and invoked the sensation everywhere. Thus the embroidery of portraits came into actuality.
Realistic figure embroidery is a very much fascinating topic that captivates everyone’s attention. The important point that has to be considered about figure embroidery is that the embroidery of portrait requires a lot of contrast when viewed from a distance. Though it’s very hard to imagine how many stitches and colors used for making a face in embroidery, the stitches and the colors blend together smoothly to create an effect that looks much like a painting when viewed from a distance. But only when viewed from the close distance then the sketchiness of the irregular messy odd line stitches and the presence of all types of color from yellow to red is seen.
The threads used for the portrait embroidery has to be pretty fine to get the much detailed work done, in a small space that blends the stitches and colors nicely into a composed expression of a discernible face when viewed from a distance. In the early days the embroidery was the handwork done on woven threads of clothing. But in the later days the fashionable embroidery is stitched through a computerized embroidery machine that uses digitalized patterns with the embroidery software.
An artisan by name Udayan P.S, born in Kalady in the year 1967, is a well-versed portrait embroiderer who was a drummer by profession for three decades initially. Later due to his personal interest, he started experimenting on the embroidery works. He was also inspired by the portrait embroideries that was displayed at a museum in Guruvayoor. Since then over the few years he experimented on different styles of embroidery stitches on small pieces of cloths. Due to his immense interest in embroidery and the huge support from his family he dwelled more into the experimentation of portrait embroidery. After many trails on portraits through embroidery now he is recognized as a renowned portrait embroiderer in Kalady at Ernakulam district of Kerala. He makes effective use of thread, needle and a motorized embroidery machine to stitch the fine bits of fine art on cloth. He also takes the orders for the commissioned portrait embroideries. His embroidery of portraits are created with an unique weaving technique where the threads run across and up and down and resemble watercolor or pastel paintings that looks so beautiful from a distance. It takes atleast three months for the artist to complete a single portrait. He delicately uses the threads to match the natural skin tones and shades to replicate the organic human appearance. He grabs the attention of the viewer to his detailed works by using stunning bold color.