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Eight million stitches to create the world

Exeter Cathedral is playing host to ‘Threads through Creation’, a breathtaking exhibition by Chudleigh artist Jacqui Parkinson of 12 enormous, embroidered silk panels that explore the story of Creation.

Inspired by the poetic verses of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, textile artist Jacqui  re-imagines this ancient story in a vibrant combination of layers of silk, hand-dyed materials, metallic leathers and gold leaf, miles of thread – and more than eight million stitches!

The panels are huge – 2.5m high by as much as 4m wide – and vary from bold elemental patterns illustrating the first days to highly complex, rich work as we enter the Garden of Eden.  Jacqui’s work is eye-catching and attractive, designed to be accessible for viewers of all ages. While the serious context of God’s good earth and man’s impact on it underlies the entire exhibition, the embroidery itself is bold and exuberant, with many quirky details such as accurate and fanciful creatures embroidered into the stories.

Jacqui has established a national reputation. Her first spectacular exhibition, ‘Threads through Revelation’, toured 14 cathedrals, including Exeter, delighting more than half a million visitors. ‘Threads through Creation’ is just starting a three- year tour to 20 cathedrals.

She said: ‘It’s a pleasure to return to my local cathedral, Exeter, such a wonderful building with lovely people. Threads through Revelation covered quite a tough subject. ‘Threads through Creation’ is a simpler story that appeals to all ages.

‘I think the panels will add an extra sparkle to everyone’s visit to a wonderful cathedral.’

Speaking about how she works, Jacqui said: ‘I start simply with antique bedsheets, which hold their own tales of life and death. Then I gradually build up my stories by quilting the sheets and painting them with fabric dyes.

‘Once that is done, I add layers of silk, which I stitch into place using thick black thread and a free motion sewing machine.

‘This allows me to construct my “drawings” line upon line.

‘Then I add gold leaf and metallic leathers as finishing touches, overall creating great richness – a feast for the eye!

‘My aim is to capture the wonderful extravagance of the Creation story and to delight people who view it. Despite Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, it remains a story of love and promise, something we can all do with these days!’

The exhibiton is on until July 24.

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