This article first appeared in NANthology, the NAN newsletter, in summer 2011.
Of all the categories in needlework exhibitions, the most questions and controversy seem to surround the one entitled “MIXED MEDIA”. As defined by the National Academy of Needlearts, a stitched piece entered into the category of MIXED MEDIA should show that “the entrant has combined embroidery with another art form thereby stretching the boundaries of both”. Well, what exactly does that mean? Is it time to break out the paint brushes, beads, or even “LEGOS” or perhaps the kitchen sink?
Our first focus will be on the key phrase “embroidery with another art form”. A stitcher must combine the “art of embroidery with another art form”. A stitcher must combine the “art” of embroidery with another recognized form of “art” to produce an aesthetic object. This could include painting for instance. However, painting behind the stitching to create a background or effect color mixing would not be classified as a separate art form. On the other hand, if a small miniature painting were to be executed on art canvas and then framed separately and attached to the walls of a stitched room and all executed by the same person, there would indeed be two art forms or MIXED MEDIA in the same piece.
And how about the ubiquitous beads? If beads are attached to embroidery, does that classify it as mixed media? In general, the answer is no. But let’s say that you are someone who fashions handmade glass or clay beads yourself and incorporates them as an integral part of an embroidery. Then, it is possible that there would ensue a piece of mixed media. I say it is “possible” because even though there might be another art form introduced; does this introduction stretch the boundaries of both art forms?
Thus, we are brought to the second area of focus. It must be considered whether this additional art form(s) is (are) of a sufficient level of skill and then the entire project judged upon its creative imagination. Obviously, the subject of MIXED MEDIA is not one that is cut and dried as are indeed many topics in the field of needlework exhibitions and judging.
But what, you may ask, if I don’t fabricate my own beads but am proficient in advanced beading techniques either with needle and thread or utilizing a loom? Let’s say you created an exquisite article of beading and integrated it into an embroidery. This emergent duo would very likely qualify as MIXED MEDIA.
When deliberating upon whether an entry qualifies as MIXED MEDIA, remember that it must incorporate at least two art forms including embroidery, and then must go where none has gone before. Legos, anyone?