My inspiration for designing this embroidery kit initially came from my love of ghost stories which were especially popular in the Victorian era. Think of classic stories such as Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Published in 1843, the full title is: ‘A Christmas Carol in Prose being A Ghost Story of Christmas.’
I wanted this embroidery kit to reflect the Victorian spirit of exploration, where both the mystical and the scientific were embraced, and where ghost stories, seances and fortune tellingwere explored against a backdrop ofground-breaking scientific discoveries.
During the mid-nineteenth century, Spiritualism captured the imaginations of many and fascination with the supernatural grew. From around the 1850’s, seances, table rapping, mediums, mesmerism and palmistry grew in popularity.
Societies to investigate Spiritualism and psychic phenomena were founded and the 1880s became a decade of intense interest in these areas.
The influence on Gothic literature was huge and supporters of Spiritualism included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
With this background in mind, I picked palmistry as the underlying theme of my design.
At the same time as the intense fascination with Spiritualism and psychic phenomena, there was an increasing interest in science and the natural world.
In 1859, Charles Darwin published ‘Origin of Species’, a book which he held back from publication for fear of the religious and social crisis that he believed would follow.
In terms of my design, this led me to include intricate leaf and flower patterns to symbolisenature, renewal, regrowth, and the cycle of life and discovery about the natural world.
Scientific research in the Victorian era, also extended to furthering understanding of the skies. The measurement of the position of celestial bodies had already been achieved in the preceding century, however, research continued and focused on understanding the composition of the celestial bodies.
Drawing from the Victorian fascination with celestial wonders, my embroidery designshowcases both the sun, the moon, and the stars, reflecting the relentless quest for knowledge both scientifically and spiritually.
This quest for knowledge was also apparent in the Victorian obsession with Egypt and Ancient Egyptian artefacts. In 1851, the Great Exhibition was held within the ‘Crystal Palace’. It was the idea of Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband) and was also known as the Great Exhibition of the Works of All Nations and included reconstructions of the Great Sphinx of Giza.
I used this other dimension of Victorian fascination with the mysteries of the world, as the basis for including the Eye of Ra in my design. It is a symbol of ancient Egyptian mysticism and protection, connecting the design to the deeper mysteries of the universe.
My design brings together all these elements to portray the Victorian era’s exploration of their unknown world.