We then went to the picturesque Lyndhurst, a small village, for lunch. A small gift shop called The Blue Bella caught my eye. It’s not a typical gift shop, though it does sell cards, mugs and soaps.
It’s indeed a magnificent gallery with 100 years of embroidered history. “Stitches in Time ” is a permanent exhibition of over 20 unique, large hand embroidered panels, all by the 70 year old Heather Hems.
It has taken Heather 17 years, working an average 12 hours a day (previous typo: a year), to complete all 23 works of art — totalling 100 ft.
Heather was so dedicated to her artwork that she suffered from injury that required surgery in 1991. Heather said in an interview that one of the big panels was very heavy to hold and, eventually, “all the bones in my shoulder crumbled.”
Heather’s artwork depicts 100 years of the 20th century history. Her work covered:
- Children’s Authors
- Musical Artists
- Art & Sculpture
- Ballet & Opera
- Super Heroes
- Final Frontier
- Motion Picture
- Our World
I was speechless when I stood in front of Heather’s embroidery. My photos do not do it justice, but hopefully you get a taste of it.
The owner of the shop, Chris, told me that these were all his mum’s work. “She lives upstairs. She is still doing it, on smaller projects.”
According to the brochures, Heather first learnt to embroider as a small child in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). In the late 1970s, Heather produced the two panels titled Vigro and Libra. They are reproductions of a series of paintings called Signs of the Zodiac by the Dutch artist Johfra Bosschart.
Later she continued with the idea for Celebration of Life: an embroidery of 20 panels each 4 ft square.
Heather started the project in 1988 to create something unique in time for the Millennium.
“Using Irish linen, stranded cotton and only one stitch for the entire embroidery Chain stitch. Each 4ft. square panel took 4 to 5 months containing approximately half a million stitches.”
There are 3 more panels: Celebration, Our World and Sports.
“My vision was to produce a unique pictorial record celebrating mankind and the amazing talents we as a race are blessed with.” Heather Hems said in her brochures.
I’m so lucky that I live near the New Forest. I’m going to visit Heather’s “Stitches in Time” exhibition again. It’s a truly inspirational place. I can say it’s a hidden treasure in the heart of New Forest.
Thank you Heather for your beautiful work, which is a joy and a great honour for us to appretiate. Your work is truly magnificent and thought provoking.