These sketches of Dom Sylvester Houédard’s embroideries were made on a visit to the John Rylands library where they are held. The embroideries are stretched over crude frames, and were presumably made to handle rather than to view like paintings. The text is not easy to decipher, but appears once you spend some time looking at them. They work on a flip/reverse principle – with the letters reading in reverse when they are spun, that in turn carry appropriate converse meaning. Thus ‘ Vin bons a boire’ reads ‘ Bourgeoise Ruin’ once flipped.
As photographing the embroideries was not allowed, I made these quick drawings for reference. In retrospect, I’m happy with my limited documentation of DSH’s embroideries even though they cannot illustrate their colour or fragile textures.The embroideries are technically complex, and while some letters are more straightforwardly mirrored – an ‘ a ‘ can be flipped to read an ‘ e’ – for instance, others take more imagination. An ‘R'( in uppercase) is often deployed to read as an ‘ S’ in reverse. Likewise, an ‘r’ in lower case makes a pretty good ‘ s’ in lower case too. To achieve this by stitching alone must have been an endurance, and my quick scribbles cannot translate that. Still, these embroideries are, by their nature, elusive and deeply coded works – perhaps my drawings can at least offer an insight in their perplexity.