SCR Seminar 2017 kicks off with Region Day on Wednesday afternoon with an educational presentation by Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen, an MIT graduate with degrees in material science and engineering, and who is the founder of the Thistle Threads. She is currently working in a field called Electronic Textiles and is teaching the online course, Cabinet of Curiosities, throughout 2016. She will be speaking to us about 17th Century Casket Boxes. These boxes were designed and stitched by young women to demonstrate their mastery of needlework.
The Workers behind the Work: 17th Century Caskets and the People who Made Them
Embroidered Cabinets are magical objects which capture your imagination from their three-dimensional stories on the outside to the secret drawers on the inside. While the pieces rarely have the rich biographical information on them that samplers do, making them relatively anonymous, they hold other clues to their origin and manufacture. Samplers required just the embroiderer and her teacher, but caskets needed a large number of merchants, artists, and workers to take the embroidery and fabricate it into a three-dimensional object. While these workers are still nameless, this survey of the genre will show that there was a tight network of designers, draftspersons, teachers, cabinet makers, bottle makers, and others who fed the craze for these enigmatic cabinets between 1650-1700. Lessons from mass-producing these cabinets again will be contrasted with the evidence seen on the originals to draw conclusions about the way in which the process worked in the 17th century.
About the Artist/ Teacher
Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen is a teacher, historian, entrepreneur, and engineer. Her interests stretch between the embroidery and technology of the past and present. Dr. Nguyen’s primary field is engineering where she has been part of a small group of scientists and artists who have pioneered the new field of electronic textiles. Her product developments in that field have been seen in Land’s End, Brookstone, the fields of World Cup Soccer and have been exhibited at the Smithsonian. But in this venue, Tricia is best known for her knowledge and interpretation of historical needlework through projects such as the Plimoth Jacket. She is owner of Thistle Threads, a company which researches and designs historically inspired needlework. Her unique twist is viewing the objects through the lens of economic history using her engineering background to understand the clues they hold. Her current research project concerns embroidered caskets, applying experimental archeology practices to understand the genre. To do this, she is running a popular course, called Cabinet of Curiosities, where over 600 stitchers are producing their own interpretation.