Imitation and Improvement

Imitation and Improvement: The Norfolk Sampler Tradition, by Joanne Martin Lukacher is not only a wonderful sampler book, filled with sumptuous color photographs of the samplers, but it is a thoughtful and insightful analysis of how the Norfolk samplers evolved. What sets them apart? Where did the motifs and designs come from? How were the girls who stitched the samplers influenced by the world around them, and what was that world like?

During a relatively short time period, and in a very specific geographic location, a design aesthetic emerged which was completely unique. The girls of Norfolk, England (specifically, those clustered around the city of Norwich) stitched samplers with several components common to all. The three salient design motifs that are key to identifying a Norfolk sampler: a stepped lozenge cartouche, a luxuriant floral border and a horizontal band of linked octagons that enclose floral or faunal motifs and usually frame the inscription. While these elements appear separately on Norfolk samplers as early as 1740, the classic sampler design features all three, and appears as early as 1768. This harmonious and truly beautiful sampler design flourished like the Norfolk Pine trees and Rosa Mundi roses which abound on the Norfolk countryside, and on the samplers until the early 1790's. For forty years, the Norfolk samplers stood alone in beauty and complexity.

Ms. Lukacher's analysis of the design influences of these samplers is well-researched and thoughtfully delivered. Motifs found in early Asian rugs, Swedish Marriage Weavings, and their fathers' textile workshops make themselves prominent on the samplers of these young girls. While it seems clear that this style came from one school in Norwich - it spread out to the surrounding area over the years, without ever proclaiming a design source or first teacher. It seems almost to have sprung up spontaneously, but the influences can be seen through Ms. Lukacher's deft handling of the research, and a close examination of the individual elements.

A thriving textile culture grew up in Norwich at this time - many of the girls who stitched samplers had fathers who were weavers or worked in the textile trade. The wonderful designs came from the far corners of the world through shipping at the Norfolk ports. It's proximity to Europe and it's status as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in England ensured that the girls were exposed to many design influences.

This book is not only a treatise on the development of the Norfolk style - it is a book rich with color photographs of over 100 samplers. It's 352 pages ensure that the reader is transported to that place and time when the Norfolk Sampler Tradition blossomed.

To learn more about this book, take a sample look inside, and order: go to www.inthecompanyoffriends.com

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