Tapestry in Literature and Creative Writing

The combination of the decorative arts with literature and creative writing has led to many classical stories and novels themed around a painting or artifact. Others have used tapestry as metaphor to imply a weaving of a tale, and using tapestry to theme a story has strengthened the power that tapestry has of telling a legend or story through a magnificent tableau. When we think of what it is about tapestry that inspires those to write and use the craft in literature there is the weaving element of words being spun together to form a tale. There may of course be a story hidden within the stitches of a tapestry just waiting to be told or imagined and recreated. Just as the tapestry is created by fine stitchery so stories are developed through connecting ideas.

Stories Without End In The Walls

The Tapestry House was first written by Mrs Molesworth in 1879 and is centred around a small girl who lives in a house where one of the rooms is covered in tapestry. Indeed her maid says that,” There are stories without end in the walls of the tapestry room”. Viewing the tapestry in the moonlight sees it draped in natural beauty and with creatures coming to life. Imagine a peacock walking out of a tapestry! A magical tale is woven, firing the imagination of those who gaze at a tapestry and wonder what the picture really means.

Silk Tapestry by Patrick Atagan tells the story of an old woman, a boy and a wild spirit who combine to change the world around them in this charming Chinese folk tale. The completion of a magical tapestry is a core element to the story and enhances the mystique around antique and faded tapestries and the tale woven into the fabric.

Inspired by Tapestry

Tapestry and famous paintings have been known to inspire writers to create novels from the view they perceive. One of the more well known novels relating to tapestry is the Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier which was inspired by the famous panels depicting the six senses and now displayed in the Cluny Museum. Each panel features the Lady and a Unicorn and is themed around a sense such as sight or hearing. The story unfolds as a Paris Nobleman commissions a set of six tapestries to impress and the young weaver, wanting a change from creating battle scenes, designs the Unicorn panels, all depicting an aspect of the six senses. Into the story is woven loves, friendships and rivalry, as well as historical research concerning the lives of dyers and weavers at the time. It is, in effect a tapestry about a tapestry.

Using a different yet powerful perspective, Marjory Agosin in her book, Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love 1974-1994 tells the stories of countless women living in poverty and hardship in Chile under the Pinochet regime. In one of the most spectacular protests the omen created arpilleras or patchwork tapestries of everyday life, embroidering their sorrow into the fabric as they told the story of their disappeared relatives. Smuggled out of Chile these tapestries expressed the fruitless searches to the world. In a way that imparted great emotion and feeling, these stories told through tapestry recounted a very different type of narrative in a powerful and striking manner.

Tapestry as Metaphor

Tapestry implies a weaving and creation of a picture or pieces coming together to form a wider perspective. Tapestry has been used in the title of a number of crime novels and thrillers to imply a mysterious aspect. In fantasy novels tapestry is evident in titles such as the Fionavar Trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay, perhaps implying a mysterious weaving together of ideas. Like tapestry panels such as the classical Unicorn series, a trilogy also combines a series of novels into a bigger story than can be contained in one picture or book.

Combining the Creative Arts

Writing and literature express ideas and creative imaginations. In early medieval times before the development of literacy and mass produced books tapestry was used to tell a story to the masses, such as the Bayeux Tapestries. That tapestry finds itself in literature and in storytelling is not unusual but a powerful combination of the creative arts that is more readily accessible in the age of information. Tapestry will continue to have a classical and timeless appeal and will still be an inspiration to those who wish to be creative in thought and action.

Leave a Reply