Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blackwork, Italian style

For a little while I have been admiring the Blackwork designs of Valentina Sardu of Ajisai Press. Instead of just telling you about her work which you can see on her website and blog (and read in English), I contacted her directly to see if I could tell you a little bit more about her. She graciously answered all my questions and gave me permission to use some of her photos.

Valentina, pictured above, is inspired by nature and Japanese Ukiyo-e prints and the name of her company Ajisai Press is the Japanese word for the Hortensia, or 'embroidery flower' as it translates literally. Her Blackwork designs reflect Japanese influence.

Valentina studied Painting and Decorative Painting at the Liceo Artistico (Art School) of Turin, and is self-taught when it comes to her needlework. She feels certain that her Sardinian heritage (her paternal great-grandmother was an expert Sardinian weaver) has equipped her with the fine sense of precision and aesthetics so fundamental to embroidery. She owes much as well to her maternal Piedmontese great-grandmother from whom she inherited a few special items: a beautiful Viennese Biedermeier embroidery pattern and a few embroidered holy cards which Valentina later discovered had belonged to two great-aunts who were cloistered nuns in a convent destroyed during World War II. Her curiosity to learn more about these items led her to the world of textile arts.

Along the way to learning about the textile arts, Valentina began to collect old needlework publications and three years ago after publishing a book on the Japanese art of furoshiki, in collaboration with the publishing house Marco Valerio she had the first Italian edition (1890) of the Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont reprinted. She has since reprinted a number of old publications.

Valentina then started to design Blackwork patterns:

What I love is its more contemporary style, with classic geometric filling motifs scattered here and there, breaking up or merging with other patterns, or they become more sparse, to create areas of light and shadow worthy of a work of art... Furthermore, I always experiment with new effects, and so often I do not stop at the traditional black on a white background, I enjoy using different colours, both for the threads and the fabrics. ...lately I've found it very interesting to combine blackwork and cross stitch because the little crosses are strengthened by the Blackwork and they seem to emerge from the canvas taking on a nearly three-dimensional appearance.

The design above is an example of the tri-dimensionality Valentina talks about. The ladybug & daisy is the first in a series of these mixed techniques.

Check out Valentina's online store where you can download digital copies of her patterns or order her needlework book reprints. Don't forget to stop by her blog too for lots of information including a step-by-step instructional video!


  1. absolutely gorgeous this blackwork!

  2. Valentina ha le mani d'oro e una creatività straordinaria. Come poche.

  3. Molto interessante, mi piace moltissimo il Blackwork.

  4. Great interview! I love blackwork, and hadn't heard of this designer before, lovely patterns ;)