Ancient art constant thread in their lives

THEIR passion and technique have made a Knysna mother and daughter two of the most sought-after needlework tutors in the world.

Whether it is studying ancient embroidery techniques in China or designing brand new stitches around a kitchen table in Knysna, Lesley Turpin-Delport and Nikki Delport-Wepener remain at the forefront of the art.

The two, who mainly focus on freestyle multimedia embroidery incorporating various materials and textures in their work, are so in demand that they have to prepare lectures and workshops more than a year in advance.

They have just completed a string of workshops and have exhibited in Paris, London, Australia, Dubai and Johannesburg.

Delport-Wepener will be jetting off to tutor in Australia next month and will be exhibiting in Hong Kong in September.

“Lesley and I are frantically working on designs and projects for next year, when we will be tutoring worldwide.

“We have been invited to exhibit in the UK and Ireland in 2015.

“Our exhibition will be all about East meets West,” said Delport-Wepener.

TurpinDelport, who has a fine arts degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, said embroidery was part of their DNA.

“My grandmother was a very talented needlewoman and although she died when I was 12, by then it was part of me too,” said Turpin-Delport.

She added that embroidery became a major focus in her life about 40 years ago when her daughter was born.

“Being a parent is demanding and finding time to express your creativity becomes difficult.

“You can’t put a paintbrush down and start again, but you can put a needle down. So needlework became my outlet.”

Through the years she has picked up a massive vocabulary of embroidery techniques and passed this on to her daughter, who is now “reaching the pinnacle in the needlework arena”.

Both also design new stitches and study ancient techniques, putting a modern spin on these classics.

Delport-Wepener moved to Hong Kong in January 2006, where she continues to teach, exhibit and lecture on freestyle embroidery. She continues to consult, design, and embroider for designers as a textile artist, working on unique pieces as well as private commissions.

Delport-Wepener is always at the forefront of embroidery, whether it be designing new techniques, integrating Western and Asian techniques, or mastering techniques from bygone eras.

Her extensive knowledge of the subject has her consulting on ancient Chinese textiles.

Because embroidery is a disappearing art, kept alive mostly through passing on techniques from one generation to the next, one of their objectives is to preserve the needle arts.

Along with sharing their knowledge they also run Les Designs from Knysna and Hong Kong and offer a wide range of freestyle embroidery kits, creative threads and books to embroidery enthusiasts.

They also tackle various private commissions with Delport-Wepener’s latest project being her most ambitious.

“It was a room divider based on an antique painting of a sheep and goat which I translated into thread. I also increased the size of each animal to make them larger than life.

“Many techniques were involved, including machined loops for the wool, felting for the horns and faces and textured threads were applied for a three-dimensional effect,” said Delport-Wepener.

This project was featured in esteemed publications, including the Wall Street Journal.

She is also working on-site at a hotel in Macau repairing an antique Chinese embroidery.

“I also have an off-site job repairing a 300-year-old tapestry for the last six months which is due to be hung in the next couple of weeks.

“I am also restoring and conserving Japanese Samurai armour.”

Delport-Wepener said: “It has been exciting to find out the history and facts relating to the different armours.”

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