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Nadja Berruyer, the art of contemporary embroidery

It was in April 2021, after a visit to François Jauvion’s studio, that Artistes Actuels first met Nadja Berruyer, his studio neighbor. The interview was brief, but our hands will always remember brushing against a Matryoshka of precious, colorful, sparkling pearls.

Time passed, and in June 2023, at the Grand Baz’Art, Gisors’ international outsider art festival, Artistes Actuels met up with the embroidery artist again, and awarded her the Prix Artistes Actuels. She exhibited embroidered paintings and ceramics. Among the works of the 23 exhibitors, her dreamlike creatures combining humanity, animals and plants were our favorite.

Embroider or set your imagination to music like a harpist

Nadja’s childhood was lulled by fairy tales from all over the world. She was also deeply influenced by Russian culture, its literature, architecture, colors and embroidery. Is this due to her distant Georgian origins?

Holding a needle has always come naturally to her. Her inborn meticulousness and precision were reinforced by her training as an interior designer.

When Nadja embraced the enchanting world of embroidery, she went far beyond ornament.

Carried along by a gentle breeze, her fingers caress and capture the fine colored materials, organizing them according to her dreams. If Nadja were a musician, she’d be a harpist.

Contemporary pearled and sparkle embroidery: an embroiderer with eyes at her fingertips

Bohemia glass pearls and ultra-fine Japanese silk thread are her raw materials: high quality and very expensive. The threads come from Japan, the pearls from flea market antiques dealers, and from the stock of Madame Bervilère, a former embroiderer, which Nadja bought in 1992.

Nadja is a master of Lunéville point, a technique developed in the early 20th century and now listed as an intangible cultural heritage site.

If chain stitch is the basis, with pearls the work becomes very complex…

Placed on the thread used to make the chain, the pearls slide along the thread to be captured in each chain loop. Thus fixed, they rest under the embroidery loom. The pattern is created by the eyes at the artist’s fingertips!

Once finished, the fabric leaves the loom, and the motif is revealed by turning it over…

Nadja Berruyer applied her exceptional skills to haute-couture and the creation of costumes for theater, opera, film and academia. For 15 years, she took part in the enchanting creations of the Opéra Garnier, Bastille, the Opéra de Lyon and the Grand Théâtre de Genève… But around 2005, the lights of craftsmanship were extinguished by industrial fabrics.

For pleasure, alongside her work, she first made creations around costume (hat, jacket, Juliette’s cape), then turned to creations of the “indispensable useless”: paintings and matriochkas.

In embroidery, engraving or ceramics, which Nadja has discovered in recent years, the artist tells stories, plays with materials and tools to pursue her dreams.

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