El Hilo Cultural
is an exhibit that highlights the varied embellished and luxurious
textiles stitched right here in New Jersey and the people who created
them. While it still comes as a surprise to many people outside
of this area, people who live in the North Hudson region of New
Jersey know that this area has been a major center of the creation
of commercial embroidery and lace for 120 years. The emblems worn
by boy scouts and the U.S. military, the fine embroidered lace on
bridal wear and the dresses of divas, the lacey net on contemporary
lingerie have all been designed and/or produced here. Above right:
W.R. Thread showing the cutting of a field of stars for United States
Cultural Thread/ El Hilo Cultural tells the story of northern
New Jersey's unique heritage as a world capital of embroidery and
lace. Since the 1870s when Swiss and German immigrants set up the
heavy machinery that creates the finest lace, North Hudson has produced
intricate stitching worn by people around the globe. The knowledge
regarding this art has been passed on from one generation to another
in the many families involved in this cottage industry. A number
of embroidery companies active in North Hudson today are still run
by descendants of the Swiss, German and Austrian immigrants who
established these businesses. Successive waves of immigrants from
Eastern Europe, the Near East and Latin America have contributed
imagination and skill to the industry in subsequent years. Shown
left: Othmar Metzler, Swiss embroidery design.
addition to the prolific embroidery created in the small shops of
North Hudson, New Jersey has a number of expert embroiderers and
lacemakers creating one of a kind garments and home furnishings.
The Cultural Thread/ El Hilo Cultural exhibit also
features work by skilled embroiderers from many cultural backgrounds
including Asian Indian, Czech, Cuban, English, Episcopalian, Greek,
Guinean, Hungarian, Italian, Jewish, Mexican, Nigerian, Palestinian,
Turkish and Ukrainian. Shown right: Olena Halkowycz, Ukrainian
display include old sample books, tools used to create embroidery,
"cartoons" or enlargements of designs, embroidered fabrics, clothing,
vestments, and quotes from embroiderers' stories.
"My grandmother bought her first house
through the money she earned doing hand cutting. Women did 'home
work.' They took the delicate stuff--the collars, the yokes--and
hand cut all of them."
did I get started in this? I was born. There were no babysitters
in those days, no preschools. I started working with my father and
that was it. Whatever didn't get done in the daytime, daddy brought
home. I made shuttle when I was 6 years old."
This exhibit was produced with the ongoing cooperation of the
Schiffli Embroidery and Lace Manufacturers Association and with
the assistance of The Newark Museum. Many individual embroiderers
and embroidery companies have loaned or donated materials for the
exhibit. This exhibit is made possible in part by funds from the
National Endowment for the Arts; the New Jersey State Council on
the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment
for the Arts; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state
partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Bernard M.
Hartnett, Jr., Hudson County Executive; Hudson County Board of Chosen
Freeholders; Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs,
the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and NJ Department of Commerce
Office of Travel and Tourism.
The exihibit is open by appointment. Admission is free, except
for guided tours. Call (201) 865-6980, ext. 15 for more information.
Diallo, Guinean embroidery
Valdes, Cuban embroidery and lace.
Flores, Mexican embroidery
Alberto Morgan, Afro Cuban embroidery and lace.