This Baba Yaga embroidery was created for the Pack of Wolves’ exhibition ‘Once Upon Again’ at Milkwood Gallery in Cardiff. It’s based on an old Russian folk tale about a which called Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga is described as a ferocious looking woman who flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs and surrounded by a fence constructed from human bones.
In the tales a young girl, Vasilisa, is sent to Baba Yaga by her wicked step-mother on what seems like an innocent quest to retrieve a needle and thread. The step-mother however hopes that Vasilisa will upset Baba Yaga and be eaten by the witch.
During the story Vasilisa encounters a number of characters such as Baba Yaga’s three horsemen, her dog and the witch’s cat who takes up the loom in order for Vasilisa to escape. Vasilisa flees Baba Yaga’s hut with a lantern made from a skull but is pursued by the witch in her mortar. Eventually Vasilisa evades the witch’s grasp by throwing her comb down on the floor behind her. As the comb hits the ground, a dense forest springs up preventing Baba Yaga from continuing her pursuit.
The layout of this embroidery was inspired by old British embroidered samplers which were created by young women wishing to practice their needlework skills. These would often be comprised of a handful of small images, a (floral) border and a line or two of text – frequently an alphabet or religious quote.
The image for this embroidery was first hand cut from a piece of wood and block printed onto the fabric to provide a stable pattern. It seemed to me, pertinent to employ old methods of making such as woodcut printing and hand embroidery to retell this old folk tale.