Robert Glenn Ketchum

Eagle’s View of Winter Mountains, 2006

Double-sided hand embroidery

Based on an aerial photograph taken in 2001 flying over the foothills of the Alaskan Range southeast of Anchorage, this 24 x 30 inch, hand stitched, two-sided, silk embroidery features very subtle dye work done to the silk threads and a technique we use to represent diminishing distance, wherein the threads detailing the furthest point in the landscape are not full silk threads, but rather, have been sewn with 1/24 strands of unwound silk. The piece took 2 1/2 years to complete.

The effect of the stitching in this image gives the appearance of Chinese brush-painting.

Principle Embroider: Zhang Meifang; Assistant Embroider, Li Shaoping

Framed 27 5/8 x 35 7/8 inches.

Faced with a photographic work combining the figurative and the abstract, how to carry out the conversion to embroidery? To start with, the choice of what kind of material to use as the embroidery base was very important. In the creation of double-sided embroidery, the embroidery base materials are usually made of silk, yarn, satin or other fabrics. The cross-section of regular silk fiber is oval, but this time a novel fabric, made of fibers with a triangular cross-section, was selected, giving the fabric a hazy and faintly-flickering appearance. (This fiber was developed by Zhang Meifang in cooperation with specialty manufacturers and was used in the “Gold-Nuclei Collision Science Image” ① embroidery work, produced in cooperation with the famous Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tsung-Dao Lee [Li Zhengdao] ② in 2001). In its creation, “Eagle’s View” relied mainly on crewel embroidery, whose images are produced using a mixture of long, short, thick, thin, sparse and dense cross-hatched lines, with a further

① TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: In 2001, Chinese physicist Tsung-Dao Lee (see following Note) conducted a series of experiments using the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, NY to induce high-energy collisions of gold nuclei. The science is described at some length on the RHIC webpage at, which also contains a photograph of the scattering pattern of the subatomic particles produced by such collisions. Struck by the beauty of the resulting patterns, Lee eventually approached Zhang Meifang with the idea of re-creating that image in the medium of traditional Suzhou embroidery, whose fine lines and precise geometries seemed well-suited for the purpose. A photograph of Zhang’s embroidered version of the image can be seen at (link in Chinese), a later popular-press account of their collaboration.

② TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Lee was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1957. His English-language Wikipedia biography can be found at

Robert G. Ketchum 20-001 Zhang comments on embroidered reproductions (Jan. 2020) 7 January 2020 – page 5 of 6 –

DAVID M. KAMEN ASIAN-LANGUAGE TRANSLATION AND CONSULTING • sensation of depth being imparted by the angle at which the lines cross. The cross-hatchings for the mountains are relatively denser in the foreground, and become progressively thinner and sparser as their distance from the viewer increases. As a work combining the aesthetics of both Chinese-style ink painting and western painting, the more seemingly simple the colors, the more exacting the requirements for choosing them. We targeted three colors: black, white and gray, and specially dyed more than twenty levels of each color in order to create extremely subtle color changes in the embroidery. Moreover, this being a work of double-sided embroidery, the overlain color lines had to be completely identical on both sides with no extraneous traces. This is especially difficult for crewel embroidery; the slightest error will lead to visibly inconsistent embroidery on the two sides. However, our dedicated efforts ended up producing a unique masterpiece of embroidery art.

© Robert Glenn Ketchum
Tags: Landscapes, Alaska, Silk Embroidery, SERI, Zhang Meifang, Li Shaoping, TsungDao Lee