The art of random stitch embroidery（乱针绣） was created in 1920s by Madam Yang Shouyu, a Changzhou native. She innovated on the traditional method of plane embroidery, which is featured of “closely needled in parallel lines”, by adopting stitch replacing brush and ink, and using threads as colors, which perfectly combines the principles of Western paintings with Chinese embroidery and enables the artist to express her own feelings freely. Therefore, the new art of random stitch embroidery that combined Chinese and Western art forms was created.
Random stitch embroidery is awarded as a kind of precious artistic work based on its quite complicated process requirements. During the period of the Anti-Japanese War, the works of Portrait of Roosevelt and Beauty and Skeleton were awarded the gold medals in the National Fine Arts Works Exhibition, while the Portrait of Roosevelt is reserved in Museum of Fine Arts of the United States. Therefore, Madam Yang Shouyu was highly appraised by Liu Haisu—a famous contemporary master of arts as “surpassing Suzhou embroidery, and mounting the peak of embroidery art.” In the early of 1960s, Changzhou Arts & Handicrafts Institute was founded for inheritance and research of random stitch embroidery skills. Under the instruction of Madam Yang Shouyu, the subject and content, embroidery skills and principles, expression of light and color all achieved new breakthrough, and made great achievements. The works of Ms. Chen Yaxian, who is a master of Arts & handicrafts in China and the best proud pupil of Madam Yang Shouyu, have won lots of awards. Among them, the works of Happy Old Man was awarded the gold cup prize by the 2nd China Crafts and Fine Arts Hundred Flowers Awards, which is the highest honor in the field of Chinese embroidery.
The complexity and rarity of the random stitch embroidery is just the random. However, the “random” is actual a kind of random with certain principle and rules, and “random” is used to serve a unification of the whole and a change for liveliness. The embroiderer may control the changes of stitch lines, long or short, thick or thin, loose or dense, light or dark color based on her own intention. Besides, the embroiderer may direct stitch by her “feeling”, and present her thought by “lines”, and utilize changeful stitch lines to present the beauty of line and 3D effect according to the change law of light and color. Therefore, the random we see from the embroidery works really makes sense and meets rules, and makes people feel the vitality spurted from the random, and the dynamics presented from the random.
Random stitch embroidery focuses on color effects, and it demands much more multi-plain processes than the normal embroidery. Therefore, the works of random stitch embroidery looks like a piece of oil painting, but differs from the oil painting. Since luster shown on silk lines, and stitch lines with different directions on the embroidery surface present changeful colors under the light in different angles. However, two colors on the oil painting will become another different color after mixed and combined, and the original two colors would become invisible. On the contrary, the threads with two colors on the embroidery surface may obtain the third color after crossed and overlapped, and the original two colors still remain. Therefore, the random stitch embroidery enjoys brighter and changeful colors than oil painting, and achieves a unique style.