Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Biographies and summaries

Over the Christmas break I had to write three biographies and summaries about myself and my work for three different lace events I’m taking part in during 2018. Each one was for a slightly different audience so I felt I had to emphasise different things for each one and supply images that went with what I was writing. It made me realise how important these summaries can be in defining what you do and how you promote yourself. For example, should I call myself a lacemaker or a textile artist? I decided on lacemaker for the exhibition aimed at fellow lacemakers, but textile artist for the one aimed at the general public. Also should I mention qualifications? They are obviously necessary for academic events and my work has developed from my PhD research so I do need to explain where it’s coming from, but I don’t want to put people off by sounding too esoteric. Images are quite tricky too as lace is notoriously difficult to photograph, however I did find cropping some of my images improved them. Basically I think writing about yourself is always slightly uncomfortable even though it has to be done to promote exhibitions, but it’s also hard work!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Lace plans for 2018

This is the traditional time of the year for looking back at what you’ve achieved and looking forward to future plans so I’ve been assessing my lace plans. The past year was mainly taken up with my Battle of Britain lace response which involved designing and working on the panels but also included photography and talks about it as well. That work will continue this year with a talk at Bentley Priory on 26 January and another on 15 March at Wollaton Hall where the panels will be displayed for the first time. After that the panels and the associated parachute installation will be exhibited at Gawthorpe Hall from July to November and following that at Bentley Priory from November through to March 2019. 
Other lace plans include a stand at the ‘Living lace’ exhibition during the World Lace Congress in Bruges in August and an exhibition of my work at Cranmore Park in Solihull as part of the Makit Christmas Fair on 1 December. I think for both of those exhibitions I’ll concentrate on my veils as they are a coherent body of work with a definite theme and I’m currently making a new one so there will also be something new to show too. As well as all this practical work I’d also like to get back to my research into net curtains and panels, which has been concentrated on the Battle of Britain panel for the past year. It would be good to get back to some of the earlier machine lace I was studying previously and drawing some of that research together. So, in summary, an exciting year ahead with lots of new projects and exhibiting opportunities.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Progress on my Battle of Britain lace panel

I’ve made great progress this week on my lace panel – it’s interesting how some weeks you put in loads of work but have little to show for it whereas in others you seem to steam ahead! This week I’ve been applying the new digitally printed photographs onto the net base. I’ve never used digitally printed images before and I naively assumed that as the images I’d supplied were perfect rectangles the printed versions would be too. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that obviously the material must move slightly in the printing process so I’ve had to tweak some of them a bit. Luckily I had already decided to add a small strip of lace to the top and base of each image to neaten it, and to run a scalloped lace right along the edge of each net panel to mirror the scalloped edge of the original. These edges of lace have allowed me to straighten up the photographic prints by hiding some areas so they are now roughly rectangular again. However, despite the technical problems, machine stitching the lace to the images and net has been very quick and I’m pleased with the results, so I feel I can have a break over Christmas!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Woman’s Hour Craft Prize exhibition

I was interested to see the exhibition of work by the finalists of the Woman’s Hour Craft prize at the V&A Museum last week. The well-deserved winner was Phoebe Cummings with her beautiful unfired clay fountain which is designed to dissolve as the show progresses; the image shows a detail from it. However, looking at the exhibition got me thinking again about the difference between craft and art. I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to define both terms.

Various crafts are represented in the exhibition for sure, Laura Ellen Bacon’s woven structures and Celia Pym’s darning for example, but Laura admits to never having woven a basket and you wouldn’t ask Celia to invisible darn anything. As far as I’m concerned both are artists who use their craft skills to produce work that reflects movement and narrative, respectively. Of the ceramicists in the show, Alison Britton makes containers that are functional but speak of containment, Neil Brownsword highlights the loss of industrial ceramic skills by making and discarding clay flowers, and Phoebe Cummings deals with the ephemeral. Andrea Walsh initially studied fine art and developed the idea of a vessel into her glass boxes, which are sculptural and jewel like. Emma Woffenden also combines sculpture and glass to create strangely distorted figures while Laura Youngson Coll makes intricate biological sculptures (see the picture above). Of the jewellers in the exhibition, Lin Cheung acknowledges her ideas-based approach while Romilly Saumarez Smith gives antique finds a new life and narrative by turning them into jewellery. The other two exhibitors, Caren Hartley who makes bespoke bicycles, and Peter Marigold who initially studied sculpture but now makes what can loosely be described as furniture, seem to be more traditional craftspeople rather than fine artists.

It seems to me that most of these pieces combine craft and fine art. Does this signify the elision of the line between craftspeople and fine artists? Are most craftspeople now using their skills to produce work with conceptual ideas behind it? I doubt they are, as a visit to any gallery would show. Should we welcome this merging of art and craft? Do these definitions and categories matter anyway? Should we just enjoy the work whether it is art, craft or a combination? Food for thought!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Working Carrickmacross lace

I’ve been doing some Carrickmacross lace on my Battle of Britain lace panel which has made me appreciate the skill of the person who made this lovely piece from the UCA Textile archive. Having worked some of this lace I realise that cutting round the fabric shapes once they’ve been sewn down, without cutting the net underneath, is one of the most difficult parts of the technique. However, you soon get used to the feel of the fabric being cut. I found that if I used my nail to stretch the fabric above the net it was easier to cut and ‘gave’ as I cut it away, which made it easier to distinguish fabric and net. I also realised that the placement of the grain of the fabric was important too as some of the shapes are very small and tend to come away from the sewn edge if they aren’t placed and cut on the grain. The fabric I’ve used also seems to be more open than in traditional examples, which gives it a very lace-like appearance, but makes it less stable when its cut. I’m very impressed that in this beautiful example from the archive the fabric is cut very closely to the sewn edge and has worn so well without unravelling.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Lace in Weldons encyclopedia of needlework

I was delighted to buy a copy of Weldons encyclopedia of needlework in my local Oxfam bookshop, especially as the final section of the book is an illustrated supplement of lace. It gives a brief and not entirely accurate description of ‘needlepoint lace’ and ‘bobbin or pillow-made lace’ but mainly consists of photographs of lace from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The pictures are a bit grainy but do give an idea of the different types of lace and it’s encouraging to see so many illustrations, particularly in such an old book. The image shows a detail of Point d’Argentan lace with its distinctive hexagonal mesh. Although the book is mainly a how to do it manual, there are no instructions for making either needle or bobbin lace but there are sections on other types of lace such as netting, embroidering on net, drawn work, crochet and knitting which I shall enjoy discovering.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Carrickmacross lace

The next stage of my Battle of Britain lace panel requires some Carrickmacross lace so I’ve been reminding myself how to do it. The last time I made any Carrickmacross lace was a while ago when I made this cape inspired by peacock feathers. Basically the technique is to lay a piece of fabric on to the net, then outline the shape you want with a thickish thread without cutting out the material. Then you couch the thread down using a fine thread and finally cut away the excess material to leave the shape you want outlined in a thicker thread. The secret is not to cut into the net as you remove the excess fabric round the edge of your design or to cut the outlining thread, so precision is required! As you can see, for the cape I used several layers of chiffon to make the peacock eyes so the technique was quite complicated. This time I’m just using one layer of fabric with an outlining couching thread so it should be simpler, however the net I’m sewing on to this time is firmer and has less give than the gold mesh I used for the cape. I’ll need to try a few different types of fabric on a sample before I work on to my panel to see which one works best with the net.