Thursday, 12 January 2017

Japanese lace fan

Walking the dog in the winter I always enjoy looking at the trees and the lace-like images made by the leafless branches. They remind me of Japanese paintings and it was the combination of Japanese art and the silhouettes of winter trees that inspired me to make this hanging of a fan. I used a Bedfordshire style of lace, which, with its plaits and leaves provides a good representation of winter twigs. I felt the combination of black threads and red background gave an oriental air to the piece and I also added some gold beads to give some highlights and a golden full moon to add to the Japanese effect.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Battle of Britain lace panel

My exciting new project for the coming year involves the Battle of Britain lace panel – the image just shows a detail. I’ve been commissioned to produce a contemporary textile response to the panel and its associated archive and I’m very grateful to the Textile Society for giving me a professional development award to help me fund the project and Nottingham Trent University for giving me a residency. The Battle of Britain panel was manufactured by Dobsons and Browne of Nottingham in 1942-6. It is 5 yards long and 65 inches wide and celebrates the bravery of the aircrew who fought the Battle of Britain in 1940, as well as the resilience of the people of London who were besieged nightly by the German Luftwaffe. It depicts the insignia of the Allied Air Forces that played a role in the battle, as well as scenes of the bombing of London. It was produced as a limited edition, and panels were presented to the air forces involved and to dignitaries of the day, including Winston Churchill. Today the panels are displayed in Air Force Museums, cathedrals, textile museums and other places worldwide. Once the panels had been produced, the original designs and associated jacquard cards were destroyed to ensure that it remained a limited edition. However, later in life, the designer, Harry Cross, painted the scenes in the panel, and these and other archival material have recently been loaned to the Lace Archive, at Nottingham Trent University. It is this archive that has been the impetus for the new project. My first research visit is planned for mid January so watch this space to see how the project progresses.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Lace review of 2016

2016 has been a busy year with lace exhibitions and events. I’ve exhibited in a variety of venues, including the lace event at Peterborough, the West Ox Arts venue in Bampton, the Hybrid lace exhibition in Limerick and the Knitting and stitching show at Alexandra Palace and Harrogate. I made a new body of work based on veiling inspired by Victorian gothic novels for the Knitting and stitching show in the autumn, which took up most of the year. It comprised two veils with bobbin lace edges, five with silk paper edges and two incorporating pins and embroidery. I had to schedule the work so that I had some bobbin lace on the pillow all year, the pieces with pins were also long term projects so I made them concurrently with the bobbin lace. The silk paper veils were made in batches and then embellished. The other exhibitions involved work I’d made previously which was easier and good to see the pieces exhibited again in different venues. My research also continued with visits to Nottingham and the V&A to discover more about curtains and lace panels, and I also spoke about my use of tambour lace in contemporary work at the Hybrid lace conference in Limerick. Thinking of the future, I applied to the Textile Society for a professional development award which I was honoured to receive and which will help fund my new project for next year – more details about that in the next blog!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Biology based lace

I hadn’t realised how much lace I had made based on biological themes until I wrote an article about it last month. I then found that I couldn’t include all the pieces in my 1000 word limit so had to leave many of them out. In the article I concentrated on my cell like pieces which are made of free bobbin lace without a formal pattern and include beads and tallies to suggest the parts of the cell. Some of those I had to exclude are the series based on a theme of genetics, chromosomes and cell division. An example is the piece above which was inspired by dividing cells seen under the microscope. It was made by producing a spiral piece of lace and then attaching pairs to the first piece of lace to add another layer to it, to give a three dimensional effect, as if the two layers were separating. Lace lends itself so well to reproducing the appearance of biological structures, with its combinations of holes, threads and more solid areas, that it should be no surprise that I’ve used it to represent so many different types of biological tissues.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Everyday lace

A friend has recently given me some of her lace and I’ve been looking through the pieces. There is nothing spectacular in the collection, no museum would be interested in any of it, but there is something special about lace that has been used and loved. Most of the pieces, such as the crochet edging below, would have been made at home by someone who enjoyed making a complicated pattern and was proud of her neat technique and it would have been appreciated by her friends and family.

The piece at the head of this post is made from a combination of tape lace and crochet so might have been made at home, perhaps following a pattern in a magazine, or might have been bought abroad.

The Nanduti style lace (above) was probably bought on holiday, but it is well used and has obviously been laundered. We admire so much of the finest laces in museums but tend to forget that there is great beauty in the everyday laces that used to be much more a part of our lives.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Knitting and stitching show at Harrogate

I’m just back from Harrogate where Gail Baxter and I exhibited our latest lace projects in one of the gallery spaces at the Knitting and stitching show. Gail’s work concerns netting, recycling and sustainability and mine was a series of veils inspired by nineteenth century gothic novels and their authors. The link between the two was the use of netting – fishing net for Gail and the fine net of wedding veils for me. The space was a different shape from our gallery at Alexandra Palace, which had been the first venue for the exhibition. The square gallery at Harrogate allowed us to group the work more effectively and I was pleased that my veils could be seen as a complete body of work and the relationships between them could be appreciated. The gallery was also at the entrance to the show so we had a constant stream of visitors who were interested in finding out the background to the work and the inspiration for it. I was especially pleased that at the end of each day several people leaving the show came up to us and said that they thought our exhibition was the best in the show.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Gallery labels for lace

It’s always difficult to know how much information to put on labels. Some galleries insist on dimensions and materials, which I’ve always thought rather odd if you have the work in front of you. For my latest exhibition of veils at the Knitting and stitching show I decided to give a flavour of the concept behind the work to pique the audience’s interest. For example, for ‘Pinned down’ (the veil fringed with pins see pic above), I gave the title and then added ‘A sparkling fringe of pins hides the sharper reality of conjugal bliss and domesticity’. That describes the work but doesn’t explain all the research into nineteenth century domesticity and gothic novels that lies behind it. The veil, and the idea of the pins forming a fringe, clearly resonated with many people and made them smile and those who were interested came over and we had a more detailed discussion about the ideas behind the work and the contrasts evident in using sharp pins within a soft veil. In many cases people were interested in one veil and reading the label made them realise how it related to the other veils and fitted into the body of work on display. The veils are attractive in their own right and I also wanted the labels to convey the idea that they are artworks not bridal wear. I thought that giving some idea of the concepts behind them would dispel that idea. For example, I would have thought that ‘Marriage lines’ with the text ‘Jane Austen’s equivocal view of marriage, pinned in place using her own system of rearranging ideas’ would have deterred most brides. Not all however – as some people did ask if I made bridal veils for sale!