Thursday, 21 June 2018

Craft Study Tour to Gawthorpe Hall

I was delighted to travel to Gawthorpe Hall yesterday to take part in the Crafting Futures UK Textile/Craft Study Tour. There were seven people on the tour, all craft curators or practitioners from Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines and it was interesting finding out about their practices and the collections held in the museums they had come from. They had already had a busy week visiting textile collections and museums in Nottingham and Manchester as well as places in between. At Gawthorpe they were given a guided tour of the collection on display, to show how the permanent collection is curated and displayed, and then a talk about Ruth Singer’s contemporary exhibition showing how she was inspired by the pincushions in the collection to make a body of work. We also saw the original Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel displayed in the Hall and then I gave an illustrated talk about my contemporary response to it, to explain the impetus for the commission and how I went about producing the new work. We then had a quick look round the Hall and visited the gift shop before travelling down to London by train. I was pleased to be part of such an interested and interesting group and hope I have the opportunity to meet up with them again in the future. The Tour was organised by Craftspace on behalf of the British Council.  

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Tambour lace

I spent a couple of days at Newstead Abbey this week doing some research in the Nottingham textile archive. I was there to study some lace curtain designs and associated material but incidentally saw some lovely tambour lace equipment which started a discussion about how they were used. Tambour lace is basically a line of chain stitching on a net background, and I used that technique for the curtains in my ‘Whispering’ series. In contrast to my basic hook shown in the image above, the archive holds a very fine tambour hook, the stem of which is made of bone or ivory, which was light to hold and would have been a pleasure to work with. The top of it also unscrewed to reveal a small hollow in which spare metal hooks would have been stored. When I made my tambour lace I pinned my pattern below the net, but this meant I had to keep moving it out of the way to make the chain stitches, which is time consuming. In the archive I saw a large printing block which would have been used to print a design onto net. This would have made the work of tambouring much quicker and easier; both considerations when the work is being made commercially. However, whether you have a pinned or printed pattern, it is essential to keep the net taught in a frame and hold the hook vertically as you work, so it doesn’t get caught on the net. The way I’ve attached my net also allows the work to be moved up easily when you move to a new section.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Belladonna black lace veil

Now I’ve finished my belladonna lace I’m busy making it up into a veil. I had some netting left over from my previous series of black veils and luckily there’s enough for another one so I’ve just cut it out. I’ve also bought some artificial flowers and a small comb to attach it to. I couldn’t decide whether to attach the lace to the edge of the net so it would hang down or to lay it over the bottom of the veil so it has a backing of net. I think I’m going to attach it like a braid along the net just in case it is ever worn – you never know, I might visit Whitby - as I’m worried it’s such an open design it might catch on fingernails or earings. The idea behind the veil is that it is a mourning veil but the lace trim, edged with gold, represents the poison deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and suggests that the widow may not be too surprised or upset by her condition! It is part of my series of veils linked to the gothic and will be displayed as part of my exhibition in Bruges in August.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Battle of Britain lace parachute installation

I’m busy assembling the parachutes to accompany my Battle of Britain lace panel exhibitions. All the parachute shapes have been made by visitors and volunteers at Bentley Priory Museum in Stanmore London, the headquarters of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. They have made 1497 in all, one for each allied airman killed or mortally wounded during the battle. The idea is that we will commemorate them all by suspending the parachute shapes in an installation. I’m busily attaching them to fishing wire by the centre of the circle so they hang down forming a line of spiral shapes. I’m adding 50 to each line but also attaching some parachutes in pairs with a thread joining them so they can be hung over the line and lie below the level of those on the line. These paired shapes can also move more freely so can turn in the breeze giving a better impression of a parachute descending. I’m hoping that the two types of hanging system will allow the parachutes to be seen and also allow some movement. They also have to be transported to two different venues to be exhibited and then repacked so the system also has to be fairly simple to hang and pack. Apart from the practicalities, my overwhelming feeling has been the realisation that each one represents a lost life – it’s a sobering thought as there are so many of them. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Commonwealth flowers in lace

I was intrigued to see that Megan Markle’s lovely wedding veil was edged with the floral emblems of the 53 Commonwealth countries. For my recent Battle of Britain panel I also use the floral emblems of some Commonwealth countries to represent the allied airforces involved in the battle (some are shown in the image above). My task was easier than that of the royal embroiderers as I only had a few to find, however, I do understand the process they must have gone through as trying to embroider plants you’ve never seen is not easy. I had to look on the internet for images of wattle (for Australia) and silver fern (for New Zealand), which is probably what the royal embroiderers had to do, and I guess that Harry Cross, the designer of the original Battle of Britain panel in the 1940s would have had to use an encylopaedia. Our styles of lace are also different, Harry Cross’s design was produced on a lace machine, while mine is handmade needlerun lace on net. I haven’t seen good close ups of the royal lace yet, but some of it seems to be applied to the net rather than worked into it – it may be a mixture of the two. Some of the images I’ve seen suggest that the flowers were embroidered on organza which was then cut out and appliqued on to the veil. It is certainly stunning and I hope to see some more images soon.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Lace designs in Nottingham

I’ve had a very exciting few days in Nottingham looking at the lace and designs in several archives. The lace in the image is a lovely piece of mixed Brussels lace I saw in the lace archive at Nottingham Trent University. The main focus of my visit though was to look at curtain lace designs. I saw so many interesting things but the highlights were a collection in the textile archive at Newstead Abbey from the Town family, which included three generations of curtain lace designers and some lovely designs for curtains and napery from the John Ivor Belton collection in the industrial archive at Nottingham Castle. Those two collections were quite a contrast because the Town one included lots of inspiration drawing and training pieces with some small and medium size designs whereas the Belton collection included some very large designs that covered the entire table. Both included letters and newspaper cuttings and images the designers had kept for inspiration. It’s so good to find that this material is being kept and archived. I’ll definitely be returning to do more research.    

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Fashions at the 1831 royal coronation

My 1831 edition of The Ladies Pocket Magazine contains a section about the coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide  - shown in the image in her coronation robes. It explains the details of the service, the order of precedence and the regalia but unfortunately does not go into great detail about the clothes and lace worn by the royal couple. However, a chapter entitled ‘Reminiscences of the coronation’, which is set out as a letter from Lady Julia F to her friend the Hon Maria is much more entertaining. She tells us her chaperone was her cross aunt, Lady Jane, and how they disagreed about most of the fashions, which her aunt found quite revealing, either because they were low cut or for their use of flimsy fabric. Julia describes the fashions in general as comprising a lot of tulle, crape, and gauze, mainly in white and light colours. There seems to be a fair amount of lace on show, mainly blond, which her aunt seemed to disapprove of, preferring point lace. Julia describes her own dress as ‘white gauze de Paris, which offers a perfect imitation of blonde lace over a white gros de Naples slip’. She continues ‘A low corsage, trimmed with a double fall of blond lace, set on very full, comparatively narrow at the back and front, but forming very deep epaulettes’. It seems blond lace was more fashionable than the point lace preferred by Lady Jane. Julia is quite forthright about some of the fashions she sees, describing some of the noble ladies as beautifully dressed but others as vulgar with mismatched clothes. Unfortunately she does not describe the queen’s attire only saying ‘Everyone agreed that the queen never looked so well’. The service was clearly quite lengthy and Julia reports that many of the ladies produced biscuits or sandwiches from their reticules and one even produced a small silver goblet and bottle of Madeira wine. Inevitably Lady Jane considered eating in church vulgar and would not partake, as for sharing wine from the silver cup ‘ she shrank from it as if it had been a poisoned chalice’.