Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Lace inspired by geology

Geology seems an unusual subject for lace but some of the lace I exhibited at the Makit Fair last weekend was a series of work inspired by geological formations and flints. It includes a group of necklaces made up from layers of free lace worked one onto the next by sewing the edge into the layer above as I worked them. The colours of these pieces were based on the strata of different levels of soils and rock and a detail of one is shown above.
The colours of the flint laces were based on the myriad of colours seen on flints in museum studies. Some of these are necklaces, such as the section shown above which links lace and fabric in a large lace collar. For this one the fabric collar was made first and then the lace made as a continuous circle around the fabric sewing into the fabric as I went. Some of the other flint pieces are small handmade silk boxes with lace lids worked round a wire shape allowing the lace to be seen from both sides when the lids are raised.
Although the hard, solid edges of rocks and flints provide a complete contrast to the fluidity of lace they do make an interesting starting point for lace designs.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Lace exhibition at Cranmore Park Makit Fair

I’m looking forward to exhibiting some of my lace at the Cranmore Park Makit Fair on Saturday. I’ve decided to show some of my veils inspired by the gothic and some work based on scientific themes. The black veil in the image was inspired by the story of Dracula and includes references to fangs and blood drops in the lace design and red glass beads. ‘Belladonna’ is another black bobbin lace veil, celebrating the deadly nightshade plant, and suggesting that the widow may have had a hand in her husband’s demise.
‘Pinned down’ in the photo above has a fringe of pins which sparkle from a distance, reflecting the allure of marriage to the gothic heroine, but the sharp pins reflect the hard reality of married life. Other white veils include one celebrating the brief married life of Charlotte Bronte and another reflecting Jane Austen’s equivocal views of marriage.
Much of the scientific lace represents biological images such as cells and other tissues, as well as some reflecting geological strata and flint structures. There will be both large and smaller works and most are bobbin lace. The veils are either black or white but the scientific lace includes subtle colours so there is quite a variety of styles and work. If you come to the Fair do come and say hello.    

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Designing all over lace patterns

Researching lace patterns in the archive this week has made me think about the way all-over lace designs are produced. The laces we were looking at were all designs from the early 1900s. Most lace designers at that time followed a national curriculum at art schools but there were also several books about design that they could consult. For example in Modern practical design, the author provides some diagrams showing how units of pattern can be repeated and positioned in ‘drops’. This can be based on square, diamond or zigzag shapes in a horizontal or vertical alignment. There are two ways of using repeat patterns as they can either be emphasised or disguised. In many geometric designs the repeats are emphasised and made a feature of the lace, whereas many floral and scrolled designs are repeated in a way that disguises the repeat and gives the appearance of a continuous all-over design. The designs we saw this week ranged from simple small square motifs to large floral repeats approximately 50 cm square with overlapping leaves and scrolls, but they all followed the same system of repeats and drops.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Battle of Britain lace exhibition at Bentley Priory

It’s been a busy couple of weeks taking down my Battle of Britain lace exhibition at Gawthorpe Hall and rehanging it all at Bentley Priory in London. The venue at Bentley Priory is an oval white cube exhibition space with doors spaced round the sides, resulting in eight areas for display, with a column in the centre of the room, so quite different from the space at Gawthorpe.

We decided to hang the panels on the righthand section facing you as you enter the room and some of the original and contemporary photographs and information of the lefthand side to balance them. It’s interesting to see some of the photographs that inspired the original panel in conjunction with their contemporary counterparts, which are included in the new panels. Also because the new central panel did not show up very well against the white walls, I mounted it on grey fabric which shows up the design of sweeping aircraft. The column in the centre of the room is surrounded by artefacts linked to machine lace production. The parachute installation also radiates from that central column to cascade down the outer walls forming an immersive experience as you walk round the room.

The exhibition opens on Saturday and runs until 30 March 2019. For details of opening times see the Bentley Priory website. If you come and visit make sure you also see the original Battle of Britain lace panel, which is beautifully framed and hangs in the main hall.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Moving my Battle of Britain lace panels

It’s been a busy week taking down my Battle of Britain lace exhibition at Gawthorpe Hall and getting everything ready for its next outing at Bentley Priory next week. It was sad to take the exhibition down as Gawthorpe has been such a lovely venue but exciting to think how it can all be displayed at a new site. Dismantling everything was very easy and it all came down quite quickly. The panels were simple to take down and roll up but the parachute installation was more of a challenge as the parachutes were hung in rows with others hanging over the line in pairs and they had become quite tangled. I decided not to try and untangle it all in situ but to tip each row into separate bin bags and deal with it all in my studio this week, which means I’ve spent all week disentangling parachutes. The experience is rather like untangling the bobbins on a lace pillow that has been tipped upside down! Each row of parachutes is taking about 3 hours to separate and repack so it was a good decision to do the work at home. I’m also finding I have a few repairs to torn or broken parachute shapes, but it will all be ready for rehanging at Bentley Priory next week.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Fabric Africa: Stories told through textiles

I enjoyed this small exhibition of African fabrics and clothing at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. It is a brief overview of the subject which focuses on particular topics such as communicative cloth, commemorative cloth and the origins of patterns. It notes that much of what is known as ‘Africa cloth’ was instead made in Europe imitating a style from Indonesia and then sold in West Africa. This style originated in the early 1800s when the Dutch tried to copy Japanese batik designs to sell in Indonesia. However, the mechanised process they used led to crackling in the final product, which was not popular in Indonesia, but it proved popular with men from Ghana who worked in the colony, so the Dutch began selling it in Africa.

The section on communicative cloth focuses on the rectangular cotton cloth known as the kanga, which is worn as a body or head wrapper. These bold designs are surrounded by a border and include slogans that can be ‘messages to a lover or moral warnings to society’. In contrast to these more personal messages, commemorative cloths are worn by members of political parties to show their support during elections. The two shown in the image above represent the Malawi Congress party from the 1970s, and the renaming of Swaziland to the kingdom of eSwatini on 19 April 2018. As you can see from the images the exhibition includes far more and is worth further investigation. It runs until 19 May 2019 so there’s plenty of time to catch it.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Ebb’n’flow lace exhibition

I enjoyed Jane Atkinson’s exhibition Ebb’n’flow at Walford Mill this week. It’s a contemporary bobbin lace response to the effects of climate change on an area of the country that Jane studies daily. There are several large hangings in subtle colours inspired by plants such as teasel, fennel, thistle, willow (detail above) and silver birch, these are beautifully hung to allow movement, while other pieces such as timber and mudlark are displayed draped as scarves showing the versatility of lace as fabric and canvas. One of my favourite pieces was ‘Oystercatchers on the trawl’, a panel of black lace that beautifully depicts the birds’ flight. In the accompanying book Jane describes how this work was designed on a log grid and required the addition of extra pairs of bobbins to produce the dense figures against the light open grid background. 
The book also includes some lovely close up images of ‘Oxygen’ a beautiful depiction of transitory bubble formations in Stanpit Marsh, rendered in four oblong panels that hang alongside one another to make the complete image (there's one panel in image above). As well as the main exhibition of Jane’s work there are showcases with pieces by other well known lacemakers, including jewellery by Denise Watts, Lauran Sundin and Hanne Behrens, sculptural pieces by Ann Alison, Sylvia Piddington and Anne Dyer, wearable lace by Sue McLaggan, figurative work by Pierre Fouche and dolls by Denise Watts reflecting women’s lives. The exhibition runs in two venues in Wimborne until 28 October and is definitely worth a visit.