Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Collaborative projects

Having just installed my parachute installation as part of my response to the Battle of Britain lace panel I attended the Craft and text conference on Monday. It was a very interesting day with some great presentations but the one that interested me most was by Lynn Setterington on her project ‘Sew near – Sew far’ which she carried out in collaboration with Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth. She engaged with various local groups, inviting participants to embroider their own names on fabric, which was then joined into long lengths, and used to write the pseudonyms of the three Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, outdoors on the Yorkshire moors. These huge signatures, imprinted on the landscape, released the Bronte sisters from the museum and reunited them with the moors that inspired them. My parachutes were also made in collaboration with a museum in my case, Bentley Priory Museum, the headquarters of fighter command during World War II. Listening to Lynn’s talk, I was struck by how members of the public become involved in these projects and how it brings people together, often from different walks of life. It’s also interesting for the artist to engage with the public in such a close way and an honour that people will give up their time to help produce a collaborative work. It is also a technical challenge to develop a task that is adaptable for different levels of abilities, so that everyone can take part whatever skills they have. Collaborative projects benefit the artist and the participants and working together in that way seems to lead to a greater understanding of art and art projects in the public consciousness.  

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Installing 'Battle of Britain: then and now' lace

The early part of this week was taken up with installing my contemporary Battle of Britain lace panels and the associated parachute installation at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. The hall is a beautiful old building and my work is being shown in a lovely room with mullioned windows adjacent to a room where the original Battle of Britain panel owned by the Gawthorpe Textile Collection (GTC) is being exhibited. On a previous visit I had discussed with Jenny Waterson, the Learning Curator at GTC, how the work would be displayed, so we knew where everything would go before we started the hang. Gail Baxter had kindly come with me to help as well so the three of us started by hanging my three new lace panels. We discussed whether to leave them hanging straight down the wall or set them off the wall, and decided that the shadows looked better with the panels slightly forward from the wall. The next thing to do was to fill the long case in the room with some background information about the panels and some lace equipment. Once all of that was done we started hanging the parachute installation. Although I had planned it in my mind I hadn’t had the space in my studio to actually hang the parachutes so I was a bit apprehensive about whether it would fit in the space and look effective. I needn’t have worried though as the hanging system worked well and although it was time consuming the installation looked good when it was finished – taking it down will be another matter however! Many, many thanks to Gail and Jenny for all their help in making it happen.  

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Swiss and combination lace machine stitching

I’ve been studying some of my images of the original Battle of Britain lace panel trying to determine the different stitches used in it. The books on the panel say the lace is Swiss and combination and I’ve been trying to find out what that means. Apparently, the Swiss guide bar is linked to the bottom board threads, which are usually the second finest in the machine. Lace samples I’ve seen labelled as Swiss include the V shaped stitching seen in the photograph and it can vary in length and width depending on how many threads it crosses or moves down per stitch. It can also be fine and close together or thicker and more spaced out depending on the thread used to produce it. The book I have about ‘Lace furnishing manufacture’ by Keith Harding gives detailed instructions for the gears and Jacquard cards required for all types of stitch combinations. Discussing Swiss and combination he says that the warp bar makes a single nip combination on one motion and the Swiss bar makes its effect on the other motion, so they are working together to produce the final lace. I can’t help feeling it would be much easier to understand if I could see the machine in operation rather than trying to work it out from diagrams!

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.