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.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Decorative Art lace curtain

This lovely curtain design is similar to one I saw in the Nottingham archive earlier in the week. It mixes elements of Art Nouveau and traditional designs and is advertised in the Peach company catalogue for 1904. It is described as a ‘design in the new style of decorative art’. Although it includes Art Nouveau style panels and images such as the large stylised roses, twisting stems and drooping flowers it still conforms to the traditional curtain panel design of two outer borders with a scalloped edge, a lighter central panel and a more dense bottom border. It is 60 inches wide and can be bought in two lengths, either 3 and a half or 4 yards long, at 12 shillings per pair or 13/6 per pair depending on the size. Samuel Peach was a well known lace manufacturer in Nottingham, established in 1857, and clearly produced quite a range of curtain designs as well as other lace.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Rose ground lace

Rose ground is one of my favourite lace filling stitches - I love the structural lattice form of it. There are several ways of working the stitches and Pam Nottingham includes six varieties in a rose ground sampler in her book The technique of Torchon lace. The one in the picture is one of my favourites, which is cloth stitch and twist on the outer pairs and half stitch pin half stitch in the inner pins. I also like the variation with half stitch on the outer pairs and half stitch pin half stitch on the inner pairs. They both have a similar block like appearance but the first one gives a more defined square look to the pattern. I think it works well as a ground and also as a block (as in the image above) or as a diagonal run of just one square linked to the next by a corner. The other variations in Nottingham’s book use different combinations of stitches and twists for the central pins, such as cloth stitch and twist, or an extra half stitch but I’m sticking to this one for the pattern I’m working here.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Joan of Arc lace panel

I took this photo of the Joan of Arc lace panel at Calais Lace Museum. It depicts scenes from the life of Joan of Arc including her triumphant inspiration on the battle field and her death at the stake. It is a panel of curtain lace and was made by the Nottingham lace company of Dobson and Browne for their stand at the 1881 Paris exhibition. This panel was also the inspiration for the Battle of Britain lace panel made by Dobson and Browne 60 years later. The story is that in 1942 the Managing Director of the company was talking to colleagues at the company bemoaning the fact that so few old pieces of lace had been preserved. One of them then went and found the Joan of Arc panel in a cupboard and showed it to him. He was so impressed by it that he suggested the company should produce a lace panel commemorating the Battle of Britain. Both panels are a similar size and follow a similar style, having individual scenes down each border and a central area with larger images, all finished with a scalloped edging. The Joan of Arc panel was bought by the Calais Museum in 2009 and added to their collection.