Thursday, 28 November 2013

Iris van Herpen exhibition

While I was at the Calais Lace museum I also saw this brilliant exhibition of the work of Iris van Herpen. She makes fashion pieces – you can’t really call them clothes – based on a variety of different topics and in many unusual materials. The pieces in the image are called ‘Chemical crows’ and are a result of her fascination with alchemy and the idea of transmuting materials. In this case gold-coloured umbrella ribs have been transformed into fan-like wing shapes and the threads attached to them give the impression of feathers in motion. The gold colour is a reference to the attraction crows have for glittering objects. Other pieces in the exhibition included dress shapes with enormous collars made from metal thread to represent the industrial smoke from refineries and a huge ‘glass’ collar based on a splash of water. To create these effects she uses techniques as varied as three-dimensional rapid prototyping, hot air guns and pliers.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Lace machines at Calais Lace Museum

It was fascinating to see the Leavers lace machines working at Calais Lace Museum. I finally learnt how machine lace was made. As well as the working machines, there were several videos of the various processes and people involved in making a piece of machine lace, including the designer, draftsman, jacquard card cutter, bobbin winder, twist hand, lace cutter and embellisher. I found the videos very interesting as the whole process was brought to life by seeing and hearing the various workers describing their jobs and showing how the different tools are used. Hearing the big machines working, seeing the jacquard cards clattering round and realising how quickly large widths of lace are produced was amazing. As the mechanic who keeps the machines working said in his video ‘The people who designed these machines were geniuses. We still use the old machines because the system they use cannot be improved’.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lace display at Calais Lace Museum

The lace exhibition at Calais Lace Museum is beautifully displayed. Large portraits of people wearing lace are overlaid on lace like panels and these hang between cabinets containing historical lace. The cabinets are like tables with glass above and below so the lace in them casts a lovely shadow on the floor beneath. The exhibition focuses on lace in fashion but is also keen to show how the lace was made and there are many examples of pieces under construction and diagrams showing how both bobbin and needle lace are made. At the end of the gallery is a section on machine laces including several manufacturers’ pattern books and examples of design work which I found very interesting.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Calais Lace Museum

I enjoyed my first visit to the Calais Lace Museum yesterday. The building is an old lace factory, the exterior of which has been clad with glass panels that reference the Jacquard cards used to make machine lace. The museum has been thoughtfully laid out and I learnt a lot from my visit. There is an exhibition of handmade lace, including some portraits and examples of fine lace and a separate a display of historical lace fashion. There is a large area explaining how machine lace was made and the various processes involved including some working lace machines with demonstrations every hour. I finally learnt how machine lace is made from the demonstrations, videos and artefacts on display. There is also an excellent resources centre with books and magazines and there were also some manufacturers’ sample books available for handling (with the gloves provided). Contemporary lace is not overlooked either. The Lace Effects 1 exhibition is currently running, there is an exhibition of Iris van Herpen’s catwalk collection and the shop had some interesting modern lace for sale. The museum is definitely worth visiting if you are interested in any aspect of lace. I’ll blog about the various exhibitions separately .

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pasold conference 2013

This 2 day conference last week at Goldsmiths, University of London, included 14 papers considering how tacit knowledge of material in textile archives can enrich research. Carolyn Steedman was the keynote speaker and she spoke about stockings and stays, without having examined any textile collections, which rather surprised the audience. Instead she used secondary printed historical sources to uncover the social history of stocking making. In contrast, Ariane Fennetaux had researched pockets and showed us that they could often be dated by their fastenings, laundry marks or embellishments, things often not recorded or visible in images of the artefacts. Another contribution I found interesting was the talk by Bernice Archer and Alan Jeffreys of the Imperial War Museum, on embroideries made by women in internment camps in the Far East from 1941 to 1945. Many of these embroideries recorded the women’s journeys from capture to imprisonment and were often the only record made of these events. Some of the pieces recorded the names of those in the camps and often were made and hidden from the prison guards at great personal risk. On the final day, Annin Barrett and Caleb Sayan showed us the digital textile archive they have created and we then had a visit to the Goldsmiths textile archive where we saw a selection of the pieces it holds.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The hidden mother Linda Fregni Nagler

One of the installations I found interesting at the Venice Biennale was Linda Fregni Nagler’s uncanny series of photographs of The hidden mother (2006-13). These photographs depict mothers and children from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. However, the mothers are shrouded so they are visible but remain in the background of the picture like a curtain or piece of furniture. Their faces cannot be seen and the focus remains on the child. At that time photographs required a long exposure time and children who could not sit still for that length of time were held still on their mother’s lap, but because the mother only wanted a picture of the child she remained shrouded. Ironically rather than making the child the focus of the image, the uncanny shape of the mother in the background becomes the focus.