Monday, 29 September 2014

‘Water fan’: silk paper and lace

I often combine lace and silk paper when I want to be able to see through the lace but need a strong, translucent structure for holding it in place; my ‘Water fan’ is a good example. I wanted to produce a fan that would be practical but simple to make so I started with a piece of wire bent to a fan shape and designed some lace to fit across the shape.


I then placed a layer of plastic over the pattern and laid down the first layer of silk fibres roughly across the fan shape leaving a channel for the lace.


I then put the wire in place making sure the edges were on the silk fibres. Then I carefully placed the lace across the channel left between the areas of silk paper and attached it to the wire frame. To attach the lace to the silk paper I looped extra threads along the edges of the lace which were then smoothed into the silk area. This is the fiddly part and you might need to use tweezers or a cocktail stick to manoeuvre the threads.


Once the lace was in place I carefully placed another layer of silk fibres over the first layer to trap the lace threads in a sandwich of silk fibres. I also made sure the wire frame had a layer of silk above and below it so the frame was secured.


Once everything was in place I placed a layer of net over the whole thing, sprayed it gently with warm water and patted in down to make a flat slightly damp layer. Then I sprayed it with diluted acrylic gloss medium, and used a stencil brush to make sure the adhesive had penetrated all the layers. I then left it all to dry. When it was dry I removed the net layer and gently peeled the fan off the plastic. Although it looks delicate, it is quite robust and can be used as a fan.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Wedding dresses at the V&A

This lovely exhibition is displayed in much the same way as the previous V&A exhibition of evening dresses with the historical clothes on the ground floor and the more modern ones in the mezzanine gallery above. There is some lovely lace on display including a 20 inch deep Honiton flounce on a dress worn by Eliza Clay in 1864, as well as Honiton lace on her collar, cuffs and veil. Also a beautiful Point de gaze veil worn by Roxanna Wentworth at her wedding in 1892 which was later exhibited at the Chicago World Fair of 1893. In contrast to such extravagance, Elizabeth King made her dress out of upholstery fabric for her wartime wedding in 1941 as it wasn’t rationed in the same way as dress fabric; it was a beautiful embroidered fabric nonetheless. Anna Lin also had a lovely dress for her 2004 wedding, which she designed herself, incorporating embroidered phoenix feathers and seams delicately joined with seed pearls. Other favourites of mine were Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones’ simple understated elegant dress by Jasper Conran and ‘Flower bomb’ by Ian Stuart a dramatic extravaganza of net, fabric and flowers. Unfortunately no photography was allowed so the image above, of an 1850 wedding veil of Brussels needle and bobbin lace, is from the permanent display in the V&A costume court.

Monday, 22 September 2014

National Open Art Exhibition


I saw this mixed exhibition of work by emerging and professional artists at Somerset House. There is no theme and it includes a variety of media. My two favourite pieces were Rogan Brown’s ‘Outbreak’ in fine cut paper and Chrys Allen’s ‘Walk in progress: Bedrock’ which were hung together. Outbreak spoke of biological forms and lace-like layers of tissue. It reminded me of the work of Piper Shepard, or rather how her work would appear if it escaped from the gallery. The colours and images in Chrys Allen’s painting seemed to include the materials of the earth and it was displayed in a meandering fashion as if it were walking itself. I think what I like about both pieces is that they not only represent but actually embodied the subjects they covered.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Darning the land: Sewn by Philippa Lawrence

Interesting to hear Philippa Lawrence speaking at the Waddesdon ‘The art of lace’ symposium last weekend and then to visit her installation in the grounds with her. ‘Sewn’ was inspired by darned textiles in the Waddesdon Manor collection and represents a line of sewing in the landscape playing on the double meaning of sewing with thread and sewing seeds. The flowers are a selection of wild flowers put together for the Olympic celebrations and the ‘stitching’ reveals different colours and flowers as the seasons progress. Lying on a slope the ‘sewing’ provides an attractive visual installation for visitors to the Manor and an interactive meander through the grounds for those who follow its path.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The art of lace symposium

I spent a very enjoyable day at Waddesdon Manor on Saturday taking part in ‘The art of lace symposium’ organised to coincide with the ‘Imagine’ lace exhibition that is taking place there until 26 October. There were five speakers in the symposium and plenty of catching up with new friends and old. Rachel Boak, the curator of the Waddesdon exhibition began the day by speaking about historical lace and its display in a museum and stately home setting. She was followed by the landscape artist Philippa Lawrence who has an installation based on lace in the Manor grounds (more of that in another blog). She spoke about considering lace as a border and described how she developed the idea for her installation of lace as planting in the grounds. Lauran Sundin, who makes precious jewellery using bobbin lace techniques considered handmade lace as an art form. The contemporary lacemaker Gail Baxter then discussed definitions of lace and what constitutes lace, challenging traditional concepts of what lace can be. I then spoke about conceptual lace and how lace is used by contemporary artists to convey a message or tell a story. It was an interesting day and the themes and artists we all used to illustrate our talks overlapped, and complemented each other, linking the themes of the symposium together.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The eye of the needle

This exhibition of 17th century English embroideries (and some lace) at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford celebrates the skill of the needlewomen who made them. The exhibition focuses on the social context in which they were stitched explaining technique and construction as well as the themes and motifs that were popular with 17th century women. The exhibition includes band samplers, pictorial scenes, bags, coifs, caps, book covers and embroidery tools from the Museum and the Feller collection. Three of the band samplers incorporated exquisite pulled work and needlelace and I was impressed with the tiny eyelets making up the alphabet on the 1671 sampler by Mary Lane.  Biblical and allegorical themes were popular for the panels and many were copied from Gerard de Jode’s 1579 collection of biblical illustrations. ‘The judgement of Solomon’ was a popular theme and my favourite panel was a three dimensional needlelace rendering of that scene. It seemed full of life with applied leaves, curtains, pearls and even a lifelike baby, all beautifully depicted in tiny stitches. The exhibition runs until 12 October.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Painted lace

I saw this self portrait of Rolinda Sharples with her mother at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. I like the way she has painted the lace to emphasise its delicate ethereal frothy quality, but it’s a shame we can’t see it in more detail. The painting is dated 1818 and both women are wearing a good amount of lace. Rolinda was an oil painter and also produced pastel portraits. Also on show was a painting of ‘The cloakroom at the Clifton Assembly Rooms’ showing the well-to-do about to leave at the end of their evening’s entertainment. Each face can be clearly distinguished and the characters seem to come straight out of a Jane Austen novel – there are soldiers, well dressed young men, flirtatious young women and elderly chaperones. All are beautifully dressed in their evening clothes, which seem suitable for the occasion, but I’m puzzled by Rolinda’s choice of clothes for her self portrait which shows her painting at her easel in what appears to be a fine lace-trimmed gown.