Friday, 16 March 2018

Lace Unravelled at Newstead Abbey

The theme of the second day of the Lace Unravelled symposium was ‘creative lace’. Wollfgang Buttress opened the day with a fascinating talk about expressing the ephemeral through light and architecture, in particular the ideas behind his Hive structure which is now at Kew Gardens. Sara Robertson and Sarah Taylor then told us about their collaboration with MYB Textiles and Mike Stoane Lighting to produce light emitting lace, some of which is on display in Lace Unarchived at Bonington Gallery. Sylvie Marot then discussed her forthcoming exhibition at the Calais Lace Museum entitled ‘Haute dentelle’ combining couture fashion and lace. During the lunch break we had the opportunity to see the artworks displayed throughout the house as part of the Public programme (more of that in another blog). After lunch, Cecilia Heffer described her research exploring ephemeral material processes in a contemporary lace practice. She considers the making of textile as a contemporary response to the transient nature of place. Shane Waltener, who had constructed two installations at Newstead – one in the Abbey grounds and the other in a bedroom - talked about his site specific work. The day was summarised by Janis Jefferies who reflected on the themes of the symposium and facilitated a final discussion. It was a fascinating day celebrating the ephemerality of lace and the continuing relevance of lace in practice today.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Lace unravelled at Wollaton Hall

Lace unravelled is a series of events in Nottingham celebrating the history and contemporary uses of lace. I’ve previously blogged about the Lace unarchived exhibition at Bonington Gallery which runs until the end of the month (see blog of 1 March). The day at Wollaton Hall was the first day of the symposium and is also the venue for my contemporary response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel. The day started with a keynote talk by Sheila Mason about the history of the machine lace industry, followed by Ann Inscker and Judith Edgar discussing the mentoring sessions they have been running during which they have discovered some interesting lace history hidden within the Nottingham lace collection. Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode then spoke about the importance of the Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University and it’s use within the School of Art and Design.

All the delegates were then taken to the Prospect Room to see my new lace panels and a facsimile of the original Battle of Britain lace panel. I talked about the genesis and production of the original panel and then discussed how I had designed and produced my own panels. After that we had a tour of the Nottingham Industrial Museum and were shown a working Leavers lace machine.

After lunch, Anne-Claire Laronde and Sophie Henwood talked about the lace held in the Calais Lace Museum and the uses of lace in contemporary fashion. They were followed by Professor David Hopkin discussing the use of lace tells (songs which the lacemakers sang as they worked) and the often dark stories they revealed. Lindsey Bristow, finished the day with a talk about the manufacture of plain net or bobbinet and its varied uses today such as conductive lace and in parachutes. I’m looking forward to another interesting day of talks tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Battle of Britain lace panels completed

I’ve finished my new Battle of Britain lace panels and they’ve been sent off for their first exhibition at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham. The image shows a detail of the central panel. They’ll be exhibited there as part of the Lace Unravelled event taking place throughout Nottingham over several days at the end of next week. I’ve been working on them for so long it seems strange to have finished them and no longer having them in the studio. Packing them up and sending them off seemed a bit like sending a child off to school for its first day – you hope all will go well but you are no longer in control and they have to make their own way! They will be exhibited at Wollaton from 10 to 18 March and I’ll be giving a talk about the whole project as part of the Lace Unravelled symposium on 15 March at Wollaton. After that they will be back home again until their next outing at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire between 7 July and 4 November, and then to Bentley Priory, London, from 17 November to 30 March 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing them displayed in the lovely Prospect Room at Wollaton Hall as they are quite large and it will be good to see the three of them all together with some space around them rather than squashed up in the studio.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Lace unarchived exhibition at Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham

This exhibition celebrates the heritage of the Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University as well as recent collaborations between archives and commercial lace manufacturers. As you enter the gallery the pieces that dominate the view are some beautiful lengths of black lace from the manufacturers Sophie Hallette, Timorous Beasties and Cluny Lace as well as some lace dresses by Oasis made from fabric inspired by lace in the NTU Lace Archive (see the pic above). The stunning shadows produced by those fabrics on the wall are complemented by ethereal images from Sophie Hallette’s video installation ‘Silhouette en dentelle’, a series of net jackets and lace produced in collaboration with Mal Burkinshaw.
Collaboration is a feature of the exhibition, with lace garments from Hobbs and Burberry, made in association with MYB Textiles and Cluny Lace, respectively. MYB also worked with Sarah Taylor and Sara Robertson to produce some subtly glowing digital light-emitting lace. James Winnett’s collaboration is with lace draughtsmen of the past in his series of re-appropriated lace draughts, which he has embellished to enhance their imagery (see the pic above). Matt Woodham has collaborated with the NTU Lace Archive to produce a sculptural video, highlighting stories inspired by the artefacts.
As well as the contemporary lace and the works of art, several historical pieces have been selected from the Lace Archive to illustrate the development of machine lace production. The lace sample book illustrated above is part of a handling table for visitors to enjoy, but there are also samples of lace both handmade and machine made as well as lace draughts and designs by William Pegg and Charles Lawson, both former students of Nottingham Art School. Also on display are two sections of the Battle of Britain panel designed and painted by Harry Cross, another Art School pupil, as well as a digitally printed colour representation of it. If you want to see the actual lace panel, a full sized facsimile of it will be on display at Wollaton Hall, from 10 to 18 March, in conjunction with my contemporary response to it – yet another collaboration.
Lace unarchived runs at Bonnington until 29 March and is definitely worth a visit both to get a feel for the range of material held in the archive and to see how lace is being used today in fashion and art.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Harry Cross lace designs

I’m spending an interesting day studying some lace designs by Harry Cross in the Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University. Harry Cross is the designer of the Battle of Britain lace panel that I’ve been researching for the last couple of years so it’s very interesting to see some of his other designs. These are all more floral than the Battle of Britain panel which is much more figurative and are more typical of his work in general. I was pleased to see wheat ears on one of them which also feature on the famous panel. It’s also interesting to see the way he shades his designs and his use of different colours to achieve that. In some he indicates the type of stitches to be used but in others just shades an area and presumably leaves it up to the draughtsman to decide how to achieve that effect in stitches. Interestingly some of the designs are quite similar to bobbin lace in appearance, which I suppose is not unusual as lace designers studied old laces for inspiration. I’m certainly having an inspiring day studying these lovely designs!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Lace archive research

Having spent the last few weeks finishing off my Battle of Britain panels I’m having a change and spending next week doing some archive research. I’m going to Nottingham to study some of the archives relating to lace curtain manufacture held at the University of Nottingham and also hoping to spend some time in the lace archive at Nottingham Trent University looking at samples of lace curtain patterns and design. I’ve been searching online to see what the various archives hold but it’s difficult to know exactly what to order- some things seem promising but turn out not to be useful, while others turn out to be hidden gems. I’ve ordered a selection of material and hope it will be useful, or at least lead me on to things that are! I’m also going to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture in London to see some of their net curtain designs as well, so it will be a busy week. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Flowers and leaves in lace

Last year, when I was designing my response to the Battle of Britain lace panel, I made a study of all the different leaves and flowers Harry Cross had used in his original panel. However, whereas Harry Cross had used them in borders to separate the images of the bombed areas of London and as adjuncts to the various air force badges, I decided to include them in my central panel. After much thought, I decided that the central panel would have a sweep of flowers and leaves going upwards, which would be contrasted with lines of aircraft sweeping downwards, above the image of St Pauls Cathedral. I started my upward sweep with the protea of South Africa, followed by acorns and wheat ears. I had originally thought the wheat ears looked like barley but on doing some research discovered that there are various types of wheat, including one with long whiskers! After them came the thistle for Scotland, shamrock leaves for Ireland, maple leaves for Canada, the rose for England, and daffodils for Wales. After the daffodils, the line of plants diverges to give the silver fern of New Zealand on one side and the wattle of Australia on the other. Just above the wattle is my addition to the panel – two poppies, which were not on the original but which I have added for remembrance.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Love and romance lace bobbins

Many lace bobbins have a story to tell and these five are all concerned with love and romance. You can envisage a young man giving his girlfriend a bobbin inscribed ‘Love give me a kiss’ or even ‘Kiss me quick my lovely darling’. But you wonder what has upset the romance when you see ‘Love don’t be falces [false}’ inscribed on a bobbin. And ‘Wright [write] my altard [altered] true love’ brings to mind images of a lacemaker working at her pillow and expecting a letter from her boyfriend in the army or navy, which never comes. Let’s hope she eventually received a love letter from her absent true love. And what about the lacemaker who declares ‘I wants a husband’ – let’s hope she wasn’t disappointed when she found one!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Lace net embroidery

I’ve been looking through my Weldons encyclopaedia of needlework at the section on embroidering on net to produce lace. It gives some lovely filling stitches and a great variety of them. One of the other things I like about this book is that it also gives examples of antique lace for all the techniques. I realise that during my recent foray into net embroidery for my Battle of Britain lace panel I have broken most of the rules! For example it says that you should use only the best quality net and the way to measure that is by inserting a stiletto (like the ones used for broderie anglaise) through a mesh, if it stretches without breaking it’s a good quality. I deliberately chose a net that didn’t stretch at all and was as rigid as possible. However, I did use a blunt needle and a long thread for working as recommended. Luckily I didn’t tear my net, or cut through it while I was using a Carrickmacross technique, but had I done so, Weldons has step by step instructions for repairing a hole in net, which looks very effective and the result blends in beautifully with the surrounding net – I suspect that kind of result takes years to perfect though! 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Commemorating the Battle of Britain lacemakers

As part of my response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel I wanted to remember the people who made the lace as well as the aircrew and civilians involved in the battle. To do that I decided to include representations of their tools in the panel, in the sections separating the images of the bombed buildings. I took photographs of the equipment used in machine lace making and decided that I would represent the draught pattern, the jacquard cards, the bobbins and their holders. The draught pattern is used to transfer the original design into a grid form and to distinguish the threads used for the pattern and for shading. It is a skilled job, as the success of the design rests on how well it is converted to the grid. Harry Cross the designer of the panel obviously recognised that skill as he acknowledges the two draughtsmen, J W Herod and W R Jackson, in the panel. The next step after draughting is punching the jacquard cards from the draught. These are sewn together in a long line and as they run through the machine they control the stitches being made. Also essential to the process is the smooth running of the thread from the bobbins so I decided to include the bobbins and their holders as well. I’ve made textile representations of these four tools and used them to form the patterns between the main images to remember all those people who made the production of the lace panels possible. Unfortunately I can't seem to add new images to my blog atm so I've had to use a picture I've used before of the bobbin and holder.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Bayeux tapestry

The original Bayeux tapestry is displayed in Normandy but I discovered in 2012 that Reading Museum has its own copy, embroidered in1886 by 35 members of the Leek Embroidery Society. It tells the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and like all history is written from the perspective of the victors, so William’s right to the throne is emphasised and much is made of the oaths of fealty William forced Harold to swear. It is over 70 m long and about 40 cm deep and is displayed in a purpose built gallery so you can walk round and see all of it. The original is thought to have been embroidered in Kent but the names of the embroiderers are not recorded. In contrast, along the lower edge of each panel of the 1886 copy the name of the worker is embroidered. This is the only indication that the panels have been worked by different embroiderers as the work is an exact copy of the original, apart from one naked man who has been given a pair of shorts in the Victorian copy. The tapestry is beautifully displayed and well worth a visit. The Museum website about the tapestry also provides images of the entire work and lots of extra facts.

In 2013 I discovered that embroiderers in Alderney had completed three new scenes to complete the story of the Bayeux tapestry. The famous tapestry (in fact it is embroidered) ends in frayed threads and several embroiderers over the years have designed and worked panels to complete the story. The three new Alderney panels show William dining on the battle field, accepting the surrender of the English noblemen, and his coronation at Westminster Abbey. Previous endings to the tapestry have been made by Jan Messent, Annette Banks, and Jack Thomas. Jan Messent also published a beautifully illustrated book (The Bayeux tapestry embroiderers’ story) describing her research into the project and her new panels.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Silk paper and presentations

Another busy week working on my Battle of Britain lace panel. I’ve made some silk paper, which I’m using to represent the smoke and flames around the image of St Paul’s Cathedral. I always find making silk paper very relaxing. Assembling all the equipment and finding a spray dispenser that works can be frustrating, but I love the feel of the soft silk as you pull it from the skein and place it on the surface. It also has to be made in a calm mood as sudden movements are liable to displace everything, causing the cushion of silk fibres to blow away in a tangle. I also like the unpredictability of it. It isn’t an exact science and the final results are always a combination of how the fibres and medium are interacting on that day. The piece I made this week is still drying so I won’t know the final outcome until it dries completely and I can remove the outer holding layers of net.

As well as the silk paper, I’ve also been finalising a talk I’m giving at Bentley Priory next week about the old panel and my new ones. Putting that together has been very interesting as I’ve had to think through all the steps I’ve been through and the reasoning behind each decision in order to make a coherent presentation. I’ve also had to choose images to accompany the words and take more photos to fill the gaps where I don’t have an image of what I’m talking about. It has been very helpful to get everything sorted into a proper account and I’m sure it will be useful for talks later in the year as well.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Biographies and summaries

Over the Christmas break I had to write three biographies and summaries about myself and my work for three different lace events I’m taking part in during 2018. Each one was for a slightly different audience so I felt I had to emphasise different things for each one and supply images that went with what I was writing. It made me realise how important these summaries can be in defining what you do and how you promote yourself. For example, should I call myself a lacemaker or a textile artist? I decided on lacemaker for the exhibition aimed at fellow lacemakers, but textile artist for the one aimed at the general public. Also should I mention qualifications? They are obviously necessary for academic events and my work has developed from my PhD research so I do need to explain where it’s coming from, but I don’t want to put people off by sounding too esoteric. Images are quite tricky too as lace is notoriously difficult to photograph, however I did find cropping some of my images improved them. Basically I think writing about yourself is always slightly uncomfortable even though it has to be done to promote exhibitions, but it’s also hard work!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Lace plans for 2018

This is the traditional time of the year for looking back at what you’ve achieved and looking forward to future plans so I’ve been assessing my lace plans. The past year was mainly taken up with my Battle of Britain lace response which involved designing and working on the panels but also included photography and talks about it as well. That work will continue this year with a talk at Bentley Priory on 26 January and another on 15 March at Wollaton Hall where the panels will be displayed for the first time. After that the panels and the associated parachute installation will be exhibited at Gawthorpe Hall from July to November and following that at Bentley Priory from November through to March 2019. 
Other lace plans include a stand at the ‘Living lace’ exhibition during the World Lace Congress in Bruges in August and an exhibition of my work at Cranmore Park in Solihull as part of the Makit Christmas Fair on 1 December. I think for both of those exhibitions I’ll concentrate on my veils as they are a coherent body of work with a definite theme and I’m currently making a new one so there will also be something new to show too. As well as all this practical work I’d also like to get back to my research into net curtains and panels, which has been concentrated on the Battle of Britain panel for the past year. It would be good to get back to some of the earlier machine lace I was studying previously and drawing some of that research together. So, in summary, an exciting year ahead with lots of new projects and exhibiting opportunities.