Thursday 24 July 2014

Lace ceiling at Calais Lace Museum

I was intrigued to see this lace ‘ceiling’ in the restaurant of the Calais Museum of Lace and Fashion during a recent visit. The threads are illuminated and the central sequin-like circular shapes are the old bobbins round which the thread is wound for the lace machines.

Monday 21 July 2014

Ghost of a ghost

I saw this evocative steel metalwork by Lizzie Hughes at the William Morris Gallery. The title ‘ghost of a ghost’ comes from an 1899 review of Morris’ work which references his response to an old door hinge at the gallery. It links the idea of hinges and Rorschach blot tests, which according to the label were devised ‘to exploit the human desire to find form in pattern and abstraction’. I like the way the hinges have become quite eerie stylised bat-like creatures while still retaining their function. Lizzie did this work during a period as artist in residence at the Gallery in 2013 with the help of Design Blacksmith from Stepney City Farm.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

The lace trail: Sophie Ploeg

I saw some of Sophie Ploeg’s lovely lace inspired portraits at the National Portrait Gallery last week. Sophie won the BP travel award in 2013, which she used to study 17th century lace and textiles in Dutch and English portraits, and the seven portraits I saw were the result of her year’s study. She has produced a series of four portraits depicting the four ages of woman each incorporating lace in a different way, cleverly referencing paintings by Johannes Verspronck, William Larkin and Marcus Gheerearts. Also in a reference to William Larkin she has painted ‘The handkerchief girl’ a young woman wearing a fine net and lace skirt and clutching a handkerchief edged with reticella lace; a common pose in the 17th century to show off one’s wealth. The lace is beautifully depicted and ranges from the crisp definition of Italian needlelace to the fine, subtly patterned scrolls of Flemish bobbin lace, while the characters of the sitters shine through. The image on the catalogue (above) is a self-portrait of Sophie in a ruff she made herself. The exhibition runs until 21 September and there is an accompanying catalogue which describes Sophie’s research in more detail. 

Wednesday 9 July 2014

English Magic Jeremy Deller

Having demonstrated at the William Morris Gallery last week it was interesting to see William Morris starring in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition at Bristol Museum. I had seen ‘English magic’ in Venice at the Biennale last year (post on October 2013) where Jeremy Deller was representing the UK but it was interesting to see some of the work again in a different setting.  The main reference to Morris is in the large painted mural ‘We sit starving amidst our gold’ in which he is hurling a yacht into the Venice lagoon as a protest against their overbearing presence in Venice. However there were also more domestic references such as a sample of the printed fabric ‘Evenlode’ (above) with some of the wood blocks used in its production and the tile panel from Membland Hall. Both typical Morris designs with flowers, leaves and pomegranates.

Friday 4 July 2014

Lace exhibition at William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery was celebrating all things Belgian yesterday evening and invited me to demonstrate lace making, show a small exhibition of my contemporary lace and some images of traditional Belgian lace. Belgian waffles and beer were also available in the café and the music of Jacques Brel wafted around us. Many of the visitors were keen to try out lace making for themselves on the three practice pillows I had and some had even come specially for the lace taster. There was a steady stream of visitors all evening and they were all very enthusiastic and interested to learn about lace in general and Belgian lace in particular. The Belgian theme came about because the gallery is hosting an exhibition of the paintings and drawings of Frank Brangwyn who was a great supporter of the William Morris Gallery and also the Brangwyn Museum in Bruges, the city where he was born.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

QR code curtains at Digital Encounters

The two curtains I’m exhibiting in the Digital Encounters exhibition are titled ‘Insider information’ and ‘Unheeded warning’. They both incorporate stitched QR codes that can be read with smart phones to reveal warning messages. The QR code on Insider information says ‘Escape while you can’ and combined with the words ‘Help me’ stitched in human hair suggests the homely is becoming unhomely. The QR code on Unheeded warning says ‘I warned you’ and is combined with a tear in the curtain suggesting all is not as it should be. I developed the idea of using QR codes when I was looking for a way of coding information in a decorative way. The aim was to hide the information in plain view so that it could easily be overlooked. Previously I had used lettering hidden within lace patterns but I found that I could include more information within the QR code. I tried making them with bobbin lace but found that cross stitch on even weave canvas was more accurate and therefore easier for the smart phone to detect. The two curtains form a domestic narrative and the viewer is left to piece together the clues to discover the hidden story.