Thursday 28 August 2014

Lace designs at Calais Museum

I love these design registers and it’s great to see some of them out on display in the Calais Lace Museum. These pages of lace nets are interesting for the variety they show. Some are regular and look like nets that would be used on hats (the two on the second row) while the piece at the centre of the top row looks quite irregular. The sample at the bottom left looks similar to the design used on the ceiling in the restaurant (see my blog in July). The date given for these pieces is 1908 but the designers are not specified.


Thursday 21 August 2014

Contemporary machine lace at Calais


One of the highlights of my trip to Calais Lace Museum was seeing contemporary lace being produced on a vast scale on the Leavers machine. The lace was designed by Gail Baxter as part of the Crysalis project, in collaboration with the Calais designer Frederic Rumigny and with the practical help of the tuillists and machinists at Calais who interpreted the design into a pattern for the lace machine. Gail based her design on the sound of the working lace machine as it rumbles through the Calais Lace Museum, which she interpreted into a pattern of sound waves. She linked this to more solid areas containing holes in the style of jacquard cards, which are used to control the patterning of the machine, and used two different types of filling stitches in the spaces between these design areas. The lace is made from a combination of threads that take up dye in different ways so the lace takes on different aspects when it is dyed - my favourite is the black version with silver accents. It is an amazing experience to see the Leavers machine, developed in the 19th century, still churning out vast quantities of lace, but even more exciting to see it producing contemporary lace


Thursday 14 August 2014


Sensations is an exhibition of costumes from the fashion house ‘on aura tout vu’ and I saw it on my recent trip to the Calais Museum of Lace and Fashion. The costumes were exhibited in groups according to the five senses (visual, aural, touch, taste and smell) as well as two extra categories: the sublime and the imaginary. They were made from an amazing variety of materials including glass, mirrors, forks, wood, coathangers and fabrics in a myriad of colours. One of my favourites was this ‘lace’ wedding dress fashioned from wood, incorporating hearts and the words ‘I love you’. It was no surprise to discover that Livia Stoianova and Yassen Samouilov, the founders of the group, use poetry as one of their frames of reference and Oscar Wilde’s quote ‘One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art’ seemed very apt. The exhibition continues until 31 December.

Monday 4 August 2014

Lace effects 2

I went to the Calais Lace Museum to see the Lace effects 2 exhibition, which includes one of my curtains entitled ‘Looking through’, which you can see in the image above, in the background on the right behind Ine van Son’s monumental ‘Earth flower’. All the work in the exhibition was based on lace in some way either by using lace techniques or taking its inspiration from lace. The bobbin lace techniques ranged from a twist on the traditional, in the form of To Bielieve’s beautiful floral lace worked in two variations with tiny porcelain bobbins (Ceci, c’est ton fil; detail below), to Jeanne Verlinden’s ‘Belle epoque’ a lovely 3D piece in subtle silks produced using her own open style technique. I also used contemporary bobbin lace in my work (I’ll explain more about that in another blog) as did several other artists including Sylvia Broeckx with her work based on butterfly wings, Stephanie Emond with her bird’s wing, and Trudi Meijer with her work inspired by cactus fragments.


Other techniques used were digital embroidery on net by Tessa Acti in her beautiful ‘Lace bird’ bodices hanging delicately on a thread to twist in the air, and hand embroidery on net by Gail Baxter in her series ‘Tracing the line’ to form rolls of fabric. Diana Harrison had distressed cloth to form a woven lace-like material, while other artists had used back-lit porcelain (Tina Roskruge) and incised silver (Sara Bran) to produce lace-like effects. Fine drawing techniques had been used by Teresa Whitfield to produce uncannily realistic images of Honiton lace, and by Dawn Cole to produce lace pieces composed of tiny words taken from the diaries of a nurse in the World War I. Several artists had used cut fabric to produce lace including Elsa Barbage who had cleverly incised layers of X-ray film to produce a composite 3D image, Martha Henton who had laser cut images of machine knitting to produce a backlit translucent image and Emma Gribble whose laser cut lampshade produced lace shadows on the adjacent wall.

Shadows were also used to great effect in displaying the work of several artists including Lydie Chamaret’s lace cube, Nicole Kockaerts’ spiral forms, and Karine Sterckx’s subtly coloured circular lace and metal construction (above). The exhibition includes a wide range of contemporary lace and lace techniques and the pieces have been thoughtfully put together to form an excellent and varied show, highlighting the work of contemporary European artists working with lace. The exhibition is part of the Crysalis programme, the aim of which is to bring together four European partners to promote textiles in various ways, and it runs until December at the Calais Lace Museum.