Monday 21 December 2015

‘No No No’ pattern

I’ve been thinking about the bobbin lace trim for the first veil in my new series of practice and have decided to go with the wording ‘no no no’ within the lace. I think that is the most definite statement and easy for an international audience to understand. The idea is that the words are hidden within the lace and discovered by the audience, so something definite and easy to read seems a good idea. I’ve also reduced the width of the ninepin edge I’m using. It will take quite a lot of lace to trim a wedding veil and so the quicker the pattern is to work the better! For the same reason I’ve also decided to have the ninepin edge only on one side of the pattern and to have a footside on the other. I’ve started winding some bobbins and will do a trial piece to see what it looks like, with a view to continuing it if it looks alright.  


Wednesday 9 December 2015

Lace design

I’ve started designing some lace for my veiling project based on fiction, starting with a reluctant bride. For my first veil I’ve decided to make a lace trim incorporating lettering within a Bedfordshire style design, much in the same way as I did for some of my net curtains. I need a short phrase that can be repeated within the length of the lace and have been considering ‘no, no, no’ or ‘I won’t, I won’t’ or in response to the part in the marriage service where the woman is asked ‘will you take this man’ etc. ‘No, no, no’ would be the easiest to incorporate in the lace and for the audience to read, although ‘I won’t’ seems more appropriate to the actual marriage service. ‘I won’t’ also seems a bit petulant while ‘No’ is more definite and easy for all nationalities to understand. Also I think the apostrophe might get a bit lost in a small lace design. I might therefore go with the ‘no, no, no’ idea. As you can see I’ve started designing the ninepin edging for the lace while I’m deciding which wording to incorporate. 

Thursday 3 December 2015

Veiling on hats

Although I’m concentrating on wedding style veiling for my next project I’m a great fan of veiling on hats. These drawings all come from an excellent book called ‘The mode in hats and headdresses’ by R Turner Wilcox and show a variety of different designs from the early twentieth century. I particularly like the use of patterned lace or spotted veiling covering the face as the contrast with the skin hidden beneath the fabric is so flattering. That of course is the role of veiling in these fashions – both to reveal and conceal at the same time thus adding a sense of mystery and allure to the wearer. Wearing a hat with a veil is also something of an art, as vision is impaired, even if only slightly, and eating or drinking almost impossible. However there is nothing more glamorous than a veiled hat.


Thursday 26 November 2015

Making veils

As part of my research into veiling I’ve bought myself a commercial pattern for a selection of veils ranging from a short circular veil to a long trailing version. It is interesting to see how they are constructed. Although some are made of one piece of fabric others are composed of a short ‘blusher’ veil that covers the face and a longer piece of netting that hangs down the back of the dress. I think I’ll be using the short circular veils to start with, as my aim is to show off the lace and embellishments I’ll be adding rather than having swathes of netting, which would probably look very attractive on a bride but will just fill up gallery space when I exhibit them. I now need to find some suitable netting to make them from – the pattern suggests tulle, netting, Illusion or Point d’Esprit. I have no idea what the last two look like so as bit of research in a fabric shop is obviously needed next!  

Wednesday 18 November 2015


I’m working on veiling for my next body of work. Having made a veil as a response to a call for work at Jane Austen House last year, I found representing her equivocal view of marriage in that way worked well. I’ve decided to start in that format by designing veils for fictional characters – Miss Havisham and the Woman in white are obvious candidates from my PhD research. However I may then go on to look at the writing and memoirs of real people. I recently attended the ‘Silence in the archive’ conference in Oxford, looking at how women’s voices have been silenced in the historical record, either voluntarily by themselves or by family, biographers and historians. It left me thinking there was a fund of information in women’s life writing that could be inspirational for practice. I think this could be a huge project!

Friday 13 November 2015

Lace at the Great exhibition

My research into lace curtains at the Great exhibition has revealed that lace was catalogued in a class with ‘tapestry, floor cloths and embroidery’. And what a mixed group it is! As well as bridal and guipure scarfs, shawls and double flounces in Honiton lace, there is also ‘modern point lace worked with a common needle’. Embroidered and tamboured muslin dresses rub shoulders with altar cloths, fire screens and sheepskin slippers. ‘A basket of flowers knitted in Berlin wool from nature’ sounds intriguing and I would love to see the ‘armorial bearings of the exhibitor, worked by himself in Berlin wool and silk’ – how grand! One of my favourite entries is ‘a shawl knitted on wires by an aged person’. There is also an embroidered collar made by ‘an exhibitor born without a right arm’ as well as exhibits from ‘the poor children of Newry’ and the ‘inmates of an institution for the blind’. As I said, a complete mix of work and exhibitors reflecting Victorian society. Luckily there is also a good mix of lace and lace techniques - including some lace curtains for my study.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Kawaii exhibition

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this exhibition on ‘kawaii’ the Japanese culture of cute, so was pleased to find it was more a critique of cute rather than a celebration of it, and tended to focus on the subversive side. The nail art by Mina Okuhata (above) exemplifies that approach in which small, meticulously crafted objects become works of art with a subversive message. I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the Japanese approach to kawaii but it seems to represent things that are small, sweet, lovely and endearing. For many Japanese girls it is a way of expressing themselves through fashion and possessions. However, as it tends to be applied to female and childish objects it is also a dismissive term and in the sense that it represents prepubescence, knowing sexuality and male fantasy an instrument of repression.

Minako Nishiyama’s installation of posters highlights the darker side of kawaii. Her posters of cute fantasy girls, with an associated telephone number, recall the telephone ‘dating’ clubs of the 1980s that were thought to encourage schoolgirl prostitution. When Minako originally pasted these posters in the streets of Japan the telephone number was linked to pink telephone booth in an associated gallery so that the men phoning in became part of the installation.

Chika Ohgi’s ‘Transient petals’ considers a more traditional side of kawaii that celebrates the small, weak and transient. Her beautiful petals made of kozo paper are based on cherry blossom and its short fleeting existence before the petals are blown away on the wind.

Aya Kametani notes that many small Japanese objects, such as bonsai trees, suggest that there is a wider world hidden within them. She has used this fantasy idea to produce worlds embedded on the backs of rams where you can see tiny people and even the microclimate they shelter beneath.

These few examples show that Kawaii contains a host of complementing yet often contradictory ideas. The exhibition shows the work of 16 artists and runs until 11 December at the James Hockey Gallery, Farnham, and will move to the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in 2016. It is well worth a visit.

Friday 30 October 2015

Complicit curtain

In the final part of my research and the accompanying exhibition the net curtain becomes complicit in the dysfunctional home by enlarging and acting anthropomorphically. The cloth seeping from walls, doorways and windows (below) suggests that the net curtain is an unstoppable force and the disquieting memories of the home cannot be stifled or concealed.

As part of this section I also considered the potential of darkness to aid complicity in the home by helping to obfuscate meaning and memory. The image at the head of this post comes from the series on darkness, which consists of three lace-trimmed net curtains in a room with timed periods of light and darkness. The lace is overlaid with embroidery in luminous thread which reveals its message, not in the light but in the dark, showing that darkness can be more illuminating than daylight.

My oversized ninepin lace is also part of this chapter. It represents the idea of the net curtain and its lace trim expanding into the house and snaking through it on a dangerous path of destruction. Together these aspects of the net curtain reflect Freud’s ideas about the uncanny home, tempered by the work of Antony Vidler who built on Freud’s work to suggest that the home becomes complicit in its change from homely to unhomely.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Silent witness

Silent witness is the third part of my research into the domestic veil. In this section the net curtain traps not only light but also the secrets, whispers and memories of the home in its role as silent witness. It also records the domestic decay of the home as it accumulates the dust and dirt of dysfunctional domesticity.

The net curtain sifts and sorts phrases it has overheard in the home, many of which are ambiguous and speak of hidden agendas, obfuscation, evasion and veiled aggression, leaving an echo of forgotten conversations, unfulfilled hopes, and shattered dreams. Examples of this include ‘Whisperings’ which shows a traditional style bobbin lace trim on the curtain unravelling to reveal the trapped whispers it has overheard and the series of curtains with trapped whispers in tambour lace, both shown above.

The net curtain also traps dust, which, as well as being a repository of memories, is a physical manifestation of the decay of the home and its inhabitants. Here, in a series of three hangings, the dust is silting up the curtains and their lace trim, turning the fluid fabric into thin brittle paper, representing the disintegration of the home. The final blog about the exhibition, later this week, will reveal the curtain expanding and overwhelming the dysfunctional home.

Friday 23 October 2015

Unquiet voice

The second series of practice in my ‘Domestic veil’ exhibition, looking at the theme of women trapped in the home in mid-nineteenth-century gothic novels, uses the idea that the trapped heroine’s only means of communication is through her needlework skills. So rather than just marking her imprisonment by tallying the days using her pins and needles, as she did in the ‘sanctuary and prison’ section, she is now actively communicating to the outside world using the net curtain as her canvas. However she is using coded communication to disguise her messages. She uses bobbin lace in the net curtain pictured above to embed the words ‘help me’ within her lace.

I also produced a ‘virtual’ sampler using the Illustrator computer program rather than actual stitching to highlight the heroine’s plight. The full text of the sampler reads ‘I sew a long seam and my pins and needles help me for sometimes the thread escapes me’ but the layers of text fade in and out to reveal the hidden phrases ‘help me’ and ‘I long for escape’ reflecting the concealed thoughts of the seamstress.

In other pieces, such as 'I warned you' shown above, I have used interactive cross stitched QR codes to hide hidden messages. These can be read by the app on a smartphone to reveal their hidden words and suggest that all is not harmonious in the domestic environment veiled by the net curtain. So far the net curtain has been used as a surface for coded communication of the inhabitants of the home but in the next chapter ‘Silent witness’ it starts recording what it hears in the home.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Sanctuary and prison

In the first part of my research I consider the domestic duality of sanctuary and prison by piercing the net curtains with pins and needles in the tally marks prisoners use for counting time. This alludes to a prisoner marking time, but the misuse of feminine sewing equipment suggests a subversion of the domestic. It reflects the claustrophobia of living behind bars, however small and feminine they might be, and the longing for escape from the conventions of the day.

I linked the curtains to large photographs showing the curtain escaping from broken windows, reflecting the desire for escape but showing that the scars remain. Images of the pins and needles linked to thread reflect the idea of the seamstress being tied to the home, in its dual aspect of sanctuary and prison, and how even when these ties are broken, a binding thread remains.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The domestic veil exhibition

I realise that with all the excitement of my exhibition and viva I haven’t actually found any time to blog about the exhibition so I’ve decided to remedy that by blogging about it this week. The exhibition was the final exhibition for my PhD work so it was an opportunity to show the whole body of work in one place and it was great to see it all together and in such an evocative venue. Thanks to all of you who visited the exhibition, I was so pleased by the numbers of visitors and all the lovely comments.

The basic idea behind my research considers the net curtain as a domestic veil and uses it as a metaphor for the home as a site of claustrophobia and confinement. Much of the work links to the gothic novels of nineteenth century writers, such as Anne and Charlotte Brontë, and reflects their ideas of women being trapped in the home as a result of social circumstances. The research also considers Freud’s concept of the uncanny, in which the homely shades into the unhomely.

My research and practice build on these ideas and the work reflects ideas about home as sanctuary and prison, shows how the net curtain can reveal the unquiet voice of the heroine, as well as the whispers of the home, in its role as silent witness, and finally how it becomes complicit in this dysfunctional domesticity. These four themes each have distinct practice linked to them so I’ll blog about each of them separately over the next couple of weeks.

Friday 16 October 2015

Identifying machine-made lace

I’ve been trying to learn how to distinguish handmade and machine-made lace with the help of Pat Earnshaw’s very helpful book on the subject ‘How to recognise machine laces’. She notes that not only did machines imitate handmade lace they also imitated other machine laces so distinguishing them can be tricky. She gives some firm indications that a lace is machine made, such as the presence of vertical lines in the lace, and a zigzagging rather than a weaving effect in ‘cloth stitch’ areas. Her less firm indications include a line of picots attached to the lace rather than picots incorporated into the border, rigidly repetitive motifs and an inconsistent passage of threads between the design and the ground. She’s also very helpful at distinguishing between different types of machine-made lace and describes the different nets produced by different machines. There is a lot to learn!

Thursday 1 October 2015

Nottingham lace curtain

I’ve been doing some research into the lace curtain depicted on my print and have discovered that it was made by Thomas Adams & Co of Nottingham for the 1862 International Exhibition in London. Thomas Adams started manufacturing lace in 1830 but soon expanded, and by 1888 had a curtain factory in Turin and in 1914 warehouses in various European centres so was clearly one of the major UK manufacturers. The aim had been to hold the exhibition in 1861, ten years after the Great Exhibition of 1851, but unforeseen circumstances, including the death of Prince Albert, delayed its opening. Unfortunately the ‘Illustrated record of the International Exhibition of all nations in 1862’ is not very helpful on the subject of lace, despite it being a major UK export and employer. It mentions a few examples in the exhibition from London, Nottingham, Ireland, Belgium, France and India and concludes by patronizingly mentioning ‘the many admiring lady visitors who thronged to this, to them, deeply interesting department of the Exhibition’. I think my next step will be to find an accurate catalogue of the textile exhibits and go from there.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Visitors’ book

I’ve been looking through the visitors’ book I had out at my exhibition and all the interesting things people said. All of them are complimentary, but I think that’s the nature of this kind of book, those who don’t rate an exhibition generally don’t bother to write their thoughts in a book they just leave quickly and quietly! Most of the comments focus on the many layers of meaning in the work and its evocative nature as well as how well it fitted the Crypt Gallery. The consensus seemed to be that the work was thought provoking, which is a great result – every artists wants their work to make people stop and think. As well as all the positive comments, the book also means I have a record of visitors’ names and email addresses so I can add them to my mailing list. I’m very glad I put it out and will make sure I add comments to other people’s books when I visit exhibitions in the future.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Exhibition in the Crypt

I’ve been unpacking and putting things away over the last couple of days following my exhibition at the Crypt Gallery last week. I was pleased by the number of visitors – several who’d heard about it via Facebook or Twitter showing that social media is a great way of reaching people. I recorded visitor numbers by asking people to add a pin to a curtain, in the tally pattern for counting I use in some of my work, which worked well and was also a way of engaging people in conversation (see pic above taken on Friday). I’d spent so long working out where everything should be hung and in the end I was pleased with the result, in fact many people asked if the work was site specific because it fitted the space so well. All the work had been made over the last 6 years but wasn’t created with the Crypt in mind so it was very encouraging that visitors felt it worked so well in the space. I’ll post more about the exhibition later in the week – there’s more unpacking to be done now!

Thursday 3 September 2015

Walking through the Crypt

I’ve been walking through The Crypt Gallery in my mind all week trying to organise my exhibition ‘The domestic veil’. It is such a brilliant place for an exhibition – full of nooks and crannies and interesting passageways that there is a danger of the place taking over from the work, so I’m trying to use the site to show my work to best advantage. I also want to make sure the pieces tell a story, so I’m trying to hang them in such a way that one leads on from the other and builds up the narrative. This, of course, is not quite as easy as it sounds because, for example, some pieces need more lighting than others, and another incorporates a DVD, so I have to display those in an area with access to electricity, which limits where they can go. Also I have no control over the way people walk round the exhibition, so I’ve produced a flyer with a map of the site and a numbered guide to the pieces in the hope that the audience will follow them numerically. I hope the exhibition can be enjoyed whatever path the visitors take, but following my route reveals the story most effectively. I must say I’m looking forward to walking through the real gallery and exhibition next week when it’s all in place, rather than all this flitting about in my mind! The exhibition is on from 8 to 12 September, 11am to 4pm, at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras, London NW1 2BA if you'd like to come and visit. 

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Frames and stands

There is so much more to producing an exhibition than making the work itself! I’ve been making ‘window frames’ for some of my curtains. These three curtains will be exhibited in a large dark area so I need to make them stand out a bit and define them in the space. I also want them in the centre of the room rather than against the wall, so as well as the frames I need stands! All of them have been designed to come apart reasonably easily so I can transport them and assemble them at the venue. Apart from these frames and stands I don’t need many other props, although I do need at least 20 curtain rods. Some of these are acrylic and others are wooden dowel rods or actual extendable plastic curtain rods – at least they’re easy to transport. As are the curtains themselves, which all roll up for storage. I’ve already had to design a banner, posters and a flyer, which I collected from the printer on Monday. I’m especially pleased with the banner, which reads well from a distance and isn’t too cluttered. The next step is to design some labels for the pieces, print them out and cut them to size – never a dull moment!

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Thomas Lester lace designs

Seeing some lovely Bedfordshire lace last week in Nottingham made me reread Anne Buck’s book about Thomas Lester and his lace. She tells the story of his life and mentions some of the influences on his work, including the Great Exhibition of 1851 where he saw Maltese lace and fine Honiton lace. Until then he had predominantly made Bucks point designs but after the Exhibition his style gradually changed both to satisfy the public demand for new laces and to make designs that were quicker to produce and ‘suitable for ordinary work’. He was a great advocate of design training for the lace industry and complained that there were not enough good designers and that too many patterns were recopied. Anne Buck quotes him as saying ‘scarcely any of the manufacturers can design their own, though we do’. She also points out that the patterns we know as Thomas Lester’s may have been designed by other members of his family, as his two sons both joined the family business, and his wife and daughters were lacemakers. The naturalistic designs of flowers and animals in some of the exhibition pieces certainly suggest an artistic approach. Whoever designed them, many of the finer pieces are amazing and they justifiably won prizes at many International exhibitions throughout the 19th century.


Thursday 13 August 2015

Lace in the city of lace

I found plenty to see at this event in Nottingham, organised by the Nottinghamshire Bobbin Lace Society (NBLS), and had the pleasure of meeting up with old friends as well. The lace on display ranges from the contemporary, for example Louise West’s stunning metallic 3D forms, to the traditional, both in bobbin lace and beautiful examples of machine lace panels made in the 19th century. On the day I went I was fortunate enough to meet Malcolm Baker who worked for Simon May & Co for many years who was very informative about his travels as a representative for the company and also told me more about the lovely old lace panels which had been exhibited at International Exhibitions in the 1870s. There were also some interesting old sample books on display and tours of the Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive in the afternoon, although as places were restricted and I had been before I didn’t go on one this time. The NBLS members all wore lace collars and there were some lovely examples on show. As my particular love is Bedfordshire lace, I was of course drawn to those in particular, and enjoyed seeing some beautifully worked lace and talking to Louise about her lace designs and how she has redrafted some of the old Bedfordshire patterns. As well as the collars there were many other lovely pieces on display, in a variety of different lace types and designs, the NBLS members are a talented group and the exhibition is well worth a visit.

Friday 7 August 2015


I enjoyed the ‘Pen to printer’ calligraphy exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre, in particular the three panels of interwoven letters by Thomas Ingmire entitled ‘The space of writing’ and Gaynor Goffe’s depiction of Yeats’ poem ‘Had I the heavens embroidered cloths’ – one of my favourite poems. It made me consider the way I use text in my lace. Recently I’ve been using tambour lace to write in a fairly simple cursive script, which is easy to read and has a naïve style (see the detail above). I’ve also used simple straight stitched embroidery to write text on lace curtains, which I suppose is just an extension of the tambour work, which is basically a continuous chain stitch. If I’m trying to hide text in my work, or make it less obvious, I’ve also incorporated lettering into some of my Bedfordshire style lace designs, where it merges with the pattern, for example in my ‘Get off me’ mat. Capturing lettering in lace is quite a challenge, but I have plans for more mat designs including words – I’ll keep you posted!


Wednesday 29 July 2015

Nottingham lace curtain design

I’ve been reading Arthur Silver’s fascinating 1893 advice on designing Nottingham lace curtains. He is discussing the type of panel curtains popular at the time that were designed to be hung without gathering. These curtains are composed of a centre panel as well as side and bottom borders, and he shows how these elements can be joined directly together or separated by insertions. The border can also be edged with another very narrow border, called the ‘outer guard’. He notes that the centre panel can be designed symmetrically with a ‘fold’ down the centre or can be a freer design and also says that the two side borders need not be the same design or even the same width. It all seems much freer than I was expecting. He also suggests various subjects for suitable designs including copies of handmade lace and floral designs, but recommends maintaining a light and airy effect rather than a severe style because ‘in lace you must be fanciful and delicate in treatment’ – excellent advice!

Thursday 23 July 2015

PhD thesis

I’ve just submitted my PhD thesis – it’s great to have finished it and it does look impressive - in size if nothing else! However, it’s quite scary to think that the next step is the viva examination. It’s been an exciting research journey looking at net curtains and using them as a metaphor for events in the home, which has resulted in links to Victorian domesticity, mid-nineteenth-century gothic novels like those of the Brontes, and Freud’s idea of the uncanny. It’s a practice-based PhD so as well as writing a thesis I’ve also produced practice, which has involved lacemaking as well as subversive stitching, and has considered them both as forms of communication. Having based the research on gothic novels I’ve also used the form of the novel as a framework for the research so the chapter headings give a flavour of the research: sanctuary and prison; the unquiet voice; silent witness; and complicit curtain. Although I’ve finished the thesis I now have to organise the exhibition of the practice, which will be held at the Crypt Gallery, St Pancras, London, between 8 and 12 September so no time to relax just yet. 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

What is luxury?

Having seen this exhibition at the V&A Museum I’ve concluded that luxury is a personal thing and there can be no generalisations. The exhibition includes a 17th century needle lace chasuble and lights including dandelion seeds by Studio drift, both involving meticulous workmanship, expertise and rarity. There is opulence, in the form of a golden crown incorporating precious gems. Innovation is represented by one of Iris van Herpen’s laser cut dresses and a knitted necklace by Nora Fok. All of these are lovely and beautifully crafted but I don’t think wearing them would make me experience luxury in the same way that say wearing a ball gown by Vivienne Westwood might. The exhibition does not concentrate solely on artefacts though, it also considers ideas about peace and privacy being luxuries in the modern world, and makes the audience consider their own luxury. I think mine is referenced in the central installation of ‘Time elapsed’, a machine making Spirograph patterns from grains of sand – surely time and the ability to do what you enjoy is the ultimate luxury.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Dust, decay, disintegration

It’s good to have finished my latest series of work. I’ve been working on three hangings, one each referencing dust, decay and disintegration, linked to my work on gothic novels and the disintegration of the home. They show a progression of decay, starting with a net curtain with a lace trim across it and silk paper below, the idea being that the net curtain has trapped dust from the decaying home and is gradually silting up and turning into paper. The next curtain has less lace and more silk paper suggesting that the silting up process is turning more of the curtain into paper. And the final curtain has just a scrap of lace and is almost all silk paper. I’ve tried to photograph them in my studio, but they are each 2 m long and I haven’t managed to get good images. I will be exhibiting them at The Crypt Gallery in September though so I should be able to get good photos then. It will also be good to see them hanging in an atmospheric space and as a group.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Lace in Workbox

Great to see lace featured in the latest issue of ‘Be Creative Workbox’ magazine. One of Louise West’s beautiful lace wire cylinders is shown as a full page image in the Gallery section, and there is an article by Eileen Anderson about the ISIS Lacemakers’ group entry for last year’s Waddesdon manor lace exhibition. It also includes my article on subversive stitching, which features my ‘get off me’ mat (shown in the image above) as well as several of my net curtains and the virtual sampler. Of course the idea of the subversive stitch comes from Rozsika Parker’s brilliant feminist book that discusses how stitching was used to define the feminine and how women have since subverted it to comment on women’s issues and the domestic – something I continue in my practice.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Savage beauty: Alexander McQueen

This exhibition at the V&A Museum is breathtaking, both for the way it is displayed and the work it shows. You come out reeling from the amazing inventiveness of Alexander McQueen, not only the clothes he designed but also the headwear, shoes, jewellery and the sheer spectacle of the catwalk shows. It is a credit to the curators that they managed to convey all of this through brilliant room designs that immerse you in the themes of the collections. McQueen was also a man who knew how to use lace – it is everywhere – but always used to effect, sometimes a small piece attached to fabric, at others a huge ruffle, an entire dress, or a veil over the entire face. Veiling, or rather masking, is another key factor in many of these designs which adds to their gothic feeling of personal confinement. I was interested in the lace, but beautiful workmanship can also be seen in the embroidery, metalwork and garment construction. One of the great things about this exhibition is that the spectacle is amazing but so are the fine details. It is one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen for a long time – visit it if you can.

Wednesday 10 June 2015


Thinking about photography yet again! This time I need some good photos of my most recent pieces - the hangings with the TB lace and silk paper. The trouble is there are three of them and they are 2 metres long and I haven’t got anywhere suitable to hang them for photography. My studio is a lovely cosy space, but not exactly a white cube environment! A friend recently told me that one of the reasons she’d held her latest exhibition was to hang all her work in a nice neutral space so that she could hire a photographer to take some good photos for her. Photos are so important when you’re trying to get selected for exhibitions that I can see her point. I will be able to take some full length photos when I exhibit these pieces in The Crypt Gallery in September, but I need some good photos before then. In the meantime I’ll just have to use close ups.  

Thursday 4 June 2015

Mounting lace

When I first started making traditional lace, great importance was put on how the lace was mounted onto fabric – usually a handkerchief or mat centre – with good reason, as bad mounting could ruin a lovely piece of lace. I remember the intricate steps required, including aligning the fabric and lace by removing a thread from the material, pinning, and tacking. Then the delicate stitching, using, for example, three-sided stitch, followed by the nerve wracking task of cutting away the excess fabric as close as possible to the stitching without cutting through it. Although I enjoy hand stitching I never found mounting lace very relaxing and was never entirely happy with the results. I was thinking about this mounting process as I was making my most recent piece of lace incorporating lace, fabric and silk paper. In this case I’m attaching the lace to the fabric using a simple oversewing stitch on the edge of the lace. When I’ve finished the sewing, I will remove the excess fabric by cutting it away about 1 cm from the stitching. For this hanging I am trying to represent the idea of the fabric becoming silted up with dust and turning into paper. Therefore I don’t want a formal join between the lace and the fabric, but to give the impression that they are all merging into one another. I also have the advantage that the lace will not be laundered so I’m not worried about the fabric fraying; it just has to look good on display. At the end of the day, I guess mounting is just about attaching the lace in the most appropriate way and if you do it well no one should notice it and instead just focus on the lace.

Wednesday 27 May 2015


Some textile artists produce beautiful sketchbooks with samples of work, paintings, sketches and images of work in progress. Sadly I am not one of them! I love looking at other people’s sketchbooks, which are often works of art in themselves but I don’t produce such lovely things myself. I do keep sketchbooks, but mine are full of notes, references, ideas and analysis - they often contain more words than images. I do include photos, but mine are often pictures of the site for the work or quick images of things I’ve seen that have triggered an idea. They are working documents and are a good place to keep the records of a project, from the development of the ideas to their conclusion as well as receipts for materials and records of any press feedback after the exhibition. I frequently go back to them for information, especially to remind myself where I bought things, and also to reconsider ideas and inspiration. Reading a book on research methods the other day, the authors suggested that Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches represented his thoughts made visible by drawing and annotation, which I thought was a lovely description and represents how I use my sketchbook.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Exhibition advertising

I’m having a solo exhibition in September for the body of work I’ve produced during my PhD. It is called ‘The domestic veil’ and will be in The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras, Euston Road, London from 8 to 12 September 2015 – put it in the diary now! It seems a long way off and I’m still finishing off the thesis, but having just received a selection of magazines I subscribe to, I realise that I have to think about advertising now. Many of the magazines are quarterly or bimonthly and some of the deadlines are at the end of May. Both Crafts and Embroidery are published in July and September so I’m aiming for their September issues in the hope that people might see the listing and decided to visit. I’m worried that if I advertise in July people will have forgotten about it by September! However for the quarterly magazines, like Lace, I’ll have to go for the July issue. Nearer the time I’ll also have to start advertising on the internet but I think for now I just have to meet those magazine deadlines.  

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Reusing titles

I’m putting in a proposal for an exhibition and have been trying to think of a good title for the work I’m proposing. The problem is I’m extending the idea of my ‘Thread of life’ piece (detail above), which is a silk paper dress with lace embedded in it, to a mini installation of three similar dresses linked by thread. The original was just one dress but I think the three new linked dresses will strengthen the idea of the continuity of life. My problem is that ‘Thread of life’ would be a great title for the new piece of work but I’ve already used it for the previous piece. Is it acceptable to reuse a title or should I call the new one ‘Thread of life 2’ or ‘Threads of life’ or try and think of something completely different? On reflection I think it would be too confusing to reuse the old title because I might still want to show the old work as well. I’ll have to think of something new!

Thursday 7 May 2015

Ghost lace

This ‘ghost lace’ made from dust and a paper doily took months to make – the difficult bit was remembering to leave the doily in place and not move it while I was doing other things in the studio. There seems to be an interest in ephemeral lace at the moment, mainly with all the work being done by NeSpoon and graffiti lace. That work and my dust lace are both based on the same principle of using a template and spraying paint or sifting dust through it. It’s not a new idea – I remember my mother dusting icing sugar through paper doilies to decorate sponge cakes. Interestingly, Cal Lane says that her interest in lace was based on that technique of cake decorating and it inspired her to make some of her first lace pieces.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Machine made lace

Since my research into net curtains started I have become interested in machine made lace, both the mechanics of its production and the beautiful lace that results. The image above is part of a panel showing Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and what I like about it is the clever way the shading and depth of design are achieved (which I hope you can see - the image looked fine on the computer but not so good in this post). Most of the information I have gleaned so far comes from the books and research carried out by Pat Earnshaw. From her I discovered that the Nottingham Lace Curtain Machine which produces not only curtains but other large scale lace furnishings, such as bedspreads and tablecloths, was invented by John Livesey in about 1846. The feature of this type of lace is its ability to produce large pieces of lace and its straight sided mesh as opposed to the hexagonal mesh of the Leavers lace machine. By 1851 there were 100 curtain lace machines in operation in the Nottingham area and many lovely curtains were displayed at the Great Exhibition in London that year. My next step is to find out how they achieve that lovely shading.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Forensics: the anatomy of crime

This is a fascinating exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, much of it dealt with the science and history of forensic examinations, which was interesting, but I also enjoyed the artistic elements too. In particular Frances Glessner Lee’s miniature dioramas of crime scenes ‘The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained death’ which were made as teaching aids for detectives. Alphonse Bertillon’s photographs of victims were harrowing yet artistic as he used a very high tripod to capture them creating an unusual ‘God’s eye view’ of the crime scene. In contrast to these real images, Corinne May Botz had recreated and photographed crime scenes using dolls as victims, her ‘Dark bathroom’ was quite unsettling. Perhaps because the images were staged it was easier to examine them closely and take in their full power rather than exploiting the images of the real victims. Jenny Holzer’s ‘Lustmord’ was a very dramatic and moving installation protesting about the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Balkan conflict. It consisted of a collection of disinterred bones laid out in rows on a table, many of which were labelled with the name of the victim, the perpetrator and an observer – a powerful reminder that forensic science can retrieve evidence and claim justice for the dead. The exhibition runs until 21 June and is well worth a visit.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Silk paper for TB lace


I spent yesterday making silk paper for my series on dust, decay and disintegration and it is now in the garden drying in the sunshine, as you can see in the image above. I’m combining lace, silk paper and fabric to make a series of curtains expressing the idea of dust clogging up the curtains and eventually extinguishing life and turning the airy fabric to brittle paper. I started with the first piece yesterday, attaching the lace to the silk paper. I started by adding threads to the lace, to use as anchors, which I could embed in the silk paper (see below).

I then laid the lace on a piece of net on a plastic sheet and started adding layer after layer of silk fibres. This is a slow meditative process so quite relaxing, but the threads tend to float about in the slightest breeze so it’s important not to move quickly to generate air currents. Once I had a thick enough layer of fibres I sprinkled dust on them, to suggest the clogging up process, and covered the entire piece with another layer of net.

I then sprayed the whole thing with a fine mist of water and then with a dilute silk fibre medium (see above). Once the spray has been added it’s important to ensure all the fibres have been coated so I use dilute medium and a brush to make sure the piece is wet through, then leave it to dry. By this morning it was dry enough to move off its plastic backing and take it out into the sunshine, because the two outer net layers keep everything in place. With the help of the sun it should be dried out later today and I’ll be able to remove the net layers. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.