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.