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.