Wednesday 20 December 2017

Progress on my Battle of Britain lace panel

I’ve made great progress this week on my lace panel – it’s interesting how some weeks you put in loads of work but have little to show for it whereas in others you seem to steam ahead! This week I’ve been applying the new digitally printed photographs onto the net base. I’ve never used digitally printed images before and I naively assumed that as the images I’d supplied were perfect rectangles the printed versions would be too. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that obviously the material must move slightly in the printing process so I’ve had to tweak some of them a bit. Luckily I had already decided to add a small strip of lace to the top and base of each image to neaten it, and to run a scalloped lace right along the edge of each net panel to mirror the scalloped edge of the original. These edges of lace have allowed me to straighten up the photographic prints by hiding some areas so they are now roughly rectangular again. However, despite the technical problems, machine stitching the lace to the images and net has been very quick and I’m pleased with the results, so I feel I can have a break over Christmas!

Thursday 14 December 2017

Woman’s Hour Craft Prize exhibition

I was interested to see the exhibition of work by the finalists of the Woman’s Hour Craft prize at the V&A Museum last week. The well-deserved winner was Phoebe Cummings with her beautiful unfired clay fountain which is designed to dissolve as the show progresses; the image shows a detail from it. However, looking at the exhibition got me thinking again about the difference between craft and art. I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to define both terms.

Various crafts are represented in the exhibition for sure, Laura Ellen Bacon’s woven structures and Celia Pym’s darning for example, but Laura admits to never having woven a basket and you wouldn’t ask Celia to invisible darn anything. As far as I’m concerned both are artists who use their craft skills to produce work that reflects movement and narrative, respectively. Of the ceramicists in the show, Alison Britton makes containers that are functional but speak of containment, Neil Brownsword highlights the loss of industrial ceramic skills by making and discarding clay flowers, and Phoebe Cummings deals with the ephemeral. Andrea Walsh initially studied fine art and developed the idea of a vessel into her glass boxes, which are sculptural and jewel like. Emma Woffenden also combines sculpture and glass to create strangely distorted figures while Laura Youngson Coll makes intricate biological sculptures (see the picture above). Of the jewellers in the exhibition, Lin Cheung acknowledges her ideas-based approach while Romilly Saumarez Smith gives antique finds a new life and narrative by turning them into jewellery. The other two exhibitors, Caren Hartley who makes bespoke bicycles, and Peter Marigold who initially studied sculpture but now makes what can loosely be described as furniture, seem to be more traditional craftspeople rather than fine artists.

It seems to me that most of these pieces combine craft and fine art. Does this signify the elision of the line between craftspeople and fine artists? Are most craftspeople now using their skills to produce work with conceptual ideas behind it? I doubt they are, as a visit to any gallery would show. Should we welcome this merging of art and craft? Do these definitions and categories matter anyway? Should we just enjoy the work whether it is art, craft or a combination? Food for thought!

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Working Carrickmacross lace

I’ve been doing some Carrickmacross lace on my Battle of Britain lace panel which has made me appreciate the skill of the person who made this lovely piece from the UCA Textile archive. Having worked some of this lace I realise that cutting round the fabric shapes once they’ve been sewn down, without cutting the net underneath, is one of the most difficult parts of the technique. However, you soon get used to the feel of the fabric being cut. I found that if I used my nail to stretch the fabric above the net it was easier to cut and ‘gave’ as I cut it away, which made it easier to distinguish fabric and net. I also realised that the placement of the grain of the fabric was important too as some of the shapes are very small and tend to come away from the sewn edge if they aren’t placed and cut on the grain. The fabric I’ve used also seems to be more open than in traditional examples, which gives it a very lace-like appearance, but makes it less stable when its cut. I’m very impressed that in this beautiful example from the archive the fabric is cut very closely to the sewn edge and has worn so well without unravelling.