Wednesday 31 January 2018

Lace net embroidery

I’ve been looking through my Weldons encyclopaedia of needlework at the section on embroidering on net to produce lace. It gives some lovely filling stitches and a great variety of them. One of the other things I like about this book is that it also gives examples of antique lace for all the techniques. I realise that during my recent foray into net embroidery for my Battle of Britain lace panel I have broken most of the rules! For example it says that you should use only the best quality net and the way to measure that is by inserting a stiletto (like the ones used for broderie anglaise) through a mesh, if it stretches without breaking it’s a good quality. I deliberately chose a net that didn’t stretch at all and was as rigid as possible. However, I did use a blunt needle and a long thread for working as recommended. Luckily I didn’t tear my net, or cut through it while I was using a Carrickmacross technique, but had I done so, Weldons has step by step instructions for repairing a hole in net, which looks very effective and the result blends in beautifully with the surrounding net – I suspect that kind of result takes years to perfect though! 

Thursday 25 January 2018

Commemorating the Battle of Britain lacemakers

As part of my response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel I wanted to remember the people who made the lace as well as the aircrew and civilians involved in the battle. To do that I decided to include representations of their tools in the panel, in the sections separating the images of the bombed buildings. I took photographs of the equipment used in machine lace making and decided that I would represent the draught pattern, the jacquard cards, the bobbins and their holders. The draught pattern is used to transfer the original design into a grid form and to distinguish the threads used for the pattern and for shading. It is a skilled job, as the success of the design rests on how well it is converted to the grid. Harry Cross the designer of the panel obviously recognised that skill as he acknowledges the two draughtsmen, J W Herod and W R Jackson, in the panel. The next step after draughting is punching the jacquard cards from the draught. These are sewn together in a long line and as they run through the machine they control the stitches being made. Also essential to the process is the smooth running of the thread from the bobbins so I decided to include the bobbins and their holders as well. I’ve made textile representations of these four tools and used them to form the patterns between the main images to remember all those people who made the production of the lace panels possible. Unfortunately I can't seem to add new images to my blog atm so I've had to use a picture I've used before of the bobbin and holder.

Friday 19 January 2018

Bayeux tapestry

The original Bayeux tapestry is displayed in Normandy but I discovered in 2012 that Reading Museum has its own copy, embroidered in1886 by 35 members of the Leek Embroidery Society. It tells the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and like all history is written from the perspective of the victors, so William’s right to the throne is emphasised and much is made of the oaths of fealty William forced Harold to swear. It is over 70 m long and about 40 cm deep and is displayed in a purpose built gallery so you can walk round and see all of it. The original is thought to have been embroidered in Kent but the names of the embroiderers are not recorded. In contrast, along the lower edge of each panel of the 1886 copy the name of the worker is embroidered. This is the only indication that the panels have been worked by different embroiderers as the work is an exact copy of the original, apart from one naked man who has been given a pair of shorts in the Victorian copy. The tapestry is beautifully displayed and well worth a visit. The Museum website about the tapestry also provides images of the entire work and lots of extra facts.

In 2013 I discovered that embroiderers in Alderney had completed three new scenes to complete the story of the Bayeux tapestry. The famous tapestry (in fact it is embroidered) ends in frayed threads and several embroiderers over the years have designed and worked panels to complete the story. The three new Alderney panels show William dining on the battle field, accepting the surrender of the English noblemen, and his coronation at Westminster Abbey. Previous endings to the tapestry have been made by Jan Messent, Annette Banks, and Jack Thomas. Jan Messent also published a beautifully illustrated book (The Bayeux tapestry embroiderers’ story) describing her research into the project and her new panels.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Silk paper and presentations

Another busy week working on my Battle of Britain lace panel. I’ve made some silk paper, which I’m using to represent the smoke and flames around the image of St Paul’s Cathedral. I always find making silk paper very relaxing. Assembling all the equipment and finding a spray dispenser that works can be frustrating, but I love the feel of the soft silk as you pull it from the skein and place it on the surface. It also has to be made in a calm mood as sudden movements are liable to displace everything, causing the cushion of silk fibres to blow away in a tangle. I also like the unpredictability of it. It isn’t an exact science and the final results are always a combination of how the fibres and medium are interacting on that day. The piece I made this week is still drying so I won’t know the final outcome until it dries completely and I can remove the outer holding layers of net.

As well as the silk paper, I’ve also been finalising a talk I’m giving at Bentley Priory next week about the old panel and my new ones. Putting that together has been very interesting as I’ve had to think through all the steps I’ve been through and the reasoning behind each decision in order to make a coherent presentation. I’ve also had to choose images to accompany the words and take more photos to fill the gaps where I don’t have an image of what I’m talking about. It has been very helpful to get everything sorted into a proper account and I’m sure it will be useful for talks later in the year as well.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Biographies and summaries

Over the Christmas break I had to write three biographies and summaries about myself and my work for three different lace events I’m taking part in during 2018. Each one was for a slightly different audience so I felt I had to emphasise different things for each one and supply images that went with what I was writing. It made me realise how important these summaries can be in defining what you do and how you promote yourself. For example, should I call myself a lacemaker or a textile artist? I decided on lacemaker for the exhibition aimed at fellow lacemakers, but textile artist for the one aimed at the general public. Also should I mention qualifications? They are obviously necessary for academic events and my work has developed from my PhD research so I do need to explain where it’s coming from, but I don’t want to put people off by sounding too esoteric. Images are quite tricky too as lace is notoriously difficult to photograph, however I did find cropping some of my images improved them. Basically I think writing about yourself is always slightly uncomfortable even though it has to be done to promote exhibitions, but it’s also hard work!

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Lace plans for 2018

This is the traditional time of the year for looking back at what you’ve achieved and looking forward to future plans so I’ve been assessing my lace plans. The past year was mainly taken up with my Battle of Britain lace response which involved designing and working on the panels but also included photography and talks about it as well. That work will continue this year with a talk at Bentley Priory on 26 January and another on 15 March at Wollaton Hall where the panels will be displayed for the first time. After that the panels and the associated parachute installation will be exhibited at Gawthorpe Hall from July to November and following that at Bentley Priory from November through to March 2019. 
Other lace plans include a stand at the ‘Living lace’ exhibition during the World Lace Congress in Bruges in August and an exhibition of my work at Cranmore Park in Solihull as part of the Makit Christmas Fair on 1 December. I think for both of those exhibitions I’ll concentrate on my veils as they are a coherent body of work with a definite theme and I’m currently making a new one so there will also be something new to show too. As well as all this practical work I’d also like to get back to my research into net curtains and panels, which has been concentrated on the Battle of Britain panel for the past year. It would be good to get back to some of the earlier machine lace I was studying previously and drawing some of that research together. So, in summary, an exciting year ahead with lots of new projects and exhibiting opportunities.