Wednesday 30 October 2019

Anne Bronte – Wedded bliss

I’ve finished my contribution ‘Wedded bliss’ for the Anne Bronte p200 exhibition celebrating the life and work of Anne Bronte on her 200th anniversary. All the contributors were given a page from her novel The tenant of Wildfell Hall and asked to make an artwork using the page and the same size as it. 200 pages from the novel have been allocated and the resulting artworks will be exhibited in Scarborough in January and February 2020. In my piece, the little veil with the fringe of pins references the sharp reality of marriage for Helen and many other 19th century women. From a distance the fringe sparkles with promise but closer inspection reveals its sharp edges. The harsh reality for Helen is that she has no influence over her dissolute husband and no legal right to remove her son from his malign influence. As a married woman she has no money or property of her own either, women had to wait until 1883 for the right to retain their own money on marriage. Anne Bronte was a supporter of women’s education and rights and this novel shows the harm that could result from the prevailing situation of inequality. In the novel, Helen bravely runs away from her husband with her son and, pretending to be a widow, maintains them both through her painting. She returns to her husband on her own terms solely to nurse him through his final illness. 

Wednesday 23 October 2019

The net curtain in the uncanny home

I’ve been busy writing recently and am pleased to say that Textile: the journal of cloth and culture has published another one of my papers. This one is entitled ‘The domestic veil: the net curtain in the uncanny home’ and is based on part of my PhD research. Basically it suggests that the net curtain embodies Freud’s description of the uncanny as the point of slippage between the homely and the unhomely because it lies on the borders of the home. The net curtain can be seen as a delicate furnishing as well as a barrier to the outside world and is thus used to reconsider women's equivocal experience of home as sanctuary and prison, based on tropes from Victorian gothic novels, but with contemporary parallels. Many Victorian gothic novels critiqued the idea of women being conflated with their homes and this research builds on that idea. The research is practice-based so the textile works are as important as the text and the paper includes some lovely images of them. Pins and needles pierce the curtain to mark the passing of time, referencing a cell-bound prisoner. Dust, memories and conversations are trapped within its sieve-like net. Experiences of claustrophobia, confinement and coercion are therefore revealed through the domestic veil of the net curtain. 
It was an interesting exercise trying to isolate a part of my research and rewrite it in a shorter form. However now I’ve done it I can see that there are other parts of the research that could be written up as papers so there could be more to work on. That won’t be for a while though as I’m currently writing a paper about some net curtains I’ve been researching in Nottingham. If you’re interested in reading ‘The domestic veil’ there are 50 free copies available via the following link

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Diana and Neptune filet lace panel

A few months ago I bought a filet lace panel of Diana and Neptune on ebay. It’s about 40 cm wide and about 150 cm long and nicely worked in ecru. I was very excited on my recent research trip to Nottingham to find a very similar piece in volume VI of a pattern book by Christian Stoll of Plauen which probably entered the lace archive at Nottingham as a source of inspiration for the students in the art school.
There are a few differences between my piece and the image in the book but they are obviously the same basic design. For example mine is labelled Diane rather than Diana, which is the more usual form given on the pattern. Mine is also missing a fish and a spear that appear in the book version, which you can see below.
The edges of both are different too. The design in the book is edged with a lozenge shaped pattern and the whole piece is inserted into fabric to make a curtain. Mine has a scalloped edge along the sides and bottom and has an integrated floral pattern along the top suggesting that it was a valance or designed to be sewn to the bottom of a curtain, there is no indication to suggest it has been sewn to anything though. I’ve been looking for links between these pattern books and lace curtain designs but to find a link to a piece I own was very exciting.

Thursday 10 October 2019

Researching lace in Nottingham

I’ve been enjoying a few days in Nottingham doing some lace research - well what better place to carry out lace research! I’ve been in the NTU Lace Archive looking at some designs and sketchbooks from a curtain lace designer I’m interested in, with a view to writing about his designing style and methods. As well as that I also saw some modern machine lace from a Chinese company presented in swish presentation packs with lovely fashion drawings suggesting some contemporary uses for the different types of lace. I was also lucky enough to hear Professor Amanda Briggs-Goode’s inaugural lecture on Wednesday evening in which she gave examples of four contemporary artists whose work has been inspired by lace archives. Having covered lace curtains, fashion, and fine art and time periods ranging from the 16th to the 21st century during my short time in Nottingham, I think it’s safe to say that lace archives are still relevant and inspirational.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Anne Bronte p.200 art exhibition

I’m delighted to be part of the Anne Bronte p.200 project. The aim of the project is to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Anne’s birth and each artist has received a page from a vintage version of her most famous novel ‘The tenant of Wildfell Hall’. The artists can respond in any way they want but have to use the page and celebrate Anne’s life and/or her work in an artwork no bigger than the size of the original page. I’m a great fan of Anne and her work and she featured in my PhD research as she was a confirmed opponent of the separate spheres ethos that relegated women to the home and idealised marriage despite the abuse that could lead to. I also admire her personally as she was the only Bronte who actually left home and supported herself throughout her short life. The works will be exhibited in Scarborough in January and February next year and there will be an illustrated book to accompany the exhibition. As you can see I’m just playing with ideas at the moment but the final piece will definitely include lace and pins.