Wednesday 16 December 2020
Wednesday 9 December 2020
Any bobbin lace is time consuming to make, and Chantilly is no exception. For larger pieces such as veils and shawls, which were fashionable in the mid to late nineteenth century, several lacemakers worked strips of the lace that were later joined together using invisible stitching called point de raccroc. Unfortunately this line of sewing is also a weak point that sometimes comes undone showing where the strips of lace were joined (see above). Although my sample is coming apart, I found it interesting to see the way in which the strips had been divided so that the join interfered as little as possible with the main parts of the design.
Wednesday 2 December 2020
What a treat – my copy of the catalogue of ‘The Space Between’ handmade lace exhibition, curated by Fiona Harrington for Headford Lace Project, arrived today and I’ve been enjoying browsing through it. I was going to blog about my favourite pieces but I realise that it’s impossible to choose between them so I’ll give you an overview of the exhibition instead. As Elena Kanagy-Loux reminds us in the introduction, lace is a textile defined by its appearance and numerous techniques are used to make it, many of which are found within this exhibition.
As expected, many of the pieces showcasing techniques celebrate Irish laces. Sr Madeleine Cleverly’s chalice cover edged in Headford lace links the past and the present, while Rosie Finnegan Bell’s Carrickmacross lace tree (see above) celebrates the legacy of lacemaking in South Armagh. The heritage of Carrickmacross lace is also the subject of Karen McArdle delicate photobook. The Irish Crochet lace hat exhibited by the Irish Crochet Lace Revival Group beautifully incorporates three types of Irish crochet to display the intricacy of the technique. The fine working of another traditional Irish lace, Borris tape lace, is displayed in Helena McAteer’s round floral d’oyley. Ann Keller describes her bobbin lace fans as Irish Celtic style bobbin lace, which rather than spotlighting one specific type of Irish lace are designed to include Celtic traditions and art within their folds. Of the other lace techniques, Jackie Magnin uses Torchon lace with variations of her own, Olga Ieromina plays with the size and placing of traditional lace, and Tali Berger makes large scale bobbin lace structures using rattan.
Many of the pieces were made as a response to lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of these is ‘Le Messenger’ by Elisa Gonzalez made using free bobbin lace techniques inspired by the colours and the view of a garden. Daniela Banatova’s intriguing abstract bobbin lace forms (see above) are inspired by the trees and rock formations she finds on her travels. Also in the exhibition is one of Mary Elizabeth Barron’s Torchon lace river series based on the Logan River, made from threads she has created from clear plastic packaging to highlight the impact of plastic waste on the environment. Moving from the earth to the sky, Ashla Ward’s complex black crochet pieces were inspired by exploring the darkness in the spaces between the stars in the night sky. Kim Lieberman also incorporates images of the sky in her bobbin lace piece, which comes from a series of works inspired by territories. Her images are taken from banknotes around the world and the chaotic (or wild) ground which holds the currency in a flux explores the interdependence of us all.
Nature on a smaller scale is depicted in Andrea Brewster’s tatted coral forms and Eleanor Parkes’ needle lace insects. Eithne Guilfoyle’s image of red deer shows the versatility of Limerick lace, while Theresa Kelly’s vessels (see above) inspired by tree bark show the contemporary possibilities for Carrickmacross lace. M Merce Rovira and Atena Pou were also inspired by nature, their free bobbin lace sculpture captures the feeling of a soft breeze under an oak tree. Rather than depicting nature, Saidhbhin Gibson interacts with it by, for example, temporarily covering scars on trees and cacti with delicate needle point lace.
Moving from embellishments for nature to those for the body. Roisin de Buitlear’s lace engraved glass visor reminds us of veiling. It speaks of fragility and vulnerability and as such it is a tribute to front line workers in the Covid-19 pandemic. Malgorzata Szpila showed two lovely bobbin lace necklaces, one of falling golden leaves (see above), and the other of frozen silver leaves. Angharad Rixon used silver wire worked in free bobbin lace over a stone found on the beach to reflect the passing of time (see below) and Jane Fullman also worked bobbin lace in wire to produce beautiful patterned pendants and flowers. Suzanne Plamping’s delicate circular hanging inspired by reflection also uses metallic threads. In contrast to these smaller pieces, Kara Quinteros used large scale experimental bobbin lace to produce a bodice and skirt using ethically sourced yarns.
Family ties are celebrated by Rachel McGrath who uses Irish crochet lace and hair to capture an essence of her past. Two artists exhibited self portraits: Eleanor Parkes’ is representational and made from bobbin and needle lace, while Vesna Sprogar’s is pixelated and composed of bobbin lace and tatting. Ester Kiely also uses technology in her bobbin lace installation ‘Port San Aer’ (see below), which translates music into lace, and you can also listen to the tune by using the QR code in the catalogue.
Mary St. George, who introduced lacemaking to Headford in 1765, is celebrated by Norma Owens in a series of small round sculptures that incorporate symbolic motifs to represent her life and reflect on the male commentators who tried to belittle her work. Other artists dealing with women’s issues include Amy Keefer whose capsaicin crochet collar considers the lack of means of defence for women throughout history, while Camilla Hanney’s ceramic lace gloves suggest excessive femininity and explore the contradictions involved in traditional handmade lace production. Marian Nunez exhibits two metaphorical works that consider the emptiness of life and the ephemerality of beauty, based on Japanese iconography. Ger Henry Hassett’s moving work ‘A black mark’ remembers the souls of the 796 skeletons of babies who died and were buried at the Tuam Mother & Baby Home and the mothers who were scarred by their experiences there (see below).
As well as these beautiful and thought-provoking pieces, which were exhibited in an art trail in windows throughout Headford, there were two commissioned works of art. Unfortunately these are not illustrated in the catalogue so I haven’t seen them, but the artists are Selma Makela who painted a triptych remembering those who traditionally made lace in Headford and Tarmo Thorstrom who alters the scale of Torchon bobbin lace by making it in linen and jute rope.
Despite not being able to travel to Headford I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting virtually through the catalogue. As Elena says in her introduction, lace is not a dying art rather we seem to be ‘on the precipice of an exciting revival’. It is encouraging to see contemporary lacemakers exploring new paths as well as celebrating the revival of traditional lace. If you would like to discover more about the Headford lace project or order a catalogue for yourself you’ll find all the information on the website www.headfordlaceproject.ie
Wednesday 25 November 2020
This image shows pages from Lester’s exercise book of designs in the Cecil Higgins collection. He was designing point ground lace in the early 1850s but after visiting the Great Exhibition, and in particular seeing that Honiton lace was not only a more free style of design but also was held in higher regard and fetched a higher price, he began designing Bedfordshire lace in a freer style using plaits to join the elements rather than grounds, which he used as filling stitches instead.
The designs often feature realistic plant forms and animals and the source of these may have been books of natural history, illustrated periodicals or Owen Jones’ The Grammar of Ornament which was used as a teaching aid at art schools. Such realistic natural designs were popular at the time and feature for example in Honiton and Brussels lace as well as other textiles. In the 1862 International Exhibition Thomas Lester was awarded a medal for his new type of lace, which he called ‘Bedfordshire white fancy lace’. He died in 1867 but the Lester family continued their lace manufacturing business in Bedford until 1905 and won medals in several exhibitions including the one in Chicago in 1893. However, the success of machine lace reduced their business considerably, particularly following the 1860s when the Levers lace machine became capable of producing imitation Bedfordshire (Maltese) lace, and they diversified into art needlework and Berlin work as well as continuing to sell ‘real lace’.
Wednesday 18 November 2020
Thursday 12 November 2020
Wednesday 4 November 2020
I’m delighted to let you know that I’ve just had a review published in the journal of Craft Research volume 11 (2) about a book on Polish lace makers. The book is by Anna Sznajder and is called ‘Polish lace makers: gender, heritage and identity’. The link to the current issue and my review is CRRE 11.2 but I’m afraid there are no free offprints with this journal. The book was based on research the author did for her PhD in the lacemaking community in Bobowa, southern Poland, and although it is obviously an academic and thoroughly researched book it is also very readable. It describes how lacemaking was brought to the area in the late eighteenth century and became a cottage industry in the nineteenth century. Throughout the twentieth century various organisations encouraged lace teaching and design but by the end of the century lace making was more of a hobby than a business. However, since 1995 lace making in Bobowa has been revitalised following the introduction of the International Bobbin Lace Festival and the setting up of the Gallery of Bobbin Lace in the town. The author makes lace and clearly has an interest in the lives of these Polish lacemakers. She is interested in the politics, both national and local, that have affected lace making and her interviews with lacemakers allow insight into the changing details of the local lace making industry and women’s role within it. She concludes the book with suggestions on how activities linked to the lace heritage could encourage more tourism to the area. It’s an interesting book, and well worth reading especially if you have been or are planning a visit, to the Bobowa lace festival..
Wednesday 28 October 2020
Wednesday 21 October 2020
As you can see my new bobbin lace doily is underway. The idea of using a tape lace construction was that I would need fewer bobbins and I wanted to see if it was a quicker way of working. Well that hasn’t been the case so far, mainly because I’ve started at the most difficult place where I’m incorporating the text #MeToo into the design. However working the grid filling has been interesting as I’ve only needed two pairs of bobbins for the entire thing, as they just work up and down there are no four plait crossings as there would be in Bedfordshire lace, which is the style I’m most used to. Instead of crossings, one of the pairs is hitched under the previously worked plait and the other pair linked through it to make a join. The books about tape lace suggest only one thread need be hitched under but I found that didn’t make a neat join and using a pair works better for me. It’s also a learning curve trying to work out the right length for each plait in the filling when you complete the ‘crossing’ on the following row, I think I’m getting the hang of the tension but I find four plait crossings easier. I guess it’s just what you’re used to! I wanted the text on the mat to stand out so I gave up attempts to include the text in cursive script and I’m using Bedfordshire style techniques to work it, hence the increased number of bobbins. Once the text is finished I should be down to a handful of bobbins for the outer mat though. It’s certainly an interesting way of working and great to be learning some new techniques.
Wednesday 14 October 2020
Wednesday 7 October 2020
Wednesday 30 September 2020
Wednesday 23 September 2020
Friday 18 September 2020
www.carolquarini.com). I’m also busy writing two papers about different machine lace designers so I have plenty of new projects to start the autumn!
Wednesday 9 September 2020
The cloth attached to the ends would have made it easier to handle the pattern without making it greasy from too much handling and was the point at which the pattern was attach to the lace pillow. Thomas Wright in The romance of the lace pillow says that most parchments were about 14 inches long (this one is about 10 inches) and each was called a ‘down’. Thus the lacemaker would say she had made a down when she finished the length of the pattern. He also says that the linen ends were called ‘eaches’ which means an extension. Variations on the spelling are eche, eke and etch and the term is linked to the phrase ‘to eke something out’ meaning to extend it to make it last longer.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Wednesday 19 August 2020
Wednesday 12 August 2020
century lace in which some of the Tebbs’ original patterns and lace samples will be exhibited, which will be worth a visit.
Louisa taught what she describes as sectional bobbin laces, such as Italian point de Flandre, Bruge guipure, Duchesse , Honiton and Bruxelles. In other words those laces that are worked in sections and only require ’18 bobbins (often less) for the most elaborate patterns’. Her instructions are clear and practical. She notes that she ‘encourages the pupils to rely whenever possible on their own intuition and intelligence’. She also encourages them to design their own patterns as she feels that will engage their interest and also suggests that pin holes are not pricked in advance but made by the worker as she progresses to suit her individual work.
The new student begins with the ‘Italian’ lace edge of shamrock shapes shown above but soon progresses to the Honiton flounce shown here. The books also include instructions for various filling stitches and patterns for lace that can be applied to net, like the Honiton flounce, as well as Honiton raised work. The books are clear and very encouraging but I think the pupils had a better grasp of needlework than we have today, for example there are no instructions for attaching the lace to fine net it is just assumed the reader will know how to do this. If you can find them the books are an interesting read, as is Gwynedd’s article, and the exhibition at the Lace Guild should be interesting too.