Wednesday 26 January 2022

Lace responses to Japan


This image of a pagoda at Toji temple in Kyoto is part of my needlerun lace response to the Japanese textile research visit I made with other artists from UCA Farnham a couple of years ago. This piece entitled ‘stone: water: leaf’ is made up of two hangings, one is a realistic image of the pagoda and the temple grounds, the other is an impression of willow leaves. Together with another piece, a three-dimensional miniature bobbin lace sculpture reflecting the roof of the temple, they represent the Japanese sensibility of ‘shin gyo so’, broadly expressed as the realistic, the impressionistic and the abstract. The miniature, abstract, piece (image below) is currently in the exhibition ‘Tansa: Japanese threads of influence’ at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham until 26 March and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto where it will be exhibited from 23 April to 8 May.

I’ve been finishing off the two larger pieces today, making channels for the acrylic supporting rods across the top of each hanging and checking they hang well side by side. I also contemplated adding weighting to the bottom of each hanging but have decided they probably don’t need it despite me having dyed some curtain weighting at the weekend to do the job! I also wanted to add a touch of gold and red to the pieces, as the miniature also has a fine outline of both, but I knew I need to see them both hanging up together before I could decide where to add it. Well, as soon as I hung them up, it was obvious where the colour should go to tie both pieces together and link them to the abstract miniature, so adding those threads will be my final task. These two hangings will be exhibited as part of the ‘Tansa: process and making’ exhibition at South Hill Park from 26 February until 3 April.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Heartache inscribed on lace bobbins

The inscriptions on these two lace bobbins read ‘Love don’t forsake me’ and ‘A kiss from my true love will ease a wounded heart’ although the bobbin maker didn’t have room to spell out the final word so just used a heart shape instead. I think he was Jesse Compton as his bobbins are quite slim and often include very tightly packed lettering alternately coloured red and blue. Most of his bobbins date from the early nineteenth century and some like this one have discoloured to a yellow colour. The bobbin with red lettering was probably made by William Brown of Cranfield who was working during the middle of the nineteenth century. His bobbins are quite distinctive with neat lettering and several rings of coloured bands at top and bottom. Whether these bobbins were bought by the lacemakers or their boyfriends we will never know, but I do hope that the first wasn't forsaken and the second did receive that kiss of true love. 

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Filet lace panel of Neptune and fish

The prompt for today’s lace challenge is ‘ocean’ which made me think of this filet lace panel I bought a while ago of Diana and Neptune on the sea with assorted fish and sea monsters. The pattern for this seems to have originated in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century when there was a revival of filet lace both for furnishing and as a hobby for home lacemakers. However, the origins of filet lace or lacis as it was known stretch back to the sixteenth century and there are numerous pattern books dating from that time, many of which have been repurposed since, so the design could have older origins.

Many designs for filet lace are shown with the pattern marked in small crosses which does suggest that they could also have been worked as embroidered cross stitch. It is also a bit misleading though as the filet technique has no links to cross stitch and in fact is made in a running woven technique. The thread pattern has to be carefully worked out before the worker starts as the thread is woven over and under the meshes of the net in a continuous line vertically up and down the pattern like the diagram above. At points in the design the worker changes direction and works horizontally across the threads already laid this time weaving under and over the laid threads as well as those of the net mesh to give an open but woven appearance. It does produce a firm type of lace though well suited to furnishing.

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Back in the studio

 It’s good to be back in the studio after the Christmas break making lace plans for the new year. I’m very pleased to have work in the current Tansa miniatures exhibition which is currently showing at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham until 26 March. I will also have some larger pieces of lace in the complementary exhibition at South Hill Park in Bracknell from 26 February until 3 April. The work at both venues is the result of a research visit by UCA textile researchers to Japan in 2019, following which we and some of the Japanese artists we visited encapsulated our responses to the trip in textiles. I feel especially lucky to be able to show some work in the current pandemic when so many venues are closed. The miniature works are also travelling to Japan in April to be exhibited at Gallery Gallery in Kyoto which is also a great honour. As well as the Japanese themed pieces I’m also still working on my unhomely doily series hoping to produce a group of them for exhibiting. I’ve published a couple of papers in Textile the journal of cloth and culture this year, one on the lace designer Amy Atkin (the image above shows a detail of my textile response to that work) and another on textile responses to domestic trauma. I’m currently writing a chapter for a textile book on Belgian war lace and have started the research for another paper on the work of Harry Cross who designed beautiful machine lace curtains and the famous Battle of Britain lace panel. I like to have a mixture of practice and writing so I’m looking forward to the new year and getting back to work.