Wednesday 10 January 2024

Harry Cross: Nottingham machine lace designer


I’ve been interested in the work of Harry Cross ever since I was commissioned to produce a response to his famous Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel and was introduced to the beautiful paintings he made of his designs for that iconic lace. I have written several articles about the Battle of Britain lace panel, but Harry Cross also left an archive of many other machine lace designs for curtains, tablecloths and bedspreads, as well as some beautiful sketch books, and I felt these should be more widely known about, hence my recent article in Text, the magazine of The Textile Society. The image above is a page from that article showing the completed Battle of Britain lace panel and two preparatory designs for it, one of the bombed Guildhall and the other of the lower section of the panel.

However, the focus of the article is not the Battle of Britain panel but rather how Harry Cross went about designing his work. It considers his art school training, and  how he learnt to develop pattern repeats and used his sketchbooks to play with designs and jot down ideas. It then looks at specific examples of his designs for lace fabric, tablecloths and curtains to explore his working practice, showing how he built up designs, how they developed from ideas in his sketchbook and how he presented the options to possible buyers. The final section about the Battle of Britain panel shows how Harry Cross developed his designs for the side columns from photographs of bombed London scenes and how he amended the words from  Winston Churchill’s famous speech about ‘the few’. It was particularly interesting to see how designs were produced before computers were available both for research and for designing.

My thanks to Barbara Cross (the granddaughter of Harry Cross) and the Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University for access to the archive and The Textile Society for publishing the article.

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