Saturday, October 15, 2016

Make Lace Not War - Part I
ArtCloth Exhibition

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience I have added a link to the other post in this series.

Make Lace Not War - Part II
Make Lace Not War - Part III

According to a Bruges legend, the beauty of a spider's web inspired the first attempts in making pillow lace, so it is quite significant that the word "lace" comes from the Latin laqueus meaning a snare, or lacer to entice.

The oldest piece of lace I have encountered on the internet is this Pre-Columbian Peruvian knotted netting from the Chancay period, 1100-1350 AD.

Evidence of meshes made from twisted threads does, in fact, date back some 6000 years to the Egyptian "Mummy Lace" which was made on a frame. The free ends of the thread were wound onto small shaped pieces of stone, wood or bone, which served as bobbins.

Traditional lace making was thought to have developed from the ornamental plaiting and braidings of the Middle Ages, and it is possible that the similarity between ancient and modern bobbin worked lace is mere coincidence.

Detail from a late 19th Century.

Century French fan mount in black Chantilly bobbin lace, showing a garden scene with peacocks, inside an intricate border of flowers and leaves.

By the mid-15th Century, pillow lace - worked on a firm cushion or pillow, with pins to keep the thread in position - was established in Venice and Flanders and spreading to other parts of Europe. In England, lacemaking centres in Devon and the Midlands were set up in the 16th Century by refugees from religious persecution in Europe.

Collections of bobbins from different lace-making areas of Europe. The bobbin with beads attached is English and is made of glass. The one immediately below it dates from Henry VIII's reign (1509-1547), the three metal rings indicating that his third wife, Jane Seymour, was then queen.

The use of finer linen threads encouraged more complicated and decorative designs of leavers, flowers, sprays and birds, with a variety of fancy fillings. Some fine patterns entailed over a year's work to produce one yard of lace using a thousand or more bobbins!

Traditional Maltese lace.

Other interesting developments included the outlining of individual sections with a thicker thread or "cordonnet" as in Buckinghamshire and Lille laces, or working motifs separately and then joining them with bobbin net needlepoint or appliquéing them by hand.

A striking floral Buckinghamshire design, 5″ wide lace.

By the 18th Century there was enormous demand for the finest laces for shawls, bonnets, cravats, flounces, collars, parasols, fans, handkerchiefs and christening robes. Heavy taxes and import prohibitions were adopted in England and France to protect the home lace industry. As a result, smuggling became quite a common practice and laces like Brussels, which was especially prized, were sometimes taken across the frontier to France packed in coffins, with or without a body!

Handmade Brussels Bobbin Applique Lace Shawl ca. 19th Century.

Lacemaking was generally a badly paid occupation and conditions were tiring and hard. Valenciennes lace, for example, could only be made in damp rooms, as a moist atmosphere was necessary to prevent the gossamer threads from breaking.

Valenciennes lace pattern.

The 19th Century saw the introduction of machine-made nets and laces and cotton threads. Cheaper laces were in demand and the handmade lace industry tried in vain to compete with machines by using thicker threads and simpler Torchon, Cluny and Maltese patterns.

Snowflake Torchon bobbin lace pattern.

By World War I, Britain was producing very little handmade lace and the craft was gradually dying out in the rest of Europe. Thankfully, interest in lacemaking has now been revived and the art of lacemaking continues as an absorbing practice.

The "Make Lace Not War" exhibition exhibited 130 lace works by 134 artists from 20 countries. The exhibition was held in the Powerhouse Museum from the 30th July to the 13th October 2013. In this post I will only feature eight of the finalists, others will feature in future posts.

Make Lace Not War (Part I)[2]

Brigitte Adolph - Venezia
"I was inspired by a wonderful handcrafted Venetian lace collar that I discovered in a small shop in Venice during my honeymoon. Through its transformation into precious metal, the traditional rather unsophisticated lace collar becomes a dazzling accessory."

Venezia - necklace, cast sterling silver, 10 x 25 x 420 mm.

Anna Atterling - Rain
"I try to take the best parts of the past and place it in the present time. I want to visualize that fine vibrating permeability that sometimes makes people's eyes shine."

Rain - broach, chased sterling sheet silver, 175 x 110 x 4 mm.

Dina Baumane - Nightshades
"In my works I would like to express the fragility of existence and the delicate microcosm of life."

Nightshades - textile, colored, glued and machine embroidered using polyester thread, synthetic fabric, and leaf skeletons, 1350 x 450 mm.

Ulrika Berge - To Open Up
"My work is not traditional lace. Empty space is a very important part of my pictures. I find the construction of things beautiful. Beauty is a mystery in life."

To Open Up - animation, lace flowers using stop-motion technique (8.15 minutes duration).

Maria Biehn - Skin
"Rendering skin into lace clothing creates a discussion between the wearer and the garment. What does it mean to wear another's skin".

Skin - t-shirt: cotton lace with gold embroidery; jacket: cotton lace; trouser: wool with leather pockets and lace overlay.

Tessa Blazey & Alexi Freeman - Neo Lace Gown
"A departure from the tradition of lace as a delicate material, our Neo Lace empowers the wearer in an armour-like garment, evoking Joan of Arc leading France into battle or perhaps the opulence of Cleopatra's coronation. We are interested in the paradox of lace as armour".

Neo Lace Gown - dress: silver-plated links, chain and jump rings using jewelery and chain mail construction techniques.

Diana Brennan - Entre-Deux DB93
"Entre-Deux is a French term for a lace or embroidered ribbon that joins, or se parates, two pieces of cloth. It also defines a space between, or a state of being between two extremes. Entre-Deux DB93 is a work that focuses on the transition between a jumper and a long billowing skirt; and specifically, the space where this separation takes place."

Entre-Deux DB93 - bodice: laser-cut wool; skirt: machine-knitted copper wire and linen tulle, 2390 x 500 mm overall.

Joy Buttress - Skin Reveals Skin
"Vintage leather gloves are used as a canvas, mimicking the surface of human skin. Each glove explores the sensitivity and sensuous nature of the gloved hand through historical motifs, digital laser technology and hand stitch."

Skin Reveals Skin - pair of opera gloves: laser cut, hand and machine-stitched kid leather, 430 x 150 x 100 mm.

Kate Campbell-Pope - Bone
"Our bodies are composed of fibers, in our bones, muscles and skin. The precariousness of human existence, and our tenuous relationship with the natural environment, are issues which are at the heart of my practice."

Bone - sculpture: adapted basketry and lace-making techniques, using floristry wire, local and introduced grasses and raffia - 850 x 260 x 180 mm.

Vishna Collins - Soul of a Nation
"For Soul of a Nation I was inspired by Croatian folk dresses - embellished with hand-embroidered gold, silver and homespun silk threads - and festive caps and silk embroidered head scarves."

Soul of a Nation - skirt, collar, gloves and wrist bands: stripping, knotting, rolling, needle lace, buttonhole stitch, darning and crochet using raffia.

[1] A. Jeffs, W. Martensson and P. North, Creative Crafts Encyclopedia, Octopus Books Limited, London (1984).

[2] Make Lace Not War, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney (2011).

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