Welcome to Adventures in Time & Lace! Once a month I’ll be here to explore the vast traditions and techniques of lacemaking, as well as look at inspiring ways in which lacework is being used in contemporary art and craft.
For my first post I thought I’d start by featuring an artist and lacework installation that I found very inspiring and that reignited my own interest in lacemaking – visual artist Arabel Rosillo De Blas’ Lace In Place.
Lace In Place was commissioned in 2012 by Bedford Creative Arts and the resulting work emerged as 14 large scale lace panels that adorned the exterior of a derelict Grade 2 listed building in the middle of Bedford town centre. From the BCA website: “The work evokes a sense of loss, not only for the art of lace making itself, but also for the building. Once elegant and opulent, it now lies derelict, in a state of gradual decay.” I enjoyed the way this installation brought attention to the often forgotten tradition of Bedfordshire lacemaking by displaying it on a building right in the town centre for everyone to see.
I was interested in how Arabel had taken the intricacies of delicate Bedfordshire lace traditionally made in fine cotton and scaled this up in her piece, making lace on a much larger scale using three miles of nylon rope. Here’s part of Arabel’s artist statement:
“Arabel Rosillo de Blas is a visual artist whose sculpture and site-specific interventions function as social commentary…Most of her site-specific large scale installations are made through a collaborative process, rooted in a socially-engaged practice. The place and the people involved in each project become the context, and the exchange of skills and knowledge intrinsic to the work.”
Arabel worked with the local group the Aragon Lacemakers and a group of local people to create the large lace panels. In this way, the installation invoked a new modern day version of the local cottage lacemaking industry by bringing together a group of people to work on the lace panels together.
Bedfordshire lace is distinguished, amongst other ways, by its ‘leaf’ or ‘tally’ motif. This was developed as an act of defiance as it could not be replicated in the machine made lace that came to threaten this handmade craft. Arabel incorporated this and other stitches specific to Bedfordshire lace into the lace panels. From a distance the 14 panels looked uniform but if you looked closer you could see the subtle differences that individual lacemakers had brought to the work, demonstrating the unique, handmade nature that Bedfordshire lacemakers were and are very proud of.
Lace In Place led Arabel to create two other multimedia art works. Laced Words was an audiovisual piece in collaboration with audio visiual artist Kathy Hinde, involving ‘lacing’ a building in light and sound.
Large Lace was a performance piece allowing the art of lacemaking to come alive, with people becoming the lace bobbins and the pins creating giant lacework in a choreographed way. I can’t think of a better way for people to be able to physically understand and experience what lacemaking is all about.
If you’d like to find out more about Arabel’s work as a visual artist and for more detail on Lace In Place, Laced Words and Large Lace do check out her website. You can also find out how Lace In Place was received in Bedford on the Bedford Creative Arts website.
Tracey Wright is an NHS Recovery Worker by day & trying to be creative at all other times! Tracey is a member of the Aragon Lacemakers, who work to keep the making of handmade Bedfordshire lace alive by learning & making lace together. Tracey was taught to make handmade bobbin lace at school as a child & has returned to this craft in the past few years. Tracey is interested not only in learning about the history of lacemaking & its vast range of styles & techniques to contribute to preserving this traditional craft, but also in exploring how lacework is being used in art & craft today in new & exciting ways to show it is still fresh & contemporary.