In this month’s Adventures I’m looking at the lace artwork of Olivia Valentine, a Chicago based artist interested in creating relationships between different modes of construction. Olivia is interested in the relationship between textiles and architecture.
“The correlations between textiles, architecture, and their construction processes are central to my practice as an artist.” Her work has “focused on the historical development of textile constructions and their relationship to architectural and social structures. My research into the historical development of lace structures has made it clear that the seemingly disparate fields of architecture and textile construction are actually complimentary, and my recent projects attempt to connect the two.”
This idea is really clearly demonstrated in Olivia’s installation piece Guest Room at the Drake. In this piece Olivia addresses the “threshold space of the window” connecting interior and exterior spaces. I love the way Olivia leaves the wooden bobbins hanging, highlighting the construction process as part of the finished piece.
“By aligning the distinct histories of lacemaking and building construction, I am collapsing the space between interior and exterior, both of the self and of the constructed world. This sense of interior and exterior is grounded in the gendered history of making, at varied scales. By shifting and inverting this history, I am creating a new dialog between the disparate disciplines of lacemaking and building construction.”
In an interview in LaceNews Olivia describes how she see and uses contemporary lace as art. “I have spent the last 6 years engaged with different lacemaking techniques as a way to understand connections between architectural and textile constructions and motifs… After completing several large scale doilies, where I was using architectural drawing techniques to create support structures for my textile constructions, I came to more traditional lace techniques through my research as a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The history of the emergence of needle lace from embroidery has inspired a lot of my work. And the discovery of the relationships between drawing and construction in bobbin lace has been an ongoing interest for me.”
Olivia spent a year living in Turkey studying the beautiful traditional needle lace of Turkey & Armenia, known as oya. Oya, meaning edging, has been described as playful and colourful. Beautifully knotted together, oya lace has an architectural quality to it and can often look more like sculpture than lacework. Different motifs and colours had different meanings and the lace work could be used to convey messages amongst the women who made it.
“Through my investigations of Oya, I will be making a series of large scale installations in the landscape, specifically addressing this edging as a space of transition between interior and exterior spaces, and also the blurred boundaries between landscape and architecture that occur…”
The way Olivia’s artwork uses lace as a kind of construction material is so interesting, it is both contrasting and comparative. To see more of Olivia’s work you can visit her 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.