Kim Lieberman – Making Links With Lace


Adventures in Time & Lace

Welcome to Adventures In Time & Lace, where we explore modern thinking in one of the most traditional needlecrafts – lacework!

Human Constellations (detail), Kim Lieberman
Human Constellations (detail), Kim Lieberman

When Johannesburg-based conceptual artist Kim Lieberman went into two haberdashery shops in 2007, with a sketch of an idea she had for an installation, she was told in both places that the structure she was trying to create was LACE.  One of the shop owners put her in touch with the local lace guild and Kim’s wild lace journey had begun.

Kim explores themes of human connection through her work and this has led her to include materials such as postage stamp paper, puzzles, and money in her pieces. In her beautiful 1999 work Blood Relatives, she embroidered unprinted sheets of perforated paper for postage stamps with blood red silk thread; filling the area which would normally contain an image with little rectangles of fabric made from the thread weaving back and forth. This use of thread as a metaphor for ties between people and places set the stage for what was to come…

Why the Collar Thuli Madonsela, 2015, Kim Lieberman
Why the Collar Thuli Madonsela, 2015, Kim Lieberman

Once Kim was in contact with the lace guild, she found her lace teacher, Janis Savage, who has been her technical guide ever since. After learning the principles of bobbin lace Kim found a stitch which is called Chaotic Ground or sometimes Wild Ground which really resonated with her desire to reinterpret lace within a South African context.

The first body of work which came out of these lace explorations was the breath-taking 2007-2008 installation Human Constellations in which a series of antique bronze sculptures are adorned with their own galaxy-like lace collars.

Human Constellations, 2007-2008, Kim Lieberman
Human Constellations, 2007-2008, Kim Lieberman

Lace has since become an important component of Kim’s work; in 2015 she made a series of works using antique collars and portraits of important political figures from South Africa’s recent history entitled Why the Collar? In this series she explored the history of lace and its use as a symbol of social status stating that “lace, which traditionally was only worn by aristocracy and royalty in Europe in centuries gone by, is redirected to a space where ‘true royalty’ – values, morals, and leadership – are preferred to a bloodline.”

Lace Collar For Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 2018, Kim Lieberman
Lace Collar For Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 2018, Kim Lieberman

Following on from this series, in 2018 Kim made an exquisite collar for Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which was delivered to the her by hand, by Albie Sachs, former Justice of the South African Constitutional Court.

Territories. Lace and Money, 2019, Kim Lieberman
Territories. Lace and Money, 2019, Kim Lieberman

In her most recent works Kim has been combining lace with drawing and money; in her Territories series the intricate patterns of the threads interlacing create a sense of interconnection but differently to her other works they also create borders around little nations of money from all over the world; an intriguing and powerful reflection on the way that often what connects us also separates us. Since beginning with an idea about lace in 2007 Kim Lieberman has gone on to really find a unique voice as both a lace maker and conceptual artist. You can see more of her pieces on her website or follow her on Instagram.

Angharad Rixon

Angharad Rixon is a technical textile historian specialising in lace and passementerie; her studies in Italy, Switzerland and Spain have led to her skills in a variety of off-loom techniques. Angharad lectures in Milan and Florence and consults for museums and universities around the world. She is the engine behind TextileSupport, the host of the TextileStories podcast and the organizer of Doily Free Zone.

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