the maddening yet addictive world of lace making

February 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

You see before you a bookmark, the final product of my learning to make lace this week. It may not look like much, but trust me, it required a lot of love and effort.

As part of lace making week, I watched an old 40s classic called “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Cary Grant. He finds out his maiden aunts who raised him are homicidal maniacs and insanity runs in his family. After this week I like to think that what the title really suggests is that his aunts went loco from lace making. It definitely tested my sanity at times.

Just take a look at the amount of pins it took to make the bookmark above. This also reflects numerous mistakes I had to go back and fix. I’ve been learning torchon bobbin lace and the bobbins alone were enough to drive a person crazy. They often have a mind of their own and like to come unraveled when you don’t want them to. John was watching me in a moment of exasperation and said “I guess you can see why lace making hasn’t made that much of a resurgence.” Yes. There is a reason. Bobbins.

Despite the pain in my back and the strain in my eyes, there is something oddly fun about making lace. I like that you get immediate feedback as you’re working. You can see by how the pattern is forming. I like that you can go back and just fix mistakes; they’re not undoable. I felt a great sense of reward pulling out all of those awful pins and seeing what was underneath. I won’t be making Miuccia Prada’s next lace collection, but I did officially make lace and now have a much greater appreciation for it.

As I did more research into it this week, I think needlepoint lace might be more up my alley. It doesn’t involve bobbins which already scores a point in its favor. I found what looks like an easy tutorial. Just from one week alone, I feel like I have a greater understanding for the construction of lace and can think of lots of fun places to go with it.  I’ll close this week with one of my favorite lace inspirations, a lace chain link fence by Demakersvan, a Dutch design house. The cool thing is after just a week I have a greater understanding of how they made this.

lace is as good as you make it

February 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

In advertising, a lot of what I do involves a high degree of subjectivity. You constantly have to sell in your thinking and ideas to other people that may or may not see eye to eye. Your work gets crafted by a lot of hands, so it’s hard to look at something and say “I did that”.

For me, I enjoy the teamwork of the business and don’t worry as much about credit or awards, a little recognition now and then is fine.

It is nice though to have something that is truly yours, that you can craft from start to finish. It all comes down to your own effort and your own expectations of yourself. At the end of it you have a visible artifact as a testament to yourself.

Making lace removes any form of subjectivity. You either do it right and it shows or you do it wrong and it shows. The decision is up to you. As you can see above, I was doing it wrong and after 2 hours decided it wasn’t ok and started over. It felt really annoying and it felt great at the same time. I think a lot of times when something isn’t working right, we just try to fix it up a bit and push on, even if it isn’t a reflection of what we wanted it to be. It felt good to start over and do it right, even if it was a pain in the short term.

It’s hard to say whether I will continue making lace after this week, but it is really interesting to see how much you can learn in a week and I definitely know I need some kind of hobby of this sort in my life. It keeps you honest with yourself.



nature’s “lace” is a great source of inspiration

February 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I think about lace I guess I don’t typically think about it as having any direct relationship to Nature. However, when you start looking at where “lace” exists in Nature, it’s easy to see just how much it has inspired us, whether directly or indirectly.

The Japanese artist Mitsuru Koga, creates beautiful lace leaf cutouts inspired by the lace Japanese beetles leave in their wake:

I would say it’s easy to see where Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe got some of their inspiration for their fiberglass bobbin lace lamp:

I wish I could say I have some God-given, natural ability for making lace, but in my case, I just have to learn the technique from the ground up, using the tools humans have fashioned for themselves.

For the past day, I’ve been learning the basics of Bobbin Lace, using a starter kit. I imagine it is better to have someone teach you, but I did not find any lace classes in the area.  In the past day I’ve worked 3 patterns that start from learning the basic Half Stitch (Cross + Twist):
to the Whole Stitch (Half Stitch + Cross):
and finally to the Torchon Ground (HS at 45 degree angle, closed) which is finally starting to resemble something that looks like it could be heading in the direction of lace:
Wow, lace is a very tedious thing to make. Despite the book saying you should try not to look at your hands, I think it would be impossible for me to keep all the bobbins in the right place. I definitely made a few mistakes, but all in all it feels like I’m learning a bit of the technique! I can’t imagine this is good for your eyesight but there is something soothing to the process of making it.

So far in terms of design and construction, I’d say Nature has me beat.

anything but dainty lace

February 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

When you think of lace it often conjures images of little old lady doilies, rigid Victorian collars or formal wedding gowns. In recent years, it’s been making a comeback on the runways and one collection I particularly loved was Miuccia Prada’s Fall 2008 ready-to-wear collection of handmade Swiss lace garments.  It gave lace a powerful, modern edginess and I think we’ve seen the results in any store we walk into nowadays; there’s a renewed interest in lace in everyday wear.

Beyond the world of fashion, other artists have been reinventing lace, rethinking it’s role in culture beyond typical adornment. In 2007, the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC held an exhibition called Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting which explored the resurgence of these crafts in contemporary art. These artists re-evaluated the technical aspects of lace and reinterpreted what lace can be based on its construction (creating interlocking structures in patterns that permit light to pass through them). I think one of the more interesting artists was Janet Echelman who often incorporates lace-making techniques to create large-scale installations that interact with their environments.

Knitting is a textile-based craft that has seen a huge following in the past few years, but this week I’m interested to learn more about lace making. I will explore the basics of learning the technique and depending on how that goes, I’ll experiment a bit with where I might take it!

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