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Ozden Dora Clow

"My practice of Oya (Turkish-Eastern Mediterranean knotted needle lace) has come to mean many things to me besides the great pleasure of holding the work and seeing and feeling it grow between my fingers as I loop and knot. In this kaleidoscope of intuitions and thoughts, I see it as a dialogue with the hands of women – the “petites mains” and their ancestral gestures, their talent yet so often invisible and unknown. Oya having been traced to the 8 th century BC, I cannot but help sense a connection with History and the continuity of human fibre work as well as a link with the smaller history, the stories of ancient lace makers. It raises constant questions and developing my Oya practice is my own simple answer.

Oya, which is necessarily long and meticulous, allows time for imaginary conversations to come alive in loops, knots and gaps before I attach and wrap them around wood sticks or branches I pick up along forest walks near my home. Thus, preserved as scrolls, the recorded echoes of ancient whispers and present thoughts reveal themselves to those that will listen and feel.

Traditional Oya is a powerful nonverbal language that uses colourful flowers as its medium. Behind the flowers, there is a stubborn repetitive construction process. It is this process that I investigate the most, though I have no doubt that my love of Oya and its wonderful creative potential will take me down many a path.

As a musician, I haven’t been able to help sensing links between Oya and music: the visual aspect of knots and the loops remind me of tied crotchet/quaver dotted musical scores, the repetitive construction process, of baroque basso continuo or contemporary minimalist music. The subtlety of what can be achieved with one thread and a needle remind me of the intricate melodies of middle eastern classical music or coloratura arias. Music envelops and touches us a lot like cloth does and yet it escapes us and vanishes, leaving a ghostly trace. When I loop and knot to create Oya, Lace expresses the dense, yet elusive and ever changing ghosts of memories, whether musical or not.

This is probably where I should pojnt out that I am French, of Turkish and Icelandic origin and that these three countries have nourished me with an incredibly rich visual heritage and that I feel incredibly lucky to be inhabited by it. A very close and tragic loss, on the other hand, rocked all my foundations to their very core. And perhaps not surprisingly, it feels that lace allows for the joining of the dots of this rich heritage and complex life story where ancestors from distant lands and the beloved departed can live together. And remain with the living all the same. Lace is an incredibly powerful anchor and yet it is so light that it lets you sail in all directions: despite and perhaps because of its complexity, it sets the wandering mind free."

About Ozden

I am a textile artist and work with a variety of media, with Oya needle lace at the forefront. I studied Music at the University of Strasbourg before gaining an HNC in millinery at Kensington and Chelsea College, London. My work has been exhibited extensively in France and in other countries. I am passionate about teaching Oya and organise Oya demonstrations for the general public and textile students alike. I teach general textile art as well.

I am currently involved in a series of projects:

  • A collaboration with fine artist and embroiderer Celine Lachkar around the themes of archaeology, treasure and healing.

  • A residency at Bucciali Editions, towards the publication of a series of experimental lace aquatints.

  • A research-creation dialogue revolving around the affordance theme in Oya practice and learning with social and cultural anthropologist Dr.Lisa Renard, a specialist in Maori ancestral treasures (taonga), textiles and rituals, ancestral agency, and ethnographic collections in European museums.

Her work can be viewed at or on Instagram @ozdendora

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