Part 2

Lace Camp

In my last post I wrote about Jane Atkinson’s exhibition Ebb’n’Flow: Lace, Place & Climate and what makes this body of work so important and successful, now, as I promised this post will look at how the exhibition was put together to become so much more.

If, after 40 years as an artist maker you were to have the opportunity to have a significant solo show, with the financial support of the English Arts Council and an important message to convey...what would you do? Well, if you are Jane Atkinson, you invite a group of esteemed colleagues and friends to join you on this journey. Atkinson invited eight other lace makers to exhibit alongside her (Ann Allison, Hanne Behrens, Anne Dyer, Pierre Fouché, Sue McLaggan, Sylvia Piddington, Lauran Sundin & Denise Watts), these makers came from 5 different countries and gave an interesting and very useful context to the exhibition, displaying very clearly how lace making, and in particular bobbin lace, can be used as a medium for creative expression across varied materials, themes and aesthetics.

The event which Atkinson built around Ebb’n’Flow was as much about supporting the art of lace making as it was about her own work; a way of thinking which ties in so beautifully with the artist’s environmental message “the realisation that if we take care of nature, it will take care of us, lies at the heart of Ebb’n’Flow” (Jane Atkinson, Ebb’n’Flow, p. 6). The extension of this message to describe a way of working which encompasses and cares for a wider community of makers is certainly one of the elements which made the event so profoundly successful.

Beyond the presence of other lace makers’ work in the exhibition, the programme also included a series of workshops to engage the local lace making community with the artists. It was from this that our #lacesupport2018 campaign was born and TextileSupport was able to fund two scholarships for young lace makers to attend two of the workshops: the first workshop with Pierre Fouché was attended by the very talented Marian Nuñez from Spain and the second workshop with Lauran Sundin was attended by gifted student Eleanor Parkes.

Marian Nuñez hard at work during Pierre Fouché's workshop
Lauran Sundin, Jane Atkinson & Eleanor Parkes at Ebb'n'Flow

The decision to run a series of workshops over the course of the exhibition is a concrete expression Atkinson’s desire to promote the value of lace making as a form of artistic expression in the most complete way possible. Bringing lace makers from different backgrounds together, as well as offering different kinds of workshops; for artists, jewellers, beginners, advanced and even children… opened a door for new people to join us as well as old friends.

Pierre Fouché’s workshop on figurative lace was a revelation. His in-depth and candid talk about his journey as an artist and his creative practice was fascinating and moving and inspirational, the workshop attracted many participants from all over the UK as well as a few from abroad. In his statement in the catalogue he wrote “Try to understand the principles of a new technique instead of blindly following thread diagrams. Make your own rules. If your solution to a problem doesn’t detract from the overall design, and is structurally sound, it is as good a solution as any other. Be consistent, be inconsistent, do whatever you want. Just do.” (Pierre Fouché, Ebb’n’Flow, p. 50). This approach was very evident in his teaching and made his workshop quite transformational for many of those present. He gave everyone permission to try things out, something which doesn’t often happen in the lace world which is, in some ways characterised by rules, patterns, guilds and proficiency exams. There was an almost palpable sense of relief in the room as one of the most exceptional lace makers of our time spoke of his own challenges, technical development and struggles. A precious gift.

Pierre Fouché explaining lace algorithms to the class
One of the lace forms which Pierre Fouché gave us to experiment with

Lauran Sundin’s workshop was a different kind of revelation. I knew that she had been preparing something really special, a way of passing on her incredible wealth of knowledge gained from her extraordinary career making lace in precious metal, but the structure and precision of her explanations, the way the course progressed to build our knowledge in a way which was logical but also intuitive was really impressive. I won’t give away her tricks but I will say Lauran Sundin had a number of ways of bringing our attention to the way metal behaves and the way in which we use our bodies while we work on our lace which were surprising and really useful. I highly recommend her workshop for anyone who wants to make the transition to working lace in wire.

Zig-Zag wire lace sample by Lauran Sundin

Wire bobbin lace curl by Lauran Sundin

Wire bobbin lace sample by Lauran Sundin

In addition to her workshop at Walford Mill Lauran also generously hosted a special workshop for a small group of us in the week between the opening of the exhibition and her public workshop. I was so honoured and grateful to be part of that group together with; Jane Atkinson, Denise Watts, Cheri Dunnigan, Hanne Behrens, Pierre Fouché & Marian Nuñez. These days we all spent together we refer to as Lace Camp and it was a very special time, we made lace, cooked together, chatted endlessly and really enjoyed the time connected to lace making and our tribe. It was a like hitting ‘reset’ for my own lace making and I personally cannot thank Jane Atkinson enough for organising such a truly meaningful event.

Lauran Sundin teaching us about "bobbin ballet" at Lace Camp. Photo by Cheri Dunnigan

And as Lace Camp was so good for all of us, there is some big news coming…but you will have to wait for that!

Me, Hanne Behrens & Marian Nuñez in Lily & Clive's kitchen, cooking during Lace Camp. Thanks to Cheri Dunnigan for the photo!

Ebb’n’Flow: Lace, Place & Climate is on at Walford Mill Crafts and The Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne Minster, Dorset from 15 September to 28 October 2018

The publication can be purchased during the exhibition from Walford Mill Crafts or directly from Jane’s website: http://www.contemporarylace.com/buy.htm#bstamp

Find out more about Jane and her work: http://www.contemporarylace.com/

More work by the other artists included in the exhibition can be found here:

Lauran Sundin http://lauransundin.com/

Hanne Behrens http://www.hannebehrens.dk/

Pierre Fouché http://www.pierrefouche.net

Denise Watts on Instagram as @lace4today

Sylvia Piddington on Instagram as @sylviapiddington

Ann Allison https://www.westhopegroup.org.uk/annallison

Anne Dyer https://www.westhopegroup.org.uk/annedyer

Sue McLaggan https://www.98lacegroup.org.uk/members/pages/smcl.html

See Cheri Dunnigan’s work here: https://www.cheridunniganjewelry.com/

You can also follow the work of our scholarship recipients on Instagram here:

Marian @marianlilu

Eleanor @e.j.parkes

#Contemporarylace #lacejewellery #lacesupport #lacecamp #JaneAtkinson #PierreFouche #LauranSundin #WireBobbinLace #MarianNunez #EJParkes #EbbnFlow #AnnAllison #HanneBehrens #AnneDyer #fibreart #Fiberart #SueMcLaggan #SylviaPiddington #DeniseWatts

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