Symposium: The Art of Lace: Historic and Contemporary Materials, Techniques and Display, Waddesdon Manor – September 13, 2014

The Art of Lace: Historic and Contemporary Materials, Techniques and Display
Lace 21, including members of the Lace Guild, the Lace Society, and the Ring of Tatters
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Wire Bobbin Lace Workshop September 10, 11, and 12, 2014
10:30 to 15:30
Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, UK
Information and Registration:  
Tickets for The Art of Lace symposium can be booked via the Waddesdon booking line 01296 653226.  The booking line is open Monday-Friday 10.00-4.00.  The ticket price is £25.00 which includes coffee and biscuits and tea and cake, but not lunch.  Please note, this event is not being advertised in the Waddesdon diary of exhibitions and events or on the website, to give lace-makers priority when booking.

Waddesdon Symposium

This event complements the “Imagine…Lace at Waddesdon” exhibition, currently running until October 26, 2014.   To give us more information about the exhibition and symposium events, LaceNews is pleased to talk with Angela Brown, Honorary Chair of the Lace Society, and Hon. Chair of Lace 21.

LaceNews: Angela, can you please tell us about the upcoming September 13th symposium at Waddesdon Manor in England.  “The Art of Lace: Historic and Contemporary Materials, Techniques and Display”.
Angela:   The symposium will address presenting contemporary Art lace to the public. Speaking will be… Philippa Lawrence (Contemporary Artist), Annabel Talbot (The Bowes Museum), Lauran Sundin (Contemporary Artist) and Gail Baxter and Carol Quarini (Directors, Lace Research Network, UCA Farnham); they will explore the challenge of displaying lace in museums, historic houses and gallery settings, the inspiration it provides to contemporary artists and makers, and the many ways lace techniques are interpreted in the 21st century.
The Art of Lace will include an opportunity to view Imagine…Lace at Waddesdon which has been organize by Waddesdon Manor and Lace 21, comprising members from the Lace Guild, the Lace Society and the Ring of Tatters

LaceNews: How did the symposium come about?
Angela: It is a culmination of a season long lace exhibition that has been held at Waddesdon Manor which is run by the National Trust and continues to be administrated by the Rothschild family who were the original builders in 1874. Built in the style of French Loire châteaux its purpose was as a country retreat, entertaining and the showing of the Rothschild’s collections – which is still being added to.

LaceNews:  Why a manor house instead of what we would consider a usual setting in a museum?
Angela:   Waddesdon is a remarkable House with precious collections of art, furniture, ceramics, textiles and lace, the architecture and grounds are part of the collections – sculptures and an Aviary.  As part of our contemporary programme, lace-makers and selected artists were invited to respond to the collection at Waddesdon. Our goal was to take inspiration from any aspect of the house, be it an artefact or the theme of a house party, into the form of contemporary art lace pieces inspired by the different aspects of Waddesdon.  It is this inspiration which has made this exhibition so appealing.  Viewers are intrigued to view the lace and then compare it with the artefact on which it was based. As best as possible the lace is displayed near the piece on which it is based. Others may have to be searched for; this only adds to the fun of the days visit.
While lace and accessories acquired by members of the Rothschild family dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries are displayed, the new works in Imagine…Lace at Waddesdon are inspired by aspects as diverse as architecture, automata, porcelain and paneling. They are shown in the historic interiors, challenging the traditional concept of lace.

LaceNews: What is the specific inspiration for the some of the works shown?
Angela:   From many submitted proposals Waddesdon chose to display 48 pieces made by 100’s of lace makers as individual or group projects.  These are new lace pieces never seen before and I cannot emphasis this enough.  The variety is amazing.  Some are group projects, such as the elephant made by the ISIS lace makers which was inspired by a five foot tall automaton clock.
“Emus Coming to the Party”, from Vicki Taylor (Australia) were inspired by the Aviary and how emus would be thought of at a party.
Many pieces are inspired by the architecture of Waddesdon: Nicole Valsesia-Lair (France) created a wonderful sky scape of the roof tops with her signature “bonhommes” (good-natured fellows) climbing the roofs.
Some based their pieces on the grandeur and mood of Waddesdon. Carol Quarini’s, “Whisperings,” based her piece on overheard snippets of conversations with a net curtain seemingly acting as a sieve, trapping words.
Jane Atkinson offers a reflection on the family’s enduring influence while the grandeur fades with her piece “Made to Fade”.
Others used unusual materials; Denise Watts used horse hair to create her neckpiece which was inspired by the grand staircase at the House.
Catherine Brown’s (New Zealand) “Shades of Depth” is a trio of three dimensional needle-lace structures each highlighting the different block shapes from the exterior wall of the morning room.  Open spaces and variation in stitch density and colour create light and airy structures which captures the beauty of the magnificent carved stone wall.
There were three invited exhibitors: Lauran Sundin fashioned a neck piece using wire which was based on two things; Queen Victoria’s visit to the house in 1890 and the flowing ribbon carpet in the Baron’s sitting room.  Laura Marsden works in plastic using a secret method to create a 21st C Ruff in “White Eternal Lace”.  “Light and Shade”, Jennie Starbuck’s table lamp, pushes the medium of turned and pieced sycamore wood with the aid of light to take a parasol cover from the lace collection and give it a different use and meaning.
Comparing the new work with the item which inspired it is extremely interesting. You have “All of a Flutter” by Diana Pickford in the conservatory, inspired by the leaf covered columns at the entrance to the house, leaves on the ornamental German organ clock and the aviary in the grounds. Made in bobbin lace, it celebrates the successful breeding and release of the Rothschild Mynah birds into the wild, and you can see the lace birds escaping their gilded cage.
Also there are pieces such as “Light Up Leaves” by Angela Brown and Judy Boothby, who have created a beautiful helix of white and metallic leaves mounted inside a clear tube, which is lit from within by LED lights. The work was inspired by the tapestry borders and gilt bronze tapestry mounts and the piece is displayed alongside these.
The beautiful black and gold stole ‘Gilded Cage’ by Gail Baxter, is inspired by the doors of a Meissen bird cage and worked to resemble the plumage of the beautiful birds kept in the aviary. The title reflects both thoughts on those birds and muses on the feelings of the ladies who have lived at Waddesdon through the generations.
Worked in wire, the bowl “Fleur “by Ann Allison, in silver-plated wire was inspired by an 18th century lace motif.

LaceNews: Has having the exhibition in such a setting been successful?
Angela:  The public has been extremely receptive to the exhibition.  Waddesdon created a lace trail pamphlet which lists the pieces and talks about the inspiration.  It is this inspiration aspect which has made this exhibition so appealing.  Viewers are intrigued to view the lace and then find the source of inspiration in the house and grounds and then compare the two.  This is the moment at which the exhibition becomes so successful for the viewing public.  It is the realization that lace can be based on the past but can truly become an art form for the 21st century.  I cannot thank Rachel Boak, the Curator of the exhibition, and the staff at Waddesdon enough for their time and efforts in mounting the exhibition and with the publicity that has been granted for our lace exhibits and for the world of lace as a whole.  This was always going to be challenging; not just because of working with three groups who all have slightly different working methods but also because we are educating the lace maker (this is not a gallery setting) but also the National Trust and then the wider public.  The lace has reached segments of the public who would never have the opportunity to go into a gallery. We have particularly seen that younger visitors are taken over and they immediately seem to understand, you only have to listen and hear the OH’s and more OH’s.

LaceNews:  Have there been any particular difficulties in presenting lace in this setting? What lessons have you learned for future exhibitions?
Angela:   It is always easiest to present an exhibition in a gallery setting with blank walls.  Size restrictions unfortunately meant that one piece was turned down, an extraordinary work, a monumental piece by Pierre Fourche from South Africa.  For the most part we were able to accommodate fairly small pieces.  For this reason we have 10 pieces of jewellery out of the 48 pieces. This is actually quite a fair distribution as contemporary lace lends itself so well to modern jewellery.  A multitude of threads were chosen to be used, from cotton to wire, to plastic to wood.  This was to push the visitor to look at lace differently and certainly not as granny’s tablecloth.
The biggest challenge has been lighting.  Waddesdon is a house full of treasures which can be damaged by sunlight and harsh lighting.  In many cases we would have wished for more illumination on the lace.  But the opportunity to show and promote contemporary lace to over 300,000 people – yes, that’s the footfall, far outweighs any lack of light and we respect that they are looking after these treasures for the years of visitors who will come to this wonderful house.

LaceNews:  How did the idea for the whole project come about?  Are there plans for Lace21 to put together more exhibitions?
Angela:   When I became Hon. Chair of The Lace Society, I decided that the profile of lace to the wider public should be raised and that the society should not work on this alone.  It was the Lace Society who invited the Lace Guild and Ring of Tatters to come together to form Lace 21 which is Lace for the 21st Century.  Lace 21; is a multifaceted approach to lace, it’s more than a textile; an art form, a sculpture, lace is all of these; recycling an art form through texture, colour and media. We have members of each group on the committee and I am the Hon. Chairman.
Following the overwhelming success at Waddesdon; we would definitely like to plan more exhibitions.  At this point we don’t know what form they will take; we are open to any suggestions.  The recent symposium, put on by the National Museum of Scotland and the Symposium in September at Waddesdon show tremendous interest in the museum field about displaying lace.

LaceNews: Are there any additional plans for the Lace that is now being displayed at Waddesdon?
Angela:  Yes. Lace 21 has been invited to create a “snowstorm” at Waddesdon during their Christmas opening in December.  Snowflakes of many kinds are being worked on by our members as we speak.

LaceNews:   Are there any other events scheduled at Waddesdon in conjunction with the lace exhibition?
Angela: An intro to wire bobbin lace class organized by the Lace Society will be held at Waddesdon Sept 10-12, 2014 with the Symposium the day after. Lauran Sundin will be teaching this: full details on her website and from the Lace Society. Further info and to book can be had by emailing

Workshop Wire Bobbin Lace for Contemporary Lace Makers

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