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Art inspires art – a lace exhibit

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return for a second visit to an amazing exhibit at an art museum.


I was first here, the Hunterdon Art Museum, in Clinton, NJ, back in September, for the opening of “Lace not Lace: Contemporary Fiber Art from Lacemaking Techniques.” It is the first exhibit of its kind in the US – “a ground-breaking exhibition highlighting how lace makers are expanding the traditional boundaries of their art form to create exciting works that investigates contemporary themes, materials, and forms,” to quote from the museum’s website.  The opening day festivities brought lace makers from literally around the country and broke all attendance records – ever – at this museum.

For those who have gotten to know me from other venues, you may be aware that my other passion besides needlework is bobbin lace.  I think this may be the first time that it has come up in my blog writing.  (But, it may not be the last!)

Art inspires art.  No doubt.  And, to be specific, my interest in lace absolutely inspires some of the needlework I have done and some of the patterns I have created and some I am currently working on.  I am not claiming to be an art expert, but I realize that there is a reason I am interested in art museums, art books, seeking information and visuals from all areas of the artistic world.  You just never know where a cross over from one medium to another can occur.  More on this topic in the future.

But, back to this specific exhibit.  It is phenomenal.  On opening day, it was amazing to be around so many lacemakers who could appreciate and talk about the works on a certain level.  And, at the same time, It Was Crowded.  I promised myself a return visit at some point when I could sit with my copy of the catalog, a wonderful work available for purchase here, and reread and look and ponder and see things that I hadn’t seen before.

A few of my favorite pieces:


This is called “Blue Plastic Doily” by Ashley Williams.  As a bobbin lace design, it is remarkably similarly to something I made early on in my lace years and I fully recognize the stitches and such in the piece.  What is impossible to tell from the picture is the fact that it is nearly 5 feet by 5 feet.  The blue color?  It comes from the fact that the “fiber” she used was actually made from blue plastic bags recycled from the local laundromat.  Living in Brooklyn, the artist wrote, the blue bags “became iconic in our building for clean clothes.”


These two pieces were made by the same artist, Lenka Suchanek, and I think it is because of their vast differences that they drew my attention.  The top one, “Genoese Scallop Necklace” truly reflects the historical lace collars of centuries ago that the artist drew on to design this piece.  However, she executed it in wire, which of course gave it a unique sparkle and take on lace.

I love that she, like many of the other artists in the show, don’t seem to limit themselves to one particular “style” and instead explore freely.  The second piece, “Are We Made of Lace?”, is inspired by electron microscope scans of cells.  Truly, I had not paid this piece much attention on my first visit, but when I was able to stand in front of it and read more of the details from the catalog description and take the time to study the variety of techniques, well, I was just really taken aback by what was contained within these six areas.


I first met this artist, Veronika Irvine, at a math conference a few years ago.  I was sitting in the audience of sessions, tatting (another form of lacemaking – we’ll talk about that another time) to keep my hands busy, taking notes as I wished.  She was presenting a paper about math in bobbin lace.  I may have been the only one in the audience who knew what bobbin lace was before she began her talk.  She did comment, near the beginning, that she knew there was someone in the audience tatting at the moment and how that was a different form of lace and did not have the mathematical structure that bobbin lace did.  You can bet that I went up to her afterwards and we had a lovely conversation.  Since that time, she has really made a splash in the mathematical world as she has brought in this artistic side – lace – that no other mathematicians focusing on artistic pieces have thought to include.

It is easiest to just show the description for this piece (there were also two other pieces of hers in the show):


Last to share with you, although I could be sharing so many others, is “The Carriage of Lost Love,” by Lieve Jerger.  This work of art has been 40 years in the making and is still not complete.  It is nearly impossible to get pictures of it, especially given the amazing lighting they did so that lacey images showed on the walls.  But here are my best attempts:


There is an extensive essay about this piece in the catalog.  I was so appreciative of being able to reread it, while standing right there in front of the work, so that I could reference the difference panels and parts.

The person who really made this exhibit happen was Devon Thein, guest curator.  You can read an interview with her here and here .

You can see interviews with some of the lace artists here

If you are fortunate enough to be able to get to Clinton, NJ before January 6, this is well worth a visit.

Always remember to look around you for sources of inspiration.  Whatever medium your art is (and I know for many of my readers, it is needle and thread), the inspiration of what to do next can come from any direction.

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