The Art of Lace Making

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Is something still beautiful if its backstory is not quite as elegant, not quite as delicate, nor innocent or valued?

As I stare at my mother’s laced garter – made as a wedding gift for one of my sister’s friends – I see nothing but beauty. It’s elegant, intricate and a product of countless amount of time and effort.

Anyone who has ever made lace or seen lace be made knows its difficulty, the numerous colourful ‘lace bobbins’ having to be manoeuvred in a specific way – one wrong move and the pattern is wrong. Bobbin lace is associated with Chantilly, the silk like and utterly delicate lace.

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Prior to bobbin lace, which originated after the 16th century, lace was made using needles. The thread was more fine than the lace thread known today, and was used to make floral motifs – the famous ‘Venetian Gros Point’. It was often compared to ‘carved ivory.’

Golds and silver lace threads were in demand towards the end of 16th century, edging regal garments such as ruffs and sashes.

While the different styles of lace were a reflection of changing times and taste, they all share the same perception of beauty: the aesthetic, the delicacy, the innocence and the intricacy.

However, behind the style and obvious beauty comes a darker side of lace creation. Historically, many lace makers became visually impaired by the age of 30, due to the sheer concentration and the intricacy of the small but effect design. Additionally light conditions were extremely poor and lace makers often spent up to 12 hours a day working on their pieces.

As well as a problem with eyesight, there is also correlation between lace makers and fatality caused by tuberculosis.

It is terrible to imagine that some lace makers were unable to view the beauty in their own work as they were consumed with illness, partial sight and working every minute to get lace finished on time.

Does it make a difference to the beauty of lace? Does knowing the background and ‘ugly’ side to lace overpower the magnificence of a laced item in front of you?

I don’t think it does.

The story behind lace only enhances the delicacy and hard work, making the lace more sentimental. All handmade items have a story, that little bit of uniqueness and a creator who puts countless of amounts of effort into their product.

 

 

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