Lighting ideas

laser cut lampshade

I’ve been exhibiting in Karlsruhe, Germany for almost ten years now. I was invited to join a group exhibition by the GEDOK group in summer 2019. I showed two new lampshade designs, incorporating my laser cut design and LED lights. You can see the lampshades in the gallery below

The blue version had a holographic insert which distorted the lights inside, the gold was simply cut silk. This, combined with a large filament lightbulb, was really eyecatching. I found it distracting that you could see the inside, so if I were to repeat the design I would bond silk to both sides of the stiffening.

The blue lampshade twinkled (see the video below)

I was supposed to travel to Karlsruhe with the work and install it myself. However, I didn’t make it to Germany as my Mum had a stroke the weekend before I was due to leave. I decided to stay at home with her instead. Luckily my fellow artists were up for a challenge and put the whole display together for me. It meant I had to design some step by step instructions for putting the light together. They did a fantastic job!

The lampshades on exhibition in Karlsruhe July 2019, image supplied by GEDOK Karlsruhe

I used the waste from the laser cut to make a wall art piece. See the gallery below for more information on how it worked

Further experiments with lights

an image of a lace light box

If you have seen the film Arrival (2016), based on a short story by Ted Chiang and directed by Denis Villenueve, you will understand the boundary or border between the visitors and the people communicating with them. They wrote or drew their communications onto the border.​ The human protagonists were concerned with interpreting the communication. My light box experiments in 2019 put me in mind of the glyphs written on that border.

Arrival (2016)

You can see in the video below, I planned to make some kind of light installation, probably freestanding, for my second year. ​I planned to include colour and movement to the light and experimented with how big I could go, and how much distance between light and polypropylene.​

Jayne Childs: MA Lighting sample 2019

I also used the laser cutter to engrave the front of the poly to see what that looks like (nice, as it turns out, but no effect on the refraction)​. I liked that you can see some kind of pattern, even with the light off.

Telling Tales

Handwriting

I have been inspired by artists using lace or textiles to tell a tale. This may be in the form of a linear narrative such as the Bayeux Tapestry, or simply using related imagery to evoke a feeling in a piece (See Jason Holroyd’s use of industrial motif in his laser cut lace designs ‘Missing Industry’ and ‘Class Dismissed’.)

‘Design is a powerful conduit for change.’

AIGA.org/roadmap (accessed 17/06/2019)

The NTU lace archive holds a few original communist-inspired drawings by the award-winning lace designer William Hallam Pegg. As artefacts, these have the delicate and ethereal nature of lace and prove that the beautiful can still be political.

A picture of hand drawn lace design
Hand-drawn Lace design. William Hallam Pegg, Lace Archive, Nottingham Trent University

The archive also holds some paintings by the original designer of Nottingham’s ‘Battle of Britain’ panel, made during WW2 to commemorate that famous battle. The figurative elements are not necessarily the designer’s strongest suit, but are balanced by the inclusion of many decorative elements. The lace panel itself is a beautiful item, despite the themes of destruction and sacrifice it depicts. It was made in curtain lace, which at the time was a large industry in Nottingham.

Also made in curtain lace, the Magga Dan panel depicts a famous Antarctic expedition, the elements of the story portrayed in shades of white, over printed with colour to bring it to life

Magga Dan lace panel. (Photo credit: Carole Quarini)

My travels to Germany have led to an interest in visiting Plauen, the German home of lace making. On my visit to Karlsruhe this Summer I’ll try to pull in visits to local Bauhaus Museum to see more lace and textiles. I will travel to Calais Lace Museum in September.
The Wiener Werkstätte was, for thirty years, a centre for applied arts in Vienna, not dissimilar to the Arts and Craft movement in the UK. The aesthetic is interesting, less floral than the historical lace we often see here. Thun-Hohenstein’s (2017) introduction to a recent history on the Werkstätte says simply “Zeig’ mir deine Spitzen und Stickereien, und ich sage dir, wer du bist” (p6)

Show me your lace and embroidery and I’ll tell you who you are!

A picture of modernist lace
Credit: Lace from Wiener Werkstätte

First LED light box

An image of lace and shadow

During late Spring 2019, I tried new ways of using lace and light in a way that satisfied some of my key words and followed my initial investigations into darkness and shadow. ​

I bought a wall mounted LED light box (think late night kebab shop illuminated menu board) to explore layering and shadow with a more controlled light source. ​I got very excited when I first set it up, hoping that lighting the lace from behind would reveal new ideas and shapes. ​To diffuse the lights I got some frosted polypropylene from Bonington shop and decided I wanted to have it curved. I draped some lace in front of it…

​ IT DID NOT LOOK GOOD..​.

I was SO disappointed. But I decided to try the lace behind the plastic. It blew my mind ​

The centre image shows the lace in front and behind. You can see that the lace behind the frosting is refracted and has an almost digital quality. ​As you move your perspective, you see the image break and almost glitch

Video shows laser cut lace behind polypropylene sheet

Historical Context

Lace archive stamp

Of the items held in the NTU lace archive, many were donated via the Lace and Embroidery Employer’s Federation, and stamped as such. When working in the Archive in 2018 I was interested to see this. Nottingham is widely-known for lace production up the mid 20th century, but I was curious to find out if what evidence I can find of the other side of the Nottingham Lace trade, that of embroidery on net.

Credit : Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive 2018

Topics I could investigate are:

  • Industry and significance to the local economy, I am keen to capture oral histories if possible. There are a number of books about embroidery on net in French and German in the Lace Archive
  • Types of net –hand/machine made etc. Other types of embroidered lace, hand, machine made. I intend to interview current lace/net makers to find out about forms of net made, by hand or by machine and use this a visual inspiration for my embroidery backgrounds. Sharpe & Chapman (1996) included in their research into the 19th Century lace embroidery industry the phrase: ‘Embroidered Lace is not seen as a pure article’ (p327)
  • Materials – I have been laser engraving net designs onto a variety of translucent materials and am currently developing some embroidery for this backing. I have found that lace made from textile or laser cut paper has an interesting effect when placed between a light source and frosted polypropylene. The polypropylene refracts the light and the shadow cast appears to move. Multicoloured led lighting creates a layered shadow, breaking the light into its component colours which can look like stills from video glitch art.

Laser cutting

laser cut engrave

Sailing the sea of #sketchbookwoes, I found myself spending a lot of time in the laser room with Sue Turton. After a basic intro into what the laser may be capable of, I was fascinated by what I could do, not just through cutting but using a low powered laser to engrave or etch on the surface of the material.

The university has a number of flatbed lasers for cutting but one large Grafixscan machine which can be used to engrave all kinds of materials. the construction of the machine meant the base material did not have to be totally flat or thin, and the Grafixscan was super fast, producing engraved samples in minutes or even seconds.

laser cut engrave
Laser engrave onto tracing paper using the grafixscan

It could engrave areas from a jpeg or (which I preferred) lines of less that a millimetre from a vector file. These lines to me were as the bobbin thread in a lace machine, fine as hair. I imagined ways of using this to engrave a ‘net’ ground on which to embroider. As it happened I didn’t go down this line, but at least it gave me an avenue to investigate while I got my sketch on.

You can just hear my gasp of delight…

Nick Knight

I’d kept some pages from British Vogue 1996, a shoot by British photographer Nick Knight, using high contrast, saturated colour and very dark shadows. In another of his shoots for Vogue from 2004, ‘Shimmer’, shadow is used as a frame for the model.  (Click on the gallery for my comments)

I loved the way that the black was so saturated, and the colours were so rich as a result. I liked that the darkness was used as a prop in the ‘Shimmer’ photoshoot. I tried to use this technique to photograph some samples. I didn’t go much further with the idea of photography in this style, but the depth of shadows and the jewel colour palette has informed the entire project.

Darkness as inspiration

Image of magazine pages

I’d kept some pages from British Vogue 1996, a shoot by British photographer Nick Knight, using high contrast, saturated colour and very dark shadows. In another of his shoots for Vogue from 2004, ‘Shimmer’, shadow is used as a frame for the model. This has informed a way of photographing textile samples and highlighting parts of a sample.  

a picture of fashion photographs on a wall
Nick Knight: images from Vogue 1996

Alongside the use of darkness/light I am interested in ‘dark’ motifs or design themes such as skulls/bones or perhaps something shocking or unexpected in lace. See Jason Holroyd’s use of industrial motif in his laser cut lace designs ‘Missing Industry’ and ‘Class Dismissed’. See also the communist inspired designs of lace designer William Hallam Pegg held in the NTU lace archive.  

A picture of laser cut lace
Jason Holroyd ‘Class Dismissed’ 2012

Along with my other keywords: 

  • Translucent
  • Negative space 
  • Embellished layers  
  • Encrusted
  • Darkness is the most important. 

Real darkness can be difficult to find, especially in urban spaces, and particularly in places inhabited by the masses. In fact, darkness could be described as a luxury. ‘Darkness is a luxury not granted to Britain’s Council Estates’ (Sloane 2016).

Bright light will hide that which has a lower light level, which can only be seen through darkness. How many of us have been camping and gone outside in the middle of the night to answer the call, only to have our breath taken away by the amount and brightness of the stars? Dark Sky Parks have become a necessity for those wanting to see more than the largest and brightest of stars. According to Falchi et al (2016) 99% of the population of Europe and the US live with night-time light pollution.

A picture of a glow in the dark lace skull
JC Middlebrook: Skull 2015 (photo credit Ash Brown)

Darkness can be as necessary as light for revealing texture. When items are lit from behind for example, the texture or real properties of the material will be difficult to perceive. Turn off the backlight and more can be seen. This can have a philosophical meaning too. In the discussion ‘Dark retreats and sensory deprivation’ Tenzin Wangyal describes Buddhist theory of how removing expectation of external light during a dark retreat, you see more of the ‘internal light’ of your soul.  

Similarly, we can see how phosphorescent items are hidden until ‘normal’ light frequency is removed, leaving only the phosphors ‘glowing’ in the dark. Of course, this is a visual effect only. The phosphors glow all the time, we just cannot perceive them until the light conditions allow.

Do galleries find it challenging to exhibit items requiring darkness, resorting to displaying them behind a wall or curtain in order to exclude the light? Can the work hold the darkness within required to reveal hidden elements? 

A picture of a textile sample including beads and silk organza overlay
Jayne Childs: 2018 MA textile sample

Pieces are usually illuminated in the direction of the viewer’s gaze, if they are lit from the back the detail can be lost. Could this effect be exploited to draw the viewer in to examine one detail, only to reveal another? What happens if intricate items are lit from behind instead? Or if the light is withdrawn as the viewer approaches. What does the darkness, or lack of light, reveal? I will explore layering to create shadow, hide or reveal texture and add richness to the design. Translucent fabrics can add sheen without weight and bring lightness to the design.