Narrative in Lace

I want to have a narrative and text in my work. There are other lace artists incorporating text, here’s a couple: Caitlin McCormack (instagram @mistercaitlin) and Carole Quarini (@CaroleQuarini)

At first I wasn’t bothered about making the text legible, thinking it was more about the beauty of the lace. But after speaking with my talented friend Michaela McMillan, whose work is centred around storytelling, I came to realise that it was important that the narrative can be understood easily and the viewer can participate fully in the story.

I’ve been influenced by these two lace designers using text as part of the design, and to make political statements through their practice.

I first saw @MisterCaitlin on Pinterest but then found her on Insta. Her work is spiky and full of rage. I love that about it, lace can be seen as demure and feminine but so many lace makers are total anarchists.
From her website: Caitlin McCormack is a Philadelphia-based textile artist who works primarily with crocheted cotton thread, which is stiffened with glue and positioned to resemble osteological specimens. These works convey McCormack’s thoughts regarding the way memories become distorted with the passing of time

Dr Carol Quarini.

I met Carol through Dr Gail Baxter, with whom I worked in the NTU Lace Archive. Carol is a prolific lace researcher and blogger, who visits so many cool exhibitions and places. I hadn’t expected her work to be quite so subversive, but there it is glorying in the profane (with maybe less swearing).
From her website: Carol is a textile artist and researcher who makes and studies lace. Her post-doctoral research studies the history, manufacture and design of net curtains and lace panels.
Her work around domestic violence incorporated words into the lace design, for example this lace coaster with the words ‘get off me’

Telling Tales


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.’ (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

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.