Fossils inspiration – part one

A photo of 'Jerusalem' island in Barrow Upon Soar
Jerusalem Island in Barrow Upon Soar. January 2020 – the fairy lights are leftover Christmas decorations

I ‘m from Barrow Upon Soar in Leicestershire, it’s famous plesiosaur on the roundabout ‘Jerusalem Island’ just down the street from my house. The village was busy with lime working in the 19th century, and those mines yielded a number of marine fossils, including many complete plesiosaur and icthyosaurs. The whole Charnwood area was covered by ocean in the time when animal life was just beginning, so many fossil discoveries have been made locally. I’ve already posted about Tina Negus and her discovery of the Charnia fossil in the 1950s.

My mum Ann grew up in 1950s Barrow and remembers her Dad, a grocer, taking deliveries around the Charnwood Forest. Sometimes he took his daughter with him. I imagine Mum and Tina, being separated by only a few years and a few miles on that day in Charnwood. Mum has been an evangelical christian all her life, and sometimes struggled with the idea of fossils, dinsoaurs and evolution. But she’s cool with it now. (Good job really, or she isn’t going to like this project!)

In October 2019, I visited the Natural History Museum and checked out some of the fossils found in Barrow. I also saw plenty of other sea creatures, ancient and modern.

The holotype of the Charnia Masoni fossil found by Tina and Roger Mason is kept at Leicester New Walk Museum, as is the ‘Barrow Kipper’. I didn’t see any other Charnia fossils until I went to the Museum of Natural History in Oxford in February 2020.

I believe her…

I Believe Her

The story of Tina Negus back in the 50’s got me thinking about women and girls whose experiences are still not given credence today. The case of Harvey Weinstein, jailed for sexual offences in 2020, broke in late 2017 and when I began my MA journey was still in the media. Initially women who came forward to speak of their experience at the hands of Weinstein and others were not believed. On 15th October, 2017, American actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter,

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,”

the hashtag went on to become a phenomenon, with women from all walks of life (including this one) posting ‘#MeToo’ tweets. It became clear just how many women suffer everyday sexism and harassment, and yet only 1.7% of reported rapes were prosecuted in 2018 (The Independent 25 April 2019). The extent of everyday harassment prompted a number of questions from men I have known all my life, and the question ‘why didn’t you say anything?’ For many it was about taking on power, and putting one’s neck on the line to say something. If you weren’t believed then you put yourself in a precarious position at work, at school at uni, for no reason. Silence was safer.

So the story of a girl whose words were given no importance, whose discovery would have changed her future, seemed to fit this time. We have to start more sentences with ‘I believe her’

Text as Picot

sketchbook page

What is a picot? Pat Earnshaw says in A Dictionary of Lace (year) that a pearl, purl or picot is ‘a short loop used to enrich the outline of a [lace] motif, a border or bar’.

In bobbin lace, a picot is formed of two threads twisted into a loop and held in place with a pin. In Leavers (a form of machine-made) lace, picots are held in place using a fine thread called a support thread, which is withdrawn after manufacture.

A sketchbook page!

I was intrigued by the idea of using text around the edge of the lace as a decorative edging, but also to tell the story behind the design. (Click the gallery to read the captions)

I also like the idea of adding text as picot in a separate layer, or even separating it entirely from the shape it once surrounded, just leaving the space where the motif was. The text was too flimsy to hold it’s own shape, so I looked again at embroidery on net to hold the text. See ’embroidery on net’ to find out more

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