I would like you to travel with us to Slovakia to meet a textile artist and textile restorer. I found her on Facebook, and I fell in love with her approach to lace-making. I love her drawings. I could not resist asking her to share her story with us. I hope her work will inspire you.
I was born in the historical area of Slovakia in Kremnici, where at the beginning of 20. Century was established Lace school. Lace produced in this area was well known all over Europe. Lace makers from this school attended many international lace festivals and symposiums. My mom was involved in this movement and worked very hard to bring the lace makers' tradition to young people. My mom was a role model for me, and she though me a lot. All my childhood was influenced by lace. I learned bobbin lace from my mom, but my heart was set on painting and drawing. I wanted to be an artist and painter. I wanted to play with colors and shapes. I dreamed of having my art studio where I would paint and paint. I was also fascinated by the art of old masters, and this fascination brought me to study the field of artistic restorer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava (Slovakia).
While studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, I also studied old textile techniques and their restoration in the Department of Conservation and Restoration. At this time, I gradually began to penetrate the secrets of bobbin lace. I also got acquainted with the basics of other techniques such as weaving on board, weaving with cards, knitting on looms, and wrist technique. History is an excellent source of inspiration for me, and studying historical textile techniques has opened the door to a new world. After I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, I was absolutely taken by lace and textiles. In 2017 I continued my doctoral study in the field of textile restoration, also at the University of Bratislava. My doctoral work was based on restoring bobbin lace from archeological archives. As part of my work, I processed a textile ensemble from the Basilica of St.Egidius in the town of Bardejov. Bobbin lace has become a part of my professional world and, at the same time, part of me. Even though I work with different techniques like tapestry, weaving, natural dyeing, wool processing, and spinning, I always have some projects involving bobbin lace. Why is that so? Well, lace is a phenomenon for me. It is absolutely fascinating for me to learn about lace history, how different lace techniques gradually expanded from the place of their origin, and how they changed and adapted to individual countries and regions.
It is fascinating for me to see how simple lace techniques have involved more complicated designs, and now with the computer era, we are creating a new lace world.
Slovakia is a relatively small country, and according to lace expert V. Misik, we have 18 regional types of lace. Lace thus adapted to the specifics of the given locality and its clothing.
In Slovakia, we also have an extensive collection of regional bobbin lace dating from the 19 and 20 the century. The museums' exhibitions helped educate the public about the history of lace and helped lace gain its popularity.
Studying the history of lace in different regions did not only deepen my knowledge about lace but also about life in the past. If we focus, for example, on the material used, we will find out which yarn in individual orders was preferred by customers or sellers in different territories. We see trends that are closely related to the history of clothing. And also, we can see the difference in social strata that either ordered the lace or made it at home. The differences between urban and peasant environments are significant. Another factor on which we can focus would be the lace: it could be part of a garment or used on home or sacral textiles.
It is essential to document old lace to preserve it. To do so, it is important to master those old techniques. To be a good restorer, it takes practice. Restorers must learn the technical elements the work contains and be able to record them in a readable form for us. In this way. Redrawing the lace to capture the individual pattern is the way to save this knowledge for future generations.
Our territory has many locations where patterns need to be drawn on paper. No originals were created on which the lace was made. The lace pattern was made in memory of the lacemaker.
Today we can use old patterns in our modern work by incorporating them into our lace. This path can be much more challenging because it requires a certain amount of courage and creativity.
My goal is to show lacemakers the possibilities of how to use historical bobbin lace patterns in their creations. My first workshop on this subject took place in the town of Kremnica in 2019 during the Kremnica international lace festival, which I co-organized.
In March 2020, I participated in a lace festival in Krakovany, where we worked on multi-pair lace. During this event, I have worked with lace makers from all parts of Slovakia.
When I coach lacemakers on how to use old bobbin lace techniques, I always advise them to choose lace from one particular location that will become a source of their inspiration. During our workshop, I chose a historical lace from Kremnica. In the beginning, I recommend getting acquainted with the history of a given locality and bobbin lace. This way, we can better understand the circumstances of origin and development. It is important to decide what type of lace we want to focus on. Multi-pair lace-type Torchons are more suitable to start with.
This type of lace is knitted in an oblique grid, where the angles form an angle of 45 degrees with each other. The grid helps us to record individual links more easily and to orient ourselves more quickly in the emerging structure. In this particular example, it is not necessary to perfectly master the drawing technique, a ruler and a compass can be of great help. The oblique grid allows us to work interestingly with the alteration of full and empty surfaces, which we achieve, for example, by using canvas and half-pair binding. Other suitable elements are various types of spiders, flatworms, and peas.
We create a separation of individual motifs by using a thicker thread, sometimes of a different color. For example, multi-pair lace from our area is characterized by using these technical elements in their symmetrical repetition. We can choose the type of thread that was used in the past. You should also consider the ecological aspect when selecting a type of thread. We have a lot of options. We can choose hand-spun natural yarns made from flax, hemp, or nettle. And also, I suggest that you select a suitable color palette that reflects your international. Before synthetically dyed yarns began to be imported, the lace was made in softer shades. If you want to experiment with the colors, try natural coloring. In my opinion, lace done in white color is best. But this is just my opinion.
However, in many historical areas, color played a very important role in lace. At present, we have a wide range of colored materials, so this is not a problem to experiment only with design but also with colors and different materials. From my experience with different workshops, lace acquires another fascinating dimension once you use color. I want to mention strip lace. I like this type of lace for a few reasons. The first one is that this type of lace is less demanding on the number of bobbins. The strip creates a central motive. In the beginning, you should study strip lace in one historical territory. Historical lace is a source of inspiration for technical elements and colors. The drawing of this lace requires a certain degree of skill. It is essential to what kind of design we choose, if it is symmetrical lace ( circular, square or rectangular) or if we want to try a different motive. If the design is balanced, it is sufficient to elaborate only one half in detail, which we will mirror like a mirror. In the case of lace which will be used as an eyelet, for example, on home textiles, we must pay attention to the correct elaboration of the corner.
Using eights, spiders, snakes, chains, leaves, or bugs in strip tape lace is very interesting. An important detail is the beginning and subsequent ends, where we try to make the connections not visible. There are several ways to get acquainted with this from the start. We do not have to embark on complex composition and expect that we will be able to create a design exactly according to our ideas. The lace design is a creative process in which our drawing skills gradually improve. Simpler realizations are suitable for the beginning, such as a bookmark, an English placement, or lace used in clothing. It is very easy to find free patterns on the internet. You can print the pattern and use it for your lace. It is much easier to work on a pattern that was already designed. But this batters me. Those patterns do not have aesthetic value. How will history look at those lace? If somebody looks at how lace looks in 100 years to the year 2020, they will probably be very surprised. In my work as a textile restorer focusing mainly on bobbin lace, I researched lace that originated a hundred years ago. They contain information about that time, about materials that were used, and about techniques that have been used in bobbin winding. With our work, we create the future of bobbin lace. In my workshops, I focused on designing bobbin lace. I successfully show my students that they can design their original lace. And I emphasize how important it is to master this textile technique.
In 2020 I launched online education. The first course I created was focused on a multi-pair lace - Torchon lace.
The second is the ongoing course on the lace is forced on tape lace. In the course, I teach from simple patterns to complicated ones. We work on two types of bookmarks, which were published for the general public on my blog. Those bookmarks have been very successful. I created several templates inspired by Slovak lace for a course on tape lace. For that reason, they contain elements of corners, spiders, and snakes characteristic of Slovakian lace. The information is condensed on these basic samplers so that the course participants can master and practice them. My intention was to create templates that are both new and interesting but also very functional. Although I own a computer program for drawing patterns, I prefer hand drawing. It is probably due to the fact that I have a large collection of old historical original drawings embossed on crumpled paper. I also like old patterns engraved initially in wood and then printed. History is my most significant source of inspiration, so I keep coming back and studying it. In those old models, I see more than just the history, fashion, and trends of the time but also the people who designed and drew the patterns.
This is my inspiration, and I draw as much as possible by hand. My goal is to inspire others to do the same. I encourage them to record their ideas to create new patterns.
When making patterns for others, for example, for a course, I work out the templates in every possible detail. But when making drawings for myself, I often only draw basic outlines with simple notes about patterns. I like to let lace develop freely, and my original idea can change during the process. In my courses, I ask students to master the technique and to experiment with the technique, to use unusual colors, a combination of patterns., etc. Bobbin lace became part of my life. The last four years have been my main interest in archeological textiles that contain bobbin lace. This takes so much time that I only have a little opportunity for my creation and designs. And also, I spend a lot of time preparing and teaching bobbin lace courses. I look forward to working on my creations, incorporating my knowledge from historical lace. I encourage you to create your creation.
The history hidden in the threads gives us the impetus to create the future with this unique textile technique. We record our current time with our knowledge of the past and creative approach to the present. I hope you found this article inspiring to look at the lace differently. In this hard covid time, this article brought you the courage to find a playful approach to your own creation.
If you want to know more about Ingrid, her work, and her creation, please, visit her website, blog, Instagram, Facebook or youtube channel.