Holes And Lace

One of my Pinterest collections is titled ‘Holes’, and in contemporary textile art, especially embroidery and mixed media collage, there appear many lace-like effects featuring holes in both organised and highly random patterns.

Back in 2013, I wrote musing on the character of lace – what is the defining characteristic of lace – is it the actual holes themselves, or the material that is punctuated by those holes? After thinking about ‘lace’ for a long time, I’m certain that the patterning of the holes decrees ‘lace’, not the material.

We think of ‘lace’ as a textile made from fabric and thread using a wide variety of needle-crafts like crochet, knitting and needle weaving that produce lace incorporating fabric and threads. Lace effects can be produced in any medium really, with an unlimited variety of techniques. Mum owned a couple of delicate little lacy edged porcelain dishes, and delicate glassware often has lacy edges. But I also think the carving of wood, metal, and drilling into or cutting into any material, or welding even, can produce patterns said to be ‘lace’. For holes to give the effect of ‘lace’, though, I think those holes do need to be relatively close together… but I have more thinking to do on that.

Detail from untitled piece: lace effect in punched leather + hand stitch, ~8cm area.
Various pre-Columbian artefacts, Bogota, Colombia.

I’ve used a heat tool in several works having nylon organza layers:

Detail from “Post Apocalyptic Lace” 2009

While browsing in Pinterest this morning, I came across the art of South Australian artist Giles Bettison. I must confess total ignorance up until now of this amazing artist, but in the world of contemporary art glass of which I’m not well informed, Bettison is the acknowledged master of the traditional Venetian “Murrini” technique, of which Millifiore is the well known floral form. Rods of different coloured glass, sometimes including colourless, are bundled into groups and fused together in extreme heat. Those bundles are then finely sliced, set edge to edge and fused again. I found several demos of Bettison’s process online, but the very best was at www.adriansassoon.com and strongly recommend you spend the 15or 20 minutes watching him work.

Giles Bettison glass vessels, each showing strong connection to lace and stitch

These two are typical of his beautiful patterned vessels. On the left, the clear glass centres create a ‘hole’ through which we see into the vase, or out through the sides – note the pattern of holes the light makes on the surface it stands on. The holes all have a coloured edge as if they were buttonhole or satin stitch bound, and then what looks like another type of ‘stitching’ spreading from that border to the edge of the square it’s in…. except that fine, delicate, stripe pattern must have been built up using very thin layers of glass in alternating colours. The one on the right I chose because of the pattern of hand stitching it suggests – boro, sashiko, mending and darning, or what many people today somewhat faddily term slow stitching.

Several years ago I fiddled with the idea of exploring patterns left in the sand by the receding tide, altered some photos, cut and stitched, but maybe I wasn’t crazy with the results or perhaps a health issue intervened – whatever it was, it didn’t seem very exciting and I didn’t pursue it.

But now that I have Mistyfuse bonding web in my life, cutting holes and fusing the resulting lace to a background fabric and adding stitch is a possibility for surface design:

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