Mask a Woman and She’ll Turn it into Power by Yvette Slabbert

It has been a while since my last post.  After my first solo exhibition in December 2019, I took a break from lacemaking and during that time the pandemic changed our world.  For me, the Covid pandemic was both a disruptor and an accelerator.  It unravelled our ideas of normal.  But it also forced lace organisations and lace groups to pivot and to embrace digital technologies to remain relevant.  And with that, a whole new borderless world of possibilities has opened up for lacemakers.  

With lace meetings, conferences and workshops going online, I was suddenly only one click away from connecting with lacemakers from around the world.  Previously I would have had to take annual leave at work, get on a plane, travel half way around the world (it is a long journey from New Zealand!), suffer from jet lag, pay for hotels, trains, buses and taxis to attend a lace workshop presented by one of my lace heroes.  

How the world has changed.  Now I can log on and attend a virtual class in the comfort of my own home.  The only downside of course is the time zone differences.  Meetings and workshops are sometimes very late at night or in the early morning hours (think 4am…) in New Zealand time.  I must confess to looking very bleary eyed at 4am in the morning, but it is absolutely worth it!  

So, what have I been up to?  In early 2020 I signed up for Pierre Fouché’s Masterclass on Patreon.    Pierre has since joined forces with lace artists Jane Atkinson, Denise Watts and Dagmar Beckel-Machyckova and converted his Patreon page with bobbin lace tutorials into a hub of bobbin lace design and making resources.  They have opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities!  While I’ve always had a passion for traditional lace designs, I am now experiencing a gradual development in my design process – to reflect past, present, and future.  For me, there are two things that make lace timeless: a trace of history and a sense of the future.   

I highly recommend joining The Adventurous Lacemakers community – whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro.

Other lace highlights over the last year and a half was the Doily Free Zone Symposium in June 2021 (an entirely online event organised by Angaharad Rixon), the IOLI Convention (presented in an online format) and accompanying lace workshops, IOLI’s regular online Lace Lecture series, and a couple of workshops by the amazing Veronika Irvine.  

In September 2020 I was invited to join Interlace Oceania, a group of contemporary lacemakers from Australia and New Zealand.  What an amazing, passionate and supportive group of lacemakers!

When our Interlace Oceania group was invited to take part in the 25th anniversary exhibition of Puntaires de Girona @puntairesdegirona in Spain, it gave me that little push that I needed to start making lace again.

I decided it was time to explore designing lace digitally – completely uncharted territory for me up until that point.  I am a complete convert now – the possibilities are endless!

The theme of the Puntaires de Girona exhibition is No Women in the Dark.  The intention is to draw attention to the lack of recognition for female lacemakers throughout history.  It links in with the “NoMoreMatildas” movement.  Google that and prepare to be shocked and saddened by the injustice.

I designed a masked female figure (40cm x 30cm), and had it printed on A3 paper to make the pricking. From there it was pretty much the same process as usual which of course starts with winding the bobbins.Even my bobbin winding underwent a radical change because my trusted bobbin winder inexplicably stopped working.  And that was a real problem as there were 164 bobbins plus 9 gimp bobbins to wind with a lot of thread, and a looming deadline for the exhibition in Spain.  So, I resorted to winding my bobbins with my Dad’s power drill.  We do not usually associate power tools with the gentle art of bobbin lace making, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do!  I had a tree full of wound bobbins in no time. I am now a drill winder convert!  It was a very noisy affair but nothing that a pair of foam earplugs couldn’t cope with.  It was quite liberating to wind my bobbins in that way and I felt a little bit like a “gangster” haha!  Anyway, don’t tell the lace police because they will no doubt be horrified.

Here are some process photos:

And here is a photo of the finished piece:

Mask a Woman and She’ll Turn it into Power by Yvette Slabbert

The statement for Mask a Woman and She’ll Turn it Into Power reads: 

Obscured and concealed from view, the lacemakers who came before were often denied by a society that sought to instil habits of order, respectability, morality, and cleanliness – while taking advantage of the useful skills of housebound lacemakers. 

In this piece, Mask a woman and she’ll turn it into power, a lacemaker asserts herself.  Her partially masked identity alludes to the historical lack of recognition for the work of lacemakers and the continuous search for recognition.  But she also celebrates the lacemakers who are fearlessly moving forward to shed the shackles of constraint.  The lacemaker of today knows her worth; she knows the past and the present; she knows her craft; and she knows the future of her lace.  With her halo constellation of Binche snowflakes, she will no longer settle for denial.  

Mask a woman and she’ll turn it into power is a contemporary bobbin lace piece (40cm x 30cm), made in white cotton thread using a combination of Binche, Bucks Point, and Torchon techniques.

The exhibition opened on 21 October 2021 and it was great to be able to watch the livestream of the opening via Youtube.  

If you would like an email of my future blog posts, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of this page.

You can also find Letslace on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

Thanks for visiting.  See you next time!