IMAGERY in LACE
1st - February 4th, 2006
Man’s soul, as inexorably connected to his visions, is
demonstrated by his need to represent these visions in graphical forms.
The need for man to express his fears, experiences and emotions in the
universal language of his arts can not be denied. From pictures in the
sand, to cave paintings, marks with finger or charred stick were
As he created fibers and then fabric, pictorial imagery became more of
a challenge but always attempted.
Some of the earliest attempts in fiber predates what we accept as lace
but surely demonstrates this need to record these images. The woven
nets of Peru, dating back to 400 AD were decorated with embroidered
geometric animal forms, guided by the woven threads.
It was not till the early 16th century, that lace, as a conscious art
form is recognized. The earliest designs were of a charted nature,
where holes in a uniform grid could be left open or filled to create
stylized images. The grid could be created from “drawn
work” by withdrawing groups threads of both warp and weft in a
regular fashion from a solid woven fabric, by “pull work”
where the grid is formed by simply pulling threads together by wrapping
to create the openings and by weaving or “buratto” where,
by twisting weft threads, an open woven grid could be formed. It was
not however, till the free formed grid created as a knotted net was
developed that these charted designs became overwhelmingly popular and
remained so well into the 20th c. This net, identical to that as made
for fishing, became the base for decorative designs as part of Church
and secular ornament.
Understanding that the world was flat and that the unknown needed to be
known, man conjured up images to satisfy and define this unknown,
suitably expressed as his fears in the form of beasts and his pleasures
in the forms of angelic entities.
Recorded in the earliest pattern books from the early 16th c. these
patterns have persisted till modern times where the relatively new
technique of crochet became the popular vehicle for representing these
The Renaissance erased many of the fears as knowledge replaced many of
the areas of the unknown. Lace techniques became more complex and
intricate imagery became more abstract, with floral forms now
satisfying his creative needs.
Museum of Lace and Textiles lacismusuem.org