Falling Leaves

“One falling leaf is not just one leaf;
it means the whole autumn”
— Shunryu Suzuki

This quote from Shunryu Suzuki, Sōtō Zen monk and teacher, accompanied the first leaf that I made in wire bobbin lace. The wise words describe an outlook on life where everything is connected in space and time, and people are born with an innate gift to experience this natural harmony in their lives. 

Being a lacemaker is of course different than being a Buddhist monk, but there is something in the lacemaking process that calms the mind, deepens concentration and makes space for contemplation. Lace requires discipline to cultivate patience and build skills, and nothing can be rushed. Like nature, lacemaking has its own rhythm, and lacemakers must give up their concepts of time and expectations of achievement if they are to align with the craft tradition. 

Falling Leaf

Fine craft of lace was not much known in Western Canada when I arrived. I tried to present lace as an art form, so I conceived the Falling Leaf as a picture in handmade frame, from which the leaf could be removed and worn as pendant. My skills in wire lace were quite basic at that time. I worked with tools that were far from ideal, and the only copper wires I could find were recycled, often from old magnet coils. But it was exciting time of exploration and new ideas. 

recycled wires

I was fortunate to be represented by Van Dop Gallery in New Westminster at the beginning. My first small works, whimsical wire lace leaves among them, had a place to grow, mature and eventually go their separate ways. I do not know where the individual leaves ended up, but one set of four leaves representing seasons was commissioned by Four Seasons Hotels, and perhaps is still in their collection.

With my growing skills and new bobbins specially designed for wire lacework, I was able to pursue more complex lace patterns. I also learned basic jewellery making techniques along the way, which lead to using precious metals and expanding the wearable lace portfolio.

Raindrops Collection was based on point ground lace, designed on enlarged scale, with open honeycomb pattern and prominent gimps. Lace weave made from silver wire could be shaped into light, airy leaf pins and pendants, and matching necklaces and bracelets.

Raindrops in fine silver with clear quartz crystals.  Photo: Kenji Nagai

Raindrops Collection in oxidized silver with clear quartz beads was selected for the exhibition of finalists in the Powerhouse Museum’s second International Lace for Fashion Award in 2001.
The set was later acquired by the MAAS for their prestigious jewellery collection.

The Raindrops are currently on display at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia.

Handmade bobbin lace in fine silver wire, oxidized, with quartz crystals. Photo: Kenji Nagai
Raindrop pin and pendant in gold plated silver with clear crystal bead. Photo: Kenji Nagai

Another lace leaf appeared in an original wall piece “Sleeping in the Garden”, commissioned by Christine and David Springett.
The leaf pendant with berries was removable and wearable.

Sleeping in the Garden with removable, wearable pendant

Meanwhile, my Silver Pin Studio in Vancouver started to offer wire lace instructions for interested lacemakers, and leaf motifs became staple designs for beginners and intermediate students.

workshop projects

This tradition was later carried on to the New School of Lace in Ocean Park.

Working with improved bobbins, much better selection of wire colours, and many creative lacemakers eager to learn and work with colours, it was possible, and necessary, to design new leaf patterns. 

enamelled copper wires in autumn colours

One of the designs, prepared for beginners, was chosen to be published in the New School of Lace Pattern & Tutorial Series. Complete instruction with pricking, working diagrams and detailed step-by-step photos is available for download in my online shop. The Half stitch Leaf is a simple pattern, which is easy to learn, yet looks quite complex when made in multiple colours. With imagination and practice, the new lacemakers can create their first lace pendants right away. 

Half Stitch Leaf Pattern and Tutorial

The leaves have grown in number, shapes and colours in the following years.

One of them, the copper beech leaf design, introduced metal smithing techniques for working with raw copper wire, and opened an experimental approach to lace colouring.

Copper Beech Leaf Pendant workshop

The same pattern was used for research of wire/fibre combinations in lace, which lead to yet another possibility in wearable lace art. The new Copper Beech Collection is now available for sale at the Silk Weaving Studio on Granville Island, in Vancouver, BC.

Copper Beech Leaf Collection

The Canadian herbarium of lace leaves would be incomplete without a native sugar maple leaf. Prototype is ready, and if all goes well, it might become a pattern for one of the future workshops. 

Sugar Maple leaf in enamelled copper

After twenty years, I still find a lot of joy in making lace leaves. They are small and do not take too much time to finish. With use of rich palette of wire colours, each leaf is different, and truly original.
I like to make them for my friends and family, and send them all over the world.

Large leaf pendant

And I love to wear them, too, and wear them often.  When I lost some over the years, I imagined that they joined their brothers and sisters in the nature. One leaf was by chance discovered in the following spring in a pile of compost in my garden. It was a little bit dirty, but otherwise survived well, its coloured enamel coating intact and shiny.
That’s why, when I say that wire lace is tough and will last forever, I mean it!

Fall season 2019 is upon us, and the trees are slowly starting to change their colours. I look forward to pinning one of my old, worn prickings to the lacemaking pillow, rediscovering the pattern and creating a few more magical leaves. 

Lacemaking time is precious for me, and I savour every moment.
I enjoy paying a visit to the meditative space where my mind is set free, like a leaf released on a fresh, crisp autumn day. In slowness and quietness of hand work, Suzuki Roshi’s quote comes back. Applied to lace, it makes perfect sense :

One cross and twist are not just stitches; they mean the whole lace.

Hunter’s Moon

Happy lacemaking!

3rd lace|heart|art challenge 2020

We are pleased to present the 3rd lace|heart|art Challenge and Online Exhibition
of Handmade Bobbin Lace in Colour.

For this edition, we again found inspiration in photographs of Barbara Jean Jones – our dear friend, beloved daughter and a fellow lacemaker – to whose memory is this event dedicated.

Barb loved sun, and she captured many beautiful sunny moments with her camera. On the Canadian West Coast, sun can be in short supply, especially during long winter months. We yearn for bright and warm sunbeams, and worship them when they finally raech us penetrating layers of grey clouds. Like most of us, Barbara loved to spend summer outdoors. She cherished the warm season on the family farm in Lower Mainland, or in the BC interior summer house. She was always happy to follow the sun down south and visit her favourite place, California. Her personality seemed to be filled with sun energy – it radiated from her eyes and brightened her smile…

In the 3rd lace|heart|art challenge, the heart is filled with warmth and love, symbolized by the sun. Rays radiating from the centre permeate the heart and fill the world with light and colours.

Free patterns with working instructions are provided for fibre as well as wire mediums. We invite lacemakers to use the supplied pricking and fill their hearts with vibrant, life-giving sun energy.

All shining hearts will be accepted and included in our celebration of lace, love and art !

Download the free pattern and working instruction here.

If you have not participated in the previous edition, you can read the Story of Barb’s Heart . You can also view the 1st lace|heart|art Online Exhibition 2018  and 2nd lace|heart|art Online Exhibition 2019 with almost hundred beautiful lace hearts from all over the world.

We are looking forward to receiving your 3rd lace|heart|art challenge entries before February 14th, 2020!

lace|heart|art team
Wendy MacKinnon, Lenka Suchanek, Pat Wrigley
Surrey, BC, Canada

Barbara working on her favourite heart pattern in January 2016