Posted on July 28, 2022
That ripe, succulent season is here again.
Driving out from Metro Vancouver towards the Cascade Mountains, a popular summer escape route for city people, one gets to pass through a blueberry paradise. On the farms stretching along the highway as far as eyes can see, little bushes in orderly rows are laden with clusters of blue berries. Pop-up sale stands entice the travelers to stop and try many tastes of the bountiful harvest. If you happen to be a blueberry lover, it’s a heavenly time!
After this introduction, it would be hard to pretend that I am not one of them. I love blueberries and enjoy their abundance to the fullest, picking them, eating them, baking with them and preserving them for sustenance through long, wet and cold winters…
This year, curiously, the blueberries made it to my lace work as well. In a surprise commission, I had an opportunity to imagine a happy chicken. I took an inspiration from a touching story of a rescued chicken who, in his new adoptive home, enjoys, and demands, fresh blueberry snacks…
Once I had a design in mind, I set out to find the right beads. I was lucky, because in Preciosa’s range of glass beads there are gems of blue and purple rounds with opaque satin finish that closely resembles blueberry’s delicate bloom.
What a joy it was to make little blueberries and then add them to the stems among green leaf tallies! I savoured the slow work, and while my hands were creating one berry and one leaf at a time, I let my mind to wander and ponder…
The musing took me back to my childhood, to the very beginning of my blueberry passion. Every summer, my family – otherwise culture and sports loving city folks – rekindled their gatherers’ instinct and roamed Western Bohemian countryside in search of sweet berries. The memories of fragrant forests full of singing birds and buzzing insects, dispersed light falling though the tree canopies, and the tangy sweet taste of wild blueberries are so vivid as if it all happened yesterday. Another impression reminded me of a joyous discovery of Canadian native blueberries in the Coastal Mountains, large berries that grow on bushes so tall that harvesting does not require kneeling or crouching. Fast-forward to an unforgettable conversation with a wise woman, First Nation Elder from Northern British Columbia, whom I asked about the regional berries, and her list of nourishing wild edibles was so long that we ran out of time in our precious chance meeting. Yet another thought of witnessing the harvest of farmed blueberries, and the fact that in order to be mechanically collected, they have to be ripe, and therefore healthy, unlike many other commercially produced fruits nowadays.
While the lace bush was growing in my hands, I realized that the blueberry connection, while being very simple, is also deep and profound. In Canada, a country old and young at the same time, people still struggle to find common ground. Yet there it is: simple goodness of a humble blueberry that everybody can agree on – from the aboriginal peoples, through generations of settlers, up to modern day farmers. It has strucked me as rather amazing.
But maybe it’s not, maybe we truly need to simplify things and return back to basics to find the common thread of life, in order to understand and appreciate each other.
Maybe it is that simple – blueberry simple – to live and share, to gratefully accept gifts from nature and pay back with our gifts. To receive and to give, to love and to respect, to learn and to create.
Even if it is nothing more than a little lacy happy chicken…
Posted on July 3, 2022
Wild, strong and full of character – that’s how I see the new bobbins from Jan de Maertelaere’s bobbin turning workshop.
Fine Bobbins in amazakoue wood are replacing the original Fine Bobbins in rosewood that are now sold out. Initially, the bobbins were made from Jan’s remaining stock of rosewood at time when tight restrictions were placed on international trade in rosewood due to its endangered status. The embargo is still in place, and the last Fine Bobbins from the original rosewood batch were sold out in Wire Lace Supplies Christmas Sale in 2021.
Looking for replacement, I asked Jan to suggest an alternate dark wood for the Fine Bobbins.
From the provided samples I selected the Amazakoue wood. Also known as Ovangkol, Mozambique or Shedua, Amazakoue is a superior hardwood lumber from Central West Africa. It has a deep yellow ochre/brown colour with contrasting dark streaks running throughout the wood grain. Zebra-like pattern shows well even in the small size of Fine Bobbin. The smooth wood, enhanced by a superb finish which Jan’s bobbins are famous for, has a wonderful touch. This is an important feature for a fine lacemaking tool, and especially for the bobbin that is recommended for palms-up working style. Holding these bobbins is a pleasure and twisting them in palms is an easy task – they move smoothly, swiftly and without a hitch.
And, as a bonus to connoisseur lacemakers, the Amazakoue, as a tone wood, promises a fine music on the lacemaking pillow!
European lacemakers can purchase the bobbins directly from Jan De Maertelaere in Belgium.
Why Are the Dark Wood Fine Bobbins better for Silver Lace Work?
Pure silver is wonderful to work with and the Fine Bobbins are the perfect tool for a very delicate lace work.
When one project is finished and there are wire leftovers on the bobbins, it is easier to leave them for the next project instead of rewinding them back to a spool. Each manipulation, including the gentle winding and re-winding, affects the wire structure and as a result, its malleability. In the delicate lace work these changes are perceptible: with each handling the silver hardens, becomes a bit more brittle, and therefore slightly more difficult to tension. Leaving wires on the bobbins is a practical solution, but it poses a challenge:
Silver naturally tarnishes over time, especially in humid environment of maritime regions. My studio in Metro Vancouver is close to the seashore and fully exposed to moderate oceanic climate elements. Despite all preventive measures the silver wires tarnishes really quickly in this environment. Tarnish is actually a deposit of silver sulphide on the metal surface, which accumulates over time and eventually creates a black layer. When the tarnish develops on the wire wound on bobbins, the dark sulphide deposit can stain the wood. And it very obviously shows on Fine Bobbins made from light woods, like maple. For the perfectionist kind of a lacemaker (aren’t we all?) the dirty bobbins can be a bit of an eyesore.
The dark wood, such as Amazakoue, is forgiving, and makes it possible to store the silver wire on the bobbins until the next project. When the bobbins are emptied, they can be wiped clean with soft cloth.
The finished lace is easy to clean as well, and because the tarnish does not harm the silver beneath, its original lustre can be fully restored.
There is so much potential in lacemaking with precious metals, and I hope that the Fine Bobbins in amazakoue wood will find their way to serve many creative lacemakers/jewellers!
Posted on July 3, 2022
I am pleased to announce that lacemakers in Europe can now buy my Fine and Medium Bobbins for Wire Lace directly from the manufacturer, Jan De Maertelaere in Belgium.
The bobbins will be added to Jan’s webshop sometime soon.
Meanwhile, you can request them by contacting Jan by email: email@example.com
Communication in English, Dutch, French and German.
For lacemakers ordering from non-European countries, Lenka’s Bobbins for Wire Lace are available exclusively from my WireLaceSupplies shop on Etsy.