Giving thanks to sun and lace

Counting blessings on the Thanksgiving Day, there are two worth special mentioning in my lace blog :

Sun and Lace

Summer on Canada’s West Coast was great this year. It started late, but then brought us beautiful weather that extended past the autumnal equinox. I could not have wished for better inspiration for my ongoing lace project.

The lace sculpture, last in the series of Offerings in reclaimed red cedar frames from the workshop of Colin Hamilton, has been at works for a long time. Like all previous Offerings, it is inspired by West Coast nature, and in a culmination of the theme, is dedicated to the divine harmony of the Mother Earth and Father Sun, which bestows and maintains all life on our planet.

Despite not being able to spent much time in my studio in those strange, chaotic times, I managed to slowly progress with the Earth elements of the piece. The rare moments at the lacemaking pillow were deeply grounding and calming. Like a reassuring embrace of Mother Earth, together with nod of understanding from the generations of past lacemakers, who lived through similar experiences, and were able to make magnificent lace despite all obstacles. 

When the soil and vegetation parts for the sculpture were finished. time has come to turn to Father Sun. But how does one do that, and is it even possible? As the divine harmony on earth needs both energies equally, there was no way around it. I had set out to find out this summer. Time was not on my side again, but the hours when I was able to take my pillow outside and play were so rewarding. The sun rays were warm and the natural light just amazing for the fine work. While trying to capture the brilliant shimmer in a weave of golden wires I realized that it was harder than I anticipated. I made one sample after another, testing patterns and winding more and more bobbins. It was slow, meticulous work, but I enjoyed every moment of it. What a bright, creative adventure! 

Only when the shadows on my pillow started to grow quite long, I found what I was looking for: a simple pattern that carries the light naturally and effortlessly. With the pattern finalized, I have the template for finishing the whole sun in the months to come. And I feel that after the amazing summer I have also enough energy stored in my body and soul to complete the final Offering.

So much to be thankful for!

Blueberry Time!

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…

Introducing Amazakoue Fine Bobbins

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!

The new Amazakoue Fine Bobbin for Wire Lace is available exclusively in my WireLaceSupplies shop on Etsy

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!

June Solstice 2022

The summer season is officially here and summer weather is apparently on time, arriving in Vancouver this weekend. Finally! It’s been a long wait for the bright and warm sunshine. 

I plan to continue working on a lace sculpture for the last red cedar driftwood frame from Colin Hamilton of Thuja Wood Art. Colin and I have collaborated on four sculptures so far, with Colin designing the original frames allowing me fill them with metal lace. It’s been a very special project which inspired me to take the lace art into new territory. Most of my previous works had been firmly connected to great European tradition that started five hundred years ago and carried the Renaissance ideals of beauty and harmony of material and spiritual dimensions of human existence. 

Colin’s unusual creations reflecting his deep connection to the West Coast nature, invited me to traverse the big divide and use my beloved technique to manifest a completely different energy. It was quite an amazing experience seeing each piece taking shape reminiscent of nature and it’s cycles, while using symbols similar to the ancient cultures of North America.

I talked about it with my friend, an artist who – like many creative people on this continent – had been struggling to find an original expression in the seemingly irreconcilable influences in the modern Canadian society. She listened and simply said, “You have arrived.” We both knew that this “arrival” happened twenty years after I actually landed. Some things just take long, very long time…  And they are well worth the wait.

Thus the last frame from Colin’s original batch have been sitting in my studio, year after year, standing by patiently. It happens to be my favourite driftwood frame, because it is shaped as a womb that holds a sacred feminine energy. About two years ago, after a substantial gestation period an image of a new work has taken shape, and slowly, very slowly I started to work on the lace.  I dedicated the previous winter to fern design, and after that I submerged for almost an entire year to explore the depths of the soil. 

Today’s Solstice, marking another zenith of the Sun, is bringing me closer to completing the piece. All it needs now is the power of the Father Sun to unite the earth and heaven in a sublime harmony… Humbly, I will follow, working on long summer days, absorbing the life-giving energy, and rearranging it into a radiant lace pattern. Hopefully, with Sun’s blessing, I will be able to carry out the work to live up to the image in my mind’s eye. If it’s successfull, I will share it with you.

Wishing you all wonderfully creative summer!
And equally amazing winter to all lacemakers in Southern Hemisphere, because each season can bring something new if we are attuned…

Happy lacemaking to all!

December Solstice 2021

Celebrating the Sun today… the amazing hot ball that is dashing with a tremendous speed through the vast space, dragging our wobbly planet (with us, the equally wobbly inhabitants) along the way. Provided that the sun will keep supplying all energy for our needs, we have a chance to grow and evolve until we are able to understand and appreciate the true scale of the cosmic miracle.

Let’s enjoy the ride and use the new energy for something good and creative!

June Solstice 2021

May the coming season bring much needed healing energy to our wobbly planet 

and lots of creative ideas to all lacemakers!

December Solstice 2020

Story of the Old Wise Tree

Old Wise Tree is one of my oldest patterns. I designed it a long time ago, when I was learning basics of Torchon Lace.  I came across a circular pattern that was supposed to be a simple doily, yet I saw more creative potential in it. The fans looked to me like a tree crown, and the ground like a net of twigs. At that time I did not have enough skills to design lace branches and tree trunk, so I decided to braid the threads and see what happens.

To my surprise, the idea worked and produced an interesting result. The perfect geometry of the crown dissolved into naturally shaped branches that braided towards the trunk and continued to disperse into a labyrinth of roots. The piece illustrated the complexity of bobbin lace, which is made with many threads yet creates a light and open weave. It was a good beginner’s piece and I really enjoyed making the lace as well as free form finishing. Every tree turned out to be different and seemed to share its unique wisdom of a long and fruitful life. 

To my even bigger surprise, the finished tree pictures became popular and I created many of them.Many years later, when my lace studio branched out into more directions and projects, I decided to offer the Old Tree Pattern as a free download on my first website and invited lacemakers to grow their own lace plants. I don’t know how many trees were made based on that pattern, but I received some lovely responses from lacemakers worldwide — from editors of various lace magazines, a lace club members who featured the trees in their printed calendar, and also from nuns in a convent who used the image on postcards printed for a fundraiser… Those were special encounters and I still remember them, others were lost with all other materials when I closed my Silver Pin Studio and website. Somewhat, the Old Tree working instructions did not completely disappear from the cyber space, and lacemakers were still able to find them. Time went by and the trees kept growing. 

Many more years later, one of the students in my New School of Lace found the Old Tree picture online and brought it to the class, asking if we could do something like that. It was a happy reunion. The pattern was re-drafted to accommodate also the new wire medium, and soon after we could show a new mixed forest of cotton, silk, linen, copper and bronze trees – each as unique as the lacemakers who created them.


In the strange year of 2020, the lace school was closed and all live lace events cancelled, and I needed some calm lacemaking time.
I retrieved my old Torchon bobbins, wound them with lovely Barkonie linen threads in an amazing range of browns, and prepared the familiar pattern. It felt so good to be working on the simple Torchon ground again, slowly and mindfully. Spaces between the pins were filled with memories which went back all the way to the first design. If so many impression have been accumulated during mere thirty-five years, how vast is the memory of old trees that are hundreds years or even 1000 years old…  and how truly wise they must be!

When the lace was finished, starched and mounted on a canvas, it was time for the root work. I attempted shutting the mind that thinks in patterns in order to work with the threads freely, without planning. It is harder to do than to say, but after a while one taps into a flow and the roots start growing and spreading instinctively. In the creative process, the calmed mind allows access to the unconscious realm that is hidden in the depths, just like the roots are buried deeply in the soil. There, in the darkness of the earth and psyche, lies the secret of life.

It is the beauty of lace, and creative work in general, that it becomes a gateway to such journey that enriches one’s life experience. Therefore, I decided to make the pattern available on my website again. So that any lacemaker who wishes to explore the secrets of trees, can give it a try and experience the creative power of nature.

Free Old Wise Tree pattern with working instructions is coming soon!

 

Offering: Red Berries

 

Frame:
Cedar driftwood (designed and made by Colin Hamilton of  Thuja Wood Art
Lace:
Enamelled copper and stainless steel wires 

Semi-precious stones and beads: 
Bamboo Coral,  Clear Quartz Crystal, Hawk’s Eye, Rudraksha Seeds

 Technique: handmade bobbin lace – TesseLace pattern

Dimensions in centimetres: h:43 x w:43 x d:5
Dimensions in inches: h:17 x w:18 x d:2

If cold winter months are good for something else than hibernating, it is for lacemaking. Long, dark nights offer quiet time for uninterrupted work and allow sustained focus that reaches almost a state of meditation.

Cocooning in my studio, I was looking for an idea for lace that would fit in one of Colin’s driftwood frames. Dried by sun and fresh air the wood feels so warm, as it is radiating energy collected over many summers. Just like standing cedar trees, the driftwood offers assurance that we, too, will survive yet another winter. Living on the West Coast of Canada for thirty years, I came to understand why cedar has been considered sacred by indigenous people.

majestic cedar tree in my backyard

An empty red cedar driftwood frame has been standing on the shelf in my studio for more than a year, patiently waiting for lace. Upon invitation, the images kept appearing, but none of them strong enough to stay and prompt me into action. One day, on a walk through fresh snow in Kwomais Point Park, I was amazed by dark lines of underbrush with embellishments of ice and red berries, set starkly against pristine white background. There is a lot of lace to be found in the forest, but rarely in such plain sight.  

I started to work on my next offering. Once again, my connection with Veronika Irvine and her  TesseLace worked miracles, and I was able to find the right grid and use the Circular Grid Templates for designing the mandala.

It worked so well that the piece was finished before the snow in the forest melted… It became my offering to the season that makes us revere cedar, to the beauty of snow and ice, and to the berries who know how to say ‘fertility’ like no other.

The Offering: Red Berries will be shown in juried exhibition ‘Just Gates’, organized by Arts Council of Surrey, in April 2019.

Copyright©2019. Lenka Suchanek. All rights reserved.

NEW: Spring Garden Pattern & Tutorial

Hot off the press: Pattern & Tutorial #13 – Spring Garden

Just in time for spring festivities, the Spring Garden Pattern and Tutorial is here to help you to create original gifts and decorations for all special celebrations that come with the season –  from Easter to Mother’s day, from spring weddings to showers for spring babies, from birthdays of the lucky spring-born to spontaneous merrymaking of green-thumbed people… Because all the flowers areblooming and all the birds are singing to remind us that we are taking part in a miracle of life.

The Spring Garden lace can be finished as an egg holder or napkin ring, used as a greeting card insert, framed as a picture, or shaped as fanciful free standing 3-D decoration.

Cheerful grass greens with colourful beads brighten spaces and minds, especially after long winter. It is a wonderful gift that does not take too much time to make, and it is sure to surprise and impress the lucky recipient.

The pattern is easy to learn, and is therefore suitable for lacemakers of all skill levels. The tutorial is very thorough and detailed, with almost forty photos to illustrate the techniques from start to finish. If you bought any of the previous New School of Lace Patterns and Tutorials for Wire Lace, you know that you can expect quality instruction and original ideas. And you can combine the new design with other spring themes – Flower Earrings, Seedlings and Chicken Egg Stand… All available exclusively from my Wire Lace Supplies shop on Etsy.

There is always more room to learn and grow and expand your lace skills.

Happy spring and happy lacemaking!