Posted on March 20, 2022
Spring is here and all seeds know it. Winter hibernation over, it’s time to grow - not just upwards to light, but also to the depth of darkness, to establish new roots able to extract essential nutrients from the soil. Life on this planet needs both, the light and the darkness. If those two principles are, like on today’s equinox, in balance, the miracle of life is sustained.
If this simple rule applies to plants that nourish us, humans, how can we be exempt from it?
In the last two years, we had a plenty of opportunity to see the dark side of existence, and maybe there is more coming. Can we learn from the seeds and explore the shadows instead of giving in to fear? Do we have the strength to face the unknown and extract the valuable lessons in order to preserve the light? These are difficult questions and it might seem that lacemaker’s tool box is not adequate for the immense task on hand. But the history of lace proves otherwise: the pillows, pins and bobbins have been through this many times before, and survived. Our beloved lace, the most delicate of fabrics ever made, is still here today, as a testimony to undying human love, creativity and quest for beauty.
On this equinox day, let’s reach far deep into history for strength and far ahead to future for motivation and unite both into life sustaining vigour conductive to progress in the present moment.
If wire lace leaf tallies happen to be part of your growth plan this spring, the Seedlings Pattern and Tutorial offers some helpful advice 🙂
Posted on January 2, 2022
Lacemaking, as a craft that has not changed much in the last five hundred years, guards a very special secret: through a subtle mind-body connection, it allows the faithful practitioners to access their inner space, which is the very core of the being.
In today’s world, the outside stimuli are becoming faster and more intense, constantly drawing one’s attention outwards. It is true for contemporary lacemakers as well, as they can find unlimited information online, and spend a lot of time browsing the patterns and images for guidance and inspiration.
But when it comes to actually making lace by hand - winding bobbins, preparing the pricking and working the stitches one by one - our attention turns away from the outside world, and concentrates solely on the lacemaking process.
In such focus we reach a state of calm and tap into the deep inner reservoir of our innate energy. The whole body aligns and works in harmony with our intention in a rhythmic motion of twists and crosses, periodically anchored by a pin placement. This perfect harmony of body and mind is a state where we are one with the creative energy of the Earth, the Moon, and the whole Cosmos. Whether we notice it or not, it is the reason why we find lacemaking so calming and deeply fulfilling. This experienced equilibrium then empowers us to face the chaos of the world, no matter how crazy it seems, with a certain composure and detachment.
Ever since I started to teach lacemaking some forty years ago, I had a notion that the value of the fine craft will not be as much in the artefacts created, but rather in the lacemaking process itself. I could not perceive then, of course, how much will the world change in my lifetime, and how much will all those changes imperil the equilibrium of human life.
I am glad that handmade lace is still here, alive and contributing to the astonishing weave of our world. It is great to know that we, the sole lacemakers of the 21st century, don’t have to do anything more special then to turn off all ‘smart’ gadgets, find a quiet place and make the lace the best way we can. When we lose ourselves in the meditative process of our delicately beautiful craft, and live in the moment from our inner source, everything else aligns and takes care of itself. It is that simple and we better keep it that way 🙂
Posted on February 28, 2021
1991 – First Attempts
From the very beginning of my lacemaking journey, I had a vision that the delicate lace weave would look amazing in metal. I don’t know where that thought came from. My love for lace grew from love for textile techniques, and I never saw bobbin lace made in wire. When I settled in Canada, a land without any lacemaking tradition and open to new ideas, I started to pursue the wire medium in earnest. It felt like discovering a completely new field. Little I knew that it will become a lifelong adventure.
The search for wires in fine gauges was successful, because at that time copper was still used in electronics. Limited colours did not bother me at all, as I was at first exploring the wire lace texture and its sculptural possibility. Finding the right tools was much more difficult. There were no special bobbins for wire lace on the market. Some suppliers were selling bobbins for work with metallic threads, which I tried, but ithey were not a good match for wire. After the first trials it became obvious that while the traditional bobbins could be used, they were far from ideal for wire work.
Compared to thread, wire is strong and willful, and doesn’t obey as readily as fibre. Despite its strength, wire can break easily when it is pulled or bent, so even a simple function of a hitch for securing and releasing the thread causes a problem. I quickly realized that for any serious wire work, I will have to accept the material limitations and cater to its needs. Designing a special bobbin was the first step.
1992 – First Prototypes
I imagined a smaller, lighter bobbin with a clever solution for securing the wire. I made the first prototypes from a polymer clay and baked in my kitchen oven. The bobbins were fragile and did not last long, but at least allowed me to test sizes and shapes and get the feel of them in my hands.
In the next step, I looked at adapting traditional bobbins that were close in size. I experimented with Danish mini-bobbins and Mini Cub Midland Bobbins. I added a small screw eye to the top to test if it solves the problem of securing the wire on the bobbin. The eye was pried open just enough to allow a single wire to pass through. The wire held securely in the loop, and did not unwind, but there was a drawback – to release more wire during work, it had to be unhooked, unwound and fixed in the screw eye again, which was time consuming. Despite this inconvenience, the bobbins were usable and quite handy for small projects requiring only small amount of threads.
Through this experimental stage, I was actually working on my first wire lace projects, and I had a lot of fun. Regardless the technical difficulties, I enjoyed working with wire and I liked the strength and pliability of the finished lace. Seeing a big potential of the new medium in bobbin lace, I was encouraged to continue improving the bobbin design.
It became apparent that the bobbin functionality would be much enhanced if the screw eye was positioned on side of the bobbin, instead on top. Because the bobbin neck was too narrow for the screw, I used a thick wire and wrapped it around the neck to form a loop. The result was good and the side hook worked much better for releasing the wire. Unfortunately, the method of attaching the loops was awkward and labour-intensive. Maybe I should explain here, that none of my designing efforts would come to fruition without steadfast support of my husband, who not only provided feedback to my ideas, but would often helped with their execution. I appreciated that I could always rely on his resourcefulness, so when he started to get tired of wrapping the loops on many bobbins, I knew that I must find a better way.
1995 – First Small Bobbin Design
A special wire lace bobbin designed from scratch was inevitable. I envisioned a bobbin with a thick neck for the screw eye and a dome-like head above. In addition, a hole drilled at the lower part of the neck would serve for anchoring the wire and preventing it from unwinding. Wire thus attached could be worked until the last few centimetres, which in case of precious metals meant considerable cost-cutting.
With the bobbin design all thought out and finalized, the production should be easy, I thought. But searching for the bobbin maker in a city with no lacemaking tradition was much harder that I anticipated. After many tests and trials, I was lucky to find a local wood turner, Jay Bowdish of Richmond, BC, who was capable and willing to make the bobbins.
I liked working with those cute hand turned bobbins. Over years, they have become to feel like extensions of my fingers. I used them for creating many works in copper, bronze, steel, fine silver and gold.
The original wire lace bobbins served well for many years, not only in my own work, but also in hands of many wire lace students in Vancouver, BC, and numerous workshop participants in Canada, USA, Australia, UK and Spain. After the Silver Pin Studio closed, and production of the original wire lace bobbin ceased, the design was reproduced and sold by other bobbin makers.
Some bobbins with screw eyes can be still found today: Bobbins made by John Beswick in Australia are available in Raincity Lace Supplies shop , bobbins made by Simon Toustou in Canada from Provo Lace Shop and bobbins turned by Laura De Bruyn in Tasmania, Australia, directly from her website Laura’s Lace Supplies
2007 – Spanish Bobbin
My wire lace projects were growing in size and complexity and a need emerged for a bigger bobbin that would hold more wire. I discovered traditional Spanish bobbins and I added a pack of them to my tool box. They were not very refined, but that was not a huge obstacle, because wire is not as fussy as thread. I used those boxwood bobbins mostly for gimps and for thicker wires.
2015 – Spanish Bobbin Modification
As I grew used to working with the bobbins from Spain, I tried to adapt them like the previous bobbins, but the bobbin head was too narrow for shielding the attachment. Consequently, the exposed side hooks were catching wires of nearby bobbins. Untangling the bundles was a tedious job that was wearing the wires, and my patience, thin.
I contemplated other options – if the screw eye wouldn’t work, what else could be used? Turning the bobbins in my hand and ideas in my head, I zoomed in on a typical feature of the traditional Spanish bobbin – its shallow head groove. I imagined that a snugly fitting elastic might hold the wire without damaging its surface. But will the grip be strong enough to allow steady work flow? After many tests, I found elastics in the right size with optimal strength. And there is was, a modified Spanish bobbin that worked like a charm! The rubber ring held the wire in place gently but firmly and released it, when necessary, with one simple maneuver, just like a hitch on fibre. This was a huge improvement and I knew that I have invented a tool that will open wire lace field to many more lacemakers.
This important milestone couldn’t had come at a better time. I was returning to lace teaching and needed bobbins for my students. The adapted medium bobbin was so easy to use, that I did not hesitate recommending it even to complete beginners. Soon after, I was able to incorporate wire lace instruction in the New School of Lace curriculum.
August 2015 – Lenka’s Fine Bobbin from Jan de Maertelaere
The students were quickly learning the basics, and I kept designing new patterns. Among the many projects, wearable wire lace art was the most popular, and paved the way to fine lace jewellery. The medium bobbins that worked beautifully until now, would be too big for very delicate lace. And the original small bobbin with the side hook seemed outdated in comparison. It was, after all, twenty years old and belonged in every respect to the past century.
Based on the positive experience with the elastics, I concieved the design of a new fine bobbin. But remembering my previous troubles with bobbin production I was not sure if I want to go through it all again.
Luckily, I had a very positive experience at that time with buying traditional fibre bobbins for my school from Jan De Maertelaere, a bobbin lace manufacturer in Belgium. I found his company online, and the logo intrigued me. My first order of torchon bobbins confirmed that the slogan was not just advertising. The bobbins were truly the best I have ever worked with, made with great care and utmost attention to detail. And that was exactly the quality I envisioned for my new project.
When I approached Jan to ask if he could produce a custom designed bobbin, he was very busy, but agreed to look at it when time allows. That was a great news and I commenced designing the bobbin, using all experience I gathered over the years of making lace jewellery. When the time had come, it was a pleasure to collaborate with Jan and witness his skills and knowledge, as well as his dedication to the bobbin turning craft. I will never forget a comment he made, when – after many back and forth e-mails, video calls, and prototype samples – the bobbin was close to fulfilling all technical aspects on my list. That was all I was able to see then, but Jan said, with a disarming smile: “Do not forget, that each lace bobbin must not be only functional, but also beautiful.” And he worked his magic on a lathe and produced a beautiful bobbin within the constraint of the unusual dimensions.
Lenka’s Fine Bobbin became the precision tool required for high-end lacework: slender and light, fitting perfectly into palms of hands; superbly balanced for quick crossing and twisting; silky smooth but hard enough to withstand occasional abuse by wire medium; gracefully tapered for easy sewings. All in all, the Fine Bobbins have fulfilled my lace-perfectionist dreams. Since day one, I have loved to use them and I still cherish every moment of working with them. They allow me to produce the most delicate lace, especially in precious metals.
2020-21 – Lenka’s Medium Bobbin from Jan de Maertelaere
In the the strange year of cancelled lace classes, workshops and all other lace events, I was grateful for each and every sale in my WireLaceSupplies online shop. Not only because the income was somewhat sustaining my lace studio during the dormant time, but also because I believe that lacemaking can be of tremendous help for people in isolation. The slow, rhythmic work calms the mind and the creative process fills it with purpose, contentment and delight. Total absorption facilitates deep relaxation and brings about overall well-being. And that was exactly what we needed for surviving and thriving in the unpredictable times.
Between my own lacemaking therapy sessions, I was cleaning and organizing my studio. I found many projects that were set aside during the last five years of harmonizing many events of the New School of Lace, maintaining the Wire Lace Supplies shop, producing lace|heart|art challenge competitions, and creating original artworks. In my “FUTURE” folder, there was a sketch of a bobbin with a scribbled title: next Medium Bobbin. I remember drawing it one day as I was lamenting the diminishing quality of Spanish bobbins. The vision of the new bobbin was waiting to emerge from its cocoon, and the time has come to bring it to life.
I contacted Jan de Maertelarere and since he had some free time on his hands as well, we teamed up again to design and produce the new Medium Bobbin for wire lace. It was great to collaborate again, and we both enjoyed the creative process.
The new Medium Bobbin was born this year, and it brought a ray of sunshine into the dark winter days and pandemic worries. As its Fine predecessor, the Medium bobbin is a highly functional tool, designed and made to serve well for many wire lace projects. And of course, it is beautiful! After all, they are sisters, one big, one small, and they do look very much alike.
Lenka’s new Medium Bobbins are coming soon!
They will be sold exclusively in my WireLaceSupplies shop and in Jan de Maertaleare’s brand new web shop.
Stay tuned for the launch announcement!
Posted on October 31, 2020
Posted on September 11, 2020
Due to the New School of Lace temporary closure, the 4th edition of the lace|heart|art challenge has been postponed.
In previous years, when the school was in full swing, it was possible for the lace|heart|art team to meet and plan, and for Lenka, the main designer, to prepare the lace|heart|art project for lacemakers around the world. Unfortunately, with the disruption of the regular schedule and ensuing changes, we cannot support the development of the next challenge at this time.
We had to accept the decision to postpone the 4th lace|heart|art until things in the NewSchool of Lace, and in the world at large, return to normal.
For time being, the free downloads for all three editions of the lace|heart|art challenge are still available online (1st lace|heart|art challenge 2018, 2nd lace|heart|art challenge 2019, 3rd lace|heart|art challenge 2020). Prickings and working instruction will assist any lacemaker who wishes to work on the heart patterns.
They were designed for anybody who wants to express love and gratitude in a unique and delicate language of handmade bobbin lace. Remember, you can modify them to make them your own!
Posted on May 17, 2020
Heart design has become very popular among artists lately, and lacemakers are no exception. That’s great to see!
What is a better way to say “Thank you!” or
“I love you” then through a unique lace artwork? Special occasions require special presents, and handmade lace can truly deliver the heartfelt message.
When you dedicate your attention single-mindedly to the task, the positive energy flowing from your heart and mind, through your hands and delicate fingers, is capable of transforming a spool of thread or wire into a very personal artifact. Your spirit will be woven in the lace forever, stored for those who are open to feel it. Even if the person doesn’t know anything about you or handmade bobbin lace, and how long it takes produce a piece of lace (let alone the time needed to master the craft) often they can sense that they are looking at an uncommon work.
That’s why handmade lace artifacts are kept in museums, private collections and family heirlooms.
And that is why the rare lacemaking technique, and the skills that come with it, is now becoming really valuable.
If you have been searching for free heart patters for bobbin lace, on this website you will find a collection of prickings for fibre as well as wire mediums. The patterns were created by Lenka Suchanek of the New School of Lace for three editions lace|heart|art international challenge of handmade bobbin lace in colour. Working instructions and diagrams are included. The patterns can be worked exactly as is shown in the provided samples, or they can be modified and expanded according to your artistic vision.
Links to free downloads:
(The author would appreciate a credit mention to lenkas.com when you share your lace with recipients or on social media.)
For inspiration on how to work the lace hearts, visit the online exhibitions of hearts from all over the world:
Happy ❤️ lacemaking… keep the love and lace alive!
Posted on April 7, 2020
Everybody is looking for some magic, and the one coming from above never fails…
Pink Moon Pendant in fine and sterling silver, with rhodochrosite moon and rose quartz mist drops. This piece is quite old and I had to dig deep in my archive to find the photo. It brings back some good memories, and also a wish to create another one… will see what the Moon says tonight…
Enjoy the celestial spectacle and then come back for the opening of the 3rd lace|heart|art online exhibition of handmade bobbin lace in colour!
Posted on December 1, 2019
If you read this blog regularly, you might remember one post from March, Offering: Red Berries, in which I wrote about my new lace work and said that “… 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 none other.”
Half a year later, lo and behold, the trees and shrubs in my neighbourhood are laden with huge amounts of berries. Rowan trees, cotoneasters, barberries, hollies, wild roses, … wherever you look there are clusters of fruits, shining in vivid red and orange colurs. What a beautiful sight, and what a joy to see the overflowing cornucopia of nature!
More and more, I am learning to appreciate the order of the natural cycle, which is governed by never changing purpose to propagate. Observing the unwavering flow of seasons, I sense that nature really doesn’t need us to save her. On the contrary, we would be wise to listen to her wisdom if we wanted to save ourselves. In all its complexity, nature’s way is simple, and therefore timeless.Humbly, I offer a few more berries that have grown in my workshop. Way of Lace shop on Etsy
Happy berry time!
Posted on September 25, 2019
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on September 1, 2019
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…
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.
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!
Wendy MacKinnon, Lenka Suchanek, Pat Wrigley
Surrey, BC, Canada