Posted on March 26, 2019
Cedar driftwood (designed and made by Colin Hamilton of Thuja Wood Art
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.
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.
Posted on September 14, 2018
stainless steel and enamelled copper wires
drift wood, crystal beads
Technique: handmade bobbin lace – free form
Dimensions: 48 x 72 x 5 cm (19 X 28 x 2 in)
Meganeura is an offering to Gaia and her transformative powers.
Meganeura, a dragonfly’s ancestor from the Carboniferous period, symbolizes transformation, survival, and incredible ability of Earth creatures to adapt and evolve with the environment. Watching dragonflies and knowing that their progenitor Meganeura lived 300 milion years ago, always fills me with awe and reverence for this planet and all life it carries.
This offering is a prayer for us, people of this Earth, to listen to Gaia, and learn from her wisdom… before it is too late.
This work is listed for sale in my Way of Lace shop on Etsy.
Copyright©2018. Lenka Suchanek. All rights reserved.
Posted on November 14, 2017
Cedar driftwood (designed and made by Colin Hamilton of Thuja Wood Art)
Enamelled copper and stainless steel wires
Semi-precious stone cabochons and beads (from centre):
Nephrite (BC jade), Almandine Garnet, Shell, Rose Quartz, Bamboo Coral, Rhodochrosite, Clear Quartz Crystal, Calcite, Blue Tiger’s Eye, Shell, Hematite
Technique: handmade bobbin lace – free form
Dimensions in centimetres: 64 x 61 x 12 ( 4 cm without stands)
Dimensions in inches: 25 x 24 x 5 (2 inches without stands)
West Coast Mandala is an Offering to the magnificent Pacific Northwest nature.
In harsh climate of the temperate rainforest, human life has never been easy. Ancient people called upon spirit powers to receive guidance and protection. They were taught to live in harmony with the land and the ocean, and respect all plants and animals. This wise, timeless teaching still resonates on the West Coast.
The Offering: West Coast Mandala is presented in a frame made from red cedar driftwood, which carries the spirit of the tree of life, and creates a sacred space for reflection and meditation. In its centre, the mandala holds a cabochon of the B.C. jade, and radiates the energy outwards through the copper wire weave. Inner sacred geometry circle with semi-precious stones, coral and shell beads, represents the earth’s depths. Surrounding three currents symbolize underground, surface and ocean water bodies. Water brings fertility and abundance to the soil and to people, and they present offerings of flowers and fish. Fertile land is encircled by a protective range of the coastal mountains, which merge into the mist of the sky dome. From above, water motion, vegetation growth and people’s lives are governed by the moon cycle. All is connected and therefore in harmony with the timeless wisdom.
This artwork is now exhibited in Talisman Gallery on Pender Island, BC.
Copyright©2018. Lenka Suchanek. All rights reserved.
Posted on November 12, 2017
(How much time does it take?)
Handmade lace art form is not very common in Canada. Whenever I exhibit or demonstrate lacemaking for public, many visitors comment that they have never seen anything like it before. And then comes a standard question: “How much time did it take to make this piece?”
I never know what to say, because I do not keep track of hours when I create. To answer, I usually estimate the number of hours, days, weeks or months that I spent on the project, with a postscript “…and thirty years of experience…”
Lacemaking is an old craft, that preceded invention of an electric power transmission by some 400 years, so there is a lot of manual labour involved in each step of the process. I thought it might be a good idea to explain here what is involved in making lace art, so I can refer any future inquirers to this post.
For this purpose, I chose to document a simpler project, a wall art piece “Offering: Moon Reflection”, as not to overwhelm the readers. Each step of the process is described below, followed by and approximate time count.
Step 1/ Finding a frame
Starting with a frame is simpler for me than creating the lace and then trying to find the right frame for it. I search for empty frames that invoke lace picture, or imagine the lace and then look for the right frame. When I saw this frame, I liked it, but did not buy. As I kept thinking about it, an image of a reflecting moon became clearer and clearer. Eventually, I went back for the frame. It would sit in my studio for a half a year until I had time to make the “Offering”.
Step 2/ Making a sketch
Drawing the image on paper is quick. Shown here is the small sketch with notes and some calculations of the future lace pattern.
Step 3/ Choosing a pattern
Having a basic idea about shape and texture of the lace, I look for a pattern which fulfills the visual as well as structural demands of the piece. In this case, I needed rather simple two-dimensional lace in one colour. I envisioned only one pattern, but with a special requirement that it can be graded without losing continuity. To create an image of a water surface, I chose not to use a traditional lace pattern, but rather look for new, unique design with somewhat wavy effect. Perusing Veronika Irvine’s TesseLace, algorithmically designed lace tessellations, available as an Inkscape Bobbin Lace Application (courtesy of Veronika Irvine, tesselace.com), I selected a pattern number 4x4_217 and drafted a set of ten scaled grids. Using a computer program to create these grids is an enormous help to a lace designer, as it requires only a fragment of time that would be otherwise needed if the patterns were all drafted by hand.
4/ Making lace samples
To make sure that the pattern will work, it is the best to make a sample. I used bobbins that were already wound (leftovers from a previous project) and made several swatches. The TesseLace grid is just an outline, showing the paths of the threads in lace. There is an unlimited number of stitch combinations that can be applied to that grid. I tried several options, from which the final design was chosen. This part of work is quite experimental, because even a slight adjustment of stitches can dramatically change the look of lace. Here the designer must rely on experience and also practice restraint, in order to avoid lengthy excursions into the amazing lace wonderland. There many ways to interpret one grid, and I had to decide for just one of them.
5/ Making pattern corrections
Comparing the samples revealed that the pattern in small size was right, but the enlarged size was too open, so I went back to the drafting program and used different parameters for scaling the grid. It took some fiddling to finalize grids for all ten segments of lace. My printer was not working smoothly that day, so this step took longer than it should.
6/ Preparing working templates (prickings)
In this standard procedure, the printed pattern is attached to a card stock, and covered with a clear plastic sheet. This working template, called a pricking, is then perforated with a pin vise at all cross points of the design. At each hole, a pin will be inserted to support wires during the lacemaking process. Therefore the final look of the finished lace largely depends on the template precision. Knowing that this pricking will be used only once (because this piece will be a one-of-a-kind original, made only once) I used a backing of a lighter card stock, which is easier and therefore faster to perforate.
7/ Winding the bobbins
Using just one size and type of wire in this project (stainless steel 0.2mm), the process of winding was straightforward. Because the lace was designed in ten strips, which will be connected together to cover the final width, only 18 pairs (36 pieces) of medium bobbins for wire lace were needed. I used my old mechanical bobbin winder to fill all bobbins with 2-ply of steel wire.
8/ Making lace
The slowest, most laborious, and most time consuming, and also the most enjoyable part or the work is making the lace. Stitches are created one at the time, by twisting and crossing the threads in an exact sequence. At certain points, pins are placed in the pre-pricked holes. The pins hold the stitches and facilitate tensioning of the wires. Steel wire is willful and a requires a firm tension to create an even weave. This makes working with steel slower than with other wires.
Work started at the first, narrowest pattern, and each consecutive segment was attached to the previous part by a special sewing technique.With this technique no additional assembly is required at the end.
(30 hrs – 3 hrs per segment x 10)
9/ Finishing lace
According to the design, all wire ends will be hidden under the frame, and therefore no special finishing was required. All ends were simply clipped off with wire cutters. Lace was checked for mistakes. Small errors were corrected, using a nudge tool and pliers. There was one big mistake caused by a wrong alignment of the prickings.. As soon as I spotted it it was sticking out from the pattern as a big irregularity. After much deliberation, I decided to leave the error in, as opposed to redoing the whole segment. The decision was rather atypical and defied my perfectionist tendencies, but as this lace represents ocean waves, which are fluid, free, and irregular, it seemed right to just leave it and let it be. Interestingly, as soon as I made this decision, the mistake was no longer so obvious.
10/ Preparing background
I chose a black silk fabric for the background, because it was as smooth and soft as a night sky. It always takes an extra bit of skill and time to stretch silk properly, but I feel it is worth the effort. Two milky marble cabochons, representing the moon and his reflection, were attached to the background.
11/ Mounting lace
This lace pattern had (as many bobbin lace patterns do) more twists than crosses, which, combined with willfulness of the stainless steel wire, caused the lace to curl. Therefore the finished lace had to be flattened before mounting. Then it was attached to a support frame. This extra inside frame will lift the lace slightly above the background surface, and give it a deeper perspective. It will also create a sufficient clearance for the lower cabochon.
Lace stretched on the support frame was ready for beading. I used seven kinds of beads to create an image of shimmering moonlight reflection in the water. For ease of working, I had the lace frame attached to a stretching board, but because of that I lost track of the background. When I checked, it did not look right. There were too many beads. I removed many rows and started all over. The second beading attempt was more successful and only a few small final touches were needed before it was finished.
12/ Mat was measured and cut (30 minutes)
The whole piece was put together in a frame, hanging wire attached, back finished and signed.
14/ Photo documentation
The finished piece was photographed for documentation.
All drafts, prickings and working notes were compiled and archived for a future reference.
Title: Offering – Moon Reflection
steel wire, milky marble cabochons, glass seed beads, silk background
Techniques: handmade bobbin lace, beading
Size: 75 x 27 cm
Approximate total time: 64 hours (… and 30+ years of experience )
Copyright©2017 Lenka Suchanek. All rights reserved.
Posted on May 12, 2017
“Waves – Offering to the Moon”
transparent lace sculpture
42 x 36 x 8 cm
driftwood redcedar frame, stainless steel, shell moon
Story of The Waves:
I was looking for frames for a new body of work, and I found Colin Hamilton, an artisan-woodworker, who works with cedar driftwood collected on the beaches of Gulf Islands. He hand splits the logs and builds gates, furniture and art, using traditional joinery techniques. Colin agreed to make some frames for me and I left it up to him to chose size and shape. The frames were beautiful when they arrived – very organic, and like no other frames I used before. They were already art pieces in their own right, and it was not difficult to see how they should be completed with lace. One small frame was asking for waves and I decided to use steel wire, because the Pacific Ocean on the Canadian West Coast often looks like it is made of steel. I couldn’t see though what pattern to use for lace, because all traditional lace designs lacked the fluidity I envisioned. I decided to create my own pattern, but since that takes long time, I put the piece on hold to let the design percolate. By chance, I was contacted by Veronika Irvine, a University of Victoria PhD candidate and a fibre artist, who developed a mathematical model to describe bobbin lace tessellations. From this model she generated thousands of original grid designs. Veronika was looking for lacemakers who would test the new patterns. I tried, and immediately realized that this was exactly what I wished for for my new piece – and much, much more…
I found pattern that flowed like water, made the “Waves” and offered them to the moon. The piece sailed away, spent some time on the Gulf Islands with Colin, then crossed The Strait of Georgia and reached Veronika’s lace collection in Victoria on Vancouver Island.
We regard the “Waves – offering to the Moon” to be a truly West Coast creation, in sync with the ocean waves that connect us. And while we are all busy with our own work, we are open to future collaborations. Colin is working on new frames (thujawoodart.com), Veronika is doing her binary code magic in computer science and lace design (tesselace.com). And I am leaving all the rest to the moon.
Copyright©2015-17. Lenka Suchanek. All rights reserved.