ISIS Lacemakers were hugely excited at the thought of designing and creating lace for the exhibition ‘Imagine… Lace at Waddesdon’ at Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in 2014.  We first heard about this at the annual Lace Society rally and with an exhibition proposal form in our hands, our imagination ran wild as we drove home, exploring the ‘House Party’ theme.

Imagining …  and inspiration came in the form of a study visit to Waddesdon Manor.  We were amazed by what we saw, but had no idea of what might inspire our exhibit.  However, the next morning I woke up with a clear picture of what I would propose to the rest of the ISIS group.  A text message went round saying…elephant…casket…silk…summer flowers…gold trunk … and positive responses came flooding back.

Thinking about the exhibition theme of a house party at Waddesdon Manor, we decided that  guests would look forward to exotica, opulence and beauty in every room.  Inspired by the famous Musical Automaton (actually an amazing elephant, with his own Twitter account!), and the flower-adorned clock in the Green Boudoir, we decided to create a contemporary mixed lace piece comprising a golden trunked elephant on a casket of summer flowers.

Designing and creating … we enjoyed coffee, cake and lunches in each others’ homes as we worked together, designing and creating our exhibit.  ISIS the elephant looked good as a felt prototype and then became decidedly strange in a calico ‘mock up’.  Some pattern cutting amendment and then creating him directly in our chosen Indigo blue silk resurfaced the elephant within, and with some supporting armature and deft stuffing he was ready.

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In true East Midlands lace tradition, we designed a Bedfordshire lace panel for the front of his head, with space for a hanging jewel, and with a gold wrap-around trunk.  A bead-encrusted Torchon blanket was designed for his back and two gold thread Bedfordshire medallions added.  Then – some gold kid for ears and tasselled tail, stitched eyes and clay tusks.  A precious amber –coloured glass bead from my Godmother’s ‘button box’ filled the space we designed into the front panel on his face.  We were almost there – but something was missing.  A strip of Torchon Little Fan lace with gold passives seemed just right for his (rather chunky) ankles.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers… working on the belief that you can never have too many flowers, we wanted a luscious collection of lace Roses, Iris and Poppies to fill our silk casket.  Group members went into production and I had the greatest pleasure in receiving petals through the post as well as at group meetings.  With a healthy collection of red, pink and blue (Iris) flowers we expanded our selection to yellows, creams and mauves.  We also added in daisies, ‘Hattie’s Pin Cushion’ (a very apt country name for Astrantia) and ‘Love in a Mist’. Not forgetting Marigolds, more about which, later.   We also designed and made leaves for the Roses, Poppies and Irises, selecting threads as close as possible to their colours in nature.

A silk casket for a silk elephant … looking at his small (gold kid!) ears, we decided ISIS our elephant was Indian in origin.  We drew from Moghul architecture in creating the curved window-tops in his casket.  Cut and shaped from card, we padded the exterior and covered it in Perigot silk.  The interior was lined with Mint silk and the windows edged with Torchon Little Fan lace.  Hours of hand sewing later, skilled use of fine curved needles had created the casket we imagined.

The East Midlands laces resurfaced in our design and creation of the Rothschild family emblem  – this was made in Buckinghamshire lace and placed centrally at the front of the casket.  In a central position at the back of the casket we mounted a circular piece of Tatting made by one of our late ISIS group members.  We made a Torchon lace mat for the top of the casket with ribbons of yellow, red, blue and mauve in the same shades we had used for some of the flowers.  Gold braid then edged the seams.

Inside the casket we introduced a mint green silk covered block and into this inserted all our flowers, filling the space to create the abundance that would be seen by house party guests.  With vibrant flowers visible and emerging through the windows we were nearly complete.  A mounting board covered in Perigot silk provided the base and we put the whole exhibit together at last.

And so to the Marigolds.  We wanted our now revered elephant to have a garland made with these and so a group member embedded individual lace Marigold flowers in shades of orange and yellow as she created a gold Kumihimo braid.

Are you a lacemaker? If not, would you like to give it a try?

Lacemaking is a special and truly beautiful craft and brings with it the joy of centuries of history and (oh so collectable) antique bobbins.  It also brings a modern and innovative perspective, with colour, new designs, and new bobbins – and of course new projects!  ISIS Lacemakers welcome visitors and new members to their twice-monthly evening meetings, and each of our two Lace Days every year.  We teach and help beginners to learn our craft and also enjoy visiting other Lacemaking events and groups.  You can find out more about us and where to meet us from our website and on our Face  Book page.  We would love to meet you.

Eileen Anderson, ISIS Lacemakers