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Stories from Lace Unarchived

29 Mar 2018

A selection of news and events stemming from the Lace: Unarchived Exhibition

The Battle of Britain Panel by Harry Cross

29 March 2018

NTU’s Amanda Briggs-Goode (right) presents panel to Barbara Cross, granddaughter of lace designer Harry Cross

Harry Cross was born in Nottingham in 1875 and and studied at the Nottingham School of Art between 1887 and 1890 – by 1891 Harry was recorded as being a lace designer.

Harry designed the well-known Battle of Britain lace panel during the latter part of the Second World War. He had by that time retired and was ‘brought out of retirement’ by the company Dobson & Brown specially to undertake this work. It’s thought that he started in 1942 and the design took two years to complete. The design was done in 11 sections and as each was completed it was passed to the Draughtsmen to enable a start on their part of the whole process.

It is thought that this project was undertaken to retain the high skills of the staff in a lace factory which was producing work focussed on the war effort and not work to their normal high standards. However, by hearsay the son of the Manager had been a pilot involved in the Battle of Britain and had been killed. If this is true it seems a reasonable explanation to produce a memorial lace panel at huge cost and effort.

Only thirty-eight panels were woven and were presented to King George VI, Winston Churchill, various RAF units, Westminster Abbey, the City of London, the City of Nottingham, airmen from the Commonwealth and several others. The design and weaving of the panels reputedly took over 3 years to complete and required 40,000 jacquard pattern cards, 975 bobbins and 41,830m of cotton for each panel. It is reported that all of the designs, drafts and jacquards were destroyed at the end of the production run.

However, thankfully Harry kept tracings of this design and between 1961 and 1970 when Harry Cross was in his 90s, he was able to replicate the original design. His family recollect that unfortunately his room could not accommodate his treasured easel so his work was then done on the dining table. The design was initially done as the original i.e. black on white paper but he decided this could be improved and used paint, pastel and gilding to colour and complete the painting. Certainly he visited the Nottingham School of Art to talk with students in the time he was busy on the painting and show one completed section at least. A small article and photograph was published in the Evening Post after this visit.

The Battle of Britain Painting by Harry Cross

Harry’s family have kindly loaned these historic and wonderful drawings to the Nottingham Trent University lace archive. The eleven sections have now been digitally scanned and have been digitally printed on fabric at almost full scale to be displayed at the Lace Unarchived exhibition in Bonington Gallery. Two of the painted panels are included in the exhibition, clearly showing his expertise and flair for decorative design. The textile panel and paintings sit beautifully against the contemporary artworks and historic lace in the exhibition.

On the night of the exhibition special late opening, Harry’s granddaughter Barbara Cross was presented with a smaller fabric version of the panel. It was a pleasure to have her represent her Grandfather at the event.

Commissioned work for Lace Unarchived

29 March 2018

Lace Unarchived featured two new artworks from artists James Winnett and Matt Woodham.

James Winnett

Photo credit: Julian Lister

This series of new work has been produced using twelve mid 20th century lace patterns, sourced from an architectural salvage yard in Glasgow and originally produced in Nottingham and Ayrshire. In some, water has been used to loosen the original pigments and extend the geometric designs across the paper. In others, gold has been added, highlighting certain motifs to shift notions of provenance, value and authenticity. Re-presenting the industrial artefact in this way, Winnett explores processes of historicisation while interrogating the interplay between industrial and artistic labour. James’ work for Lace Unarchived has been incredibly well-received by visitors. He believes the collection on show includes some curtain lace draughts from Nottingham, which may have travelled to Scotland when a number of curtain lace factories relocated there in the 20th century.

James Winnett is a Glasgow based artist who works primarily in public art, sculpture and video. Recent exhibitions and commissions include: The Capelrig Stones, East Renfrewshire Council, 2017; Settlement, Project Room Glasgow; Green Year Artist in Residence, Glasgow City Council, 2015-16; The Cuningar Stones, 2014-16; 100 Flowers Commission, New South Glasgow Hospitals, 2015; Year of Natural Scotland Artist in Residence, Cuningar Loop, 2013-14; Glasgow Life Visual Artist Award, 2013.

James’ work can be found here:

Matt Woodham

Matt Woodham

Matt Woodham is an artist, designer and creative technologist with a background in psychology & neuroscience. Through his research, and fascination for knowledge gained from empirical evidence – he strives to uncover the systems and patterns underpinning our physical and natural worlds. His research often addresses the common dynamics between different systems, such as the transfer of signal, waves, energy and information.

With a focus on the aesthetic qualities of both digital and analogue mediums, he designs and builds experiences, products, installations and audio-visual content. He aims to adjust perceptions and communicate ideas, exploring solutions to complex social problems.

He believes that the interdisciplinary space between art, science and technology can provide the possibilities for inducing both wonderment and socio-cultural advancement. Using science as the ground, technology as the tool and art as the expression.

Lace Unarchived commissioned a sculptural video piece responding to the lace archive. Matt designed a curved cabinet for 24 CRT monitors which feature digitised archival items accompanied by fabricated and real stories behind them. Matt took photographs of items from the NTU Lace Archive, and from them created a dynamic work which has been a focus of much interest in the Lace Unarchived exhibition space.

Matt’s website is:

Michael Orchard – Lace Entrepreneur

29 March 2018

During the Lace Unarchived exhibition, we have been pleased to officially launch the lace archive at NTU as the ‘Michael Orchard Lace Archive’.

NTU’s Amanda Briggs-Goode (centre) with David Orchard (left) and Research Fellow Dr. Gail Baxter

Michael Orchard was the owner of several lace businesses in the Nottingham area - Orchard & Clarke, Floral Textiles, Orchid Laces and Walter Fletchers, The Warper. He studied lace design at People’s College Nottingham in the 1950s as part of his 7-year apprenticeship. He started his own business at the age of 22 and went on to design and manufacture home textiles for his own factories and design lace for intimate apparel for all of the top lingerie brands  including Triumph, Berlei, and Wacoal. With clients from all over the world, but particularly in New York’s Garment District, he also taught the next generation of American textile manufacturers who would send their sons over to him for six months to a year to learn all aspects of the trade.

Michael Orchard is seen in this photo (bottom left) of the Battle of Britain lace panel and his wife at the top right
Battle of Britain Panel shown at Nottingham’s Council House

Michael’s son, David Orchard, has, as part of a memorial to his Father in recognition of his contribution to the lace industry and heritage of Nottingham, kindly chosen to donate Michael’s collection of over 30 lace history and design books to NTU in the hope that they will continue to educate aspiring designers. He has also donated funds to support a research fellow to work with the archive to support our ongoing work to evaluate the collection from a conservation perspective to ensure that the it continues to be accessible to future generations and that they continue to benefit from this important resource.