"Bobbin Lace Shawl"
(Artist unknown:) "Bobbin Lace Shawl," n/d, silk thread (possibly handspun Tussah silk), 285 x 140 cm. Collection of Regina Plains Museum.
100 YEARS OF COMMON THREAD
Saskatchewan Craft Council Gallery, Feb 11 — Apr 12, 2006
Art Gallery of Prince Albert, Oct 28 — 29, 2006
Godfrey Dean Art Gallery, Yorkton, Dec 10, 2006 — Jan 28, 2007
By Cathryn Miller
Saskatchewan has a relatively short past and a small population. Its earliest immigrants from England, Russia, and various European nations arrived with family heirlooms and traditional craft skills. 100 Years of Common Thread, organized by the Saskatchewan Weavers and Spinners Guild, is a celebration of Saskatchewan's rich textile heritage reflected in examples from museum collections and works by its contemporary textile artists.
Initially, historical textile collections held by the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan, National Doukhobour Heritage Village, Prince Albert Historical Society, Regina Plains Museum, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Saskatchewan Government House, Ukrainian Museum of Canada, and Saskatoon's Western Development Museum were visited and pieces that represented excellence in a wide range of textiles were noted. The second stage of developing the exhibition involved selecting contemporary works submitted by guild members and invited non-members. A final selection of historical pieces was then made to match, wherever possible, the materials and techniques found in the contemporary works. Beyond that goal, every effort was made to demonstrate the depth and breadth of the province's wealth of textile arts.
A 285 x 140 cm triangular bobbin lace shawl is a fine example of the historical treasures. It rivals the size and beauty of pieces displayed in the textile study rooms of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Made by twisting and interlacing multiple fine silk threads held on bobbins, this type of lace has never been successfully produced by machine. With its intricate patterning and fine workmanship, the shawl is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, its documented history is incomplete, but it is most probably of European origin.
Other historic works in the exhibition are equally remarkable and include a finger-woven Assomption sash with a vivid flechée or arrow design, a Doukhobour kilim-style rug, an English metallic and silk ecclesiastic embroidery on silk velvet, and a Ukrainian blouse with decoratively embroidered sleeves.
The contemporary pieces by Dorothy Boran, Annemarie Buchmann-Gerber, Shelley Hamilton, Judy Haraldson, June Jacobs, Susan Kargut, Jean King, Margot Lindsay, Heather Menzies, Geraldine Rooke, and Sue Turtle are as carefully and skillfully made as the historical tapestries, quilts, embroideries, beading, and lace.
Sue Turtle's Recycled Shawl is an outstanding example of an artist reworking old techniques and patterns using new and novel approaches. Turtle started with purchased yarn made from shredded silk saris which she cut into three-inch lengths, pulled apart, and re-spun into an extremely fine single-ply yarn. This was then plied with a fine yarn she hand spun from buffalo hair. Recycled Shawl was knitted using a traditional English open-lace pattern and finished with a crocheted edge augmented with beads which give this light-weight shawl a swing and drape that allow it to hang elegantly and move with the body of the wearer.
Textiles held in museum collections are generally the best of what has been produced in the past; handspun, handwoven, and handstitched pieces that have been evaluated over time. Showcasing historical examples with the finest that contemporary textile artists have to offer presents a vivid, tangible link between past and present.