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Teresa Whitfield

Teresa Whitfield makes intricate detailed ink drawings of historical and contemporary lace and garments featuring lace from museum collections in the UK and France.

Characterised by a close resemblance to real fabric my highly detailed ink drawings reference a time before the industrial revolution, when hand-made textiles were part of everyday domestic life for women.

My fascination with lace was instigated by the recognition of a close similarity between lace and line drawing; in early hand-made lace, the threads have been woven in miniature by the use of bobbins and are all visible on a flat two-dimensional surface exactly like a drawn line.  In my drawings, items of lace are painstakingly reconstructed in black, white or coloured ink, an activity which both negates technology and embraces the imperfections inherent in the hand-made objects to which the drawings refer

The slow, meticulous, intensely meditative reproduction of the fabric where lengths of thread are replaced by lines of ink is so close to the process of using thread that the images are more a re-enactment of the lace-making process, than simply a likeness to the end product, and so true-to-life are the images that tiny strands appear to intersect each other, recording the miniscule defects in the fabric and the way the threads interweave.  The forensic level of realism in my work often confuses the viewer as to whether they are contemplating a real piece of fabric or a photograph; the drawings occupy an unusual space between the drawing of an object and the recreation of it in a different medium.

I am interested in exploring through my work what the lace-making process tells us about the social history of women.  The deceptive simplicity of the detailed, repetitive mark-making of the drawing provokes memories of a time before mass production, when hand-made textiles were part of everyday domestic life.  Not only do my drawings highlight the demise of the hand-made lace industry, but more importantly by using a low-tech labour-intensive process such as drawing my work prompts discussion about the loss of craft skills in a digital and mechanical age and provides audiences with a visual understanding of the impact of these changes.

My work has involved research in the archives at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Calais Museum of Lace and Fashion, National Trust Killerton House, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter , Bronte Parsonage Museum , Fashion Museum, Bath and Salisbury Museum each resulting in drawings that commemorate a once thriving industry and engage the viewer in a dialogue about the social and cultural changes that the loss of this extraordinary craft represents;  the drawings encourage the viewer to take a closer look at lace and to reconsider its method of production, they bring it alive in the present in a way that modern audiences can appreciate and relate to.


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