Lace Unarchived: Special Late Opening In Photos 15 March 2018

Cluny Lace Company Ltd 14 March 2018

The Cluny Lace Company Limited is the last independent Leavers lace manufacturer in the United Kingdom. The Mason family have, for nine generations, been closely connected with lace making since it was first produced by machine during the industrial revolution. After extensive training abroad and at university, the ninth generation now carry out day-to-day management of this progressive company. The Cluny Lace Company’s plant of sixteen traditional Nottingham Leavers lace machines include four of the widest ever built by John Jardine.

Throughout the last one hundred and sixty years Cluny Lace has continued to build up a data bank of thousands of lace patterns. By combining the best of old traditions with the newest technology, the firm is able to produce a wide range of exquisite and unique designs, concentrating on the Cluny and Valencienne styles. Burberry chose Cluny lace from which to make their range of lace trench coats in 2014 and the association has continued, due to the popularity of the style.

Lace Unarchived

Burberry Trench Coat- Kindly lent to Lace Unarchived by Cluny Lace Co. Photo credit Julian Lister

The Cluny lace range is unique in the world and is based on sixteenth-century Genoese patterns housed at the Musee de Cluny in Paris. Whilst the Valencienne range is a collection of the best patterns made by the Nottingham lace trade over the last century. Both ranges are made from long staple Egyptian Cotton and are dyed and finished in France. All patterns are stocked in Black, White, Cream and Off-White.

Lace Unarchived - Handling Table 12 March 2018

In Lace Unarchived we have a few items for visitors to handle and look at more closely.


This book is typical of the type used by lace manufacturers to showcase their range of laces.

You can see the design registration number and a few other details on some of the samples. You can also easily find a number of pieces which are based on the same motif but the design has been expanded to create wider edgings, insertions and possibly even all over designs.

Taking a closer look at some of the designs you would see the variety of fillings and background patterns, even in the smallest and simplest design. Some of the samples show that the lace was being made with coloured threads as well as in white. There are also some examples of the lace being cut (by hand) to make more interestingly shaped pieces.

Lace Sample Book
Photo credit: Julian Lister


This is Chantilly lace, made on a Pusher machine. The picot edging was actually made separately and applied by hand.

Most of the pattern is created with areas of slightly denser lace (similar to half-stitch in bobbin lace) outlined but thicker threads. Larger holes are also used to help create the patterning.

The outlines have been run in by hand after the lace was removed from the machine. How do we know this? The outlining threads do not pass between the twisted threads of the lace, instead they run in and out of the holes in the lace. The circular spots in the net are also a giveaway; you can see that the cut ends of the thicker thread begin and end in the same place, if they were added on the machine there would be tufts at either side of the spot where the threads had been cut 


Lace Unarchived

Chantilly Lace Shawl
Photo credit: Julian Lister


Insertion lace has two straight edges for inserting between two pieces of fabric, in a garment for example. This piece shows how the insertions are made in one piece, or ‘web’, up the bed of the machine. The strips of are joined with just one or two threads; these can be withdrawn to release and separate the strips for use as insertions. This would have been one of the jobs carried out either as home-work or in the Lace Market area of Nottingham.

Although this lace was designed as an insertion, pieces like this were occasionally used as fabric for garments.



Silhouette en Dentelle 10 March 2018

Mal Burkinshaw in collaboration with Sophie Hallette Lace 

‘Silhouette en Dentelle’ – Series 2013-2017

Sophie Hallette Lace, hand appliquéd onto tailored jackets in nylon netting.*

Mal Burkinshaw’s series of jackets were produced in response to the body shapes and garments of sitters in the portraits of the  Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s Reformation to Revolution Gallery. Sources of inspiration include Margaret Graham, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI & I, Lady Arabella Stuart and Lady Agnes Douglas.

Lace Unarchived

Mal Burkinshaw Silhouette en Dentelle Jacket 7

The use of lace directly relates to the centuries of continuous craftsmanship involved in making this delicate material, which was a signifier of wealth, status and hierarchy in the Renaissance.  Black lace, in particular, was favoured but is rarely seen in portraiture of the time. This work thus reinstates and celebrates the wearing of black lace during the Renaissance.

In collaboration with renowned lace producers Sophie Hallette, his work creates a dialogue between past and present notions of “normalised” body shapes through a metamorphosis of silhouette and scale, by fusing the modern classic jacket with renaissance fashion.

The jackets were designed in sequential scale, and do not conform to specific UK size measurements and are designed to be non-gender specific, asking viewers to question their perception of beauty relating to body size.

The jackets are the result of over 800 hours of embellishment. Mal used a large light box, collaging intricately cut motifs of lace, which were subsequently appliquéd by hand onto contemporary ‘high-performance’ netting. The process of creating each piece was both reactive and instinctive; in a sense each jacket has been ‘painted with lace’.

The practice led garment research technique departs from the usual practice of fashion design that involves draping fabric on the mannequin (an ‘idealised’ model body) and working to traditional garment sizes. Instead, garments are developed that are, while recognizably clothing, independent of the body, acting as artefacts in their own right. In Beauty by Design, this way of working was brought to bear on garments depicted in renaissance paintings.

Lace Unarchived

Mal Burkinshaw in collaboration with Sophie Hallette Lace, photographed By Stuart Munro

These garments, boned, corseted as they were, distort the body shape of the wearer in distinctly un-modern ways, bringing into question, over time, our own conceptions of beauty. Burkinshaw reinterpreted these garments in transparent fabric, further dramatizing the tension between the shape of these clothes themselves and the bodies that might wear them. The work is designed to open multi-layered contemplative questions relating to body image, beauty, gender, identity and sexuality.

*presented for Lace Unarchived as a video projection

Lace Unarchived 21 February 2018

The Lace Archive housed in the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is unique in many respects; it goes beyond what might ordinarily be expected of a repository of textiles. Loose hand and machine made lace samples sit alongside products of a bygone era. The collection provides an opportunity to examine beautiful fabrics and samples of lace while unveiling insight into inter-related issues such as the social context, education and the design process. Established at the beginnings of art school education in the UK in 1843, the archive offers testimony of the teaching process in the Victorian era demonstrating  a particular focus on the lace design process; from technical resolve and ‘draughting’ to commercial product application.  The archive, a result of benefactions from past industries, demonstrated the support and belief in the need for a school of art and design based in Nottingham. The archive continues to grow and develop with contemporary additions and donations.  It captures the rich and valuable heritage of Nottingham lace and the city’s unique and central position in the development of this now global industry.

Lace Unarchived

Lace Unarchived reveals the legacy of the Art School, established in 1843, and its impact on generations of lace designers who worked within the region and across the globe. ‘Stories’ from the archive include Harry Cross’s drawings from the Battle of Britain panel, and NTU alumnus William Pegg’s shift from award winning designer of lace to expressing his socialist beliefs through this medium. Student work from the early 20th century reveals the pedagogic process in the Art School, while hand and machine made lace and work expose the hidden process behind developing a lace fabric – designing and draughting.

Lace Unarchived

NTU’s recent collaboration with high street retailer Oasis highlights the archival design inspiration through to the final collection and includes the limited edition dress designed by fashion student, Robert Goddard.

Robert Goddard

This rich and unique heritage of NTU’s Lace Archive is juxtaposed against collections and collaborations from contemporary commercial manufacturers of Nottingham lace: Cluny Lace, England’s remaining manufacturer and situated in this region; Morton, Young and Borland (MYB) Scotland’s last lace manufacturer from the Irvine Valley, and Sophie Hallette, from Caudry, France, one of a handful remaining in that region.  These companies work alongside designers to produce high quality, beautiful and evocative creations, and manufacture their lace on Nottingham technology invented in this region some 200 years ago.

Lace Unarchived

Mal Burkinshaw in collaboration with Sophie Hallette Lace, photographed By Stuart Munro

On exhibition is a coat produced by Burberry, who selected Cluny Lace for their recent lace inspired collection, and whom have continued to produce these lace trench coats due to their commercial success.  From Sophie Hallette, who work alongside a number of fashion designers, we highlight the collaboration with Mal Burkinshaw, Director of Fashion at Edinburgh School of Art.  Mal has created a series of jackets in response to body shapes and garments from paintings in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  He uses lace to evoke craftsmanship and status through a dialogue between past and present fusing the modern classic jacket with the renaissance.  Timorous Beasties, renowned for their challenging and dynamic conversational wallpapers and fabrics have experimented with lace since 2005.  Their fabric, produced by MYB, Devil Damask, demonstrates their mastery of this process and utilizes a playful approach to image and shadow.  Sarah Taylor, Senior Research Fellow at Edinburgh Napier University and Sara Robertson,Tutor at the Royal College of Art, have collaborated with MYB and Mike Stoane Lighting to develop light emitting lace woven in the tradition of Scottish Madras.

Lace Unarchived

Matthew Woodham

Artists James Winnett and Matthew Woodham (please note this link contains strobe effect) have been commissioned to produce work for this exhibition. James Winnett has reinvented found lace patterns sourced from salvage yards, originally produced in Nottingham and Ayrshire by painting into and onto them to explore the relationship between industrial and artistic labour.  Matthew Woodham has created a sculptural video piece with monitors which will feature digitised archival items accompanied by the fabricated and the real stories of these pieces.

James Winnett

2018 is a special year for Nottingham Trent University as we mark the 175th anniversary since our founding college opened its doors in 1843. That college, the Nottingham Government School of Design, was the fourth to open in the UK to serve growing demands for innovation and skills in an industrialising society and protect our global position from the new wave of emerging manufacturers. The focus that characterises NTU today – to develop the knowledge, skills and innovations that our economy and society need – has its roots in these origins 175 years ago.

Lace Unarchived

Lace Unarchived is a timely reminder in Nottingham Trent of the University’s part in this story. Nottingham Lace technology spurred an industry which, when combined with an art school, flourished and remains an important catalyst to innovation and creativity.

The exhibition runs until Thursday 23 March, visit the exhibition page for details about associated events.

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