Common Grounds: Lace Drawn from the Everyday is a collaboration between artist Sarah Casey, The Bowes Museum and curator Annabel Talbot and will feature a selection of Casey’s drawings of bonnets which literally bring to light hidden aspects of the internationally significant Blackborne Lace Collection, the whole of which was gifted to the Museum in 2006 by descendants of A Blackborne & Co, master lace dealers in 19th century London.
In addition to the main Blackborne collection, which is exceptional in its quality and quantity, the Museum received a secondary group of items categorised as the ‘B’ collection. Unlike the main collection, which contains some of the finest surviving examples of handmade lace dating from the 16th century, the latter is principally the lace of ordinary people. It consists of reworked fragments of lace from a range of sources, with the quality itself uneven, although some fragments of lace on the bonnets is close to 300 years old.
And it is these which inspired Casey’s exquisite, transparent drawings after she opened two unsorted trunks of stock from Blackborne’s shop, which had lain unexamined and overlooked for 70 years.
Intrigued, over the past 2 years Casey worked with The Bowes Museum and expert on Blackborne Lace, Annabel Talbot to sort out some of these bundled together articles, exploring this record of personal and social history to test how drawing can both examine unseen aspects of the collection and present it creatively to the public
For the exhibition, Casey has catalogued every lace bonnet via 54 ‘hidden’ drawings which appear like x‑rays or scans, revealed only when held up to the light.
“These will form an installation hung in space, recalling domestic washing lines,” she said. “Drawings will appear to light up as viewers circle them.”
This innovative approach to exhibiting aspects of the collection seeks to revalue this overlooked lace, bridging a gap between high art and everyday textiles of ordinary people.
Joanna Hashagen, Curator (Fashion & Textiles) at The Bowes Museum, said: “One of my aims for temporary exhibitions has been to link our textile collections with contemporary artists’ interpretations, to make new, exciting connections. Sarah has fulfilled this aim with this stunning exhibition of her work and it has given us the opportunity to show more of the Blackborne lace.”
The drawings will be presented alongside the lace bonnets and the carriage trunks in which they were recently stored, together with a selection of the finest bonnets from the main collection which have been recently conserved.
The Museum will host taster workshops throughout the exhibition and an exhibition catalogue is available from The Bowes Museum Shop.