Fine laces and decorative linens were once a sign of opulence. They required a great deal of planning, skill and time to craft, and were expensive to purchase. Fine laces and linens were created by hand up until fairly recently, when machines, computers and other aids became available to shorten the amount of time and effort to create them. And, as people came to have less free time, the skills and interest to craft these items was lost. The advent of the machine and computer ages allowed these textiles to be mass produced and their prices dropped to the point that they became available for people of almost any income bracket. This advancement also led to their demise in popularity. This is unfortunate, because most people under the age of 50 today view laces and decorative linens as being old fashioned, something from an earlier and obsolete time. Why have them when they are reminiscent of your grandmother’s era?
In my travels, I often run across finely crafted, handmade laces and decorative linens in antique and resale stores. They are being sold for very little money, often placed for sale by a member of the younger generation who sees them as ugly, old and outdated. When I hold the article in my hand and examine the exquisite craftsmanship, the attention to detail and the enormous amount of work expended, I am both thrilled and saddened. What an incredible piece of work I hold in my hand; pure art in itself! Each knot, loop and stitch was pulled by a pair of experienced hands in a determined effort to create something that may have been a gift for a loved one or a decorative accent for the creator’s own home. The designs are often complex, with an interplay of shapes and textures that flow with deceiving simplicity. I have spent as much time examining and appreciating the work and artistry in a handmade linen in an antique store as I have studying the most famous paintings in the National Gallery of Art. To me, they are not at all distant relatives.
I usually purchase these handmade textiles because of their inherent beauty and because they need to be rescued from destruction by neglect- they need to be passed on to someone who will appreciate and treasure them. I also purchase them to honor the person who created the piece. That person, who likely died long ago, spent innumerable hours of their life crafting such a beautiful work of art. It seems fitting to hold it in the place of esteem it deserves and fills me with a sense of having connected with a fellow artist through the work they have left behind.