The Lacemaker's Y(e)arn
The Lacemaker's Y(e)arn is a series of looping animations constructed frame by frame out of handmade bobbin lace. The looping animations are shown as a strip of projections looping into each other to form one much longer strip and narrative; a strip that essentially and ironically mimics analogue film strip. The concept of this presentation form is to create a flip or a shuffle between the source objects (lace) and the effect of these objects. The sound of the bobbins is a series of loud and patterned clicking as the women work at amazing speeds. Sound recordings of the lace have been sourced in addition to the birds of Bahia and local sounds of people chatting on the street, dogs barking, chickens, cows, etc.
The hundreds of lace frames at the core of the project are linked together in order of frame number like a filmstrip. Potentially displayed in any number of ways (draped, rolled etc) and adapted to any number of spaces for exhibition, the wooden bobbins used here quietly mimic the film spools once used in analogue film.
Origins of the project:
The Lacemaker’s Y(e)arn announced itself at the end of a residency in 2013 at the Instituto Sacatar, in Bahia Brazil. Situated on the island of Itaparica in the Bay of All Saints, the residency’s location on a rural island with several small fishing villages was ideal for my research proposal to explore intimate rural economies and their surrounding industries as a means to augment my fictional fishing village, and umbrella project, Holiday in Hope. My intentions were to push the narrative framework of my village in a new direction - or at least puncture the linear nature of my thinking at the time. So when I was presented with the possibility of visiting a village where the women had a lacemaking practice, I was intrigued. First, by the obvious visual relationship between lace and fishing nets, but also by the idea that there could be something in the lacemaking that could further evolve my understanding of the artisanal fishing cultures I was seeking out. What was the historical relationship with lace and nets in general, but also specifically for this region? I was also equally intrigued by the mechanics of a female dominated industry functioning within a machismo culture.
What I came to discover was a kind of symbiosis - the balancing of one livelihood within another; dependent, adaptive, supplemented, and supplementing. The narrative I was told, follows: The fishing industry was and is segregated. The men work on the boats and the women collect shell fish on the beach. When the tide is too high for shellfish collecting, the women work on the nets. When the nets became industrialized (sometime mid-century), the women turned that focus of their time and skills towards making lace in the bobbin lace method (a tradition brought by the Portuguese in the 1600’s). Because the shellfish collecting proved to be much more lucrative than the highly time-consuming lace making, it became the women’s primary income source. The lacemaking existed in proximity to the shellfish collecting.