Porcelain Lace

lace impressed porcelain

I have been working with Hanne Rysgaard sampling new work for an exhibition of the Stitch and Think research group, called Mending at the Museum which starts in November this year and runs for 6 months at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Hanne does not like mended things, in fact she is fundamentally opposed to the idea of mending or using anything cracked or broken BUT she does  like transformation – well as a ceramicist she would wouldn’t she ? transformation by fire is fundamental to her practice.

my pieces of damaged vintage guipure lace and drawn thread work

We have been trying to get together to work since our visit to the Lost in Lace exhibition in Birmingham early this year, where we determined to develop some porcelain lace work – possibly a curtain. The idea is that Hanne will transform my tattered bits of lace into porcelain and I will stitch or embroider the patches together to make fabric.

So Hanne prepared some sheets of paper porcelain for us to work on and we set to work rolling several types of lace and drawn thread work into the surface of the clay.

Hanne rolling black guipure lace into sheet of paper porcelain

She was much the stronger roller – my first attempts were really puny. We had placed the larger sheets of lace under the clay as we thought we may want the resulting ‘fabric’ to be seen from both sides. I prefer the stricter linear drawn thread work impressions but Hanne just loved the rich and romantic guipures..

guipure lace and drawn thread squares impressed into the fresh porcelain

We used all types of patterns to give ourselves a good range to sample with. We needed to ascertain how big the individual pieces could be as this would give an indication of the size of finished piece…I had envisaged a huge floor to ceiling drop of larger sheets of porcelain but Hanne explained that making hand  -sized pieces of porcelain was more viable; first the pieces need to be fired without cracking and then be strong enough to be handled later when being stitched together+all my scraps of vintage lace are damaged and small sized, but  how else could I have afforded to collect such lovely pieces?

impression in damp porcelain of the black lace above

As you can see the first impression in the damp clay is stunning, so crisp and clear, we were whooping with delight at the fine detail, every stitch can be seen and this is machine made lace. We now had  to cut the lace into shapes and I was amused to see Hanne pick up a pair of scissors to cut it; but first I handed her an old fashioned tailor’s tracing wheel to impress regular holes in the surface where I have to stitch. We placed the holes anywhere we thought useful – we will have to regulate these more carefully on the finished work.

fettling the edges of the cut porcelain motif

Now to the kiln…Hanne packed it….

kiln packed ready to be fired

and 2 days later I returned to collect the finished motifs…

fired porcelain motifs

The pieces are slightly smaller but the holes are fine for stitching, the quality of the unglazed porcelain is so like a starchy linen fabric that the transformation is uncanny – they look like material but are brittle and now all uniformly white….ethereal.

fine linen drawn thread work square

and like similar transformations in vitreous enamel, plastic lace often makes crisps and clear impressions.

plastic lace impression

So now it is over to me to develop the new fabric, I start by placing the different pieces in formal patterns – I originally intended to use wire to stitch between the gaps using decorative lace like stitches to fill in any spaces….now I realised this was not going to be at all easy, even at this moderate scale. The wire won’t behave well – it needs careful and regular stitches to develop the rhythm required to give embroidery its formal beauty.

motifs arranged formally as a lace curtain design.

I started to draw between the pieces to try to find decorative stitches that could be used between the motifs,

drawing stitches between motifs

but it became obvious that I will need to use a backing fabric and applique the motifs onto it, this will act as some protection but it has to take the weight of the porcelain, so now I am researching silk organzas, cotton organdies and maybe netting…as we are both designers and therefor pragmatists we are liking the transparent quality of the organza first sampled – and applying lace motifs on a pre-made net ground is used as a lace making technique.

first sample of applique on organza, seen against a black background

I have a long way to go before this fabric begins to do  justice to the quality of the impressed porcelain motifs…..but it has started to remind me of Crazy Patchwork
it could be a lovely airy crazy patchwork –   I am now thinking of new ways to develop it further

9 thoughts on “Porcelain Lace

  1. What a lovely idea Janet- i love lace too !i often use old lace and re patch pieces together. I will watch this space to see the end results.
    Good luck!
    An old student of yours!

  2. Printing is fun, but you could also dip lace in fluid porcelain; mold on a block, surface or anything else, it becomes a lace while the textile burn in the kiln….

    1. Hi Florence – thanks I know and have tried this method and it produces lovely refined ceramic pieces….but NO LACE IS HARMED in our process, so I can re-use all my vintage pieces so lovingly collected and after all this is a TEXTILE blog….However you have got me thinking that with some of my less precious lace bits or when I have lengths of it we could extend the type of motif that we make – so thanks for the suggestion – will pass it on to Hanne so watch this space………..


  3. My oh my. What a fascinating idea. I am currently drying some translucent paper porcelain to roll lace on. I have my grandmother’s camisole that she made for her wedding. I think she got married around 1905. I love to honour her memory in my work. I also purchased some more doilies, etc. at a thrift store this week. Every piece of handwork has a story.

    The thinner parts of my project will be translucent and everything very, very white. I was thinking of small pieces joined together to be put over windows. Now I have more ideas. What lovely work you do! It must have been fun to work with Hanne R.

    Do you have another post about this project?

    One of my pottery students dipped some lace into slip and attached it to a tile piece for the bride’s dress. I had donated the lace years ago to the guild where I teach. There are metres and metres of it…and synthetic too. Glad to see it get used up.

  4. Oh, I just read about the project needing to be postposed.
    Thanks for the inspiration along with the intrigue and beauty of your work.

    1. Hi Teresa,
      thanks for your comments and yes I am still rueful about the paper clay lace project. I still have some of the original fired pieces that intrigue me and could make a small piece of applique with them by summoning up courage to use a diamond drill to make extra holes for stitching….but very nervous and really I have so little time to put towards the project at present – and I know I will want too continue if I start it off again.
      I think it is strange but the hard synthetic laces make the best impressions and plastic lace is even better (also for using as a stencil for enamelling) but guipure, the richly raised heavy lace is best of all, it just looks so crisp in porcelain and so pristine.

      so good luck with your projects – Hanne and I wanted to preserve the translucency of the thinnest porcelain so that the light would filter through our curtain – maybe in another evolution of my working life….

      yours, janet

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