Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Lace Fans of Myra Naylor

Illustration: Myra Naylor. Lace fan design, 1902.

Due to the soon to be released 'Design Decoration Craft Reference Guide to Lace' - and as I have been living and breathing lace these past few weeks whilst sorting out the book, I thought that it might be a good idea to feature some lace. 

Interestingly, I have decided to choose some lace design work by a relatively unknown designer. Little is known of Myra Naylor apart from the fact that she had at one time been a student at Leeds College of Art in around 1900. She was probably a textile-based student as there are one or two references to her producing embroidery work as well as the illustrations here of her work in lace. However, there also one or two references to her being an 'art metal worker', though no illustrations of her work in metal seem available, if indeed that was her creative subject.

Naylor produced these three designs for lace fans in the first few years of the twentieth century. Although the days of popular fans had long gone by the beginning of the twentieth century, they were still used as an accessory and were popular in particular as a vehicle for student work, whether in lace as here, or painted silk.

Illustration: Myra Naylor. Lace fan design, 1902.

These examples of Naylor's work were probably student work that she produced whilst at Leeds College of Art. However, they do show a sophistication and understanding not only of lace and its technical parameters, but also that of the leading decoration movements in Europe, particularly Art Nouveau and its aftermath. It is hard to say whether Naylor was actually accomplished in lace making itself. It is known that she produced embroidery work, rather than just design work for embroidery, but whether the same is true for lace, it seems unknown.

What is important to remember is the number of students who were producing high quality work in Britain during the period of the turn of the twentieth century. Admittedly, only a handful ever got to make their living from their talent and fewer still are remembered a century afterwards, but that does negate the energy, both creative and physical, that drove these individuals to produce work that was often as high a standard as that in the professional field.

The same is true today of course, with a number of students work being of an exceptionally high standard, but few will find an acceptable level of living from their creativity and fewer still will be remembered in another century. Although, in many respects this is the way it has always been, it does seem a waste of talent and certainly a loss to future generations.

Illustration: Myra Naylor. Lace fan design, 1905.

Lace itself has little if any impact on the creative textile world of today, which is perhaps a shame. It gets little if any encouragement in schools and colleges and has more or less disappeared from our everyday contemporary world. Lace was always a weak link in the textile world. It relied so heavily on the whims of fashion and by its nature was seen very much as an accessory rather than a main course, such as with woven and printed textiles. The labour intensive nature of the craft along with its notorious sweat-shop mentality, also gave it a less than attractive public image. As the nineteenth century moved into the twentieth, many young women started to see career opportunities begin to open up for them, and hard laborious, badly paid craft pastimes such as lace making, seemed increasingly to be relegated to the past.

In that respect, it perhaps should not be surprising that so much of the lace design work of the early twentieth century produced in Britain, never really got past the stage of theoretical design and decoration lessons within college classes. Still, even if they were never produced, they do give us examples of what lace could have perhaps achieved if it had been able to develop past the constraints of its industry and the changes imposed on it by the rapidly changing fortunes of women.


pansypoo said...

the Tudors didn't promote the return of lace + codpieces. bummer.

Margaret said...

Indeed, most lace-makers I know today are knitters and their work is mainly shawls, though some lace is used in gloves and socks. However, you might check out what UK-born, Royal School of Needlework trained, now-Canadian Tanja Berlin is up to these days:


John hopper said...

Thanks for your comments, much appreciated as always. Thanks also for the link, some interesting stuff. There are, of course, some creative individuals still using lace, whether in crochet or knit, or even ceramics and metal. It does seem a shame though that such a large industry with so many different facets to its nature, has been reduced to so little.

Applique embroidery services - digitizing said...

very nice work it shows the efforts of its maker which really deserves appropriateness..........

Applique embroidery services - digitizing said...

it shows the efforts of the maker the laces work is outstanding .........