Just by chance, we knocked on the door to the Lace archive at Nottingham Trent to see if I could take a look. I had twenty minutes, tops, to skim-view the Lace archive. How could it be possible to take in the wealth of history and joy within those books and drawers in such a short time – but I got an idea of what lies inside that tiny room.
The lace archive holds 75,000 samples of lace acquired by donations from the late 19th Century to mid 20th Century. Here lie books of technical drawings made by and for students.
When the Nottingham School of Art was set up in 1843 and young men were taught lace design, the sample books and drawings and books began to be donated for the students to use as reference and inspiration. The same is happening today – I have done the same.
My experience of that brief fleeting time in the archive room is of being completely blown away by what I saw and felt.
I was lucky. Gail Baxter, a Contemporary lace artist and Research Fellow at Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive was in the room and in twenty minutes explained and showed more to me than I could taken in during a whole day by myself. Gail showed me Paraguay lace and when I said that I would have cut the little fringes off on the lace samples – she said, ‘they are the eyelashes’ and I fell in love with the black lace with wheels and eyelashes. There was flocked lace, net, hand and machine lace, underwear and books with all manner of financial transactions in. I know where the Paraguay lace is, because Gail put it safely away for my next visit.
Genuine joy and enthusiasm raced through me when I was able to look at, hold, touch the samples.
A lasting memory is seeing the book that had been closed for many years to reveal the embossed impression of the lace sample pressed into the opposite page over years of time of waiting to be seen.