There can be few crafts as time consuming or as intricate as bobbin lace making.
It’s a fascinating art and when Derby’s Louise West is demonstrating she invariably has quite a crowd watching in awe as she deftly moves the bobbins around her pillow with her nimble fingers.
Louise who works out of Friar Gate Studios is something of an expert on the craft having first tried it out 24 years ago and studied it for her Art and Design MA at the University of Derby.
Her knowledge and skills are so sought after – and for that matter rare – that she has been given some unique commissions and has been invited to stage lace-making workshops in both France and Denmark.
“When I started this journey I never expected to be part of an exhibition at Buckingham Palace or to help in the design of the facade of the Nottingham Contemporary,” said Louise.
But that is exactly what she has done.
While 55-year-old Louise was studying for her degree at Derby in 2006 the designers of the planned Nottingham gallery said they needed someone to recreate a piece of 1847 machine lace found in a time capsule during excavations in the city. The plan was to use the lace to cast a rubber mould to cast the concrete panels which now grace the front of the building.
At Buckingham Palace an exhibition on Tudor and Stuart fashion included an audio and visual guide with an explanation by Louise of how bobbin lace is made.
Although Louise is never going to turn away big commissions (she is working on a prestigious one at the moment which has to be kept under wraps for a bit longer) the main focus of her business is to stage workshops and pass on her knowledge to others.
She moved to her new studio on Ford Street last year and is clearly very pleased to be able to report that it is warm, modern and fully accessible for people with disabilities.
“In my previous studio I was turning a lot of people away because there was no wheelchair access so achieving this has been one of my aims and I am so pleased to be here,” she said.
Louise says that she’s always been “crafty” and “could knit before she could read”.
Her roots for lacemaking go back to her great great great grandmother who was a lacemaker in Northamptonshire and it is from that historical influence that much of her contemporary design has emerged.
“I went on a course in 1992 just to try it out and was completely hooked. Unless you try it for yourself and have a go you won’t understand, but it is a weird sensation. I now get so much pleasure from watching as someone on one of my courses suddenly experiences the same thing.”
The only prerequisite for one of Louise’s courses is a desire to learn bobbin lacemaking as the class experience ranges from complete beginners.
If you want to know more go to http://www.louisewestlacedesign.co.uk